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UMS Artist in Residence Update: New Paintings by Siobhan McBride

Editor’s note: Siobhan McBride is a visual artist and one of our 2015-2016 artists in residence. As part of this program, artists in residence attend UMS performances to inspire new thinking and creative work within their own art forms. Siobhan attended A Christmas Carol, by the National Theatre of Scotland. Below is her response to the performance.

Here are a couple of paintings I’ve been working on recently:

Photos: New painting by Siobhan McBride.

I’ve always felt more comfortable in enclosed spaces. I prefer my back to the wall in restaurants, booths rather than tables, sleeping bags, attic spaces, small groves of trees, the geometry of a clam shell. A trapped elevator scenario causes me no grief.

In a large studio I once occupied, I built a cave out of paper mache and chicken wire, simply furnished with a busted short-legged upholstered chair. I used it as a panic room. A place to curl up, read, obsessively playback unfortunate social interactions, or nap. A space that denied attackers the advantage of surprise. Likewise, the spaces in my paintings tend to feel compressed, close. I like flatness, painted elements pressed forward, tectonically still, or shallowly shuffling like playing cards.

The hockey painting is unfinished. It has a distinctly differently space than many of my other paintings, perhaps influenced by recently seeing a number of performances on stages at Hill Auditorium and the Power Center as part of the UMS residency. The sense of enclosure is present in the painting, but more vaguely so.

I’ve always been fond of creating scenes from a seemingly hidden vantage point, like a hunting blind, a battlement, seeing without the burden of being seen. A different kind of enclosure, that is apart from the scene rather than within it.

christmas carol production
Photo: Scene from A Christmas Carol. Photo courtesy of the artists.

In December, I saw A Christmas Carol performed by the National Theatre of Scotland. The set was small and tight (my ideal viewing situation!) and the presence of haze allowed me to literally disappear in a puff of smoke while I enjoyed some amazing, often alarming puppets and the details of their incredible set.

Interested in more? Follow the adventures and process of other UMS Artists in Residence.

Watching Sankai Juku: I want to climb up Sleeping Bear Dunes in bright sunlight

Editor’s note: Siobhan McBride is a visual artist and one of our 2015-2016 artists in residence. As part of this program, artists in residence attend UMS performances to inspire new thinking and creative work within their own art forms. Siobhan saw Sankai Juku, the Japanese Butoh dance company. Below is her (sometimes fictionalized!) response to the performance.

A thread of sand pours from an inverted glass pear suspended over the stage. The movement of bodies finding their seats, shuffling in damp coats, fans the thread, causing it to billow and shudder. The stage floor is covered with a layer of sand.

The performers look ageless, androgynous, naked to the waist with white powdered skin and smooth heads. Their movements are both chaotic and mathematical. They twitch like the dial on a bathroom scale. Their limbs trace paths, the growth of a vine seen in stop-motion, the scuttle of invertebrates. At times their bodies are contracted like an infant reptile flexing new muscles against the shell. Their dancing reveals unpredictable and dangerous appetites, bubbles of gas coming out of solution in their veins.

sankai juku

My body becomes similarly constricted, mirror neurons blazing. I am a potato expanding under duress against hard dark granules. My shoulders tense and rise towards my ears, hands clenched, legs tightly crossed. I sense choked blood flow, whitening flesh. It seems that my breath is audible to everyone. The music is persistent. I wish it would pause so I could listen to sand crunching, swishing fabric, muscles groaning.

I want to climb up Sleeping Bear Dunes in bright sunlight. Feel my legs as the sand gives way and smell the chemical sweetness of burning skin. The promise of sandwiches in a bag, cheese sweating in tin foil, cold lake water on the other side.

Sand continues to accumulate on the stage floor in a smooth pile. I am alert to the audience’s micro-movements. Next to me, a man touches his face, on the other side a bouncing knee and croaking stomach. The dancers are in groups, moving as limbs of the same creature. The irises of their eyes appear very large and black. Their gaping mouths, black and tongue-less, broadcast soundless screams.

sankai juku

After the encore, the audience pools in the foyer. Some are ebullient, full of praise, others look bleary. Moments earlier I had left the restroom with the back of my skirt tucked high into my tights, revealing through sheer fabric my utilitarian cotton underwear. I am appreciative of the notification from a stranger.

Walking down the cement pathway leading from the center, I stop and crouch to pick up four smooth white pebbles. They are tiny, smaller than knuckle bones. Surreptitiously, I slip them into my mouth. They’re cool inside my flushed face. They taste like minerals, quartz, grass. There is a German artist, suffering from schizophrenia, who puts objects, pieces of wood or cork, minute balls of aluminum foil into his body, ears, mouth, ass. A compulsive and protective gesture to prevent perceived penetrating forces or, I imagine, the draining of certain invaluable essences. R. Crumb’s brother would ritualistically pass long pieces of string through his digestive tract over the course of days. An act of purification? When I was a kid I used to eat small pieces of napkins, bits of dead skin, tiny bites of my raincoat sleeve, crayon shavings.

In the car afterwards, I am anxious and fitful. I want to kick a bale of hay until the grasses are spread many acres wide. I want to be at the bottom of an enormous dog pile of actual dogs. I want to chug gallons of lake water until I throw up or get drunk. I begin to imagine Indian rug burns being performed up and down both arms and legs by robust women in white peasant headdresses. After a while these urges disintegrate and I finally start the car.

Photos of Sankai Juku are courtesy of the artist.

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