I’m very sad to hear former Vanderbilt Department of Fine Arts faculty member Don Evans passed away this morning from complications related to cancer. Don changed the lives of so many Nashville artists. We talked about Don’s influence on Nashville musician Tony Gerber in this article and on this podcast.
One of Don’s former students Joseph Whitt wrote a touching and informative article about the man on his blog Peripherus Max. Reading about Don’s creations really gives us a sense of how vital Don was to the Nashville experimental arts community.
What other Nashville events come close to the creative explosions Don put on?
In the early 70’s, Evans became increasingly recognized for his cooperative “happenings.” For Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring festival in 1970, he enlisted the help of students to construct an inflatable polyethylene dome on Alumni Lawn. An improvised construction method was used that involved ironing together small geometric shapes to produce a large undulating abstraction, which soon became the talk of the campus and prompted coverage in several Nashville newspapers … Two years later, the audience was asked to enter a similar inflatable to experience One Full Rotation Of The Earth – a 55-minute slow-motion opus that added a troupe of dancers from Fisk University and four film projectors to Sensorium’s media arsenal. [Gil] Trythall produced a minimalist soundtrack characterized by one extended undulating note of “C,” in response to Evans’s initial desire to create an experience lasting twenty-four hours.
It was also around this time that Little Marrowbone attracted a crowd nearly three-thousand strong onto the lawn of Nashville’s Parthenon to witness Luxikon 2, “the most beautiful piece that we ever did,” according to Evans. Prior to the event, local artist Buffy Holton photographed the sculptures on the building’s pediment so that they could be viewed head-on. She later hand-tinted the images and projected them onto the steps and pillars facing West End Avenue. For fifteen minutes, twenty-one volunteers stood very still in front of Holton’s projection, dressed in togas and sheets, posing in positions identical to the gods.“It was a true tableau vivant,” says Evans, smiling broadly. “Kathie Denobriga of independent regional theatre group ‘Alternate R.O.O.T.S.’ directed all of the participants. For the finale, my friends Wendell Davis and Jack Duncan put dozens of pinwheels over a wooden lattice, attached it to a vehicle called The Buffoonmobile and drove it past the tableau during the crescendo of Gilbert’s score. Smoke bombs were thrown in front of them, and the drive-by created whirlwind rainbows in the smoke and an unreal 3D effect with the projections. Large mortar fireworks also shot up from behind the building and filled the sky as Billy Preston, another friend of ours who played Zeus, broke his pose and raised his hands heavenward. The moon was full that night. Everything just seemed to say ‘YES!’”
I encourage everyone to go read Joseph’s full article on Don. It’s a wonderful profile on an amazing person.