Oakland Tech Artesteem Dance Performance Backdrop Project.

5 foot by 8 foot, the backdrops for Oakland Tech’s dance performance are a collaborative piece between ArtEsteem students at the high school and the Tech Techies. The pieces feature portraits of women of color through a high contrast, posterized color motif that has been used to create a dynamic and striking presence on stage. The pieces are hung at either side of the stage and are moved on and off the stage with a pulley, smoothly and ethereally interacting with the dancers.  

Students of the Oakland Tech Artesteem group along with the CCA student interns work on penciling in the image on canvas using a projector.

Students of the Oakland Tech Artesteem group along with the CCA student interns work on penciling in the image on canvas using a projector.

The effort took a total of 4 weeks, from start to finish, to paint and mount the 5 pieces. The images were manipulated by ArtEsteem instructor Josh Krey, and then projected onto canvases.  Students learned techniques on how large scale imagery can be quickly and systematically produced, where size is no limit and only the imagination and hard work determine our achievement. The painting process was simplified by penciling in the contours of large areas of flat color in varying values to create the sense of depth. The areas were filled in by hand with acrylic paint, magically revealing the image and its colors and showing first time painters that painting does not have to be intimidating.

One of our ArtEsteem students, Kathy Liang, described her take on the backdrops and performance:

“The Black Girl Magic backdrop seemed to represent the presence of people especially women of color. Having many women of different ethnicities up in large scale and also on the stage. In our society, I feel as if women of color have so much to deal with just because of their gender and race. The women we painted onto the canvases were empowering and I felt like they were screaming, We belong here!”

The images depict women of color from different cultural backgrounds, addressing the theme of diverse standards of beauty, of which the dance performance, “Black Girl Magic,” has been founded upon. The dances touch upon differing ancient and non western stories and concepts about feminine strength and beauty. The backdrops are designed to evoke the idea of diversity and feminine beauty, as well as to create a bright and striking palette for the dancers to draw from and interact with visually.

A special thanks goes out to Casey Fern, the instructor of the Tech Techies, who put a lot of time, effort, and the use of their space for this project.  Also a special thanks to the two CCA student assistants Iris and Pamela who were integral in the paint mixing process and general logistics of the project.