Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Experiment: How to make a fake smile real

I started painting again in studio (my method for warming up the mental back burners for ideas). I've been thinking about Ashes comments on some small works two weeks ago, "these paintings are much more "rebecca" than anything i have seen from you in a while", "you NEED color. . . it adds an emotional dimension that you run from otherwise". Part sour grapes and part constipated reflection over what makes me me.

It started with a small painting, where on a whim I added a pair of connected red dots. Not sure why I did it, but it's really the only thing I find compelling about the canvas. Image-wise I traced it back to my love of the "fake smile" and "false moustaches". I've always found something funny/attractive about their disingenuousness. A thought occurred to me, How to make a fake smile real? What makes something genuine?
I took the smile from a painting by Richard Ceely (part of my stash of fake smile artworks) as a start point and began some small canvases I had kicking around the studio. I don't really have a set method for working. It's been more about trying new ways to fool my brain into working less hard, so I can play. Haven't quite hit a stride yet, but I finally let up on a bunch of stubborness in thinking I had to work a certain way. Working on a range of sizes from 8"x10" to 4'x4' all at once. Just building up surfaces simultaneously. Here are some behind the scene nothings thus far.

Friday, August 18, 2006

On the way to my local big box

the Corporation

OW. new mixed use luxury: strip malls + lofts.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

D&G - a new and "improved" brand

Diaspora & Gentrification seem the latest trends in the name of Progress. Artpowerlines' post on gentrification in NJ seems to parallel the happenings in SF, right down to a church named St. Brigid's.
San Francisco in some respects is still recovering from the boom and bust devastation of the .com fantasy bubble. Our elected public officials (former mayor willie brown) pushed through a lot of new development (palm greasing and padded pockets) that translated most distinctly as a loss of much affordable housing and art spaces for thousands of the City's diverse population and arts community. Developers out to make a short-term buck on ugly, cheaply made, "luxury" live-work lofts, which, adding insult to injury on a loophole, also got out of paying property taxes that would normally go towards communities and unified school districts because the buildings were zoned "commercial". Meanwhile, many of the bigger high rise low-income housing projects were being demolished and replaced with 2-story buildings (under one of many PR premises that density causes crime), effectively pushing out hundreds of residents, who were mainly black, to who knows where, even with relocation help. There was/is a mass exodus by the low to middle class to the East Bay+ and suddenly, places like Modesto 2 hours away, became 4hr-a-day commute towns. Many arts organizations disappeared or are currently hanging by a fingernail, forced to merge with other organizations for lack of low-rent commercial leases and rising expenses. All this recent gentrified city planning, which revolves mainly around economics and drawing in outside money, seems very short-sighted in terms of San Francisco's legacy to the future.

San Francisco (and possibly the country at large) is fast losing its middle class and the disparity between rich and poor is becoming more and more pronounced. I met a woman over the weekend at a friend's who talked about wanting to "live off the grid" a farm somewhere, grow her own food, have her own solar power. Well, my question is, Progress in a civilized society is . . .farming like in the middle ages? Seems crazy to me that civilization has made all these advances in technology, health, etc. (not all evil) so that we have to leave it to be sane? What's next in Progress, death by hanging like the Savage from Brave New World?

All this supposed progress-making also relates to a sense of isolation for me, where people are looking out only for themselves without seeing how a broader community is affected. The iPod silhouette billboard down the street from my house (like an ominous calling card of things to come in this rapidly gentrifying hispanic/immigrant neighborhood) comes to mind. Groovy and savvy at first glance, but look at it at face value: it's a singular figure all one color, without depth (flat), against a void of space. It scares me to think that that might be the City of the Future: everyone tuned only into their own thoughts (ipod=soma), no diversity, no sense of community. There must be some middle ground.

Seems pockets of people around the city are organizing and doing things themselves that affect change, ranging from crime watch, to community gardens/parks, from afterschool education to preservation of neighborhood buildings and families. By and for the people. Makes me wonder, what exactly our local gov't is actually doing. Like New Orleans Mayor Nagin's recent comments hailing "democracy in action". It's this illusion of choice that just kills me. We choose our leaders, to look out for our best interests, to make us that much closer to cutting thru red tape, to facilitate. And here are these scattered, homeless people in building up their own neighborhoods from stratch, right down to the street signs, without the help of their local gov't. Apparently, officials are too busy working on the semantics of appearing sensitive to the needs of the poor. They play hookie from their duties citing power to the people. So is there really power outside of grassroots efforts?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bon Voyage!

For the last year I've had the amazing pleasure of living with a viking ship (6'x6' painting) in my dining room. Interesting that you think you know a painting but every other day, something new comes to light. You discover a new paint drip, a pencil mark, a strange lint snot, something shiny, or something matte that you hadn't notice before. On temporary loan, it is set to make its return voyage back to the East Coast soon, so I threw an asian seafaring-themed gastro junk-et this last week to celebrate its time here, beginning with a visit to the SFMoMA to check out Matthew Barney's japanese whaling ship (all in good campy fun) and invite friends to come wine, dine and ogle a boat for a night.

The painting's artist thought I was a little nuts, but the boat's been such a lively, animated part of the household that I thought it deserved a fond farewell. I cooked, simmered, stewed and baked that morning (a valuable studio day of another kind), and even managed to make menus for each place setting. First time people wanted to take the menus away with them as souvenirs of the evening's events. (Thanks for humoring me, dinner people.)

Lately. . .

I've been depressed over the relentless Hezbollah bombings these last few weeks. (Beirut artist, Mazen Kerbaj's recordings of the bombings hear (t)here). Why am I so moved by this particular situation? more than Iraq, say? or the Congo? Horrific enough, it's not the pictures of tanks, death and rumble that strikes a chord, but perhaps the marks of domesticity against the stark backdrop of war: lost high heel sandals and toys among rebar, brightly patterned bed linens in bomb shelters, birds in cages hanging on tree limbs. Something about a normalcy lost that I connect to or a everyday humanity that survives despite war, which seems very much an abstraction to me. Feeling helpless and existential about what seems the uselessness of artmaking and blogging about art concepts, change and power from the comfort of my studio. Then, when you want to just throw in the see some great art (smart, well-crafted and thought provoking), and a sense of hope is restored and an urgency to go forward takes over.

I saw Nina Katchadourian's multi-channel video installation, Installation of Accent Elimination. "Inspired by the posters advertising courses in “accent elimination,” Katchadourian’s multi-channel video piece Accent Elimination involved working with her parents and a speech improvement coach intensively for several weeks in order to “neutralize” her parents accents and then teach each of their accents to her. Both Katchadourian’s parents have distinct and hard-to-place accents, although they have lived in the United States for over 40 years. The very existence of these courses speak to the complexities of assimilation, self-image, and the tricky maneuvering between two desires: to preserve the distinctive marks of one's culture or to decrease them in order to seem less foreign. In Accent Elimination, the accent is taken up as a material object, an heirloom that can be inherited. Although accents are in so many ways clear markers of ethnicity, culture, and origin (things that are linked to a sense of identity inherited from a parent), an accent itself is extremely elusive. In this video, one sees how Katchadourian and her parents struggle to hear and imitate what is so close at hand and yet so difficult to access."

I happened to walk in on the videos as the artist and her parents in accented and "neutralized" tongues said, "Where did you meet?", "We met in Beirut." Something about that moment, wanting to find connection between my life here and a situation so far away, tragic, and (seemingly) foreign.

Killing the Buddha

Speaking of the Inadvertent:
Slightly sad (but rather amusing) that my clean-up makes better sculpture than my intentional attempts at artmaking.

I was trying to draw a buddha with bronze recently,
having found bronze wool at my local hardware store.
Deemed unsuccessful, I left it hanging on the wall for weeks.
Decided in a fit of cleaning yesterday I needed to make room on the wall, crumbled it up, and left it on the table.

Later in the afternoon, I passed it at just the right angle. . .and chuckled (thinking of Sherry Levine's golden urinals). It wasn't even until I took a quick snapshot of it that I saw the shadows so defined and "chiseled" that it looked as if it had a face and body. ( I didn't fiddle with the clump...the inadvertent readymade came As-Is! Wishing I had a pic of the ineffectual art making attempt to compare.) Not bad for my first bronze.

Kill the Buddha. Find the Buddha.
Click to enlarge. Refresh page as needed. (physically and figuratively)

I put the kabosh on the buddha and it still managed to come back (in a different form). The universe has a real sense of humor and seems always on point.