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Scriabin Music Boxes Review

Philadelphia City Paper
Arts
First Friday Focus
Sept. 5, 2008

by Lori Hill

When she was a little girl, Julia Stratton would sit underneath her mother's piano and just listen. Now, she wants to create the same experience for an audience, writ large. While still in "the dream stage" — a potential collaboration with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), Astral Artists and the Kimmel Center — Music Box is envisioned as a 20-foot cube in which people will sit underneath a grand piano with sound and video inspired by the music of turn-of-the-20th-century Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. "I didn't seriously start listening to Scriabin until four years ago," says Stratton, "when I heard a Glen Gould compilation with Scriabin's Deux Morceaux, a short piece in two parts. I listened to it over and over again. It was so atmospheric, human, complex, specific. It felt like an internal conversation puzzling over a decision. And all in under two minutes." Stratton blends the same ingredients into her CFEVA show this month. The artist had the opportunity to visit Russia on an Independence Foundation Fellowship. She spent three weeks traveling to its big cities and smaller towns, taking in the medieval churches, icon collections and the Scriabin Museum, where she saw casts of the composer's hands and one ear. All of this will come together in Stratton's vision for Music Box. In the meantime, viewers will have to settle for the artist's intimate yet dramatic bronze sculptures named for Scriabin works, which will be heard in the gallery. The romantic boxes are somewhere between a birdcage and a cathedral in mood, and recall Giacometti's sculpture, with a figure lost in a cold forest. Photos from Stratton's trip to Russia will supplement the show. Fellow Scriabin enthusiast and pianist Koji Attwood will provide musical accompaniment in a concert on Sept. 10 at Jacobs Music, with a reception following in the Benoliel Gallery at CFEVA. "Scriabin Music Boxes," concert, Wed., Sept. 10, 5:30-6:15 p.m., admission free but reservations required (215-735-6999), Jacobs Music, 1718 Chestnut St.; artist reception, 6:30 p.m., CEFVA, The Barclay, Suite 3A, 237 S. 18th St.; exhibition runs Sept. 3-25.