Surprise Gifts

Surprise Gifts

There always seems to be surprise gifts that come from creating a performance work–things that enhance my life and/or art making that I didn’t expect to receive from the project.

With the Friend project, a major gift has been a reminder about the joy of making stuff. By stuff I mean visual art (sculpture, collage, installation, etc.)

This gift has come at me from two sources. My friend Sharon was a visual artist at heart, always making sculptures of various kinds and also picking up odd objects to set out as pieces in their own right or to use to make something else. To honor her and get in touch with her artistic spirit, I’ve been making a series of sculptures to use in the performance piece and also to populate an installation in the CounterPULSE lobby.

These started with what I am calling “brain boxes”–old suitcases that I have turned into dioramas of a sort. I see these as intuitive sketches of the human brain. They have complex patterns of materials, varying amounts of layers and then small treasures hidden within.

At first I was building them around small sculptures of Sharon’s, but they have expanded to include many different materials: woven wicker balls, scraps of computer innards, small sculptures I have made, and lots of lights.

I have also become somewhat obsessed with the wire sculptures that Sharon made in her last few years. I think these came out of her strong draw to welding, and when she wasn’t capable of getting to The Crucible to weld anymore, she switched from more solid metal to wire she could weave at home. Most of her wire sculptures, and some of her welded pieces contained small wire balls within them. Sometimes the balls were singular and sometimes they were built inside of each other like layers of russian dolls. These inner balls resemble tumors to me, but also pure inner cores, untouched by illness.

I’ve made about 8 wire balls now, and will probably make some more. Some will hang in the space during the performance, and some will stay dedicated to the lobby installation I’ve put together, which can be viewed here:

In my choreography, writing, music and now visual art I find it very helpful to have a “jumping off point” to start at. It’s like a step-stool to get me to a level where the creation takes over and creates itself. In this piece that jumping off point has been Sharon’s art. It’s opened a door back into a part of me that has been very important, but has gotten ignored along the way.

As a child, the first thing I knew I wanted to be “when I grow up” was an artist. And this was before discovering dance and performance, when I was very shy and preferred to stay as far away from the spotlight as possible. I wanted to draw, paint, sculpt. Then as a teenager I found dance and fell in love, but I kept returning at different parts of my life to focusing on visual art. That’s happened less and less in the last decade, so this nudge back into this field of creation by Sharon has been a blessing.

I’ve also been given this gift by ensemble member Mickey Kay. Mickey majored in Art at UC Berkeley, and has been pushing me into the realms of building and designing since we met. With this project Mickey initiated the creation of a giant wheelchair sculpture, that would have a kind of roll cage to send the wheelchair user upside down and all over the place. It’s turned out that this moving sculpture won’t be part of Friend, but rather some other upcoming piece. However, Mickey has led me into making stuff as much as I can. Some of the things that I’ve come up with in our art sessions together have been useful experiments but won’t be included in performance works for now, and some have become integral parts of my current creative life.

I’ve used a part of one of Mickey’s sculptures in the lobby installation: a wooden box with a motor and rotating gears, and Mickey has created shoes with lights shining out of the bottom, his own “brain box” and more things that I’m sure are on their way. What I like about Mickey’s art making energy is how much he loves the process of experimental creation. It’s not so important that every idea comes to fruition, but rather that I immerse myself in curiosity. I don’t have much training in sculpture or design–but that doesn’t so much matter for this approach. What matters is that I have a hunger for making stuff.

I’m liking that my performance work has led me back into the world of visual art. I used to experience both of these art forms as things to bounce back and forth between. But now they seem to be merging into one inquiry, much larger than the sum of its parts.

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