Creativity and innovation are core components of Art Conspirator Jennifer Wester’s groundbreaking performance piece, Breaking Shadows, premiering at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna Festival on May 19. Beyond the unprecedented concept earning the piece recognition and praise, you will find an entire team of Art Conspirators lending their unique talents and skills to Wester’s work. From building sets to videography, the helping hands of Art Con executive team members, past and present, shed light on how Dallas creatives unite across the many areas of the arts community.
In Breaking Shadows, Wester creates a truly one-of-a-kind experience for both viewers and contributors, as well as herself as an artist as she moves in graceful and unexpected ways on a synthetic ice rink constructed in the parking lot of Cedars Union, casting mesmerizing monochromatic shadows. Soluna producer and former Art Con Executive Director Eric Felicella encouraged Wester to explore the festival’s fourth theme “Shadow and Light” in her performance proposal, leading Wester to conceptualize a skating performance where the audience’s view is drawn to her dramatic shadow movements across the ice rather than her actual physical form. Even the musical accompaniment breaks from the expected by being composed of sounds from her skating on the ice with a collaboration from Baz Laarakkers, a sound artist from Holland.
“Having the piece be site specific [at Cedars Union] means there is constricted space for the ice rink, but it works well to break down the alphabet of [figure] skating to highlight the shadow versus the body,” Wester explains the variations to traditional skating her work displays, including skates on her hands and posing on her head. “It’s a different way of interacting visually with your body that’s not representing the facial expression and other prioritized features of our bodies.”
Even with her background as a professional figure skater and multimedia artist, Wester’s concept required ingenuity on every level of the piece, from transforming the parking lot into a skating rink and designing first-of-their-kind ice skates for hands, to the placement and style of light fixtures and construction of a rehearsal space. Even choreography presented unique new challenges for Wester as a performer and for her team. But any Art Conspirator will tell you that there’s no challenge too daunting to overcome.
“Stepping away from the more technical constructs has made things so cool,” Wester explains how her concept lends itself to the DIY. “We’re peeling back the layers to get to the roots of creativity to see what you can experiment with.”
Wester’s work would require both a performance space and a rehearsal space, along with many brainstorm partners to help execute her vision. Constructing the ideal lightboxes and backdrops to catch the shadows in the forms desired required much trial and error to perfect, with Art Con Build Director Ben Griffith at the helm. Light experimentation remained an ever-evolving process with former Art Con Marketing Director Courtney Cox Wakefield lauded by Wester as the project’s “lighting guru,” supported by Art Con Production Director Clayton Smith for tech expertise. Even figuring out the exact lights to use came with help from former Art Con Executive Director Erik Glissmann. From the outset of the project’s videography soundscape by Art Con Videographer Can Turkyilmaz to final audio setup of the live performance by Art Con Music Team member Denver Graves, Breaking Shadows bares the fingerprints of Art Conspirators present and past. For Wester, Art Con is a centripetal force bringing Dallas creatives together.
“Meaningful work is continuously being created because Art Con pulls people into each other’s orbits to bolster everyone’s work,” she explains.
With all its many moving parts and helping hands, the premier of Breaking Shadows on May 19 at 8pm guarantees to be a highlight of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna festival, running through May 28. Once her Soluna performance is complete, Wester looks forward to switching gears back to being an executive team volunteer for Art Con R/EVOLUTION on June 2 at Life in Deep Ellum.
Art Con casts a long shadow over the Dallas arts community: from the original concepts springing forth from creative minds to the inventive and resourceful handiwork crafted for perfect execution to the inviting environments designed for artists, innovators and spectators to all join as a collective in the community.
Written by: Cali Thompson
Photo by: Erica Felicella