The weekend is swiftly approaching and you’re looking for the perfect date night for your culturally savvy sweetheart. Orlando has a healthy art scene, a vibrant dance and theater community, and a burgeoning foodie culture. But unless we’re talking about one of the myriad monthly “Second Monday”-style open-house events (which, let’s face it, are mainly meat markets), assembling an evening including all three elements is usually a DIY affair. That’s just one reason I’m excited about Hammers and Lambs, an innovative (for our area) experiment integrating an art opening and original performance with upscale eats into an aesthetically unified experience.
Painter Patrick Fatica and choreographer Baby BlueStar operate in different circles, but there are remarkable parallels between their styles. Both straddle the line between classical techniques and pop influences; both feature female forms that are erotically charged and also empowered; both create surreal scenes that invite audience interpretation. So I was surprised to discover when I sat down with them last week at Blue’s new performance space, the Venue (thevenueorlando.com), that the pair had never met prior to embarking on this project, which premieres June 20 with six shows running through June 29.
They met through mutual friend Jason Lambert, proprietor of the Hammered Lamb pub on Lake Ivanhoe, which serves as the starting place for this progressive party inspired by the eatery’s name. Guests will begin with drinks, a buffet dinner (yes, lamb will be on the menu) and a chance to examine Fatica’s latest exhibition, then ride O-Cartz around the corner to the Venue for an all-new Varietease show.
Pulling together a cohesive program out of such diverse parts would seem to require close coordination, but Fatica’s and Blue’s method of collaboration is as individual as their art. Fatica began back in February by sketching a single scene, which later became the poster image, and presenting it to Blue along with a list of evocative words (including “feral,” “cold,” “isolated,” “delicate” and “savage”) intended to “paint a picture in [her] head like a music lyric would.” As additional paintings were completed, he would share them with her but withhold the titles, so she could formulate her own interpretation to fuel her choreography. And since he hasn’t attended rehearsals, Fatica won’t see the movements his art motivated until he attends the performance on opening night.
Fatica describes this project as “the closest thing I’ve come to a concept album,” and music is a key component underlying the whole thing. Blue has custom-mixed a soundscape (including cuts from a CD of songs Fatica listened to while painting, along with her own selections) that will be heard not only during the dance performance but also during the dinner and pre-show. In a twist, Blue has dispensed with Varietease’s typical playlist of recognizable pop tunes in favor of orchestral pieces and female-driven rock from obscure artists. “There are no preconceived notions,” says Blue, “because hardly anybody will have any ties to any of this music.”
Another example of these artists reaching outside their comfort zones: This is the first time Fatica has “sat down with an idea for an entire show” as opposed to creating one-off canvases. It’s also his first foray away from small-scale oil paintings to super-sized pastels, resulting in a “bigger and more expressive” feel. What will remain familiar are his depictions of strong yet vulnerable women against a wilderness background, accessorized here with animal-skin hoods (which were reproduced as stage costumes by Jesse LeNoir) and implements of destruction.
The imagery in these eight paintings, along with an accompanying parable about a shepherd who wounds his lamb to keep her from wandering, invokes issues of domestic abuse and feminine empowerment, as filtered through a fantasy universe. I was reminded of the messy-but-mesmerizing Zack Snyder movie Sucker Punch, while Fatica cited Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a formative influence.
The portrait subjects’ deeply expressive eyes, dripping with viscous eyeliner, speak to a secret back story that Fatica knows, but is keeping to himself.
“It’s not important for the viewer to know what my back story is, it’s up to them to create their own back story. … I try really hard not to put the idea into people’s head of exactly what you’re supposed to be seeing,” says Fatica. “Part of the fun is interpreting yourself.”