Over the past month I’ve been working on a collaboration that’s totally new to me—pairing painting with live improvisational dance.
I was approached by a pair of dancers creating a work for a NACHMO (National Choreography Month) presentation in Cambridge because they sensed some overlaps between our approaches. I spent some time in rehearsal with them talking about the process of drawing compared to dancing, and there were a lot more similarities than I would have guessed!
The challenges in this collaboration were fascinating. Every time I came across some difficulty there was an interesting question about what made it difficult, so we had a lot of great philosophical talks.
One of the recurring themes was the fact that both dance and drawing are time-based (as in, they both occur over time)—but it’s only in dance where that’s a given; in drawing the time-based process is hidden behind the final work.
We also struggled to create a process which had feedback in both directions. For the first few rehearsals I was just experimenting with ways to document the dancers as they moved across the floor, or in the different angles of their bodies.
We gradually came up with some options for the dancers to work off of what I created as well. This led to some interesting moments in rehearsal where I was aware that a dancer I was documenting was echoing my drawing, creating a short-term positive feedback loop.
Last Saturday was the final performance. I had just gotten in from 1.5 weeks in London and had not heard the music or seen the final versions of the scores (rules/patterns for the dances) that the dancers had come up with, and we’d never rehearsed under the kind of conditions in the performance space. But the experience of drawing in tandem with movement was just as exciting despite the changes. I found myself feeling bad for the audience: no one, probably not even the dancers, has as complete a view of the work as I do. It really is about movement in the moment, and I was both creating and experiencing that performance in full.
I have four sketchbook pages in the Sketchbook Show at the Nave Annex in Davis Square, Somerville. The opening reception is Friday, January 9th from 6-8pm and the show runs through January 31st. It’s a really interesting look into how very different artists approach their process, and I recommend checking it out if you’re in the area!
More information, including gallery hours, is on the Nave’s website here.
Here’s what my sketchbook pages look like in situ:
I have about 20 pieces in an exhibition at The Picture Place, a gallery and frame shop at 320A Harvard St in Coolidge Corner, Brookline. The reception will be Friday, December 5th from 7-10pm, and will include a drop-in collaborative drawing project— guests can come and see the work, and then get creative with map marks of their own.
UPDATE: While the show was slated to be on til December 27th, the owner decided to take it down early. Thanks to everyone who came to see it while it was up!
I will be teaching another workshop for kids this Saturday November 8 at Parts and Crafts (577 Somerville Ave) from 1-3pm. I’ll have some of my sketches and inspirations handy, as well as lots of materials to get creative with mapmaking!
From Parts & Crafts:
A map-making workshop like you’ve never seen it before, pairing fractals, biology, the patterns of cells and neurons with worlds of our own devising. Hosted by Emily Garfield, a local artist specializing in cartography and flights of fancy. Come for open shop, stay for the workshop!
The class is $25, or $15 for Parts & Crafts members; register here to attend.
Parts and Crafts events are geared towards kids 7-12 years old.
Last weekend I spent Saturday at MIT’s first Mini Maker Faire. The event couldn’t support sales, but after talking about it I realized that would be a good opportunity to do a collaborative/interactive project. I have a few ideas for digital interactive projects that have been rattling around in my mind for a while, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time or expertise to complete them in time for the event so I went low-tech.
I brought a big piece of drawing paper and a variety of markers and crayons and just invited visitors to help me make a map. It was a super simple setup but people got surprisingly into it.
We had a range of skill levels, scales and styles, but it came together! I spent a lot of my time at the table drawing map bits around everyone’s contributions, even the text ones. I’m not sure I would call the whole thing a map but I think people had fun contributing to it and it looks pretty cool all together!
For a while I’ve been brainstorming ways to combine plants and maps. I was originally inspired by a call for art from the Arboretum, but it’s also been interesting to me since they’re two things I get really excited about so there must be some way they can work together. I had an idea to do something specimen-inspired, and drew out some ideas:
I tried drawing on actual leaves, which was fun but less than archival. But I had more success drawing around leaf prints.
I tried a few ways to make prints, including painting leaves with wash and leaving them pressed against watercolor paper to dry:
The detail came out pretty well, although I was initially disappointed by the spottiness. As I played with the forms, though, I realized I could draw hybrids of leaves and maps, using mapping to fill out the missing spaces of the leaf print. I like how they came out!
The above array of leaf prints was accepted into the Arboretum show, so it will be on view for the reception on Thursday, September 18th from 6-8 and through JP Open Studios weekend (September 20-21) from 10am-5pm at the Arboretum exhibition hall.
Last weekend I taught a short workshop on imaginary mapmaking at Somerville Skillshare, a day of free workshops held at the Armory. I was blown away by the response—people were lining up for it when I got there, and even though we admitted over twice the number of people I had originally planned for we still had to turn people away because we were out of seats!
Here’s what it looked like while people were drawing:
I had some prepared paper, some printouts with imaginative maps that inspire me, and some of the drawing materials I regularly use, and it was fascinating to see people turn them into maps. Here’s some of the art that came out of the 50-minute workshop: