• Brass

Celebrating Diverse Voices second exhibit, Sub Pelle Mea, centers on the collaboration between UVM Assistant Professor Paula Higa and Boston College faculty and visual artist Debra Weisberg. Higa was driven to the human skin: both the physical nature of skin as well as its cultural and racial connotations. As a Latin-American woman immigrant and member of the BIPOC community, Higa experienced the benefits and privileges of being considered white in her native country, Brazil, and the drawbacks and burden of having beige skin and an accent when she moved to Vermont.

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.

About the Artists

Paula Higa is an Assistant Professor at UVM Theater and Dance Department. A native of Brazil, she has been creating works, teaching, and performing for more than 30 years. In 2011, she joined the UVM Dance Program where she has been teaching dance theory, movement, and performance. She earned her MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, a BS in Chemical Engineering in Brazil, and is certified in Progressing Ballet Technique. In 2016, she founded her own dance company, PH Dance as well as Encounters - an improvisational work of music and dance, in collaboration with trumpeter Arthur Brooks, and double bass player Anthony Santor. In the States, Higa has performed in the works of Mark Morris, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Larry Keigwin, Jennifer Monson, Paul Besaw, Claire Byrne, among others. Higa is the recipient of NEFA - New England Dance Fund Grant, UVM - Coor Collaborative Fellows Award, Vermont Arts Council, UVM OVPR Express, and Vermont Community Foundation Grant. Her recent production, the short film The One I Wanted to Be, in collaboration and co-produced with UVM Art & Art History Lecturer, Jennifer Karson, was twice awarded Best Screendance in Los Angeles, USA, and officially selected to the Genres and Performances Film Festival in Aveiro, Portugal, Diorama International Film Festival in India, 2022 Nukhufest in NYC, and the ARFF - Around International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany.

Visit Paula's website

Debra Weisberg's work explores drawing in physical terms using a variety of materials, including tape, luminescent powders, fiber, fiberglass mesh, and hydro stone. The results are works that contain the expanding vitality of an explosive mass of energy. She was a 2008 Mass Cultural Council fellowship winner in Drawing and a Somerville Arts Lottery winner in 2008, 2004, and 2001. Weisberg twice attended the MacDowell Colony and was recently granted an art residency in Can Serrat outside of Barcelona for June 2009. Her Glow Drawing Series was exhibited in March 2009 at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA. Weisberg’s works are in numerous collections, such as the Sonesta Hotel, General Hardware Manufacturing Company, Simmons College, and Meditech. She has also done private commissions in Mass Power and Electric and private homes. Her forty-foot-high installation at the De Cordova Museum entitled (Sub) Surface won a prize for Best Museum Installation from the Boston Art Critics Association.

Visit Debra's website

"Art...stretches our humanity, draws us in emotionally, enlivens our senses push our vulnerability, and is more open-ended, asking questions rather than providing answers."