Kimball Art Center gala honors Earth with Szaggars Redford’s ‘Way of the Rain’
Last February, visual Artist Sibylle Szaggars Redford introduced portions of her multi-disciplinary work “The Way of the Rain” during the Kimball Art Center’s Winter Salon.
In two weeks, the artist will present the complete installation during the Kimball Art Center’s 2016 gala that will be held at KAC, 1401 Kearns Blvd., on Thursday, Aug. 4.
The installation will not only feature 31 watercolor paintings Redford created by allowing natural rainfall to blot the pigment, but also tap dancing by Andrew Nemr and modern dance by Kim Holmes and James Luk, performed to live music composed and performed by drummer Will Calhoun, percussionist Chuck Palmer and pianist Dave Eggar.
The work, which will also serve as a prelude to Redford’s new exhibit, “Summer Rainfall,” will also include feature live spoken word narrative by Redford’s husband Robert, founder of the Sundance Institute.
“I am grateful to be able through my art to celebrate the important work the Kimball Art Center is doing in Park City, Utah,” Redford said during an email interview. “The presentation at the Kimball Art Gala event is very meaningful to us since we know that our performance will have an audience that cares about environmental and social issues and that they are taking part of this Gala in support of the Kimball Art Center and the Arts.”
“The Way of the Rain” is Redford’s homage to the fragility of the planet Earth. It premiered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and featured her husband, music by Icelandic composer David Thor Johnson and a film by video artist Floyd Thomas McBee.
The project shifted gears when Johnson left to tour Europe.
“We had a small presentation [of ‘Way of the Rain’] at the Sundance [Resort] in the Screening Room for the Americans for the Arts’ yearly Roundtable last September where Will Calhoun, Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer, Andrew Namr and Robert [first] performed together,” Redford said.
Calhoun, known for his work with the band Living Color, was the first musician to climb aboard.
“I performed a duo concert at the Redford’s Christmas Cantata a few years back at the Sundance Resort,” Calhoun said in an email. “It was a rare opportunity for me to play with many of my personal indigenous instruments in public.
“Bylle was impressed and inspired by the sounds and stories behind the instruments,” he said. “Knowing Bylle she was already planning to collaborate these sounds with her work. She approached me after my performance, to discuss her idea.”
The other two music men — Eggar and Palmer, who frequently work together — were recruited at the same time with the help of a program called YoungArts.
“YoungArts is a large high school competition that I had won in high school, like many people have, and the wonderful thing they do is bring their alumni back to work on artistic collaborations with the new students,” Eggar said. “I had been brought down to give a speech to the music finalists and was told that Bylle Redford was doing an incredible project about the environment and she needed a co-composer kind of guy who plays piano.”
Eggar was told two weeks before the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where his friend Mark Jackson’s “War Story” would be screened.
“I was able to meet the Redfords there and talk with them about the project,” Eggar said.
Eggar agreed to do the project, and suggested he bring his longtime collaborator, percussionist Chuck Palmer, to add his talents as well.
“We all met with Will and the Redfords at Sundance Film Festival and while we were talking, the ideas just started flowing,” Palmer said. “I mean, we got along so well and it was a such a great vibe.”
A few days later, the three musicians met at Calhoun’s place in the Bronx and went to work.
“I brought in a recorder and pushed play,” Palmer said.
“Since it was our first time working together we had to throw a few ideas out and see the reaction,” Calhoun said. “Bylle is very easy to work with, and her vision for art is endless. [So] as a musician/composer this is the most fertile environment to create.”
There was something that clicked between the musicians during that first session.
“It was as if we had been rehearsing for four months,” Eggar said. “What I’ve learned in the arts is if you feel that kind of simpatico you go with it.”
The trio made some rough demos and sent them off to Redford.
“Bylle loved those raw recordings,” Palmer said. “We actually still use them today when we send them to new choreographers who work on the show.”
Each musician approached the music in their own idiosyncratic way.
“Bylle has brilliant paintings, and to me it’s the same as a composer handing me a piece of their sheet music,” Calhoun said. “I ask the same questions to Bylle I would ask a composer — what is the title, what inspired you to create this piece, if there is a story attached, I would like to hear it. Sometimes just a title is enough information.”
Eggar focused on how the instruments worked with the narrative.
“We used processes of improvisation and rhythmic composition and utilized instruments from all over the world as we learned to tell these epic stories of air, wind and fire and how we relate to nature,” he explained. “We looked cross culturally at these instruments and how they are able to tell the stories. It was beautiful getting to this more universal space.”
The project led Palmer get back to his artistic roots.
“That reality of it [was] incredibly exciting to me because I grew up with a mother who was a visual artist and my brother is a sculptor of gigantic proportions,” he said. “I got to grow up being influenced by how he saw the world. So, working with a visual artist was exciting.”
In addition to the paintings, the musicians knew they would be working with a dancer.
“The dance aspect [mandated a] more definitive music attention,” Calhoun said. “To accentuate the dance steps Chuck, Dave and I had to focus on movement, time signatures, volume, tempo, and most crucial — not over playing. The music must support the dancing, not overtake it. Finding the right balance [took] patience.”
Palmer took things in stride.
“I do a lot of work with dance and I’m comfortable doing that and it’s really one of my favorite things to do,” he said. “It was a little different to work on this project, but I felt well positioned to do it.”
The musicians will reunite for the gala performance and Redford is looking forward to seeing her creation come alive again.
“Every ‘The Way of the Rain’ performance differs from the other,” she said. “[While] none of our performances are the same no matter how big or small they are, the concept about the homage of our planet Earth and its four universal elements always stays the same. This is our important message.”
The musicians are also looking forward to working with each other once more.
“‘Way of the Rain’ is a great family to meet, work, eat, laugh, and most importantly create with,” Calhoun said. “It’s a unique setting and every collaboration takes us further into our creative universe.”
Eggar enjoys being part of this socially important work.
“One of the things that means so much is that working with music in a way that affects politics and social change,” he said. “It’s so great to work in a project that relates music to environmentalism and allows us to dig into the relationship between music and these very deep concepts, which really need looking at.”
Palmer is curious about the Kimball Art Center audience’s reaction.
“I feel the audiences we have performed for have become more receptive and motivated about the reality of what is happening to our planet and how things have to happen on an individual basis in order to bring about change,” he said. “All of us who were part of this creation are inspired by that and this is at the forefront of our minds as we are doing it.”
Redford is grateful to the Kimball Art Center for keeping her creation alive.
“Every ‘The Way of the Rain’ performance we are invited to present means that we are able to convey our message about the fragility of our one and only Earth,” Redford said.
The Kimball Art Center, 1401 Kearns Blvd., will host its annual gala on Thursday, Aug. 4, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $350 per person. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.kimballartcenter.org.
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