This Thursday, the Barnes Foundation will close out its Barnes Takeover series with a performance by drag songstress Cookie Diorio entitled Out of the Oven, Into the Barnes. The performance is a self-portrait in song, inspired by Dr. Barnes’s collection and interpreted through Cookie’s experience as a performer and a human being.
Letting the mind wander
The Barnes Takeover is a series of performances in which various artists were invited to study the collection and interpret it through their own artistic medium. Previous takeovers included Sattriya Dance Company and performance artist Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews, both of whom, according to curator of public programs Kathleen Greene, focused on completely different aspects of the collection to drive the vision of their performances. “When I was studying the collection, I found specific things; it was like a mental exercise.” says Diorio. “Every room makes you use your brain in a different way, it’s similar to how I see music.” She says she was drawn to the paintings that represented different and ambiguous bodies as well as those which depicted the religious, sacred, and spiritual. “For this piece I had to find what spoke to me,” says Diorio, “spending time in each room, letting my mind find songs.”
Greene says she invited Diorio to participate in the takeover after seeing her perform last year and recognizing her unique brand of autobiographical performance. “I felt like she was opening her journal to us,” said Greene. Greene says the Barnes Takeover presents a fantastic chance for artists to explore their own visions, as they’re given free rein to explore the collection and find their own voices within it. “The artist comes first,” Greene explains, “because there’s so much, it’s very easy for them to find what ties into their art form.” Because of the freedom given to the artists for Barnes Takeover, everything performed is drawn from their own identity, ensuring everything the audience sees on Thursday night will be Cookie’s vision.
Cookie’s process begins and ends in song: “I take whatever subject matter and listen, listen, listen until it takes on a life of its own. It just sort of writes itself so to speak.” In her performance the space itself becomes art, Cookie describes the space as “enormous, cavernous, and wonderful to make sound in. Like a cathedral.” She says the space speaks to her as a vocal performer and manages to be grand, dramatic, and intimate all at once.
When talking about the collection and its intersection with herself and her performance, Cookie says, “It’s important to realize that the paintings are part of someone’s existence, part of their presence, body, and mind.” This intersection of live performance as a lived experience with the preserved humanity of the artists featured in Dr. Barnes’s collection is what drives Diorio as a performer. “Art is not to be looked at, but experienced,” she says.
“Out of the Oven, into the Barnes” is Thursday, June 13, 2019, at the Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, from 8pm to 10pm. Tickets are $10 to $12 and are available online.