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Sugar House Journal

Reflections on Art Reflecting: Bibek Neupane

Aug 14, 2015 11h13 ● By Bryan Scott


By Lewi Lewis

A lot of what Bibek Neupane is made of is weaved with Hindu traditions and morals, but he doesn’t like to use religion as a self identifier, he says. Neupane is much more comfortable slipping himself into a religion we are all familiar with: human religion, ha ha ha – his laugh is soft. Sincere.  

Neupane is 21. A senior at Westminster. A visual artist. 

He is a Nepalese native, came to the valley three years ago and, like any transplant from elsewhere to Anywhere, Utah the question, “why Utah?” always comes up. 

“… it was a mistake,” he says while sitting across from me at Sugar House Plaza. He has an easy manor: a devil-may-care lean; his face is as soft as his accented voice. “A friend of mine graduated from New York. He recommended Westminster college …” ok – New York? – “… but I think he meant the Westminster College in Pennsylvania,” ha, ha, ha. Soft. Accepting. 

“But when I did a search,” Neupane explains, “the one in Utah came up.”

The mountains, the beauty of the state, gripped Neupane (“so sure sure, this looks ridiculously beautiful let’s check it out) so he made a few calls. 

“Westminster was really good about helping me out getting scholarships, my visa; they showed real interest in me,” he says. 

Initial miscommunication or not - …mistake … - Neupane saw an opportunity; he saw Utah as a place he could call home, for at least a little while and a place where he could make a difference. “I could not have made a better decision.”

Neupane is a Theatre major. Finding his mistakes, his accomplishments on stage as a performer and as a viewer, for better or worse. “Art, to me, is something I can use to express myself because it allows me to make mistakes,” Neupane is saying, leaning in, the sun creeping into our shade. It’s hot, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “More so, I think it allows me to understand our life in this world better than anything else.” 

In high school “back in Nepal,” Neupane started his affair with the stage. “I got to go to some international festivals, like the one we are doing here, in India. There were artists from more than 30 countries. It was something that resonated with me,” Neupana says as a shaft of sunlight hits his foot, slowly creeping up his leg. Still, he doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care. 

Exposed on a stage, expressing the inner turmoil, the happiness, the devastation that makes up all of us on a daily turn, has always come naturally to Neupana. Better: the desire to allow art its nature course has always come naturally to him. The nuts and bolts, well …  “I wouldn’t say it is comfortable, but I think I express myself more comfortably on stage then I do with other art forms,” he says. “But I’ve worked really hard, a lot of training by the Westminster theatre department. One would think that it’s something that just comes to people, but there are so many detailed things you have to learn and get good at it.” His foot shifts – he finally notices … an awesome wave of relief inexplicably washes over me … but the shaft of sun has already reached his knee … 

“Everyone is an innate artist,” Neupane is saying. Yes. “It’s just a matter of when, where and how they express it.” 

Regardless of the form, music, painting, theatre – so the road goes – it’s about what resonates. “Human beings are inherent artists.” To Neupane, art is the mirror that reflects our shortcomings. He shifts back, still sitting … an attempt to retreat to the retreating shade. “I believe that art is the best way one can reflect on their vices, follies and their mistakes; it gives them opportunity to correct it.”

Between school and Neupane’s own art, he has extended his desire to inspire change in the form of a production company. 

Bowed Bough Productions was born out of the many theatre enthusiasts at Westminster (the one in Utah … ha, ha, ha – genteel. “Yes, the one in Utah.”). The hope is to utilize the power of stories through film and theatre to ignite social change. “We believe in humility like a tree branch full of fruits typifies (or animates). The name is actually derived from a classic Nepali poem about essential morals. Humble beginnings provide a desire for open discussion, community engagement, collaborative artistic processes and productive learning environments, engendering a vehicle for change,” Neupane says; his disposition carries the veracity of Bowed Bough Production’s philosophy, aberrant concern of the sun presently forgotten. 

Talk turns to The Fringe … the festival. Nuepane, from helping to clean and prepare the building that will serve as The Fringe Factory (at the moment, the building looks like a gutted fish) to performing and directing a show, has been involved every step of the way. 

“We are a very young production company with high aspirations. The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is actually one of our initial involvements. We have a show called ‘Waiting’ in the Fringe. Fortunately, I have the privilege of directing the show. We have a show every day during the festival on the Fringe Factory second floor,” he says, obviously eager. “’Waiting’ features comedic plays by local artists that surrounds existential themes. One of these plays, ‘Waiting for Blurtsoh’ has some strong environmental themes, which is why we decided to partner with Real Food Rising for the production of ‘Waiting.’ Real Food Rising is a community farming program that is working tirelessly to increase access to healthy food in Salt Lake.”

I flip off the recorder and ask if I can snag some photos of him – ha, ha, ha. Buoyant. Secure. 

Fiddling with the camera: what inspires you?

“Every theatre performance I watch … there is always something that resonates with my life and allows me reflect on it,” Neupana says. “Shades on or off?”

Shades, Neupana, shades, it’s bright out …