There was palpable energy in Bovard Auditorium Monday night, the kind that only music can create. Fans of performance painter David Garibaldi filled the seats to witness the artist create pieces to music in an event organized by USG Program Board.
While the audience waited for the performance to begin, a D.J. sent bass notes reverberating throughout the auditorium. The stage was cloaked in semidarkness with one spotlight trained on the D.J. at the left of the stage.
When the lights went out, a black canvas appeared on a metal stand. Garibaldi finally appeared clad in jeans, a dark shirt, a leather jacket, an eye-catching yellow belt and sneakers.
“Are you ready for this?” Garibaldi asked the crowd. “What you are about to experience is something I call rhythm and hue.”
Garibaldi began by promptly getting his hands dirty; by the end of the performance, his pants and shirt were similarly messy. He passionately grasped two paintbrushes and dipped them into cans of paint before flicking off the excess. His movements were dexterous and quick, synced with the fast-paced music that was playing in the background.
Garibaldi began with a few ambiguous dabs, but the outline of a face soon emerged. He applied the paint to the canvas in quick, agile motions, somehow matching the music and creating a work before the audience’s eyes.
The canvas sometimes shook with the force of his paint strokes. At the end of each finished painting, he dramatically smacked the canvas — his trademark signature.
Garibaldi held nothing back, throwing paintbrushes in the air and sometimes using his own hand to send droplets splashing onto the canvas.
Years ago, he spent his time giving birth to a different type of creation.
“It was graffiti and it was illegal, but I just wanted to paint. I just wanted to create,” Garibaldi said. “You could find me painting on anything standing.”
Garibaldi didn’t always have a clear vision of what he wanted rhythm and hue to be. After encouragement from a helpful teacher, he became interested in painting and short animated filmmaking.
After high school, Garibaldi held various odd jobs but found himself generally unsatisfied. He went on to attend art school and began to paint. Sitting on a friend’s couch one day, he marveled at a large painting of Jimi Hendrix and found inspiration. He began to perform shows at jazz clubs or wherever music met art.
Garibaldi’s intention is to create not only engaging pieces but an interactive experience for his audience. During certain moments, he runs or walks toward the front of the stage, facing the audience. He sometimes jumps in the air or walks to the microphone and urges the audience to get rowdy.
In Monday’s performance, he started off with a painting of John Lennon and moved on to a replica of Lady Gaga while a medley of her biggest hits played in the background.
After a few of his characteristic direct stabs at the painting, the image of Lady Gaga was apparent.
At one point, Garibaldi painted a portrait of Michael Jackson while a mix tape of the late artist’s classics played. Blending emotion and music seamlessly, Garibaldi encouraged those in attendance to make some noise as “Dirty Diana” began to blare from the speakers while he passionately added thick, red strokes to the portrait.
He went on to speak briefly about President Obama before painting him while a fusion of songs and audio clips of Obama’s voice filled Bovard. He rounded out the night with an upside-down creation of Albert Einstein.
Besides bringing together two powerful mediums, Garibaldi wanted to leave his audience with a specific message.
“This platform to create could be more than just to entertain,” Garibaldi said. “It could be to benefit and inspire.”
In his own life, Garibaldi appears to take these words to heart. At 27, the painter has already managed to raise $500,00 for non-profit organizations and hopes to raise $1 million by the time he is 30.
“These passions live in each and every one of us,” Garibaldi said, two thick marks of paint splayed across the side of his face. “My only hope is that we use our creativity to benefit and inspire.”
Garibaldi remained after the show to speak with attendees and sign autographs, speaking to his fans in a warm and friendly manner.
Garibaldi succeeded at not only entertaining but sharing thought-provoking statements about the meaning of passion and the importance of using one’s creativity to help others.