“Autumn in my Heart Lingers Too Long”


Whitfield Lovell, Kin XLV (Das Lied von der Erde), 2011. Conté on paper and string of pearls, 30 x 23 x 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, The Dreier Fund for Acquisitions, 2013 © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

Whitfield Lovell often uses allusive titles for his works that draw references from music, film, and poetry. In this case, his subtitle echoes the name of Gustav Mahler’s 1909 composition Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). Mahler’s piece comprises six songs for two voices and an orchestra. In this Kin, Lovell portrays the female figure with tears of pearls streaming down her face, evoking the feeling of sadness captured in Mahler’s second song, “Der Einsame im Herbst” (“The Solitary One in Autumn”).

Der Einsame im Herbst
Herbstnebel wallen bläulich überm See; Vom Reif bezogen stehen alle Gräser; Man meint, ein Künstler habe Staub von Jade Über die feinen Blüten ausgestreut.
Der süße Duft der Blumen ist verfl ogen; Ein kalter Wind beugt ihre Stengel nieder. Bald werden die verwelkten, gold’nen Blätter Der Lotosblüten auf dem Wasser zieh’n.
Mein Herz ist müde. Meine kleine Lampe Erlosch mit Knistern, es gemahnt mich an den Schlaf. Ich komm’ zu dir, traute Ruhestätte! Ja, gib mir Ruh’, ich hab’ Erquickung Not!
Ich weine viel in meinen Einsamkeiten. Der Herbst in meinem Herzen währt zu lange. Sonne der Liebe willst du nie mehr scheinen, Um meine bittern Tränen mild aufzutrocknen?
The Solitary One in Autumn
Autumn fog creeps bluishly over the lake. Every blade of grass stands frosted. As though an artist had jade-dust over the fine flowers strewn.
The sweet fragrance of flower has passed; A cold wind bows their stems low. Soon will the wilted, golden petals of lotus flowers upon the water float.
My heart is tired. My little lamp expires with a crackle, minding me to sleep. I come to you, trusted resting place. Yes, give me rest, I have need of refreshment!
I weep often in my loneliness. Autumn in my heart lingers too long. Sun of love, will you no longer shine to gently dry up my bitter tears?
–from Gustav Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), 1909

Responding to The Migration Series: Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

The Phillips has commissioned five plays from local playwrights in response to Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.  The resulting 10-minute, one-act plays will be performed on Oct. 20. In this series, we interview each playwright.


Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm

Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm: I got into theatre as a writer. I was a Fine Arts major in undergrad at the University of Missouri–Columbia. I wanted to break up the tedium of four hour studio classes, with a class where I got to sit at a desk and read and write. But I had an aversion to facts at the time. So I took a creative writing class. I took it so many times that they eventually wouldn’t allow me to take it anymore. On a whim, I took a playwriting class instead. The first play I wrote became a finalist for a prize at the Kennedy Center. I got a free trip to DC, where I fell in love with theatre and the city.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
TAC: I write sober and edit drunk—or vice versa. I don’t have a certain place I write, but I need to be alone. I tend to talk out loud and move around while I’m writing, so this isn’t really conducive to a coffee shop. I sometimes pick a song that I feel captures the mood, tone, and rhythm of the play, and then I listen to it on repeat. But for me, each play is different and I find that I have a different rituals depending on the play.

Please share your thoughts on what The Migration Series means to you. What excited you about being a part of this festival?
TAC: As a visual artist as well as a playwright, I’m really excited by opportunities to marry art and theatre. For me, The Migration Series represents the power of limitations. I find Jacob Lawrence’s process extremely fascinating in that he limited his palette to just a few colors. I think working within a set of limitations actually makes you more creative.

Tell me a bit about your play. What is it about, and what do you hope audiences will walk away thinking about after hearing it?
TAC: In the final hours of the project, this play became extremely personal. It follows the journey and migration of my own family from Mississippi and my personal migration to DC. At the same time, it speaks to a bigger, more mythological migration—a universal narrative. I hope the audience will walk away considering the migration of their own families and how they relate to larger migration narratives.

Which of the Migration Series panels inspired your play? What drew you to it? What was it like to write a play inspired by a work of art?
TAC: I was really inspired by Panel no. 3. I was drawn to it because of the mass of people all moving on one accord and the fact that their journey is mirrored in the flight of the birds. This forced me think of migration as an instinctual imperative. I wrestled with whether there was some inborn impulse to migrate in humans, as well as how much of human migration is instinctual and how much is practical. I’m still considering these questions.

Why do you think the message of The Migration Series still resonates today? How does your play related to that message?
TAC: I think that migration (or at least the impulse) is a sort of universal experience and it still resonates because people are still in motion.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming playwrights?
TAC: Read plays. See plays. Write plays.

What next for you? Where can we follow your work?
TAC: Next up, I’ll be joining the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard this fall. And my play Hooded: or Being Black for Dummies will receive its DC world premiere at Mosaic Theatre in January 2017. You can follow me on twitter @theatrethirsty.

Jinny Yu’s Panel 61

The story of migration is ongoing. In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The Phillips has invited contemporary artists to continue Jacob Lawrence’s work. Check the recently launched Jacob Lawrence website for additional works to be unveiled in this dynamic curated selection, or contribute your own #Panel61.


Jinny Yu, Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating?, 2015. Ink on fabric and sound, installation at Oratorio di San Ludovico, Nuova Icona, Venice, Italy

Jinny Yu, Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating?

Jinny Yu’s work challenges the materials and formats of painting. Her work grows out of an inquiry into the medium of painting, as a means of trying to understand the world around us. Denaturalizing the medium of oil on canvas and questioning its authority, her most recent work Don’t They Ever Stop Migrating? is a reflection upon both painting and migration, attempting to grasp the fear that host populations feel about migrants. Her work both seeks to understand that sentiment and also to bring us back to the human.