MAKERS: Christa Ebert, aka Uno Lady
“What more could I possibly ask as an artist than my most precious visions, however rare, sometimes assume the forms of my images.” – Maya Deren
On a frigid day recently, Christa Ebert showed me upstairs to her West Park studio. Among the many effects pedals, microphones, and audio equipment stood a vintage projection screen – the kind of old screen that calls to mind the musty smells of a grade school AV closet. This borrowed screen will play a key role at her performance this Friday at the Akron Recording Company (February 8), along with her other gear in tow. As part of her artist residency for Akron Soul Train, Christa Ebert, better known by her stage persona, Uno Lady, has created a film to accompany her already mesmerizing live performance.
If you’ve never seen Uno Lady live, let me attempt to explain. A self-trained musician, Ebert composes songs mostly using just her voice. She’s been described as a “one-woman ghost choir”, which I find particularly apt. Her music includes dream-like layers of her own voice, looping like spells and chants, ethereal tones, instruments and beats all knit together into one lush soundscape. Every time I’ve heard her sing, I’ve had goosebumps – the beauty of her voice soaring, cutting through the air is so enchanting it can command the hairs on my arms to stand at attention.
I’ve seen Uno Lady perform many times over the years – she was the recipient of a CPAC Creative Workforce Fellowship, a Panza Foundation Award, and has performed at many venues and galleries: Transformer Station, the Cleveland Museum of Art, etc. But for the first time, she will be including a film component as part of her live show – thanks to Akron Soul Train. Akron Soul Train is an artist residency program that grants fellowships to provide resources for all creative disciplines – Ebert is the first musician they have supported.
As she explained, “For my Akron Soul Train artist-in-residency I proposed to take my shows to the next level, invest in a better camera (I was using a GoPro), and start making visuals for my performances. I am a visual person, captivated by imagery, and feel there is a cinematic element to my music. I’d like to write compositions for film and figured I may learn something if I tried it the other way around.”
She showed me snippets of the film in her studio. The entire film will run uninterrupted during her performance, woven together through the various songs, but it should be seen as a single, complete piece of work. The imagery is mainly natural, trees, lakes, and swamps – but it slips into industrial views as well, reflecting the life of a nature-lover living in a town like Cleveland. Like her music the film is layered, etherial, and captivating – at one point a crystalline lake is so still that you can’t even tell the shot has been inverted – you’re looking at sky camouflaged as water. Raccoons and birds, clouds dancing and deep forests – one thing that is conspicuously absent is people. It’s a colorful journey through an unpopulated dream world, and Uno Lady is your guide.
Watching this new film calls to mind the avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren – whose work in the 1940s also captured a dream world, with crashing waves, sharp rocks, and dead trees. But unlike Ebert, Deren used her body in her films, starring in all of them herself. And Deren’s films are silent – painfully so – in fact, I can easily imagine them scored by Uno Lady. It would be the perfect fit.
For these upcoming shows, Uno Lady will be sharing three new songs – and later this year we can expect a new album, “Osmosis”. Ebert describes it as “a collection of songs about growth: self-awareness, love and letting go, politics, perception, and wanderlust.” My favorite track, “Wild Child” is the perfect fit to the new imagery she has created – a rollicking trek up and down, through imaginary hills and cinematic valleys, all while “running faster than time”.
If you can’t make her show in Akron on Friday, she will also be performing (with her film) at 78th Street Studios smART Space at the next Third Friday – on February 15, from 7-8:30pm. Don’t miss it.