facebook image
clyfford still | museum
Two similar looking abstract oil paintings with mostly yellow, white and black paint hang on a wall next to each other
(L to R) PH-225, 1956. Oil on canvas, 115 x 104.75 in. Collection of the Modern
Art Museum of Fort Worth, Museum purchase, The Benjamin J. Tillar Memorial Trust;
PH-1074, 1956–9. Oil on canvas, 117 x 108 in.
Clyfford Still Museum © City and County of Denver

ReTriplicate Reflects on Clyfford Still’s Replicas and the Artistic Process

by Kristin Feldkamp, Editorial Content Intern

We are programmed, more or less, to see the value in a finished product, and to interpret the discarded or failed first attempts, or subsequent variations, as necessary but not necessarily valuable. What if we examine the artistic process for its intrinsic value? What if the idea of beginning again didn’t imply failure?

The Buntport Theater Company, Hoarded Stuff, Teacup Gorilla, and Screw Tooth tackle these very questions and more in ReTriplicate. With Clyfford Still’s “replicas” as inspiration, each performer shares her interpretation of what it means to start over and re-create, and there are countless moments of brilliance in the disjointed yet cohesive performance.

The Buntport Theater Company, made up of six uniquely talented performance artists, is the embodiment of the concept that collaboration leads to innovation. The primary character in ReTriplicate, ostensibly, is Brian Colonna, a Buntport Theater Company member. Colonna creates a replicate to help him hold up a copy of one of Still’s paintings; the first replicate creates a second replicate; the second replicate creates a third replicate. Each replicate on the surface seems a degenerate of his creator. The replicates work individually and in chorus, moving on and off stage, by turns complementing and interrupting the other artists. Colonna or a replicate introduces the show many times, each time using slightly different text.

The replicates and the haunting music of Teacup Gorilla have the makings of a film noir. What keeps it in the realm of Theater of the Absurd is Buntport’s delivery.  The replicates are funny and likeable.  The latter two walk a fine line between bizarre and heartwarmingly quirky. Their interactions with Hoarded Stuff’s dancer Laura Ann Samuelson are odd, but their competing monologues keep the audience laughing.

Samuelson pushes the envelope between accessibility and inaccessibility. When the show begins, we only see her legs. She hides the rest of her body behind the sheet Adam Stone of Screw Tooth uses to display his mesmerizing video. Her only props are pickle jars. Eventually, we can see her entire body, rather than disembodied parts. She plays with notions of reality, and concrete versus abstract, by using real and imagined props. She is at turns beautiful, humorous, plaintive, intense and whimsical.

Teacup Gorilla’s songs, self-described, “grow from fragments – a guitar riff, one line from a poem.” Their moody indy-rock contrasts the whimsy of Buntport and Hoarded Stuff and works extremely well for that reason. Screwtooth’s technically impressive and emotionally captivating videos mirror Teacup Gorilla’s music, and provide us with yet one more opportunity to engage and disengage with the competing performances in short increments.

ReTriplicate is intelligent and thought-provoking. Each time we engage with a character, music riff, dance, or video segment, our attention is abruptly re-directed to something or someone else. Brian Colonna, or one of his replicates, appears and reappears to start the show over and over again, much like the white rabbit appears and reappears in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps the narrative disruptions reflect Still’s efforts to remove himself from the viewer’s interpretation of his paintings?

During the performance, when I wasn’t laughing, I was reminded of Ezra Pound’s modernist credo “make it new” and the risks Virginia Woolf took in breaking with narrative tradition in her novels. At the peril of being repetitive, I’m going to recommend that you make time to see this fun, witty and thoughtful event this weekend. Performances are Friday and Saturday night at eight p.m. at The Buntport Theater. Tickets are ten dollars and are available on our website.

Recent Posts