|What follows is a roundup of artists and performers from around the world that you may not know, but who we think will reward your acquaintance. By describing them as underrated or overlooked does not mean they have not had significant success, only that we'd like to see them become household names in more households. As the nights get longer and colder, these are MUG's picks for cultural explorations without leaving the lair.
Tofanelli paints landscapes, but he's no conventional genre painter. In these works, the perspectives are tenderly distorted, so that depictions of grass and trees and horizons become subtle evocations of memory and passing time. The buildings (there are no people on hand) appear abandoned, but they still resonate: perhaps they're souvenirs of distant lives. All is still in Mr. Tofanelli's world except the turn of the seasons, each turn a little elegy.
We'd like to be Oprah for a day, just for the chance to introduce Mr. Gale to a big American audience. Each of his novels, from his 1986 The Aerodynamics of Pork to the most recent, Friendly Fire, revolves around love (romantic and familial), sexuality (straight, gay, none of the above), loss and redemption. No PoMo antics here, just the manifestly old-fashioned virtues of graceful style, sly wit, boundless compassion, and inspired storytelling.
A couple of things bug us about jazz vocalist and pianist Carol Welsman. First, that her website has the word 'smooth' in big letters when you get to the home page. That's a buzz-kill. Second, one of Welsman's breathtaking ballads, called "This Lullabye," has recently been recorded by her fellow Canadian, that caterwauling shank of ham, Celine Dion. Well, we shouldn't blame Welsman for that. And really, it's hard to stay cranky once the gorgeous, statuesque Ms. Welsman sings and that caress of a voice washes over us. She's our favorite balmshell.
Night of the Shooting Stars
Pauline Kael vigorously championed the Taviani brothers' 1981 film about people fleeing a Tuscan village they believe the Nazis are going to destroy. It's a favorite of ours, too. Kael wrote, "In its feeling and completeness, this film by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani may rank close to Jean Renoir's bafflingly beautiful 'Grand Illusion'… the setting is magical, like a Shakespearean forest, and the woman's account has the quality of folklore and legend, and even its most tragic moments can be dizzyingly comic."
The stylized sculptures from Zimbabwe's Shona people are carved from stone, a tradition that goes back over 1000 years. Chisels are used to "release" the spirits contained in the stone and yet the spirit of a people and place surely continues to infuse these highly engaging, imaginative works.
Harry Van Gorkum
He's had roles in "Batman & Robin," "Agent Cody Banks," and "Gone in Sixty Seconds," among others, and has made guest appearances on scads of TV shows, including "The Nanny," "Will & Grace," and "Friends." But the British-born Van Gorkum, who now works in L.A., has yet to land a breakout role. He's easy on the eyes — not exactly a novelty item on the Left Coast. But Van Gorkum is also a sublime comic actor and that's a resource that habitually profligate Hollywood shouldn't waste.
Her story of fleeing the Chinese labor camp outside Lhasa into which she was born — on foot for 1,000 miles across the Himalayas — is plenty compelling on its own. But the Tibetan lama who named her as a baby knew what he was about: her name translates as "Goddess of Melody and Song." Not many people could live up to that, but when Yungchen Lhamo sings, it seems like an understatement.
Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec
The Bouroullecs have designed for Vitra and their work is in MoMA, but the brothers from Brittany are still designers' designers more than they are a brand. Whether they're tackling a hanging indoor trellis, chairs, or a Floating House, the Bouroullecs seem incapable of designing anything remotely predictable or less than stunning.
Share your own Underrated/Overlooked suggestions and we'll publish them at a later date.
Pics: top left: Carol Welsman, top middle: Patrick Gale, top right: Yungchen Lhamo
bottom left: Alessandro Tofanelli, bottom middle: a Shona sculpture, bottom right: Harry Van Gorkum
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