The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

September 8, 2009

Marcelo Novo, Twyla Tharp, the if ART Gallery, and the thrill of creativity

I spent an hour or so last week sitting down over coffee with local visual artist Marcelo Novo.  We wanted to talk about Marcelo’s contributions to the upcoming performance of the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company’s Catharsis, choreographed by Miriam Barbosa.  The take away message?  Collaboration is good and Marcelo Novo is brilliant.

The story of how Marcelo and Miriam met is interesting in that they were introduced after the 2004 Verner Awards ceremony by a  mutual friend who thought their common South American heritage would provide a pleasant point of departure for conversation — and it did.  They spent the evening conversing in Spanish, comparing notes on assimilation into North American culture, and talking about art.  When the evening was done the two artists parted as friends, exchanging numbers with the promise  that they would one day work together on something special. 

Still feeling the ache of his father’s passing, Marcelo’s art had recently been inspired it seemed by the need to cope — to get through difficulties, to survive and grow.  Miriam had also experienced some deeply personal challenges of late.  When the artists met over coffee, it was toward the concept of catharsis,  the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through art, that their interests leaned.  Within a year’s time the artists had developed the ballet Catharsis, and now, five years later, we get to take another look at this ballet with new dancers, new costumes, and new surprises.

For me though, the excitement of seeing the ballet this time will be enhanced by the fact that I feel like I’ve already seen it, when I really haven’t.  Yes, I sat in on a portion of rehearsal a while back and I saw brief pieces of a grainy film on a small screen, but no, I did not see the dance itself.  I saw something not necessarily better, but certainly more intimate. 

I was allowed the luxury of looking through Marcelo’s sketchbook and viewing the images of the ballet as it was born from that sequestered space in his subconscience through his hand, to his pen, and onto the paper.  Sketched sometimes on scrap pages, I saw the seminal work, the very beginnings of what would eventually be a fully realized artistic endeavor — the lines of the leotards, the surreal masks, the details of what would ultimately be quilted wings, tediously applied make up, and lights falling over dancers and onto a stage floor. 

Sometimes Marcelo recorded his thoughts in complete sentences and formed them into paragraphs that provided a narrative he would ultimately return to as the process of creation continued.  At other times he just jotted down words, phrases and visual flashes that sparked off of concepts that were revealing themselves to his consciousness at a rate too rapid to fully comprehend.  A teaser; something to come back to later.   There were frame-worthy sketches on coffee napkins — complete characters as well as small details of costume design.  It was astounding.

And as I write these words I know that the reader might think me fawning over the attractive Marcelo, but I’m not.  What I am in awe of though is this process of creation — no matter who gets to experience it.  Hell, I’m even thrilled with myself when I turn the clever and occasionally eloquent phrase.   As I told Marcelo, I am reminded of a book I picked up by the choreographer Twyla Tharp called, The Creative Habit, written in 2003.  Tharp opens the book with the words, “I walk into a white room …” and she goes on to explain how she transforms the emptiness of that white room through creativity into art.  “Filling this empty space constitutes my identity,” she says.  And I find that sentence humbling, too.

If like me, you’re a sucker for the creative process, your own or somebody else’s, check out these three things:  Catharsis, presented by the SCCDC on September 17th at 7pm at the Koger Center; the opening of Marcelo’s new show at the if ART gallery on Lincoln Street on the following night; and Twyla Tharp’s venture into the written word, The Creative Habit:  Learn it and Use it for Life.

 

Oh, and here are some important websites as well:  www.marcelonovo.blogspot.com and www.ifartgallery.blogspot.com

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1 Comment »

  1. I was blown away by tonight’s performance at the Koger Center and look forward to seeing you all at the Gallery on Friday night! Thanks for a great evening!

    Comment by Cassie Premo Steele — September 17, 2009 @ 23:53


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