SRU art instructor breathes life into painting at show
Theresa Antonellis, Slippery Rock University instructor of art and director of the Martha Gault Art Gallery, recently collaborated with the Oberlin College Dance Department for a performance that combined Antonellis’ art method of one breath/one line and contact improvisation dancing.
June 1, 2018
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Close your eyes. Now imagine you're sitting in front of an easel and painting. Each time you take a breath, take a brushstroke. You might not know it, but you'd be practicing the "one breath/one line" method. It's a method that one Slippery Rock University art instructor recently demonstrated during a show hosted by Oberlin College and Conservatory's Dance Department.
"One Breath: an evening of stillness and motion" was an intersection of dancing and drawing featuring the artwork of Theresa Antonellis, instructor of art and director of the Martha Gault Art Gallery at SRU, and student artists and dancers from Oberlin.
"It was very symbiotic," said Antonellis, who was invited by Ann Cooper Albright, professor and chair of dance at Oberlin who teaches a form of dance movement called contact improvisation. "The artwork and my method are very meditative and based on the breath. Ann felt there was a similarity between the artwork method and the way she teaches contact dance."
Antonellis describes one breath/one line, a technique she created in 2013, as body-centered, breath-generated artwork and a way of synthesizing her artwork with yoga movement. The lines she draws or paints, appearing like stacked wisps, represent breath cycles and each line is a response to the previous line, just as one breath is dependent on the next.
The Oberlin event was staged in a small gymnasium with students' art suspended over the performance area and illuminated depending on where the dancers were positioned.
"Artwork in a gallery is very static and one dimensional; people look at it and they leave," said Antonellis, who had never "performed" on stage before. "(This) was very different because they were watching me paint, then the students were moving on the stage that was surrounded by paintings. There were so many different dimensions. It was just amazing."
During each of the show's three nights, Antonellis painted for 20 minutes using oak gall paint on a 3-by-20-foot scroll made of mulberry paper. The durable, silk-like mulberry paper was handmade in Thailand and the oak gall paint is also handmade, based on an ink recipe first used for medieval manuscripts.
Once completed on the show's final night, the scroll was purchased by the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin, also a first for Antonellis who had only previously sold her pieces to private art collectors.
"That was a tremendous honor to have a museum purchase my artwork and have it in their collection," Antonellis said. "It was a transformational experience for me and it was wonderful to be appreciated, but also to get to watch the performance and the beautiful movements. It exceeded my expectations."
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