The Art of Leaving, a multi-disciplinary dance performance at The Arts Block in Greenfield, MA, takes place on Nov. 4 and 5, 2011, 7:30 PM. But elements of the project have been viewable by the public stretching back to May 2011, when Cynthia McLaughlin, the creator of The Art of Leaving: Portrait Tales, began exhibiting large scale photographs in public places. The photographic scenes depict characters and situations exploring leaving and staying.
Working with performers Krista DeNio, Cassie Sioux Mills, Lani Nahele, and Jennifer Polins & Saliq Francis Savage, and with Chattman Photography, Cynthia conceived portraits to explore questions like, “When do we stay?” “When do we leave?” “What do we preserve?” and “What do we abandon?”
The dance performance continues those explorations.
We asked Cynthia a few questions of our own, and here, she responds:
What inspired the “Portrait Tales” project? I met Joanna Chattman, the photographer, when she was photographing a fashion show I had choreographed and performed in (Tiny Crush Society), and, later, I was struck by the thought that she takes these beautiful photographs and works on them and prints them, and then she can share them again and again. I know it sounds like a “duh” moment, but as a director and performer I work so hard for so many hours and it’s all so expensive and no one is paid well and then it’s over. I wanted to find an aspect to my work that is sustainable. So I began to consider the process I was currently involved in, The Art of Leaving, and there began the idea to find a life for the characters through portraiture, a way to preserve them. I wanted to reach the widest audience possible, so I wanted them to be large and outside. What I never expected was how the process of working with these buildings, learning their history, getting to know their owners would become part of the work on its own. The work of siting, styling and costuming the portraits became a study in itself of The Art of Leaving.
Do you secretly dream of being a) a pop icon, b) an algebra teacher, and/or c) a crime-solver/writer a la Jessica Fletcher? There was a dark period last spring when it felt like I was pushing up against a lot of solid walls. I kept fantasizing about being a Bolt bus driver. It seemed so clear and functional. Get these people from Hadley to NYC – something seemed so deliciously straightforward about it. I suppose I would last a day….
Computer, longhand, or typewriter? Ha! I had to write all your questions down in pencil and write all my answers before I sent them to you.
What’s the most surprising response to your art you’ve ever received? Recently, I performed an installation, “Waiting for Pigeons” as part of a curated event called 21 Rooms in York, ME. Each artist had a room in this wonderful vintage motel, The Nevada. The work deals with nesting, isolation and confinement. A lot of people (1,500 attended) found it “scary.” Really, I thought, I’m in a white paper bag bird mask and I’m making a nest. That’s scary? It was great.
The unauthorized biography of your life is titled: Hmmmm… Fumbling in Grace.
If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil? #2 pencil, definitely.
What are you currently reading? I just finished Birds in Fall, a beautiful, poignant novel. There is an underlying thread throughout the story that deals with birds in migration, so it is related to my work. I’m highly influenced by literature and keep a bibliography for my projects.
What’s next? I have many plans in the works. More collaborations with Tiny Crush… I would like to do another photo project that is more of a scavenger hunt – this time dealing with my bird character. There is an old church near my house with no electricity and an old pump organ. I know an amazing organist and would love to create something there… My mind’s always racing.
Performances of The Art of Leaving are November 4-5, 2011, 7:30 PM, at The Arts Block in Greenfield, MA.
Images: all photos conceived, directed and styled by Cynthia McLaughlin, photographed by Chattman Photography.