The subsequent emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement has energized a much-needed conversation on centuries-long discrimination against Black people and the continuing assault on the black body within our community here. Higa says, "I have been personally experiencing an increase of racial slurs, latent discrimination against the diverse Latino community that has been brewing in the US for quite some time." This enmity has increased not only against immigrants but those of us who are citizens and have resided in the US for a very long time.
As part of her research, Higa encountered the work of Debra Weisberg. Weisberg examines texture, tenacity, topography in materials such as paper, wire, and fiber. During the first year of the pandemic, both artists exchanged weekly phone and email conversations. A broad range of topics was discussed including colorism, the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, the works of Cuban artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Anna Halprin, Iris Van Harpen, Pina Bausch, to name a few. Some conversations focused on paper, the dominant material in Weisberg’s work, and its structural similarity to skin and internal connective tissue. Weisberg presented Higa to a body of fiber sculpture she made using hog skin and intestines. This work forms the basis of the exhibit now being shown in the case. It also led Higa to create and direct a short experimental dance film in collaboration with Vermont filmmaker Cal Hopwood and professional dancer, UVM Dance Lecturer, Julie Peoples-Clark. Higa choreographed this piece and designed a visual projection using the images of Weisberg's work as a backdrop for the bodies moving in space.
In this dance film, Higa examines the delicacy and translucency of the skin. She was inspired by the writer and visual artist Deborah Barlow in referring to Weisberg’s work, "art that stretches our humanity, draws us in emotionally, enlivens our senses push our vulnerability, and is more open-ended, asking questions rather than providing answers." These artists do not tie themselves to the observed but rather through the ineffability of the felt experience where the cognitive manifests itself through body awareness.
Higa and Weisberg will continue this collaboration in Boston, MA at Piano Craft Gallery which features the work of Debra Weisberg in a new exhibit, Holding the Center Still, from March 4 – March 27, 2022. The exhibit comprises collaged paper works and a large-scale floor installation. In the opening and closing receptions Vermont choreographer, Paula Higa, will premiere a short piece created in response to Weisberg’s work.