Maria Elena Gonzalez’s Skowhegan Birch #1, #2, and #3 sculptures, inspired by the markings of birch trees, were musical artworks begging to be activated. As a visual artist interested in experimental sound and composition, González sought the expertise of trained composers and musicians to help bring her works to life. Her Tree Talk exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum (2019) offered the perfect opportunity. Widely known for its experimental music program with trailblazing faculty and alumni, including John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Guillermo Galindo, and others, González identified and secured collaborations with two composers in the graduate music program, John Ivers and Marc Zollinger. Their dynamic interpretations of González’s work built upon the school’s widely recognized history of artistic experimentation and collaboration.
Additionally, in a closing program for the exhibition, González, Ivers, and Zollinger each played the Skowhegan Birch works using the player piano, or pianola, succinctly bridging nature, art, and music to further the dialogues of the project.
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