Visiting artists series celebrates international diversity

Contact: Jeanne Baron

Update, Jan. 31—The Thursday, Jan. 31, event on "Contemporary Artistic Practices Within Political and Social Realities of Oaxaca," planned by Gabriela León, has been canceled due to severe winter weather.

KALAMAZOO—A spring visiting artists series celebrating international diversity and featuring four eclectic artists will start Thursday, Jan. 31, at Western Michigan University.

Each artist will present a free public talk or performance while on campus. The series was organized by the College of Fine Arts. 

Monday through Thursday, Jan. 28-31

Photo of Gabriela .


Gabriela León, who lives and works in Oaxaca, Mexico, will be on campus working with students in the Frostic School of Art. León will present a public lecture on "Contemporary Artistic Practices Within Political and Social Realities of Oaxaca" at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in 2008 Richmond Center for Visual Arts. She will talk about her multidisciplinary and collective projects, La Perrera and Ojo de Perro.

A multidisciplinary visual artist, she founded and directed Re-Active Art Lab: La Perrera, an artistic project focusing on "action art" and photography among diverse disciplines. She is interested in hybrid projects and creative collaborations, and explores ways to integrate contemporary artistic practices within political and social realities of Oaxaca, which is the second poorest state in south Mexico.

León utilizes unique metaphors and symbols of Mexican culture in her works to express her consciousness of being and perception of the world. She has shown those works in Mexico as well as abroad. In addition, she has received several national and international honors, including a Tierney Foundation Fellowship for photography and a grant from the National Foundation for Culture and Art for literature.

Friday through Monday, Feb. 15-25

Photo of Laurencio Carlos .


Laurencio Carlos Ruiz will be on campus working with students in the Department of Theatre and Frostic School of Art. Ruiz will give two public performances beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, in the Gilmore Theatre Complex's York Arena Theatre. He will first present "Shifting Strengths," which employs puppets to display a new perspective of looking at, appreciating, and valuing the wounded, mutilated and different bodies with which we engage, but are afraid to make contact with or are unable to appreciate.

Then he will perform the sketch, "Give Me a Hand," an interactive presentation. Audience members will have the opportunity to be the puppet's right hand while they and Ruiz complete a task together. In the process, the audience members will see and practice the opposite side of taking their bodies for granted.

Ruiz is an instructor of theatre arts and resident scenic designer at Penn State University Altoona as well as a freelance artist and designer, puppeteer, photographer, and visual and performance artist. He studied visual arts and industrial design in Mexico as an undergraduate and has a master's degree in scenic design from Penn State.

His experience as a multidisciplinary artist and designer includes photography, installation and performance art, as well as sets, costumes, props, puppets and masks for cabaret, theatre and television. Ruiz has performed in the United States, Germany, Japan and Mexico and in recent years has come back into the international eye.

Wednesday through Friday, March 20-22

Photo of Kyong Mee .


Kyong Mee Choi will be on campus largely to participate in a public School of Music concert titled "Birds on a Wire" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Three pieces for instruments and digital audio by Choi will be performed, including a new commissioned work for WMU's new-music group Birds on a Wire, featuring guest pianist Keith Kirchoff. The first half of the concert will feature Kirchoff playing a selection of recent work for piano and electronics.

A composer, organist, painter and visual artist, Choi is an associate professor of music composition at Roosevelt University, where she teaches composition and electro-acoustic music. She also writes for chamber, electro-acoustic, interactive and multimedia work. Her creations elegantly integrate acoustic and electronic sound sources into beautiful textures and dynamic moments.

Choi has received several prestigious awards, including the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Robert Helps Prize and Aaron Copland Award. Her compositions, which have been recognized around the world, have incorporated algorithmic compositional devices, geometric charts, visual art and analogues of musical elements with non-musical concepts. Her work as a painter and visual artist has led her to experiment with integrating sound and image into single works of art.

Monday through Friday, March 18-22

Photo of Millicent .


Millicent Johnnie will be working with students in the departments of Dance and Theater. Johnnie will make a public presentation titled "Noon Dance" at noon Friday, March 22, in 3118 Dalton Center. WMU dance students will perform the choreography that they learn in her classes alongside her as she makes her presentation. The program will focus on Johnnie's research on hybrid forms of hip-hop and African-American vernacular movement. She also will discuss how her choreography and teaching style distinguishes itself uniquely as a part of hip hop culture.

A dance and theatre artist, Johnnie is an assistant professor of dance at Southern Methodist University who co-founded the Phlava Hip Hop and Jazz Dance Company based in Tallahassee, Florida. She was recently booked as a choreographer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a Robert Wilson Theatrical Performance and "Scary Movie 5."

Johnnie has received a Prague International Dance Festival Award for Best Choreography as well as a First Place International Dance Title for her hip-hop choreography, "Wrath." Her professional credits include serving as a choreographer for the New York City Opera, U.S. Cultural Ambassadors of Music, Grammy Award-Winner Bill Summers, and directors Rhodessa Jones and Peter Sellars.

For more information about the series, contact Teresa Valdez in WMU's College of Fine Arts at or (269) 387-5810.