Arts & Culture Newsletter: In ‘Birds Of a Different Feather,’ artist Saki plays with identity and the avian world

Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

The wearable art of the Southern California-based artist Saki is by design transformative: “People who’ve worn my works become different people. They become more confident. They wear a different persona.”

Saki’s dioramas play with gender identity and the avian world at its most fanciful in her exhibition “Birds Of a Different Feather” at the Oceanside Museum of Art. “Much of the art that I created is inspired by the LGBTQ community, especially drag queens and the concept of dressing extravagantly,” explained Saki. “I want to just bring that attitude to everyone, not exclusively drag queens.”

As to the gender roles connection: “With the human race compared to the rest of the animal kingdom we’re unusual in that in modern-day society the women have been the ones getting all dressed up and wearing makeup, and usually the guys take a back seat in a typical hetero relationship. Now we’ve broken free of that. It’s the males’ turn to up their game a little and catch up to the women.”

Each of the dioramas in the exhibition, which runs through Jan. 23, portrays a character inspired by a species of bird. “It’s generally the case,” said Saki, “that in the bird world the male far outshines the female.”

Saki’s presence at the OMA grew out of her co-winning a Juror’s Choice Award at last year’s virtual fashion event, “Night of the Living Art: An Art After Dark Extravaganza.” In case you missed it, here’s a link to that show.

More visual art

While questions of gender identity informed the work of Saki, those concerning the natural world and feminist ideology did so for the “earth-body” creations of Cuban-born multidisciplinary artist Ana Mendieta. Mendieta’s work is among the major collections at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A video reflection on the work of Mendieta, who passed away in 1985, is part of the museum’s richly curated Art at Home programming.

Definitely worth your while if you’re into the surreal is a 26-minute-long virtual tour of the museum’s exhibition “Surrealism Beyond Borders.” There’s much more on Art at Home, too, including video interviews, articles and activities for the budding young artists in your own home.

Read more about visual art: Meet artist Kristi Lin: bringing a natural balance

Pop music

Singer Ed Sheeran in a crowd

Ed Sheeran

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)

So you want to head up to L.A. tomorrow night for the annual 102.7 KIIS-FM Jingle Ball at the Forum in Inglewood? Sorry to deposit a lump of coal in your stocking, but the show’s sold out.

However, I’ve got a yuletide present of headliner Ed Sheeran for you just the same. Last week, Sheeran made a guest appearance on the Irish late-night talk show “The Late Late Show” as part of its annual holiday program “The Late Late Toy Show.” In it, Sheeran performed with a Toy Show Choir of kids. It’ll warm your heart and it doesn’t necessitate a traffic-snarled drive up the I-405.

Read more: Ed Sheeran among the 2022 Grammy nominees

Theater

A woman in a recording studio holding headphones to her ear

Katie Karel as Patsy Cline in North Coast Rep’s “Always … Patsy Cline.”

(Aaron Rumley)

What has also become an annual tradition is North Coast Repertory Theatre’s staging of the musical drama “Always … Patsy Cline.” It opens on Wednesday and runs through Jan. 2 at the Solana Beach venue.

I’ve seen this show a number of times, and for good reason: Not only are so many of Cline’s tunes country-music classics (including “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy”), but her too-short life — she was killed in a plane crash at age 30 — makes for a compelling narrative.

On top of that, I enjoy every single time hearing a rendering of Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.” It’s no coincidence that so many musicians in varied genres have recorded this song, from Garth Brooks to the Cowboy Junkies to jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux. But no one could croon it like Patsy.

Read more about theater in this weekly column by U-T theater critic Pam Kragen: Theater Notebook: ArtsTix offers pay-what-you-will theater tickets during Arts Access Weekend Dec. 4-5.

Film

A man standing on a stage holding a microphone

This image released by Netflix shows Andrew Garfield in a scene from “Tick, Tick…Boom!”

(Macall Polay/Netflix via AP)

Theater makers and insiders may stand and cheer in their living rooms for Tick, Tick … Boom!, the bio-musical film about composer Jonathan Larson that’s now streaming on Netflix. Directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield as Larson, “Tick,Tick … Boom” is an adaptation of Larson’s 1990 solo show of the same name that chronicled in song the tribulations of his personal life and of trying to get his musical “Superbia” to the stage.

Larson, whose death at only 35 in 1996 would precede by just a day the first Off Broadway preview of his groundbreaking musical “Rent,” was a mentee of the legendary Stephen Sondheim, who the world lost just last week. “Tick, Tick … Boom” is bursting with angst and energy, though it’s over-directed by Miranda (making his feature-film debut behind the camera) and over-sung by Garfield. Watch for numerous Broadway star cameos, though. Among them are Bernadette Peters, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera and Daphne Rubin Vega, who originated the role of Mimi in the Broadway production of “Rent.”

Read more: What we’re obsessed with: “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

UCTV

University of California Television invites you to enjoy this special selection of programs from throughout the University of California. Descriptions courtesy of and text written by UCTV staff:

’Franci’s War’”: Helen Epstein discusses her mother’s memoir about life in Nazi-occupied Europe. The manuscript written by Franci Rabinek Epstein sat unpublished for nearly 45 years until the stepson of a woman held with Franci at a Prague prison camp renewed attempts to publish her story. “Franci’s War” starts in 1942 when the 22-year-old began a three-year journey that took her from Terezin, the Nazis’ “model ghetto,” to the Czech family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, to slave labor camps in Hamburg, and finally to Bergen Belsen. The memoir details the horrors she and other women faced, and how Franci, trained as a dress designer, survived the war and eventually established a high-end fashion salon in New York.

The U.S. Pandemic Response”: Following its discovery in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the COVID-19 virus spread rapidly around the globe since being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is no stranger to public health emergencies. She was sworn into office amid an outbreak of the H1N1 virus in the U.S. Sebelius is joined by former Homeland Security Secretary and UC Berkeley/Goldman School of Public Policy professor Janet Napolitano to discuss the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009 and what lessons that pandemic might have for our current situation and our future.

My Brain Made Me Buy It”: Why do we spend money for things we don’t often need – or even really want? Whether we like it or not, advertisers are always seeking to better understand consumers’ preferences and decision processes, and applying neuroscience knowledge to answer market and media research questions is not new. However, more questions and concerns are being raised as advertising techniques challenge social and ethical boundaries in the digital age. Dr. Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist at Nielsen, addresses the ethical concerns related to consumer neuroscience including issues around privacy, informed consent, and consumer autonomy in decision-making.

And finally … Top Weekend Events

A photo of December Nights

December Nights

(Hayne Palmour IV/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Here are the top events happening in San Diego from Thursday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 5.