University of Vermont

UVM Artist to Show Work at 'Emergent Universe Oratorio' Premiere

Devi Prayer
"Devi Prayer," a five-by-five-and-a-half foot acrylic-on-canvas work by Cameron Davis is one of a series of 12 paintings by the Art and Art History Department lecturer that serve as the set design for the "Emergent Universe Oratorio," composed by former UVM Spanish lecturer Sam Guarnaccia. The oratorio will premiere Sept. 15 at the Shelburne Farms Breeding Barn.

Cameron Davis, senior lecturer of art and art history, will exhibit for the first time her painting series "Endless Spring" at the premiere of Vermont composer Sam Guarnaccia's "Emergent Universe Oratorio."

The premiere, free and open to the public, will take place Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Shelburne Farms Breeding Barn. The barn will open at 3 p.m. for art viewing and silent contemplation accompanied by music. The oratorio will begin shortly thereafter.

The 12 large paintings in Davis’ series serve as the set design for Guarnaccia's choral and chamber orchestra composition, stationed on either side of the performers.

Davis created the series specifically for the oratorio, beginning it three years ago when Guarnaccia started his composition. A creative team of Davis, Sam Guarnaccia and Paula Guarnaccia worked collaboratively throughout, not only on the music and the paintings, but also on the words for the oratorio’s recitatives and in selecting and/or commissioning the spoken words performed between each choral piece. 

"Endless Spring" has two meanings, Davis says. “It’s one of many Buddhist term for enlightenment. But it’s also a reflection of the time we’re in – the anthropocene, when the evolution of the planet is now in the hands of humanity. The renewal of spring was once such an abiding and assured thing but is now in question.”

Davis and the Guarnaccias created their collaborative work partly in response to environmentalist and author Bill McKibben’s call to artists to respond to our times, Davis said, “which are in crisis. We’re really trying to home in intuitively and intellectually on what this time seems to be calling for,” she says. 

The oratorio was also inspired by the Emmy Award winning documentary film, Journey of the Universe, written by renowned cosmologist Brian Swimme and Yale University scholar, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and co-directed by David Kennard of the Carl Sagan Cosmos series. Tucker will attend the premiere, along with her husband, John Grim. Tucker and Grim are also co-producers of the documentary.

Both Guarnaccias, who are married, have UVM roots. Sam taught Spanish at the university and Paula was an assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Read more about the event.