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New doc ‘Hilma af Klint’ reclaims female artist’s place in history

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Hilma af Klint (Image courtesy Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist FIlms)

For most of the last century, art scholars generally credited Bauhaus artist Wassily Kandinsky with creating the first paintings of the abstract movement around 1911.

As it turns out, they were wrong – a Swedish artist named Hilma af Klint had quietly become the world’s first abstract artist five years earlier, before the term even existed, and by the time of Kandinsky’s first effort had already produced a considerable body of abstract work.

How did this important contribution to art history manage to go unnoticed by critics and historians for so many years? It’s not at all surprising, really – Hilma af Klint was a woman, and therefore, to the male-dominated art world of the early 20th century, irrelevant.

Now, her life and work is being explored in a new documentary from German director Halina Dyrschka. “Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint” introduces film audiences to a visionary trailblazing figure who, inspired by spiritualism, modern science, and the riches of the natural world around her, created a series of huge, colorful, sensual works that were without precedent in the world of painting.

According the the film’s official description, it’s a “course-correcting documentary” that not only covers the artist’s biographical details, but “investigates the role accorded to women in art history and reveals how and why Hilma af Klint was scandalously denied the status of a pioneer of modern art,” as it tells the story of how her art was “rediscovered” and unveiled to a modern audience that was ready to finally give her the recognition she deserved.

Director Dyrschka says the documentary – her first feature, though she has directed several shorts – was first sparked when she read a 2013 article about af Klimt, and was fascinated by the idea of such a monumental figure being obscured by history. A few months later, she went to an exhibition of the artist’s work, and she was hooked.

“I was standing in the middle of a hall surrounded by Hilma af Klint’s ‘Ten Largest, altogether 25 meters of paintings, 3.60 meters high,” she says. “And beyond the paintings – a whole world. But why have they been kept from me so long? I almost felt personally insulted when I read that this was a new discovery and the paintings have been hidden for decades.”

“The Swan No. 17” by Hilma af Klint (Image courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk).

She started her research “immediately afterward,” she says, and was surprised by what she learned about the artist.

“Here was a woman who consequently followed her own path in life,” she says. “Despite all restrictions, Hilma af Klint explored the possibilities that go beyond the visible. She knew that she was doing something important not only for herself but for many people.”

“It is more than time to tell the untold heroine stories,” Dyrschka adds. “This is a film about a truly successful life – a woman who was not dependent of the opinion of others, and kept on going her very unique way of living and working.

“Hilma af Klint’s oeuvre goes even beyond art because she was looking for the whole picture of life,” the director concludes. “And with that she comes close to the one question: What are we doing here?”

“Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint” will premiere in the US with an April 10th opening in New York, with other cities to follow.

You can watch the trailer below.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride Parade

Thousands attend annual LGBTQ march and block party

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A scene from the 2024 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party was held on Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 15. 

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Sports

Washington Mystics to hold annual Pride game

Team to play Dallas Wings on Saturday

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Mystics will be having their upcoming Pride game on Saturday against the Dallas Wings.

The Mystics Pride game is one of the team’s theme nights they host every year, with Pride night being a recurring event. The team faced off against the Phoenix Mercury last June. Brittney Griner, who Russia released from a penal colony in December 2022 after a court convicted her of importing illegal drugs after customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, attended the game. 

Unlike the NBA, where there are currently no openly LGBTQ players, there are multiple WNBA players who are out. Mystics players Emily Englster, Brittney Sykes, and Stefanie Dolson are all queer.

The Mystics on June 1 acknowledged Pride Month in a post to its X account.

“Celebrating Pride this month and every month,” reads the message.

The game is on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak Drive, S.E.). Fans can purchase special Pride tickets that come with exclusive Mystics Pride-themed jerseys. 

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Theater

Queers win big at 77th annual Tony Awards

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ among winners

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(Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards' Facebook page)

It was a banner night for queer theater artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theater at the Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album “Illinoise.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pa.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of “Spring Awakening,” where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in “Spring Awakening” and for his featured performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with “Harry Potter” creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play “Appropriate,” about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical “Illinoise,” based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of “Illinoise” performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders,” which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was “Stereophonic,” which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

“Suffs,” a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S., which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had “Suffs” also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”

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