© Cheryl Leonard

July 12

The Astonishing Sea at Intersection for the Arts

An audio-visual performance event by Cheryl E. Leonard and Oona Stern, Mem1 and Elia Vargas

Out beyond our sights and minds comes The Astonishing Sea. Special sound and music performances reveal hidden worlds happening on our water planet. Music duo Mem1 performs ‘Mascaret’, featuring one of North America’s few tidal bores where incoming tides travel against the river’s current; sound artist Cheryl E. Leonard and visual artist Oona Stern with guest musician Philip Greenlief return from ‘The Polar Oceans’ to weave tales with sounds from natural-object instruments made from Antarctic bones, shells and rocks, interspersing field recordings, videos, drawings and paintings from the Arctic and Antarctic that reveal alarming climate change; while artist Elia Vargas conjures ‘Liquid Landscapes,’ a performance installation where audiences can walk through projected mist and sound that meld the digital and the natural, and water and light, while confronting profound ideas about our future technological ecosystems in comparison to our natural world.

Note: Audience members are asked to bring a plant to participate in Elia Vargas’s ‘Liquid Landscapes.’


Mem1  seamlessly blends the sounds of cello and electronics to create a limitless palette of sonic possibilities. In their improvisation-based performances, Mark and Laura Cetilia’s use of custom hardware and software, in conjunction with a uniquely subtle approach to extended cello technique and realtime modular synthesis patching, results in the creation of a single voice rather than a duet between two individuals. Their music moves beyond melody, lyricism and traditional structure, revealing an organic evolution of sound that has been called “a perfect blend of harmony and cacophony” (Forced Exposure).

Cheryl Leonard_300Cheryl E. Leonard is a composer, performer, and instrument builder. Over the last decade she has focused on investigating sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Many of her recent works cultivate stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, feathers, and bones as musical instruments. She uses microphones to explore micro-aural worlds hidden within her sound sources and develops compositions that highlight the unique voices they contain. Leonard holds a BA from Hampshire College and an MA from Mills College. Her music has been performed worldwide and she has been commissioned to create works for Kronos Quartet, Illuminated Corridor, and Michael Straus. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, ASCAP, American Composers Forum, and the Eric Stokes Fund. Leonard has been awarded residencies at Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, Djerassi, the Arctic Circle, Villa Montalvo and Engine 27.

oona_300Oona Stern is a visual artist working with traditional art media like video, photography, and drawing, as well as commercial materials such as advertising posters, DIY carpeting, and neon. Employing these disparate materials to create a backdrop to daily experience – art into life – she seeks to bridge the gap between nature and culture, bringing the outdoors, both
organic and clichéd, to urban and private spaces. Oona Stern has a BA from Cornell University and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. Her public installations include “the sound of grass growing,” for Bloomberg headquarters in NY. Stern’s long-term installations include “island path,” on Governor’s Island in NYC, and “meander” currently installed in downtown Bellevue, WA, and in Huntington, Long Island. Stern’s work has been exhibited internationally and her residencies include the Edward Albee Foundation, Dieu Donné Papermill, the LMCC Workspace, the Arctic Circle, and the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.

Elia Vargas is an Oakland-based video and immersive media artist. His work aims to merge participation, sound, and image. Seeking new ecologies of human identity, Vargas is interested in culture, code, cities, and cells as new landscapes and new organisms…or the narrative byproducts. He has shown internationally and received numerous awards, including the SF Foundation Murphy Cadogan MFA Fellowship, and has collaborated with artists such as Björk and Vincent Moon, among others. He holds an MFA in Conceptual Information Arts from San Francisco State University and a BAs in Film/Media and Philosophy from University of California Santa Barbara. Currently, he works for the San Francisco-based interactive design firm, Snibbe Interactive. His journey with sound has led him to program at many community and pirate radio stations as well as co-found the music arts collective, One Night Music.