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Writers say art transcends all

Sarah Mayer | Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two famous writers – one an author raised in the Dominican Republic, the other an artist who was born in China – came together Monday to discuss the ways in which creative expressions can transcend cultural boundaries and other borders.

The “Between Homeland and Heartland” literary and arts event featured author Julia Alvarez and artist Gao Xingjian Monday in McKenna Hall. The presentation kicked off a four-day celebration of the arts that will explore the concept of home and identity.

Though Alvarez and Gao come from different cultural backgrounds and use different media, they agreed during the lecture on a common theme of art. Neither language nor culture nor socioeconomic status, they said, qualify or disqualify people from the ability to understand, appreciate and critique art.

Gao, the 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, was born in China. He often takes a philosophical approach to his art, as he demonstrated in his collection on display and the Shite Museum.

He explained the “re-education” that he received in China, which eventually drove him out of the country. With the new culture that was beginning there, almost all of his writings were destroyed because they were philosophical and different from the norm.

Alvarez, though born in New York, lived in then war-torn Dominican Republic from the time he was an infant until age 10.

Alvarez is most famous for her novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, which uses fictional characters to describe what her and her family actually went through as a child.

“The Mirabal sisters may be fictional people but the hanging of Trujillo and enduring dictatorship were all things my family and I went through,” she said.

Each artist expressed identification with a home that was filled with turmoil and despair.

Alvarez and Gao both overcame the forms of government they endured and still found love in their homeland and expressed it through their art.

“We many speak the same language but we can still experience each others’ homes,” Gao said.

Remaining Schedule:

Sept. 11

2 p.m. – Mabel Lee, a literary translator of Gao’s work, will provide context to his film “Silhouette/Shadow.”

4 p.m. – Alvarez will deliver a lecture titled “Stories I Steer by as a Writer.”

5:15 to 6:15 p.m. – Alvarez will sign copies of her books.

Sept. 12

1:45 p.m. – Scholars Howard Goldblatt from Notre Dame, Gilbert Fong a translator of Gao’s plays from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Claire Conceison from Tufts University will serve as panelists for a presentation on Gao’s plays.

3:45 p.m. – The staged reading and premiere of Gao’s “Ballade Nocturne,” directed by Conceison.

3:45 p.m. – Performance of scenes from selected plays of Gao, directed by Anton Juan of Notre Dame, at the Regis Philbin Studio Theatre in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.  This is a free but ticketed event.

Sept. 13

7 p.m. – Screening of Gao’s film “La Silhouette Sinon l’Ombre” in the Annenberg Auditorium.