July 20, 2014
Is there something wrong with me? I love investigating and researching patterns. When given the opportunity to do so at new venues and places- it makes this artist very happy! Last week Friday evening was my opening at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene, Oregon. The exhibit also featured artists Ned Block and Ann Chadwick Reid.
Michael Fisher, the Exhibits Coordinator, titled the exhibit Natural Interplay. According to the Center’s press release: “The exhibit explores the different ways these three artists relate to the natural world. Balisle employs gestures, lines, and marks to observe the environment both up close and far away. Block’ sculptures of birds and organic forms emphasize balance and motion. And Chadwick’s intricately cut silhouette pieces are influenced by the plants, animals, and birds of the Pacific Northwest.” It’s always interesting to see the curator’s vision on display. Mr. Fisher did a masterful job:
Works were created based on the history and patterns of the Maude Kerns Art Center. When visiting last December, the architectural features, worn wooden deck, and trees caught my attention by how light and time had made its mark. Here are some examples:
Maude Kerns Art Center’s namesake represents a woman who was ahead of her time. She painted bold and colorful abstract paintings not commonly found in California during the 1920s through 1940s. Maude Kern was a pioneer in art but also in the classroom by urging students to paint to music. Mini Bells in the Center’s publication about Maude Kerns states: “During her twenty-six years as head of the Normal Arts Department she had been appointed assistant professor and then associate professor, but never a full professor. She attributed this to her sex, and she deplored the lack of progress in the lives of women.” Maude Kerns was born in 1876 and died in 1965.
Maude Kerns: “It is time in life to really see and reflect on life and affairs of past, present, and future. Time to get ready for the next adventure…”
Natural Interplay at the Maude Kerns Art Center, July 18 – August 29, 2014.
July 13, 2014
In November 2009, I started the Factor XX blog. It was conceived in part of chronicling my experience with organizing, curating, and participating in an exhibit at the Art Museum of Los Gatos. 4 ½ years later, today I reached the milestone of writing my 300th post. It’s hard to believe how much life has changed in such a short time.
My writings have generated threats from art scammers to remove posts exposing their “real” intentions to sparking political debate. I’ve shared exhibits at museums, philanthropic activities, my first mammogram, and turning forty. Travels from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles have been part of the journey. Oh the highs and lows of being an artist!
Grieving the loss of my beloved studio mate and biggest golden retriever on the planet Trout was a popular post. Even today reading it again makes me tear up. It’s amazing how one creature and soul made such an impact in a life. It reminds me that each one of us has that potential. Here’s the link: http://factorxx.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/goodnight-good-friend/
One entry described a visit to the Oakland Art Museum to artist Hung Liu’s Summoning Ghosts retrospective of amazing paintings. After a failed attempt to view the exhibit, I thought it would be just another day at the museum. That was wrong! Leaving to go home, the artist herself was standing in the shadows texting. Visitors were walking by critiquing the artist’s work without the knowledge of her presence. It was quite interesting. Here’s the link: http://factorxx.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/summoning-ghosts/
Can’t forget the pictures of my dog’s poop for a scam exhibition opportunity! Of course the venue accepted them and wanted to display them for my money. Every time seeing the photos, it makes me smile. Some venues have no standards at all. Spoiler alert: don’t trust everything to be art because it’s hanging on a wall for sale. Here’s the link: http://factorxx.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/hot-mess-exihibtion-that-will-make-you-famous-part-3/
Can’t predict the future but do know that the posts will continue until mentally or physically unable to do so. Here’s hoping to many more years of celebrations, aggravations, investigations, and ___________ (fill in the blank). That is the goal!
July 6, 2014
The last three weeks has included intense research, formulating ideas, and creating sketches for the Guy Place Mini Park public art proposal. This heightened level of work reminds me of the time preparing and prepping for the de Young Museum artist-in-residency last September. I want to make sure that there will be no regrets and that everything was done possible to make the best design possible.
Being new to the “finalist” status process, my learning curve has been high. However, I love the challenge. It makes me a better artist, educator, writer, and advocate. The San Francisco Arts Commission is streamlined and well-organized. Every question has been answered with a positive and helpful attitude. While other public art programs in the United States are barely surviving, this San Francisco program is the crème de la crème.
Once aware of the project, the research began. This is normal for my art practice. However, the design must respect and reflect the feel of the community. As a result, made many trips to the area at different times of the day to see how the light filters throughout the neighborhood. In addition, investigated the history and colorful past of its people.
Then the sketches started from small scratches in a book to large, clean, and meticulous finished drawings. Finding patterns is my forte and the Rincon Hill neighborhood in which Guy Place Mini Park will reside is full of inspiration. Here are some possible ideas for the front fence design:
Once a design is picked, a rendering will be created placing it in the context of the space. A proposal narrative board is needed detailing the inspiration and explaining the proposed artwork. That board will be displayed for the public and presented in early August to the commission. They will listen to three different artist presentations, deliberate, and make their final selection/recommendation.
No matter the outcome and results, it’s an honor to be picked and I gave it my best. That is what really counts. My hope is that this opportunity opens the doors to new “challenges” and engages different modes of thinking. That sounds like a good plan to me!
June 29, 2014
Betty Reid Soskin is 92-years-old young. A milestone to make it to that age and have more energy than most of the human race. Yesterday, I had the pleasure to hear Ms. Soskin talk at the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park in Richmond, California. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be inspired.
Soskin is the oldest National Parks Ranger in the United States and amazing role model. She’s lived a colorful life and willing to share each moment in vivid detail. Rosie’s Daughters organized the event and according to their website: “We started Rosie’s Daughters as a way to create a comfortable space in which to share our own stories and to listen to the experiences of other incredible women. The name ‘Rosie’s Daughters’ was inspired by the iconic Rosie the Riveter – a symbol that originated in the Bay Area – and is a reminder to all of us to try new things, test our limits, and believe in ourselves.”
Richmond was the wartime shipbuilding capital in World War II. Different races and sexes united to produce ships to help win the war. The city experienced a surge of diversity and a major increase in population searching for opportunities. Despite the racial tensions and discrimination, work was completed together to build a foundation for future generations. Minorities were slowly given the “chance” at jobs not allowed to them in the past. Women proved that they could do work considered only suitable for their male counterparts. A time of crisis broke many racial and gender barriers. The battle for equality continues today and Ms. Soskin declared that her job is “…helping to guard the authenticity of our truth.”
From NBC Bay Area news: “But Soskin is more than just a tour guide. She is living history, and considers herself a ‘primary source’ of information for the exhibit. During World War II, Soskin worked as a clerk for the all-black Boilermakers A-36. In the true sense of the word, she is not a ‘Rosie,’ because that title is typically held for female wartime shipyard workers who were white. Still, Soskin feels her views — and experiences as an African-American woman during World War II — are invaluable to the country’s collective wartime memory.” She displayed no fear informing visitors of our nation’s truth.
Soskin is our history and her legacy will continue to flourish in the future. Her presence defines how the human spirit can push past adversity and succeed. Thank you Ms. Soskin for a wonderful Saturday to remember. Her tenacity and courage provides hope for us all.
June 22, 2014
Former Speaker of the House Thomas O’Neill, Jr., coined the phrase that “all politics is local.” The same sentiment applies to the art world. A creative’s location greatly impacts opportunity, inspiration, and innovation. I witnessed this first hand in my career and in others. Artists that “succeed” are normally involved locally and not necessarily defined by money but a drive to improve community.
Frequently artists dream of being “discovered” resulting in all financial problems disappearing. Unfortunately, most unsolicited opportunities include having to pay a fee to exhibit or be included in a publication that is “prestigious.” Most of these so-called “big breaks” arrive to a large number of undisclosed recipients. The artist isn’t special or unique. A smaller bank account is the award via a predator behind a computer screen.
As a result, I encourage artists to spend their dollars locally. Instead of falling for baseless scams, what if creatives banded together and made a pledge to invest in institutions that directly affect their neighborhood? Then artists wouldn’t have to look outside to unfamiliar territories to build resumes or gain “experience.” This would strengthen existing organizations with proven track records by supporting their existence.
The Richmond Art Center, Berkeley Art Center, and Pro Arts Gallery are three examples of trustworthy institutions that have consistently and truthfully supported the arts. Each one offers exhibition opportunities, intelligent programming, artist talks, community building, and much more for a nominal membership fee. A fraction of the cost compared to the overwhelming vanity tricks that spam an artist’s email inbox daily.
Here’s the proof and one example: currently on display at the Richmond Art Center is the Annual Members Show till August 22nd. Take a look at the highlights:
Money talks but can have a stronger, louder, and more powerful voice when collectively put together to support a positive good. Thinking locally can spread globally. Working together to respect communities can transcend borders. Attention: artists, galleries, patrons, and art lovers! Let’s take the little money we have and send a clear message to scammers: no more!
June 15, 2014
The next few months will comprise of research and investigation: two of my favorite activities for this art geek. If given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it worthwhile with no regrets and no stone unturned. With a recent opportunity to create a Public Art proposal, a leap in faith is in order. This “chance” must be treated as a gift and not be taken for granted.
Immediately after finding out I was a finalist for the Guy Place Mini Park in San Francisco, let the festivities begin! The location is right behind Local restaurant on First Street less than a block away from the on-ramp to Highway 80. It’s a perfect space to create a natural oasis in an urban setting.
Did I mention that my husband is the best ever? Last Saturday, he drove me to the Park’s location to obtain source images. We walked around the large city blocks with my golden retriever puppy to get a “feel” of the community. This is part of the thesis like process to discover patterns that define the area.
The park is located in the Rincon Hill neighborhood and its historical marker states: “A fashionable neighborhood in the 1880′s, Rincon Hill was the home of William Tecumseh Sherman, William C. Ralston, William Gwin, H.H. Bancroft and others. By the 1880′s the hill, already partially leveled, became a working class district. Today it is nearly invisible beneath the Bay Bridge. This plaque is mounted on the retaining wall of St. Mary’s Hospital, built in 1861 but destroyed in the fire of 1906.” Unfortunately, the plaque has been removed or destroyed. After numerous attempts to find it, it appears to have vanished. However, here are some discoveries made in Rincon Hill:
What makes this area special? According to the San Francisco Arts Commission: “In 1969, the City and County of San Francisco was one of the first municipalities in the country to enact an Art Enrichment Ordinance. It required that up to 2% of the gross estimated project cost of civic capital projects be spent on artwork.” Supporting creativity produces environments of innovation. Maybe instead of austerity and cutbacks, investment is in order. This opportunity isn’t afforded in other parts of the country and why it’s home to me.
This surely won’t be my last visit. Regardless if my proposal is accepted or not, exploring an amazing slice of San Francisco is a reward. Where this will lead in the future, have no idea. What is known is that more research will be in order. Which is perfectly fine with me. That is when the “true” fun begins…
June 1, 2014
Last week, had the rare opportunity to see firsthand how one city is fighting for the arts. Economists, pundits, and writers claim we are in an improving economy (a.k.a. the new cash bubble). But who is seeing the rewards? Is the wealth being spread evenly? Citizens are told that economy is getting better but how come it doesn’t feel like it? Well, art organizations and cities are still searching for funds but their calls for help seem to be ignored.
I was allowed to sit in and observe the city of Richmond’s Arts & Culture Commission. The beginning of the meeting started with Maryann Maslan’s beautiful opera singing voice. Shortly afterwards, the board discussed tech applications, legal writings, workshops, mural projects, mini neighborhood grants, exhibits, and much more. However, there appears to be a multi-million dollar deficit in the budget and all departments are expected to make cuts. The little money going to the creative welfare of the people has just gotten smaller.
The arts provide results. Then why is it often the first on the cutting block, the last priority, or considered to be just an “extra”? The positive effects include enhancing critical thinking skills, encouraging innovation, creating community pride, becoming an alternative to crime for youth, allowing individuals to express themselves authentically, and much more.
Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco delivered some disheartening news last week also. The organization was established in 1965 and long known for bringing together various communities by creating intelligent discourse through its exhibitions and public art projects. However, they are one of many that are closing, suspending services, asking for donations, laying off employees, and/or fading away into the sunset.
Again, the media continues to say that the economy is fine. For the 1%?
Board Chair Yancy Widmer in a press release: “Intersection is at a turning point. Like many nonprofit, grassroots arts organizations, our business model has long been fragile. The Board has retooled Intersection’s community purpose to align with today’s needs. Moreover, Intersection will work closely with key stakeholders to continue to support our role as a platform and an incubator for artists and community engagement.”
What is “today’s needs”? Maybe it’s a world in which art is just a memory. My fear is that a cultural shift of accepting the mundane has occurred. This deficit in questioning and exposure to diversity will not lead to innovation and true universal prosperity. It leads to nothing. Meanwhile, the city of Richmond and organizations like Intersection for the Arts will continue scraping the bottom of the barrel for funds. Fortunately, creativity doesn’t die that easily.
May 25, 2014
Last week Saturday was a perfect sunny day for a visit to the beach or a walk. As a result, I went on a tour of San Francisco’s Recology. The city’s trash ends up here. The company sorts the garbage with a future goal in 2020 of zero waste in mind. In addition, Recology has established numerous innovative practices to convert waste into positive use or treasure.
But can garbage represent beauty? Well, yes it can. According to their website: “The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco is a unique art and education program that provides Bay Area artists with the rare opportunity to create art from trash.” During the tour, the group was introduced to two current artist in residents. One was Jamil Hellu who is recreating scenes from discarded photos and memories into pieces of art. The other was Matthew Gottschalk whose work includes the reenactment of a Moby-Dick narrative and diary through video, props, and puppets.
Artwork from previous Recology artists in residences:
Part of the tour included the Sculpture Garden featuring over 35 pieces made from trash. Marta Thoma’s piece was a highlight:
Pictures weren’t allowed in the sorting areas, hazardous material drop off, and “the pit” where all the garbage that can’t be recycled resides. That trash is placed into a truck and dumped into the city of Livermore’s landfill across the Bay. The sheer scale of everyday waste is amazing. However, San Francisco keeps 80% of their garbage out of the landfills, which is the highest rate in the country. If I saw this much waste here- what is it like in other states and globally?
The CBS television show 60 Minutes recently featured a story called The Recyclers: From Trash Comes Triumph about a poor “slum” community in Cateura, Paraguay that receives 1500 tons of solid waste each day. The small town’s only industry is sorting the trash of its country due to large landowners kicking people off their plots. Favio Chavez, an environmental technician, started a children’s music school with instruments made from garbage. Now his student’s are playing all around the world and have hope for better lives. He saw a need and expressed to reporter Bob Simon: “These are children that were hidden, nobody even knew they existed. We have put them on a stage and now everybody looks at them and everybody knows they exist.”
Humans should be known for making this planet a better place to live instead of encouraging its destruction. We can live in a zero waste world and hope I’ll be alive to see it. Companies like Recology and individuals like Favio Chavez should be commended for their creative efforts. It’s now our turn to our part this holiday weekend. Recycle doing nothing into change and/or art!
May 18, 2014
An art fair has stormed into town. Art Market San Francisco is on display and ready for visitors in the Fort Mason Center. Having been to events like this in other cities, the Bay area has its own aesthetic signature. With 70 galleries showcasing works in one spot, I couldn’t help but be curious and didn’t want to miss the viewing opportunity.
Last weekend, the local Fox network KTVU featured co-founder of the fair Max Fishko on the television show Bay Are People. Fishko is a third generation gallerist from New York City and is passionate about art. He stated that: “…every single person will find something that turns them on.” Indeed Mr. Fishko was right and here are the highlights:
In an interview for the de Young Museum’s blog, Max Fishko states: “Every city is unique. San Francisco has a fabulous community of dealers, artists, institutions and collectors that help one another tremendously. San Franciscans are very proud of their city, fiercely so. I think that there is a civic pride and a dedication to the historical identity of San Francisco as both a city and cultural catalyst that helps define the community here for me.” Not all the galleries featured at the fair were local but the majority of my favorite pieces were. Looks like I’m in the right spot to create and be inspired.
May 11, 2014
Sometimes forward progress feels like no progress at all. That is when I know that quality action and creation is being implemented. Last Thursday evening was the Richmond Planning commission meeting to combat a big corporation from building an unnecessary development and the 29th Annual Art Auction benefiting the Hospitality House at the White Walls & The Shooting Gallery in San Francisco. While my artwork was on display for a silent auction to help a good cause, I was fighting for one on the other side of the Bay.
The Hospitality House has been an institution of positivity since 1967 empowering the homeless for social change. They are located in one of the toughest neighborhoods called the Tenderloin a.k.a. my first studio home. My time there helped develop a strong sense of “character.” I was raised that money should never define a person but a strong faith in doing what is “right” should. That principle has guided me so far.
On Friday morning, I drove to White Walls & The Shooting Gallery to see if the auction was still up. Unfortunately, the staff was too efficient and almost all the works were packed or removed. My hope is that the event went well and raised lots of money.
Could the old proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” be true? I would have loved to be at the auction instead of dealing with a scrupulous developer. However, some fights can’t be ignored from corporate greed to supporting the homeless. Overall, trying to do my little part and on this Mother’s Day wanted to thank my mom who taught me the important principles of right and wrong mixed with a strong work ethic can result in “good.”
Cindy Gallop: “I have a low tolerance for people who complain about things but never do anything to change them. This led me to conclude that the single largest pool of untapped natural resources in this world is human good intentions that are never translated into actions.”
May the good work (battle) continue…