Happy Medium

Five Questions for illustrator and graphic novelist Nidhi Chanani

Photo by ANGELA GRAMMATAS.
Photo by ANGELA GRAMMATAS.

Nidhi Chanani says she wants to make people smile. That’s why, three-and-a-half years ago, the Calcutta-born artist committed to churning out a drawing every single day and posting it to her website, Everyday Love. “I wanted to share those little moments in life that make people happy, that put a smile on their face.”

No one would dispute that her lively, colorful images are smile inducing. Sometimes romantic, often whimsical and always cheerful, they depict handsome young couples in love, strolling over bridges, snuggling in bed or wandering through moonlit city streets. They show mothers and daughters baking together or braiding one another’s hair; women alone, daydreaming over a cup of tea, playing acoustic guitar or riding a bicycle across a gorgeous landscape; and cuddly zoo animals frolicking against natural backdrops. Much of Chanani’s art is a love letter to her City by the Bay, with cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge and other landmarks featured prominently. But she also pays homage to her Indian heritage and dabbles in other romance-inspiring metropolises, including New York. //READ MORE

Brush With Fame

Actress-painter Jemima Kirke depicts her "Girls" as vulnerable beauties.

"Cadence" by Jemima Kirke, part of her show at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco.
"Cadence" by Jemima Kirke, part of her show at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco.

We know her best as the flaky, irreverent, reckless Jessa on the HBO series Girls. But the 29-year-old British-American actress Jemima Kirke, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, insists she is an artist first, an actress second, an assertion that’s backed up by her second solo art show, “Platforms.”

Running through May 10 at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco, the show features a series of striking female portraits. These are “girls” that belong to Kirke alone—female subjects ranging from her little daughter to her personal trainer—and depicted in all their humble humanness. Deliberate brush strokes reveal them as contemplative, physically imperfect beings, often with dour expressions and lost gazes that Kirke has described as being “part of their individuality.” It’s clear that the artist sees them in terms of their unique relationship to her, and her admiration for each shows in her determination to scratch away //READ MORE

The Art of Ashtanga

A new art exhibit reflects on yoga's rich and complex history.

Vishnu Vishvarupa, approx. 1800-1820, India. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. (Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.)
Vishnu Vishvarupa, approx. 1800-1820, India. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. (Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.)

These days, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t experienced the immense physical and spiritual benefits of yoga. But few people are aware just how far the practice has evolved over the past 2,500 years, from its early development by wandering ascetics who used controlled breathing and body movements to transcend human suffering, to the $27 billion industry it’s become in the United States alone.

Now, the world’s first major art exhibit about yoga may change all that. Yoga: The Art of Transformation—at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, by way of the Smithsonian Institution—unravels the complex history of one of the most popular practices in the world. Culling more than 130 rare sculptures, paintings, illustrated manuscripts, prints and other visual arts from 25 museums and private collections around the world, the show explores the centrality of yoga in Indian culture and the evolution of yoga into //READ MORE

The Artsy Type

In the spirit of RT’s launch, a collection of quirky keyboards.

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For years, some of us had a little secret and it was called etsy.com. Now just about everyone has caught on to this amazing purveyor of all things homemade and affordable, and it’s still the first place we visit to find truly one-of-a-kind items, whether for the walls of our home or all the parts of our body that require adornment. As Red Typewriter makes its debut, here are a few etsy finds that celebrate the passion and eccentricity of the writing machine itself—some in fiery hues, and others more subdued.

At right: Olivetti red Valentine typewriter print by Ettore Sottsass; Rumore Bianco, $22. Clockwise from top left: The Shining typewriter retro print in aqua/coral; The Designers Nursery, $30. “All You Need is Love” retro typewriter poster; printdesignstudio, $18. Vintage wedding guest book print; HelloAm, $39.90. Blue Typewriter original oil painting; Latreia Designs, $60. Linocut print of a 1930s red Remington; Echinus Editions, $80. All typewriter art found on etsy.com.

The Most Dangerous Game

Two new film-inspired musicals set lovestruck women down perilous paths.

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As a native New Yorker and someone who loves singing Broadway tunes (at least in the privacy of my shower), I am one of musical theatre’s biggest fans. But for the last decade or so, even I have grown weary of the increasing lack of creativity when it comes to The Great White Way. Sure, there have been some beautiful originals—Once and The Book of Mormon come to mind—but the regurgitations have quickly outpaced the newly invented. The latest movie rip-offs to hit Broadway are based on two very different film blockbusters, the wickedly dark 1988 teen comedy Heathers and the 1995 romance The Bridges of Madison County, which was based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller. While neither may end up being best-musical material come Tony time, both shows sound like saucy fun—if only for the tornadoes of torrid romance in which their characters are swept up.

Heathers the Musical, which opened recently at New World Stages, tells the story of Veronica Sawyer, a teenage misfit who half-heartedly tries to work her way into a ruthless clique called The Heathers. After the leader of the group ostracizes her, Veronica falls for a mysterious new kid at school, J.D., who leads her down a devious and homicidal path of revenge. “Dear Diary: my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count,” is one of the most popular lines from the film, which starred a young Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty.

Heathers, whose music, lyrics and book were written by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, describes itself as a “truthful, uplifting parable for anyone who’s ever been in love, in trouble, or in high school.” A triple threat indeed.

If teenage angst is too much for you to handle, brace yourself for the angst of a Midwestern farm wife who must choose between her boring yet reliable life and the soulmate-caliber intimacy she forges with a mysterious stranger. Playing now at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, Bridges of Madison County the Musical is the tale of Francesca Johnson’s four-day love affair with smoldering photographer Robert Kincaid, who’s in town to do a feature on the state’s famous covered bridges.

The longing that hangs between the characters—like one of the drawbridges Robert is hired to photograph—is sexy and palpable.

Where the musical is lacking—it doesn’t have Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, or the steamy chemistry that sizzled between them in the movie—it makes up for with a beautiful songbook, written by Jason Robert and sung by Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale. There’s real yearning in ballads like “Falling Into You” and “Who We Are & Who We Want to Be,” and the longing that hangs between the characters—like one of the drawbridges Robert is hired to photograph—is sexy and palpable. The musical fills in the mysteries of Kincaid’s life that were left blank in the film version, with the addition of a new character—his sad and lonely ex-wife—revealing something about this mystery man’s complicated history.

Directed by Barlett Sher, with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, Bridges taps into every housewife’s fantasy but ultimately justifies her decision to remain a good wife and mother. Was Waller playing it safe with the ending? Perhaps. But, unlike in the Heathers ending, at least there’s no body count.

As for me? I’m more of a drama girl who can’t wait to see James Franco and Chris O’Dowd in the latest Broadway reincarnation of Of Mice and Men. I’ll take a mentally retarded puppy killer over singing housewives anytime.