Monday, May 27, 2013

A Letter To Mark di Suvero

A Letter to Mark di Suvero

Dear Mark di Suvero,

Time has a way of fermenting percolating deepening.  I have not forgotten your visit to San Francisco.  I have not forgotten.  Not because you are famed.  I have not forgotten because as a dancer, it was a brilliant and extraordinary experience among your art works.

Living in San Francisco is like a dream at times so incredibly beautiful.  Some times it’s rather like a place where dreams manifest. This dream I didn’t create but I played role of a dancer in it in 2013.  Acknowledgements on the go, to the risk taking museum, the open air expansiveness of SFMOMA on the go, busting out with your steel sculptures in the wild beauty of the bay at Crissy Field. There is whole book writing itself left for another day.  It will require the well-versed in language of justice.  For now put simply, applause, for the impressive and the well done.

It was wonderful attend your event at SFJazz center for poetry reading, a great evening that cost only $10.  I don’t know who selected the poets, the concept of them was by far more pleasurable than some of their descriptives.  There was one older man who had the juice extracted and he was sterling.  I was relieved to find your compassionate philosophy.  

After the function, I stealthily hopped up on stage, waiting my turn in the queue for a chance to exchange a few words.  Myself, being a nobody made a few people nervous.  Patiently I inched toward an exchange hoping you wouldn’t be exited away before my turn came.  And it was my turn. 

I told you I had been spending time with your pieces at Crissy Field.  You asked if I had viewed them from the ground looking up.  To your amazement, I said "I’ve been dancing with them".  You invited me to come dance at Socrates Park in New York.  I said I will.  I told you I wanted to send you a record of some of our dance performance at Crissy Field. You gave me Socrates Park address.  This made some of the people nervous too. I didn’t expect much, just enthusiastic. I sent a note with short dance films and poetry.  It was returned to sender.

Art made and being made is important.  This event continues to further outgrowths of production. EVAWAVE (2015) and COMPASSIONS (2018), and in 2017, a nine foot installation was born called MotherPeace/MotherWar.  It premiered in 2018 and continues to grow. 
Documenting this formative inspiration is important.  It allows artists and non-artists a perspective of relationship, layers of dance art performance.  It brings into focus the important element of time.

This is the record of my experience.

I missed the weighty machinery installment of each enormous sculpture.  It was easy to track when I danced, favorable spots flattened earth where new grass was not quite growing.

At first when I walked among your sculptures it felt like an illicit viewing—strange. There was tension in the air from the metal.  Some residents living were cramped by the new idea of this show. But that day was the breaking of invisible chains into dance that lead others to follow.  A few furtive glances, then running free down the perfectly compact dirt sand path, danced on through to the other side. Several strange people playfully skipped along with me.  The national parks were shut down, because our republican politicians were playing some kind of stupid hard ball about something that nobody can remember except that they could shut down the government for spite for many days… government functions were shut down and off limits, including national parks like Crissy Field.

So we had a private viewing before the national park service arrived to chase us away. They drove everyone away very slowly.  There was grandeur in your works at the Crissy Field gallery. I felt the magnitude of an invitation to collaborate.  I accepted the challenge joyfully. At first walk through I didn’t understand any of it. 

They were so unusual, I had never seen anything like this before my eyes in one place.  The cold hard steel that shaped empty spaces between, dangled and turned in the foggy winds of San Francisco Bay.  I didn’t want to think: do I like do I not like.  I didn’t want to read about the pieces.  I wanted to experience them for myself. I wanted to learn them not name them. Of course there is purpose for a pre-digested experience.  The placards that gave the history of each piece were great. I read them much later.

Immediately I wanted to climb.  I couldn’t disregard the signage “do not climb on this” and yet there were seats and perches that you had sculpted easy access. Even so like the holey, pocked, uneven sometimes marshy outdoor dance floor there, the signage was a restraint that shaped the dance possibilities.

I knew to return again and again was to learn the message, the art, the movement of this magnificent steel sculpture performance.  I did return many times to dance with them, not just in the presence of them. It took awhile to feel it out.  And still there wasn’t enough time.  It was sad when they had to leave.  I couldn’t watch the passing.  It’s a hollow space now, barely any evidence of the tonnage that stood for months witness to nature. Only bare ground spots evidence the tonnage that witnessed art with nature for a short time in San Francisco. But for that time, it was magic.

There was a defining moment when I experienced your art work through dance.  That day, at the end of that day dancing, creating and partnering and being partnered by metal, I still see the image of that beautiful field the spectacular bay, when your sculptures suddenly appear as Chinese calligraphy.  




And so I dedicated a dance piece, to your Mother Peace, called Calligraphy for a Genie.  It was to dance with Mother Peace as a free woman in the US under the safety of daylight and open minded space.  No longer a Mother Peace shunned as political, time was taking her back to the natural world.  Even knowing these times were growing more dangerous in many ways, it was knowing that I was in one of the freest places on earth for that moment in of our time.

(Above photo credits Shani Peleg and Lalyn Curtis)

                                                                          (clip credit Shani Peleg)

Many times, when I danced there was not photographer or videographer.  Only recorded by memory of locals and international passersby, with their eyes seeing, their ears hearing, and their skins breathing. Some selfie opportunities were made rich.  The exquisite experience was opportunity available to all.  And I took it.  Danced with it!  Yes, there was poetry.

The other observations I want to tell you about was not dance art performed by me, although I hope to reproduce it someday.  It was the precise choreography of 4 young boy-children and a mother watch-walking on their perimeter.  They were dribbling a soccer ball in an impromptu fast scrimmage in and around the funny piece with the hanging balls.  They were in total harmony with the setting not running into any part of the sculpture's high low sides but ducking and shaping in unison.  They were moving in such synchrony and rhythm with each other and with the soccer ball, it was a stunning performance.  They reminded me of the little shorebirds, the snowy plover that fly in flocks low to the ground with speed, precision and proxemics, with synchrony in the fast turns and landings.  I didn’t have a camera.  I just stopped everything to witness.  So, I too was on the perimeter watching over.

Here are a just a few other observational notes:

Raven’s wing and the ravens and small black birds 
the winds danced with me and the silk redwood wings I made
flying strokes in angles of black shapes in wind and lines of orange and brown steel writings

My first dance with a blue heron. 
It was camouflaged acknowledgement from 15meters away.  It was stillness and readiness.  It was this 6foot tall white woman greeting a 6foot tall blue dignitary amidst the grassy field and orange steel heaven and earth symbols placed in eight positions. 

There was no waiting for hope only being presence.  Two chubby tourists slowly skulked up to it—the paparazzi got too  close.  It spread its 6foot wings and flew so closely over my head.  I felt its violet blue gray wings brush Qi over me.  I was ready for that dance.  I saw it coming, formed a low contour, then turned to fly off with it into the east for a few beats.

The dog walkers and the dog shit.  The dogs were always curious about who had visited the site last.

The pot holes
The sprinklers
The paths
—the people local/international meandering, meeting it and feeling it, seeing an artist dancing with great works of art.  Some smiling for live art, some walk watching, some sitting taking it in, some running, jogging, talking, riding, some not noticing what they noticed. One joined in.

One great day, playing, dancing under over upside down leaning blending shaping shadowing,
not climbing.
What name are you?

The one with designs for a sincere invitation to climb
Stealing one Climb, only once, up up up up up up up sliding down
walking away
before I inspired anyone.

Was it Marianne?
I spent time working out some great moves with Marianne.
That steel floor and my perfect shoes for triple spins and balances and rhythm right across from the climbing gym.

And the day the baseball practice moved to let me dance!  Not that any words were spoken.  They either liked what I was doing or didn’t trust their ability to catch a ball.
No matter, no tension, sharing space.

(photo Lalyn Curtis)

Calligraphy for a Genie a grassroots dance event with tea and interactive poetry and dance performance.  Using black silk and black silk fabric, I lined the shadow of Mother Peace in the grass.  I had rehearsed in her shadow several times before I sent the word out amongst friends that I was going to perform.  Beforehand, I had polled the audience to submit their favorite poem.  I made a simple books and used termite-carved hand sanded pine branch to bind them.  They were given away for all who attended.  I invited the audience to read with robust clarity at any time of the dance.  I danced in the shadow like black ink flowing in lines of shadowy orange.  A young man,  a passerby climbed the piece to join in the dance. He asked me as he hung from a beam is this okay?  I said I can’t control anything or anyone.  I continued on feet on the ground at the feet of Mother Peace.  It was art, dance and performance.  It was the sun conjuring in October 2013.  It happened.

I hope you have the time and take the time to enjoy this simple gift of my experience.

Thank you for making these mammoths of steel.

It was a magnificent performance and I am honored to have collaborated.

All blessings
Mary Power


P.S.                                                         (clip credit Shani Peleg)