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Textile artist Amabelle Aguiluz, Composer Louis Lopez, Choreographer Stephanie Zaletel and szalt (dance co.) are all artists-in-residence at the MorYork Gallery located at 4959 York Blvd. in Highland Park, Los Angeles. The MorYork Gallery is an extraordinary space filled with the works by Artist/Curator and gallery owner Clare Graham. It was Graham who brought these three artists together and the results of this collaboration promises to be very exciting. The “4 week running performative-installation will act as a thoughtful reflection on the cyclical nature of shared, human-to-water experiences.” Culminating into four weekends of performances at the MorYork Gallery beginning on April 22, the artists are also offering four separate workshops leading up to the shows. These workshops are open to all levels and include lessons in Textiles (March 20), Field Recording (March 27), Movement Research (April 3), and Culmination/Collaboration (April 10).

MorYork Gallery - Photo: Jeff Slayton
MorYork Gallery – Photo: Jeff Slayton

On Sunday March 6th I and a few others were invited to meet the artists, hear them speak on what each is contributing to the project, and to see how the creation of WATER STORIES is progressing. Simply walking into the MorYork Gallery space was a fulfilling experience. Clare Graham’s work involves beautiful and powerful sculptures, lamps, furniture and other works made from found or collected items that include buttons, jig saw puzzle pieces, bottle caps, plastic necklaces, glass globes, lobster claws, crosses, Scrabble tiles, brushes, gourds, beads, animal skeletons, wire springs, and much more. One could get lost in this space for hours and still not see all of Graham’s work. Even with all this, the gallery feels spacious and welcoming and one understands why these artists were inspired to create their work there.

Artist portrait by Will Taylor Photography, Los Angeles
Amabelle Aguiluz by Will Taylor Photography, Los Angeles

This setting is fitting as Amabelle Aguiluz uses exclusively found and donated fabrics, blankets, sweaters and other materials in her fiber designs. She deconstructs used textiles and uses the threads to machine knit them into sculptures and wearable art. It was Aguiluz whose story of learning to scuba dive inspired the others to collaborate on the several themes of water. One part of the installation (imagined by Graham and Aguiluz) that was present for this showing was a white fabric waterfall which cascades down from the open beams of the gallery. We heard from Zaletel that they had been ripping materials for this waterfall for about six hours. It is stunning and I look forward to seeing the finished product. Other pieces of Aguiluz’s creations have a coral and sea foam quality, and Aguiluz has sculptured the costumes for the szalt dancers. They are web-like and mysterious. The dancers said that the mask/head piece forces them to depend less on their eyesight and more on their senses of touch and hearing, and trust in their colleagues.

Louis Lopez
Louis Lopez – Photo: Lauren Randolph

Louis Lopez is a performer/composer, improviser, and educator. His bio states that “his music making centers around the integration of acoustic and processed sounds in live performance through the signal processing language of Max/MSP/Jitter”. For WATER STORIES Lopez is using discovered sounds from the neighborhood, found sounds and interviews from open rehearsals during this residency, and the other artists’ personal stories involving water. He then recycles or up-cycles these sounds into his score. What we heard fits wonderfully with the choreography and becomes part of the gallery space; weaving in and around the many rows of artwork. Although his score is only partially completed, it already involves a complexity of sounds and voices that would require several listenings to grasp all its layers. I know that Lopez’s finished score will stand up on its own merits long after the project is completed.

Stephanie Zaletel - Photo: Becca Green
Stephanie Zaletel – Photo: Becca Green

Stephanie Zaletel is an emerging choreographer with a movement signature all her own. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of szalt, a dance company consisting of herself and three other creative dance artists; Lindsey Lollie, Julia Planine-Troiani and Jordan Saenz. Zaletel has created a truly collaborative work environment. She is the director, but considers her dancers’ artistry essential when it comes to creating new works. They warm up together, meditate together on movement ideas and, for this project, take trips together to be near, around, and in water. These experiences become part of the choreography, their stories part of the music, and their bodies a vehicle for the textile sculptures.

The movement that was presented at this showing was fluid, undulating, physically gnarling at times, but always intriguing. One observer said that images of schools of fish swimming in unison and suddenly changing directions came to mind. I saw mirror images or reflections in water and a dancer tracing the bones of another dancer’s skeleton. Zaletel’ s site sensitive style utilizes every possible inch of the spaces that she performs in and this gallery is no exception. Dancers appear out of and disappear into every possible passageway.

szalt in WATER STORIES - Photo: Becca Green
szalt in WATER STORIES – Photo: Becca Green

The subject of this project, WATER STORIES, is timely considering what California and the rest of the world is facing from the effects of Climate Change.  We drink, bath in, play and swim in water, and our supply of it is rapidly dwindling.  Water is life giving but it can also be destructive during storms and floods. We all have a relationship with water on a daily basis and these three artists are using those conscious and unconscious relationships to create art. They are interacting with the surrounding community during the entire residency. Amabelle Aguiluz is collecting articles of clothing and blankets to deconstruct and machine knit into her instillation. Louis Lopez is recording community voices and sounds for his score, and Stephanie Zaletel will continue to be inspired by all the tales of people’s interactions with water. The MorYork Gallery and its community will be transformed by this experience.

This is an important and exciting collaboration by three Los Angeles based artists. We are fortunate to have such a rich supply of artists in this city and we can support them by attending their performances, workshops, and exhibits. For more information on the WATER STORIES project, workshops and performances, go to www.stephaniezaletel.com. Tickets: waterstories.brownpapertickets.com.

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