Ekphrasis, rooted in Greek, defines an interpretation of one form of art through another. Now, it is also the working title of an innovative commission, a first among a partnership of three Laguna Beach arts organizations that more typically present art rather than originate it.
The resulting collaboration announced this week between the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Dance Festival and Laguna Beach Live is expected to be unveiled as a work in progress early next year, previewed at the museum galleries next August and produced in full for the Laguna Dance Festival in September 2014.
“We have worked with Jodie Gates to stage dance performances at the museum and on the second Thursday we feature music in conjunction with Laguna Beach Live, so it seems only natural to want to combine visual art, music and dance into one combined work of art,” explained museum Executive Director Malcolm Warner, who titled the work “Ekphrasis.”
Here’s how the collaboration is envisioned. Warner will open up the museum’s permanent collection to a choreographer and composer selected by Dance Fest founder Gates and Laguna Beach Live co-founder Lucinda Prewitt, respectively, in consultation with the organization’s boards. The two artists will agree on one painting or sculpture from the collection to use as inspiration for a musical composition and accompanying dance performance of about 10 minutes. The partners have yet to determine sources of funding.
“We will have to get creative in our fundraising,” said Prewitt, expressing hope that once successful, such collaborations could be financed through grants.
Laguna Beach Live has already selected classically trained musician/composer Alan Chan, 35, founder of the Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra, based in Los Angeles. Born in Hong Kong and educated in the U.S., he has been commissioned to compose music for the St. Matthews Music Guild and the Taiwanese Percussion Ensemble, to name a few. “The idea of a collaboration intrigues me because I have worked with quite a few artists from other disciplines but never with a dancer,” he said.
Professing a strong interest in contemporary art and sculpture, Chan will view the museum’s collection from a historical perspective. “I have a great interest in California history, especially Southern California and as it involves Native American and Spanish influences,” he said.
Warner emphasized that while artists like Edgar Degas depicted dance and dancers in sketches, painting and sculpture, works would not have to be figurative or representational to serve as a source of inspiration but could well be abstract. “I am looking forward to working with the group and offer any guidance they may need or want,” he said.
Although Laguna’s art colony heritage evolved from an emphasis on visual arts, evidence of cross-pollination between mediums emerged even 80 years ago with the first “Pageant of the Masters,” a blend of theater and visual arts. “Ekphrasis” is designed to further strengthen bonds between disciplines, said Prewitt.
Michelle Maasz, a UC Irvine senior and assistant to Gates, will serve as project manager. Applications from California choreographers will be accepted between Sept. 1 to Oct. 15. “We are looking for flexibility and versatility with no age restrictions,” she said.
“The collaboration with Laguna Dance Festival, Laguna Art Museum and Laguna Beach Live is a wonderful example of introducing new models for arts organizations,” Gates said in an email.