September 22, 2003
Two retrospectives celebrating the life and art
of Mel Wong set for October
By Scott Rappaport
The life and art of UCSC theater arts professor, dancer, choreographer,
and visual artist Mel Wong will be celebrated in two retrospectives
during the month of October.
On Saturday, October 11, the UCSC Theater Arts Department will present
a special memorial celebration at 8 p.m. in the Mainstage Theater.
The evening will feature guest speakers, dance performances of Wongs
choreography, plus a video montage of his life and work.
A reception will follow the event, and attendees are encouraged to
arrive early, as seating is limited. However, overflow seating will
be available in the adjacent Second Stage Theater, where a live simulcast
of the event will be broadcast.
A retrospective of the visual art of Mel Wong, titled Other Realms,
will also be on display at the Bridge and J. B. Hall Galleries at UCSCs
Porter College beginning on October 2. Although Wongs art has
been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country, this
marks the first time that the majority of his work will be displayed
together in one place.
Wongs artistic work covers a 40-year span, including paintings,
drawings, sculpture, and pottery. His drawings were often created in
conjunction with his choreography, and the resulting visual art was
frequently displayed in New York theater lobbies.
The exhibit will include early figurative drawings, ceramic pots and
bowls, abstract paintings and drawings, as well as Wongs recent
return to figurative paintings. Gallery hours at Porter College are
Monday through Friday from noon until 5 p.m.
The exhibit will run until October 28 with an Opening Reception set
for Friday, October 10, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Wong died of a heart attack on July 17 at the age of 64, after swimming
laps in Santa Cruz.
He established an international reputation, first as a performer with
the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and then as a choreographer, teacher,
and performer with the Mel Wong Dance Company. He had been a professor
of dance in the Theater Arts Department at UC Santa Cruz since 1989.
Choreographer and UCSC lecturer Tandy Beal noted in the San Francisco
Chronicle: He used dance art as a tool to unlock meaning for
himself and the audience. His dances were quite stunning, with this
air of spatial mystery.
UCSC theater arts professor James Bierman added, Mel was very
easygoing, but he was also quite playful as a person and an artist.
He managed to make all of his students look good onstage, no matter
what their skill level might be."
In 1983-84, Wong became the first Chinese American to receive a Guggenheim
Fellowship in choreography. Throughout his lifetime, he choreographed
more than 180 dances, and his works can be seen in the repertoires of
companies in Canada, the U.S., Hong Kong, Japan, and Europe.
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