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Artist Jessie Nilo Makes Music with a Paintbrush at Cellosong


Attendees of Cellosong, the farewell performance of Surel's Place artist-in-residence and internationally known cellist Dave Eggar, expected a feast for their ears on Saturday night, but got one for their eyes as well.

Musicians including Eggar, tap dancer Andrew Nemr, percussionist Chuck Palmer, classical guitarist Mario Diaz and violinist Heather Mastel-Lipson hit the stage that night, but they weren't the only performers. Local artist Jessie Nilo appeared onstage during the group's performance of Nemr and Palmer's composition "6/8," and a microphone attached to her canvas picked up the sound of each brushstroke as she painted in time to the music. Over the course of a half dozen songs, Nilo fashioned the likeness of Nemr tap dancing on canvas, surrounded by a cityscape in a rainbow of hues.

Jessie Nilo's speed painting of tap dancer Andrew Nemr sold for $2,500 at Cellosong. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Jessie Nilo's speed painting of tap dancer Andrew Nemr sold for $2,500 at Cellosong.
"I decided to make a portrait in action, very abstracted, of Andrew during this performance," Nilo told the crowd between songs, adding that she had made plans and sketches beforehand, but never practiced the painting in full. "That's the first time I've ever painted live with a miked rhythm."

When the piece neared completion, Surel's Place co-founder Karen Bubb auctioned it off to the crowd, netting a final price of $2,500 for the work, which Nilo and the performing musicians all agreed to sign.

Between pieces, Eggar told the assembled guests the evening was "a night of firsts"—though judging by the success of both the performance (to a sold out house) and the auction, it's likely the endeavor won't be the last of its kind for Surel's Place.

Above, Eggar and crew premier an original composition, "Border Crossings" by Jim Cockey.