Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: Choreography
Competition: US & Canada
Ralph Lemon, an artist who defies categorization, is Artistic Director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. Mr. Lemon's projects expand the definition of choreography by crossing and stretching the boundaries between Western, postmodern dance and other art forms and cultures. For each project, he builds a team of collaborating artists—from diverse cultural backgrounds, countries, and artistic disciplines—who bring their own history and aesthetic voice to the work. Projects develop organically, over a period of years, with frequent public sharings of work-in-progress, and the culminating artworks derive from the artistic, cultural, historic, and emotional material uncovered in this rigorous creative research process.
From 2005 to 2008, Ralph Lemon was primarily engaged in The Walter Project, a series of works in various art forms developed in collaboration with Walter Carter, an African American centenarian who has lived his entire life in Bentonia, Mississippi. Their collaboration was the basis for the mixed-media installation (the efflorescence of) Walter, seen at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), The Kitchen (New York City), and the Contemporary Art Center (New Orleans). The eventual inclusion of other Bentonia residents in The Walter Project, as well as Mr. Lemon’s current multimedia project How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? has led to creation of The Mississippi Institute, a formal structure through which local residents can participate in the development and production of artistic works by Mr. Lemon and other professional contemporary artists.
In 2005, Mr. Lemon concluded The Geography Trilogy, a decade-long international research and performance project that spanned three continents as it explored race, history, and memory. The project featured three evening-length dance/theater performances: Geography (1997); Tree (2000); and Come Home Charley Patton (2004); two Internet art projects; the publication of two books by Wesleyan University Press; and several gallery exhibitions. Other recent projects include the three-DVD set of The Geography Trilogy; Konbit, a video collage about Miami's Haitian community; Three, a dance/film created with choreographer Bebe Miller and filmmaker Isaac Julien; and Persephone, a book with Philip Trager's photographs of Mr. Lemon's choreographic work, with text by Lemon and Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, and poems by Rita Dove and Eavan Boland.
Ralph Lemon was one of fifty artists to receive the inaugural United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. He has received two "Bessie" (NY Dance and Performance) Awards, one in 2005 in recognition of The Geography Trilogy; a 2004 NYFA Award for Choreography; and a 2004 Fellowship with the Bellagio Study and Conference Center. In 1999, he was honored with the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, and was invited to participate in the National Theatre Artist Residency Program, administered by Theatre Communications Group and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Among his many teaching positions, Lemon has been artist-in-residence at Temple University in Philadelphia (2005-06); George A. Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center (2004); and a Fellow of the Humanities Council and Program in Theater and Dance at Princeton University (2002). From 1996 to 2000, he was Associate Artist at Yale Repertory Theatre. In the fall 2009, Mr. Lemon will be a guest artist at Stanford University through the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, the Drama/Dance Department, and the inaugural year of the Arts Intensive Program.