Monday, March 28, 2011

A new addition

Song of the Day: Bitter:Sweet The Bomb

Recently Georgetown has acquired a new work in its collection.  This work by recently diseased Irene Corey, helps connect us to the past of Georgetown College’s history.

Irene Corey, or Irene Lockridge Corey Bar, is best known for her design of the lovable children’s character Barney.

Love him or hate him, you’ve at least heard of him

Typically, most artists pursue their art in what is considered the more common mediums such as paintings, sculptures or other directly art centered performance work.  This makes it all the more remarkable when an artist works beyond their specialized field with another passion. Corey is prime example of this because she has worked not only art world but additionally in theatre.  She was, as described by Joe Simnacher of the Dallas News, “a pioneer in painting faces on characters that had previously used glued-on features.” In fact many of her theatrical works appears in numerous textbooks about theatre and theatrical design.  So much so, as Caralle Manning Hill describes, that “[t]here are probably many designers who did not realize that they drew inspiration directly from her work because her style has made its way into the public domain. Irene Corey has become an icon—a symbolic representation of the vital role of the theatrical artist” (1).
One key example of how Irene Corey best combined her love of theatrical performance and art was from her designs for the Book of Job. In this piece, she emulated the styles of Byzantine mosaics for the costumes of the characters.  Typically, changing an actor’s appearance involves either beautifying or exaggerating a particular trait based on the performance.  In this example of Corey’s design, we see that she not only exaggerated the visual simulation of the costume but that this effect had also been applied to the face.  With her research and eye for design, she created a theatrical world that would easily simulate the audience to the power of the religious undertones in the performance.

Corey’s design for productions creates an awe-inspiring experience

In addition to her artistic work, Corey has also written a few works.  One The Mask of Reality: An Approach to Design for Theatre is described to be:
A fresh attack on the designing assignment: A plan of action, from a world-famous designer who starts with the advantage of an extraordinary talent, but then immerses herself in brick-by-brick labour to achieve her ends; who embraces her existing, often limiting conditions, and uses them to discipline her imagination. This book, written with charm, wit, and humanity, and generously illustrated, is directed to the working theatre artist who seeks to expand his own knowledge, enlarge his own experience, explore his own capabilities, achieve his own individual style.
She also wrote  The Face is a Canvas: The Design and Technique of Theatrical Make-up, which both describes and illustrates how make-up can be used to create a character beyond the simple face.  Both of these works are considered essential texts for theatrical design.
            What makes Irene Corey the most fascinating for me is not just the beauty of her work but that she was also a part of Georgetown College’s legacy. She started in 1952 and stayed, eventually as head, in the art department until 1960.  During this time, she collaborated with her husband who worked in the Theatre department. The two of them expanded the prestige of the college by collaborating on twenty touring performances a season, and establishing a children’s theater.  Because both the departments had few majors, they encouraged the a wide variety of students to perform and expand their artistic horizons.  In fact, it was here at Georgetown, where Job was born, inspiring other great works in the future, such as Reynard the Fox and the ’72 production of The Tempest. A retrospective of her work was exhibited in 1994 entitled Past and Present: Costume Designs and Paintings.  
            This artist had also had her share of awards such as being accepted by USITT DeGaetaini Award for lifetime Achievement (1994), a part of The National Museum of Women in Art in Washington DC (1995) and listings in Who’s Who of American Women (45).
            Irene Corey shows how connected everything can be.  She created many significant works that lasted only for a short time. She was described to be attentive to detail and ample research, characteristics that are very prominent in her works.  It is interesting to know that if it wasn’t for this particular acquisition, I would not have discovered this artist and how much she is connected to this campus. (Eventually, I hope to get to other works of hers that are also in our collection.)       

I will leave off with Susie Cox’s description of her:  
Irene gave me a way to find my own path. She is aware of her power, but careful; a quiet teacher who radiates an incredible sense of rightness. She has light in her hands and whatever she touches grows brighter.” (Hill)

Dramatic Publishing, "The Face: Is a Canvas: The Design and Technique of Theatrical Makeup." (accessed March 28, 2011).

Hill, Carale Manning. ""Light in Her Hands": Biography of Irene Corey: A Dissertation in Fine Arts." December (accessed March 25, 2011)
Pannell, Sylvia Hillyard. "Corey Presented with USITT's Hightest Honor." March March 28, 2011).

Simnacher, Joe. "Obituary: Irene Lockridge Corey Barr, designed Barney's Costume." November 22, (accessed March 25, 2011).

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