Along with fairy tales, history, pop culture, and opera, the ballet has long been an influence for the artist Karen Kilimnik. In 2007, she translated her infatuation onto the stage, conceiving and choreographing “Sleeping Beauty and Friends,” a patchwork of scenes and music from famous classical ballets. And now she has designed a series of dreamlike sets for choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s new production “Psyché,” which opened last night at the Opéra Garnier in Paris.
How did you go about creating the sets? With help from Katy Erdman at 303 Gallery and Naomi Munro, working in an architectural model of the stage from Paris Opera, collaging landscapes, animals, flowers, chateaus.
Do you have a favorite? The garden scene—all the flowers and clouds and perfume bottles have glitter and crystal applied to them, so it really shines. And the deer drop, which is accompanied by a soundtrack of a storm rolling in.
What is it about the ballet that draws you? The gracefulness and beauty. I’ve always loved ballet since I was young. It’s been a part of my work since the beginning.
Did you ever want to be a dancer? Yes, I take ballet classes!
Who is your favorite dancer and chorographer? Marius Petipa, and of course I loved working with Alexei—he is such a star of today’s ballet! And as for dancers: Andrian Fadeyev, Rudolph Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Margarita de Saa, and John White, the former principal from the Ballet de Cuba.
Have there been any theater sets in the past that you’ve loved? The 1890 production of “Sleeping Beauty” and the 1900 production of “La Bayadère” at the Kirov.
Photos © Opéra national de Paris, Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York