I first met Karen Ostrom at MacDowell, an artist colony in a forest in New Hampshire. The colony is full of big moody pine trees and old, moss-covered stones. One night, the artists all piled into Karen’s studio, a cabin down a dark, winding dirt road, to see her work. Flipping through a slideshow of her past work, as well as some photos she was creating at the colony, I felt a sense of eeriness. Karen photographs herself as a variety of characters in a fictional fishing village. The dissonance of seeing her familiar face over and over again in situations that increase in oddity does something very weird to my brain- and it makes me think twice about the visual world around me.
So, when Spectrum composer Shannon Graham said she was looking for a visual artist to collaborate with for this season, I immediately thought of Karen’s work. Watching from a distance as Karen and Shannon’s collaboration has grown this winter, I’ve been awestruck by their ability to communicate their artistic ideas so clearly through such separate expressive mediums. They have created an abstract narrative world for our music and Karen’s visuals to inhabit that is at once familiar but foreign, distant but full of emotional touch points.
In pulling together Karen’s work with performers Stephanie Chua, Veronique Matthieu, Lina Allemano and Jesse Dietschi, as well as composer Ben Dietschi, Shannon has compiled a very exciting creative team. As we head into rehearsals this week, I’m really looking forward to watching this wealth of great ideas take shape into an exciting evening of music, animations and stories. As a composer, it’s a rare privilege to be part of such an interesting artistic journey!