March 22, 2015
Last week, I recalled a conversation with the late and great artist Susan O’Malley prior to a meeting at the de Young museum. She expressed how it was interesting to be approaching an age where you’re considered to be an “expert.” Susan proceeded to be amazed and amused by that classification. She joked: “What is an expert?”
On April 11th, I will be talking at the de Young museum in a short lecture to the New Generations Student Showcase exhibitors. The goal is to share my background, discuss the current status of the art field, encourage students to think about an artistic legacy, and facilitate an open dialogue about future hopes and dreams. Inspiring a new generation of artists at the museum is a full circle moment.
After working out details at the meeting, I decided to view the Botticelli to Braque exhibit. From the de Young museum website: “Spanning more than 400 years of artistic production, this exhibition highlights works by many of the greatest painters from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. See this rare presentation of some of the most iconic images in the history of Western art as they travel to San Francisco from the National Galleries of Scotland. Paintings selected from the collection include masterpieces by Sandro Botticelli, Diego Velázquez, Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Sir Henry Raeburn, Frederic Edwin Church, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque.”
Continuing the quest for evidence of expertise, I ventured in the Shaping Abstraction exhibition. I couldn’t help but think did any of these artists consider themselves to be “experts”? What makes one an expert? Is it life experience? Is it hard work and determination? When has one crossed the threshold into expertise?
Leaving the museum with masterful images on my mind, I continued to replay Susan O’Malley’s thoughts. Stuck in horrible traffic on Highway 80, my vehicle moved onto the Ashby exit in Berkeley. Driving on San Pablo Ave., I parked near Bob’s Machinery. Its storefront showcases Susan’s wisdom: “LESS INTERNET MORE LOVE.” At my upcoming de Young talk, I will share her expertise. These words radiate the same power as a Velazquez painting: it lures, hypnotizes, and makes one think. My goal will be to pass that message on to a future generation. What a gift, what a legacy, and thanks to the masters for the continued guidance.
March 15, 2015
The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco is a classy, elegant, and in my late grandmother’s words a “fancy shmancy” place. Last week Thursday, I volunteered for the 12th Annual Students Rising Above Gala in the upscale Nob Hill hotel. My job was to smile and greet patrons upon first arrival. Tasks included welcoming visitors prior to donating financial support, encouraging bidding on auction items and having fun in the spirit of supporting young adults.
My first encounter with the organization was in the fall of 2013. HANG ART gallery in San Francisco asked me to be part of the A Lot of Good exhibit. A portion of an artwork sale would be donated to a worthy cause. My choice was the Students Rising Above organization and since that moment I was hooked.
According to their website: “The Students Rising Above community is dedicated to impacting the future through the cultivation of extraordinary youth. SRA invests in low-income, first generation college students who have demonstrated a deep commitment to education and strength of character while overcoming tremendous odds of poverty, homelessness, and neglect. We help each student to realize his or her potential by guiding and supporting them through college graduation, and into the workforce. Our graduates are breaking the cycle of poverty within their own families, serving their communities, providing a new generation of employees and leaders from diverse backgrounds, and accelerating positive change.”
Last year, I edited student essays for SRA students. It was a fantastic experience helping high schoolers focus dreams into words for college applications. In January, was given the opportunity to mentor a fabulous student. The best gift is being able to give back to an individual who wants to succeed. At Thursday’s gala, it was another way to contribute meaningfully.
Bottom line: education has been key to my success. Without it, opportunities would have been little to none. For the next 18 years, my $454.20 monthly student loan is a badge of honor with no regrets. That is fine with me. I hope to live to see the day when the balance is zero. However, education is priceless. Organizations like Students Rising Above uplift and provide hope. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
March 8, 2015
The world truly lost one of its best. Not a fan of the human race but Susan O’Malley provided hope in a landscape of despair. Knowing her for many years, she truly was an amazing person, wife, friend, and artist. She was welcoming and friendly without an agenda. The reasons are too numerous but one must make an attempt. BTW, she saved me.
Susan and I were trying to start a family at the same time. We would share the experiences of infertility along with the physical and mental toll of starting a new medication cycle. When she learned that she was pregnant with twins, I discovered that having a baby was no longer a possibility. Her excitement and joy eased my extreme sadness. If anyone could be given the gift of motherhood, it would be sweet Susan O’Malley.
I wanted to crawl into a cave and withdraw from the world. Susan had a keen sense and would encourage us to meet for dinner, attend art lectures, or to connect. She forced me out when my first instinct was to hide from the pain. Susan gave me the ability to see the light and will to participate. Regardless if she knew or not the outcome of her positive actions, it was a part of her DNA to bring out the best in everyone she encountered.
Susan’s art and life reflected her true nature: generous with time and completely engaged in a moment. At a gathering (Susan called it FRIENDSGIVING), she gave each guest a print with the words:
“IT STARTS HERE MY FRIEND
YOU ME US HERE WE ARE
AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
IT’S LIKE A HOLIDAY WITH
YOU NEAR THE SPACE LESS
SPACEY THE AIR MORE AIRY
THE THINGS MORE EVERY
THINGY SO ALL IS GOOD
YOU ARE HERE”
Over a year ago, my family made a small donation supporting MSA research in honor of her mother Lupita O’Malley. Susan sent a box of art cards shortly afterwards as a thank you. Last week Sunday, I broke the seal and opened the box for the first time. To my surprise, inside was a card from Susan with the words: “I am so grateful for your support and feel blessed to have you in my life…”
On February 25th, Susan passed with her baby girls: Lucy and Reyna. Her legacy will extend past my inadequate words. I took her positive presence for granted. I will work harder, be nicer, and try to be better. Susan will be missed but her kindness will linger in our hearts forever.
March 1, 2015
How does an exhibit come to life? For an upcoming solo show at HANG ART gallery in San Francisco, it’s a complex process starting from inspiration to installation. It’s not about what is available or finished in the studio. It’s about creating works that commemorate a specific moment of time. A piece can’t be mass-produced or recreated. Art is unique and one-of-a-kind whether loved or hated.
Once given the opportunity, a clear focus related to my current concept and motivation emerged. The mission statement: “Transit was derived from the observation of movement patterns in the San Francisco Bay Area. Working ambidextrously, I’m fascinated by the research of binary relationships such as the simple and complex, beautiful and grotesque, micro and macro perspectives, and natural and manmade environments. Some works were inspired from the reflections of The Bay Lights on the water, the speed of information technology, a cluster of coastal redwood trees, the city’s skyline, and the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge. My goal is to capture a moment or visualize an abstract concept through the use of lines, marks, and forms.”
Acrylic installations and drawings will dominate the space. The acrylic pieces range from 12x8x7 inches to a large freestanding sculpture that is 75x64x25 inches. The sizable artwork investigates how the San Francisco skyline rises from the Pacific Ocean’s waters. Light reflects off the surfaces of its skyscrapers showcasing shadows that change throughout the day. JBI.3.15.1647525 recreates this experience by encouraging a sense of place and peace within an urban environment.
The drawings range from 19×24 inches to 44×60 inches framed. One pen and ink explores how the San Francisco Bay Area rests on a series of fault lines resulting in seismic activity between the Pacific and North American plates. I wanted to visualize the pattern of this natural occurrence. JBD.3.15.22435 maps this movement through the use of linear repetition and aesthetic illusion.
Folded neatly in an envelope, a short writing that details inspiration accompanies each piece. It’s the final step of a ritual before releasing the artwork into the world. Descriptions won’t be displayed but given to its final owner if sold. If not, the words stay with me forever. It builds the framework for the future and beyond…
Transit, HANG ART Gallery, 567 Sutter Street, San Francisco, March 1-15th 2015.
February 22, 2015
Other parts of the country are experiencing unthinkable cold weather while the San Francisco Bay Area has been the hottest ever recorded. Taking advantage of global warming while wishing for rain, decided to visit the SS Red Oak Victory in Richmond. The ship is now a museum and located in the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
The drive to the SS Red Oak Victory is an odd but familiar one. Passing a large parking lot of new vehicles in a desolate port seems somewhat strange in a busy urban setting. However, the backdrop of the glistening Bay against a tall skyline makes up for the mass marketing.
The story behind the SS Red Oak Victory is quite amazing. According to the National Park Service website: “The Victory ship SS Red Oak Victory was built in Richmond Kaiser Shipyard # 1, and launched on November 9, 1944. It was one of 414 Victories built during World War II, but one of only a few of these ships to be transferred from the Merchant Marine to the U.S. Navy. The Red Oak Victory served as an ammunition ship in the South Pacific during WWII. The ship was named for the town of Red Oak, Iowa, which suffered the highest per capita casualty rate of any American community during World War II.”
Upon arrival, a tour guide was ready to share facts and details for a nominal fee. All proceeds go to ongoing restoration and maintenance. Well worth every dollar! I was able to see different sections including the kitchen, medical, engine, cargo, captain’s quarters, and much more. In addition, was shown historical maps and photos of its location during World War II.
Women and minorities were given the opportunity to work and proved that the job could be equally done. For example, some were referred to as Rosie the Riveter and Wendy the Welder to encourage recruitment. The tour guide shared that females were better at physical detailed work than the males.
A visitor feels transported into a different time and experience. It must have been hot and miserable as it moved through turbulent waters and war. Imagine the SS Red Oak Victory rocking back and forth across the ocean during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. A slice of history is always worth revisiting. It helps one respect the sacrifice of others and that freedom and peace are worth fighting for.
February 15, 2015
On Friday February 6th, a big rainstorm hit the Bay area. It’s needed due to a severe drought. However, I had two evening openings at the same time: one in Oakland and the other in South San Francisco. Traffic and weather don’t mix. As a result, came up with a strategy to visit both places. This was a good problem!
Made my way to PRO ARTS gallery in Oakland in the early afternoon. It’s a treat to view the gallery without the crowd of an opening. I was able to engage and enjoy the art. Friends with Karma has an interesting premise, from their website: “Juried via a peer review process, this exhibition explores the processes by which artists support, sustain and participate in the launch of each other’s work. The top ranking submissions will form a group exhibition at Pro Arts, presenting a survey of contemporary art arrived at through a community process. The program allows insight into review processes, while encouraging artists to think critically about their own work within the scope of Bay Area art.” To be picked by my peers, is a true honor.
Highlights included artists Jermiah Jenkins, Maggie Preston, and Carlo Fantin. Jenkins’ Gathering of sticks, wood, and twine played with idea of commercialism and its role in the natural world. Preston’s Jones at Sutter, an archival pigment print on rag, makes the viewer look when otherwise told not to do so. The hand cut paper artwork titled Instaddiction by Carlo Fantin is the ultimate “selfie” that uses your mind without a battery.
After a terrific tour at Pro Arts, onwards to South San Francisco for the 2014 Utility Box Mural Project Artists award ceremony. Walking into the Municipal Services Building courtyard, there were families, a buffet with delicious treats, a General Art & Sculpture Show, and a rotating video presentation. The energy was positive and welcoming!
The ceremony was heartfelt and meaningful. Met other utility box artists and conversed about the experience. When the evening concluded, my husband and I journeyed our way back to Richmond through a tough storm. It was a day well-spent. The acknowledgement from both sides of the Bay was appreciated. Rain or shine.
February 8, 2015
Early afternoon, trying to find parking around a large 96,000 square feet Oakland warehouse can be quite the challenge. The Jingletown neighborhood consists of mix-use residencies, upscale townhouses, and run-down housing. At 333 Lancaster Street, an amazing 56-year tradition continues to attract a diverse group of people. The White Elephant Sale is the must stop to find treasures from baseball bats to fine art. Since its inception in 1955, the event has raised over $20 million dollars to support the Oakland Museum of California.
The Women’s Board in charge of this grand undertaking has perfected the art of organization like a well-oiled machine. With over 1000 volunteers and 17 meticulous departments, visitors are spoiled from the impressive display of hard work. The “sale” is March 7th and 8th but is now open for preview during limited hours. I go before the “official” date to avoid the mass pandemonium and hysteria of eager shoppers like myself.
Being an educator, first stop is the book section. A volunteer disclosed that the Oakland Museum of California was in the process of disposing of an extensive library. When one finds a good deal, creative accidents such as paint smudges on pages feel less painful emotionally and financially. This year, I discovered a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art book, Sotheby’s catalog, and Gottfried Helnwein exhibition survey.
The art department is vast in selection. With some patience and diligent digging, one can find that hidden gem. Every year, great works have become a part of my family’s collection. This trip was no exception with a piece from James Aarons and two from William Wareham. Aarons works from clay and has exhibited in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, and San Francisco. Wareham’s experience is extensive including a national Endowment for the Arts, Djerassi Resident Artist residency, Oakland Museum exhibit, and being an assistant to Peter Volkos and Mark Di Suvero. To be surrounded by art makes me a better artist.
The White Elephant Sale never disappoints. It’s respecting the environment while supporting a worthy cause. Annually, it has become a ritual. Who knows what I’ll find in the future. That is part of the adventure, white elephant or not.
February 1, 2015
On January 17th, proudly turned 41. The day was spent with fabulous Academy of Art University alumni. I was granted a limited amount of vouchers after applying for the Ai Wei Wei: @Large Alcatraz Community Discounted Tickets program through the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. $30 to pay for a ferry to view art can make access unobtainable. However, the reality is that everything has a cost similar to the exhibition’s theme.
According to the FOR-SITE website: “The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally renowned for work that defies the distinction between art and activism. In this exhibition of new works created specifically for Alcatraz, Ai responds to the island’s layered legacy as a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks. Revealing new perspectives on Alcatraz, the exhibition raises questions about freedom of expression and human rights that resonate far beyond this particular place.”
Part of the application process included answering a series of questions such as: Why would you/your group like to visit Alcatraz and/or the @Large exhibit? How will you share your experience with your larger community (i.e. participants who weren’t able to attend the fieldtrip)?
The visit to Alcatraz to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit would be a special and unique experience. I wanted artists to be exposed to an accomplished individual who has dedicated his life to art. This might inspire one to not settle for less but to strive to be better individually and as a global citizen. As a Richmond Arts & Culture Commissioner, this exhibit could influence an arts community to work on strategies that broaden the dialogue and expand public projects. The unique opportunity delivered and more!
My husband and I rode a Golden Gate pedicab up the Embarcadero to meet former students at Pier 33. Then we huddled together in line and made our way across the Bay to Alcatraz. Once there, we met ranger Wendy who took us on a personal tour to highlight the island’s history from inhumane prisoner treatment to the Native American occupation.
After the tour, we entered the New Industries Building where Ai Weiwei’s With Wind dragon shaped installation of multicolored kites with quotes greets visitors. In the next room, 175 political prisoner Lego portraits adorn the floor. It’s shocking, disturbing, and effective in its message.
In the hospital’s Psychiatric Observation Cells, an artwork titled Illumination of recordings from Hopi prisoners and Buddhist chants reverberate. This was my favorite piece. I felt the pain and silence that stain the empty room. Exiting, Weiwei’s Blossom of tiny ceramic flowers burst out of every edifice that held water.
I was happy, sad, and angry after viewing the exhibit. Happy for the chance to visit with a great group. Sad to see the injustice in the world. Angry the lack of tolerance or freedom of expression that exists today. I left with questions and a heavy heart.
The view from Alcatraz is stunning despite its ugly history. Since the exhibit’s opening, 9 political prisoners have been freed. Awareness can provoke positive change. Ai Weiwei: “Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away. Then, as an individual, you can be more powerful than a whole country.” Yes, indeed.
@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz on view from September 27, 2014 – April 26, 2015.
January 25, 2015
*Today’s blog is the last of four chronicling the journey from Tucson to Santa Fe to Kearney to Madison with my father: an adventure of self-discovery, awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance.
Today would be the final day of our cross-country driving adventure. We stayed at the Ramada Inn in Kearny, Nebraska, which reminded my father of a “mid-fifties, Midwestern convention center.” Early in the morning, the motel chef enthusiastically greeted barely awake visitors for custom-made omelets. It was a positive start at the crack of dawn.
When leaving, the roads were still a challenge and plow trucks dominated the landscape. Traveling slowly on Highway 80, we encountered patrol blocking the right of way. Unfortunately, it was shutdown near the Clay Center exit. Nebraska police closed the on/off ramp gates due to a fatal car crash caused by challenging weather conditions. Went to Love’s truck stop and picked up coffee, tea, Reece’s peanut butter cups, and a rainbow colored scarf to commemorate the occasion.
Navigating on country roads to avoid and bypass the accident, we listened to National Public Radio highlight Robert Bly’s poem Three Kinds of Pleasures:
Sometimes, riding in a car, in Wisconsin
Or Illinois, you notice those dark telephone poles
One by one lift themselves out of the fence line
And slowly leap on the gray sky—
And past them, the snowy fields.
The darkness drifts down like snow on the picked cornfields
In Wisconsin: and on these black trees
Scattered, one by one,
Through the winter fields—
We see stiff weeds and brownish stubble,
And white snow left now only in the wheeltracks of the combine.
It is a pleasure, also, to be driving
Toward Chicago, near dark,
And see the lights in the barns.
The bare trees more dignified than ever,
Like a fierce man on his deathbed,
And the ditches along the road half full of a private snow.
My father recounted that he was a “levitator of other person’s possessions” or commonly known as a “furniture mover with a master degree in English” for 14 years. This career decision “was self imposed.” He shared these memories while entering Iowa with its welcome sign that proudly states the “Field of Opportunities.”
In addition, wind turbines like commercial billboards hailed drivers. From the Iowa Wind Energy Association website: “During 2012, Iowa produced a national record of almost 25% of all the electricity generated in the state from wind turbines…Iowa was also the first state in the nation to exceed 20% of total generation coming from wind energy.” This was impressive to witness during our excursion.
Nightfall was quickly approaching as we were entered the Wisconsin border with rain. Reflecting, common connections such as Dollar Stores, churches, casinos, truck stops, and nature’s beauty appeared in desolate and urban communities. Differences were minor in a landscape of constant humanity.
Reaching Madison, an overwhelming sense of emotion came over me: I truly loved every minute with my father. I’m left with memory photos for life and the true gift of time.
The journey started in Tucson, Arizona where my grandfather resides. He would like to be buried right next to his younger sibling in Oklahoma who drowned as a child in a frozen pond. My grandpa witnessed the incident from a school bus and tried saving him with a broken tree limb. His brother always looked to him for protection and would say: “don’t ever leave me.” My father and I will make that road trip. I traveled only 2675 miles for this one. It doesn’t matter the distance or challenges. I’ll be there now, forever, and in spirit.
January 18, 2015
*Today’s blog is the third of four chronicling the journey from Tucson to Santa Fe to Kearney to Madison with my father: an adventure of self-discovery, awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance.
On December 22nd 2014, waking up at 5:00 am in Santa Fe felt good yet familiar. I was excited and anxious to hit the road. One of my favorite times of the day is sunrise. It’s the tipping point to the day’s demeanor. Will it be good or bad, don’t know. But let’s just live another day to see.
My father and I packed the pickup truck with caffeinated beverages in hand and traveled on Highway 68 onwards to Taos. The morning sunrise was the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen. Took a permanent memory photo that will linger forever. This might be the place to retire and reconnect.
We saw a bald eagle flying over the Rio Grande’s waters. The highway runs adjacent to the river scattered with wineries, breweries, poverty, and jagged rocks. Arriving in Taos, we stopped at the World Cup Café for organic scones, coffee, and tea. A mature gentleman named Dave and his falcon Questa offered friendly conversation. He knew of Frances Hamerstrom, who my father had spent time with in Wisconsin. She was a renowned ornithologist, naturalist, author, and famous for her bird research.
Went to the Taos shopping square looking for a leather belt for my nephew but left with a handmade scarf and turquoise earrings. Found a fly fishing shop, and the guide working had family roots to my hometown of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Bought a hat, shirt, and guidebook for my husband to plant a revisit seed. This truly is small world.
On Highway 64 is Cimmaron Canyon State Park, where it started to lightly snow. In the small village of Angel Fire, it opened into a vast meadow of clouds and heaven. Eventually, we drove upon a group of Antelope grazing in tall grasses. We were about to greet tough road conditions. White, heavy, and billowing winter clouds camouflaged the approaching mountains.
East of the high plains in Limon, Colorado, a buffalo prairie is now a source of wind energy. At nightfall, the wind turbines looked like an alien or apocalyptic landscape with cattle grazing underneath. It was wonderful to see alternative energy at work but strange amidst an evening winter storm.
Darkness arrived and we wanted to make our final stop in Kearney, Nebraska. Found our hotel via icy roads and were welcomed with friendly service. A hot shower at midnight was the perfect remedy to plot the final leg of our journey to Madison, Wisconsin. Onwards!