For the past year, Artist Fellow Sarah Wilson and her artistic partner Catch Me Bird have been creating Off the Walls, a multimedia performance based on the de Young Museum’s iconic painting Aspiration (1936) by Aaron Douglas. On September 20, the world premiere of Off the Walls will take flight in the Koret Auditorium at the de Young. Today we highlight Z Space, one of the project’s collaborating partners, whose technical residencies offer artists and performers the time and resources to experiment with various staging elements and production designs integral to the creative process.
One of the most innovative components of the Artist Fellows program is the goal to reveal the process of artistic creation—the weeks (even years) of planning, the evolving ideas, and the constant back-and-forth that foments creativity. Throughout the month of July, Artist Fellow Sarah Wilson and her artistic partners, Catch Me Bird (C. Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev), have been exhibiting this collaborative process as they work together to produce Off the Walls. A multimedia performance that melds Wilson’s dynamic jazz-oriented music with Catch Me Bird’s dance and aerial performances, Off the Walls is inspired by the painter Aaron Douglas, whose painting Aspiration is a highlight of the de Young’s American painting collection.
Love Letters from the Harlem Renaissance tells the story of the relationship between Alta Sawyer Douglas and her husband, Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas. Catch Me Bird’s C. Derrick Jones, the great nephew of this seminal American painter, shares his family’s story with guest blogger Elspeth Michaels. Tonight at Friday Nights at the de Young Jones will speak about the factors that propelled his great uncle to establish himself as one of the 20th century's visionary artists. This fall Catch Me Bird, in collaboration with Artist Fellow Sarah Wilson, will premiere a brand new production inspired by the art of Douglas entitled Off the Walls. The performance combines music, aerials, and dance as an expression of Douglas's painting Aspiration, which is currently on view in Wilsey Court.
Seven years ago, the de Young hosted its first jazz performance in partnership with Intersection for the Arts. Jazz at Intersection at the de Young came about through my relationship with Kevin Chen of Intersection for the Arts. Together we invited a wide range of local jazz composers and musicians to create and perform music inspired by the museum’s special exhibitions and permanent collection.
Composer, trumpeter and singer-songwriter Sarah Wilson technically grew up in a vineyard, but her coming of age as a musician took place in New York City. At her first performance as an Artist Fellow at the de Young tomorrow, Friday, May 25, Wilson presents new work inspired by both the rolling hills of the Napa Valley and New York City’s wild women of jazz.
Wilson began her yearlong fellowship last November with a 10-day residency at Stags’ Leap Winery, where the vineyards—their colors and moods—served as muse for the new compositions Night Still and Color, both of which will be featured in tomorrow’s performance.
The blog series Museum Without Walls features de Young Artist Fellows working outside of the museum with other artists and local, community based arts organizations. In this edition, we catch up with Sarah Wilson and Catch Me Bird at their Djerassi alumni artist residency where they gave us a glimpse into the early stages of their creative process.
This month, the de Young begins its second installment of the Artist Fellows program, which brings working artists from a variety of disciplines into the museum for a year. During this year, Artist Fellows will break open their art process by exhibiting works-in-progress and investigating new avenues of creativity through collaboration with the museum, partner institutions and other artists.
Each artist is associated with a collaborating institutional partner, an aspect of the program specifically designed to encourage museum engagement with local, community based arts organizations. Working both within and without the walls, the Artist Fellows will inhabit a new kind of museum, one without walls. In celebration of this next phase of the Artist Fellows program, we will focus on these extra-museum collaborations in a blog series called Museum Without Walls.