ARTSHIFT San Jose Cultural Tectonics and View from the Fault Line. 2011-11-28T17:58:29Z WordPress erin <![CDATA[]]> 2011-11-28T17:58:29Z 2011-11-28T17:58:29Z Hello Dear Readers of,

It is with regret that the Advisory Board of ARTSHIFT announces the end of our online coverage of the visual arts in Silicon Valley.  Our endeavor of four years, a labor of love, has been staffed entirely by volunteers and as we know, all good things have a natural life span.  We continue to believe strongly that the stories of artists and artwork in this geographic region have a great importance and much to contribute to the development and history of art.  We salute, the great faculty and students of Silicon Valley’s art schools, the dedicated museums and galleries, the Zero1 festival and all the imaginative individual artists that make up this community.  We especially want to thank all the wonderful and supportive individuals who have written for AFTSHIFT and those who have contributed funds to the ARTSHIFT AWARDS.

Hopefully, it will not be long before another online journal takes up the mission to report on the visual arts news of this area.  In the meantime, ARTSHIFT’s archives will remain accessible online.

Best of luck to all!

ARTSHIFT’s Advisory Board

kfunk <![CDATA[Las cadre at Black Bean Ceramic Art Center]]> 2011-11-09T04:31:39Z 2011-11-09T04:31:39Z “General Eclectic: the first 5 years of las cadre

October 2-29, 2011

by Susannah Israel

Five years ago a group of Oakland artists met at the studio of Noelle Nakama for a potluck critique.  We have been meeting continuously ever since.  Founding members Jennifer Brazelton (SF), Michelle Gregor (Oakland), Susannah Israel (Oakland), Tom Michelson (SF), Noelle Nakama (San Leandro), Tomoko Nakazato (SF), Tiffany Schmierer (SF) and Shalene Valenzuela (Missoula, MT) exhibited ceramic artworks at the Black Bean Ceramic Art Center during October 2011.  They were joined by more recent las cadre members Saadi Shapiro and Chris Kanyusik, and painters Sterling Israel and Elaine Toland, all from Oakland.

Vigorous conversation is a vital and integral part of art practice for the las cadre group. Developing long-term relationships with each other’s artwork brings depth and insight to the critique process.  The insight and generosity of such dialogue is an invaluable tool for creative growth.  (A number of other groups have been inspired to form, such as the Clay Babes of Grass Valley.)  Common threads weave through the las cadre group: seven artists studied ceramics at San Francisco State University, three work at Merritt College, six more work or have worked at the Richmond Art Center.

"Desert Spring" by Elaine Toland
“Desert Spring” by Elaine Toland

The exhibition was curated by Ruben Reyes and Will Johnson, founders of the Black Bean Ceramic Art Center, and beautifully installed under the direction of curator Albert Dixon.  Upon entering the large, light-filled space the viewer is greeted by Elaine Toland’s “Desert Spring,” a nine-canvas abstract painting in deep greens and reds.  “I paint memories and feelings,” says Toland.  The artist also works in nursing at Stanford Hospital, where she “creates a sacred space for healing” by engaging adolescent inpatients in art.

"Facets" by Tiffany Schmierer
“Facets” by Tiffany Schmierer

Tiffany Schmierer’s “Facets” series translates the urban visual environment into ceramic sculptures whose twists and turns, vivid colors and hidden surprises are drawn from her life in the SF Bay area.  The artist combines hand-building, printmaking, and relief techniques in unique ways to create a dense, complex megalopolis in clay.  Careful examination rewards the viewer, like getting a glimpse of a hidden door or garden. Schmierer exhibits widely and heads the Ceramics Department at Skyline College.

"Traveller" by Michelle Gregor
“Traveller” by Michelle Gregor

Michelle Gregor is a neoclassic figurative sculptor with a delicate, sure hand with the ceramic surface.  Sensuous surfaces gently imbued with color characterize “Traveler,” a life-size ceramic figure leaning forward from its pedestal as if about to descend.  The artist says “sculpting the figure is a beautiful language to practice.” Gregor was recently featured at the Pence Gallery, and is head of the Ceramics Department at San Jose City College.

"Dream Commute" by Sterling Israel
“Dream Commute” by Sterling Israel

Sterling Israel’s “Dream Commute” uses mixed media on a recycled canvas, an important part of the artist’s commitment to reuse of and nontraditional materials. The artist’s intensive process builds up layered surfaces that create a sense of deep space with complex patterns.  Israel received her MS in Community Arts at University of Oregon, Eugene.  She has created numerous public art works, served as exhibitions director at the Richmond Art Center and currently teaches art at Vallejo Charter School.

 "Hearts, Hounds & Howling Moon" by Tomoko Nakazato
“Hearts, Hounds & Howling Moon” by Tomoko Nakazato (detail)

Tomoko Nakazato creates complex narratives with a “Little Boy” esthetic, juxtaposing  anime-influenced characters, animals and detailed landscapes.  These arrest our attention, as if we suddenly recognize a dreamscape or nightmare.  Nakazato grapples with the world’s woes with compassion and humor, as in “Hearts, Hounds and the Howling Moon.”  Nakazato was represented at SOFA Chicago in 2010 and teaches at the Randall Museum in San Francisco.

Porcelain Bottle by Saadi Shapiro
Porcelain Bottle by Saadi Shapiro

Saadi Shapiro is known throughout the Bay Area and beyond for his expertise in matters ceramic, from clay to kilns.  Shapiro is currently working with different porcelain clays, for their nuances of color and the resulting effects on glaze in response to reduction firings.    The unexpected “gift of the fire” can be seen in the soft blush of red seen on “Porcelain Bottle, White,” combining masterful form with subtle glaze surface.  Shapiro teaches at Studio One and the Richmond Art Center, and runs the Merritt College ceramics studio.  He was recently invited to be on a panel about kilns and firing at the 2012 National Council on Education in Ceramic Arts (NCECA).

"You Are Here" by Jennifer Brazelton
“You Are Here” by Jennifer Brazelton

Jennifer Brazelton describes herself as an abstract artist.  Using extrusions and press molds to generate mass-produced parts, she arranges multiple elements in layered, formal relationships. In “You Are Here,” Brazelton frankly declares her intentions, using finely detailed imagery as a mapping strategy that demands conscious examination of our own relationship to our world.  The artist says “I juxtapose the macro and the micro to highlight visual parallels and to remind us that we are structurally connate with the world around us.” Brazelton teaches at NIAD, the Richmond Art Center, CSU East Bay, and Merritt College.

"Someday, Son" by Noelle Nakama
“Someday, Son” by Noelle Nakama

Noelle Nakama’s work uses tranquil domestic imagery with intentionally obscured text and altered wheel-thrown forms to create a sense of mystery.  She addresses the uniquely individual perspective of memory and family history with her series, “Someday, Son.”  Here, four wall-mounted plate forms with graceful silk-screened botanical images are overwritten with cursive text and further blurred by a layer of clouded glaze.  Viewers of the exhibition expressed an intense desire to read the text, underscoring the artist’s message about how communication and memory are affected and even distorted by empirical experience.  Nakama’s work has been widely exhibited, winning the Juror’s Award from Sandy Simon at the California Clay Competition in Davis, California.

"Turning Torso" by Chris Kanyusik
“Turning Torso” by Chris Kanyusik

Chris Kanyusik works with figurative imagery, unexpectedly recombined with geometric shapes, using dynamic balance as a key point in his composition.  His figures mix realistic anatomy with unusual finishes such as red house paint.  Kanyusik recently displayed a large group of figures at the 2011 Ceramics Annual of America, where he used the same white paint for both pedestals and pieces.  The flat unification of the presentation conveyed a disturbing sense of the mechanical, holding the viewer at an emotional distance from the work.  Kanyusik teaches at Walnut Creek Ceramic Arts Center, Studio One, and Ft. Mason. He recently completed a two-month residency at the Zentrum Fur Keramiks in Berlin.

"Lifted" by Tom Michelson
“Lifted” by Tom Michelson

Tom Michelson’s large heads are deceptively simple.  The distorted features grin and grimace, their eyes mismatched and even vertical in a neo-Cubist, Surrealist take on the plight of contemporary humanity. Grotesque yet brave, these heads seem to be struggling to hold their integrity in the face of a relentless immutable force.  The intentional nature of this over-the-top expression is made especially clear by the complex, beautiful glazing that gives the works a graphic punch.  Michelson is largely self-taught as a sculptor, and is the founder of Red Brick Studio, a collective ceramic workspace in San Francisco’s Mission district.

"Stay Lovely" by Shalene Valenzuela
“Stay Lovely” by Shalene Valenzuela

Shalene Valenzuela invokes social critique through the visual appeal of vivid color and silk-screened images on slipcast porcelain forms of household objects like blenders and irons.  “Stay Lovely” invites us to examine the message.  Here, an immaculate replica of a sewing machine is used as a canvas for the image of a coy female figure and a measuring tape.  Are your measurements acceptable?  Do you qualify as an attractive female?  Valenzuela has developed her elegantly voiced challenge with careful attention to detail, masterful skills, and a lurking sense of humor that draws the viewer to question our societal roles and expectations.  Valenzuela teaches at the University of Montana, Missoula, and is currently the director of the Clay Studio of Missoula.


Susannah Israel is an artist, writer and educator living in east Oakland.  Israel teaches at Merritt College and is currently a studio member at the Black Bean Ceramic Arts Center.

"Golden Rabbits" by Susannah Israel

"Golden Rabbits" by Susannah Israel

Editorial note:

Author of this article, Susannah Israel, is a member of this group and represented by “The Year of the Golden Bunnies” in the las cadres exhibition at Black Bean Ceramic Arts Center.  This playfully animated collection of rabbits and figures made of unglazed terracotta are derived from the traditional Chinese calendar. (We are told that every five cycles (60 years) the Year of the Rabbit is a golden year, showering change and opportunity on everyone, whether born in the rabbit year or not.) The artist’s inspiration for the composition comes from Sandy Skoglund’s installation “Radioactive Cats,” from the 1908s.  Skoglund’s piece is much more menacing, however.  Israel’s bunnies are hopeful and spry, blessed by the golden year.  The speed with which Israel works her medium imbues these bunnies with bountiful energy.


Black Bean Ceramic Art Center

561 Emory St, San Jose, CA 95110

408 642-5757


erin <![CDATA[THE PAINTED WORD OF CONNER EVERTS]]> 2011-09-20T18:12:13Z 2011-09-20T18:12:13Z Collage Paintings at SJSU’s Natalie and James Thompson Gallery

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

The Chinese General Writes, 29-11-05, Connor Everts at San Jose State’s Thompson gallery


It was worth a special trip from Seattle to San Jose on a Tuesday night to see the opening of the Connor Everts exhibition in the Thompson Gallery of San Jose State’s Art Department and hear his former student, Professor Patrick Surgalski, recall events of the artist’s life through decades of work as a teacher, baseball player, gallerist, and longshoreman.  Connor Everts’ was born in Bellingham, Washington in 1928, and became one of those charismatic artists to enter the art world after traveling, engaging the revolutionary politics of the late 50s and 60s, and attending art school on the GI bill.  He returned to teach at his alma mater, Chouinard, and  then at the San Francisco Art Institute along with the University of Washington and the University of Southern California, and finally at Cranbrook, Michigan.  Surgalski regaled the audience with stories of Everts’ wicked sense of humor and non-conformist approaches to teaching art, some of which resulted in severed relations with those academic institutions.  Connors’ wife Judy joined into the testimonial of life in the classroom with Connor Everts.  She described the sexual implications — for both male and female students  — of being asked to reach into a box covered with a pair of jockey shorts and draw what they experienced inside.  Everts left teaching in chilly Michigan in 1981 to devote himself exclusively to a daily regimen in his beloved Torrance studio.


In the late 50s, Everts founded the short-lived Exodus Gallery in San Pedro, California.  In a town where there was no art activity, he introduced important and controversial artists particularly in assemblage, who were destined to become Los Angeles legends.  Artists of Everts’ generation were often bigger than life, as he is still, indeed.  The visionary spirit of Exodus Gallery has been honored in San Pedro with the New Exodus Gallery, a site-specific program of inventive arts events in the old town center.

Connor Everts:  Layers of imagery, epochs of times of the artist’s life and the evocative reference: Exodus Gallery


Connor Everts had several brushes with the law in the course of his life.  He tackled art censorship head-on when the L.A. vice squad shut down a Ferus Gallery exhibition of artwork by Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz for “indecency” and he rehung the offending work in Exodus Gallery, earning himself a part in the ensuing legal difficulties.  His own show at the Zora Gallery in 1964, Studies in Desperation, was closed for standards of obscenity at that time.  A final blow, personal and life changing, was a severe police beating during the Viet Nam area over a trumped up issue, leaving one hand damaged and without feeling.  From that time Everts saw his own art and work as a journey of the individual artist.


Everts’ affinity for the grid was strongly influenced by Mondrian, and his early work had a Modernist minimalism that reveals that influence. He often supported himself as a longshoreman, and the containers with stamps, labels and graphics in foreign tongues and type also became an integral part of his visual vocabulary. Everts was a cofounder of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society.  He was responsible for naming vitreography, a process of printmaking on a glass plate, which he explored in the studio of colleague, Harvey Littleton.  His prolific collage paintings since the early 90s stand strongly among the graphic works that, beginning in the 60s, began to merge aspects of painting and fine arts with popular graphic arts, building on the grid, inserting typography, collage and personal notations – all corruptions of an unwritten ethic of Modernism that forbade mixing disciplines and further devalued the lesser graphic practices of works on paper.  Such giants as Rauchenberg and Johns broke ground on the East Coast with their irreverent mixing of painterliness and popular graphic influences.  But on the west Coast, a version of the same exploration with many individual artistic takes was also unfolding.

Askesis, 1-7-07, Connor Everts


In the 70’s, San Jose saw Word Works and words working into art through the radical influence of the SJSU Gallery Director of that time, Jessica Jacobs.  Jacobs was something of a political agitator and dedicated to the concept that the injection of words into visual art was, with all the manipulative power of words and importance of speech, a doorway into the political effectiveness of the postmodern artist.  Her exhibition, Word Works, curated originally for a 1974 exhibition at Mt, San Antonio College was reformed for the SJSU Art Department’s main Gallery in 1976.  The exhibition was painting, drawing, and prints by over 100 artists that were using letters, words and text in creative and defiant ways.  It was still a time of shaking-up the modernist and minimalist canon and showed how far many in a new generation had moved beyond the existential imperative of abstract expressionism.   Word Works was also the opportunity to imagine how extensively the invasion of words and letters into the vocabulary of visuals could expand possibilities in both form and content for the artist. Half a century since the revolutions of the 60’s, the fascinating and limitless nature of word/image continues to provoke curators, designers, art historians and philosophers in an ongoing search for definitive meaning.

Connor Everts: Painting 3, collage and paint on paper

The current Connor Everts exhibition in the same space where Wordworks was seen resonates with that epoch, yet offers fresh answers to the challenge of making meaning, as words do their work within visual art.  Everts, in particular, calls up the relationship of particular fonts, type faces and international characters or scripts to each other as both design and an expression of a cultural character.  He further introduces a contrast of the crisp machine-age commercially printed type against the hand drawn letter forms that attempt to imitate it.  The words and encrypted personal notations in an only partially legible section of hand-done script further his contemplation of the range of expression of letter forms and words.  Most of the letter forms appear weathered, as if having been painted by hand and exposed to the elements for years. Moods in his works are often dictated by a combination of color and the kind of gesture he paints in semi-transparent washes into the fields behind, over and around more specific image elements.  A stamp of the artist’s hand in wet paint often seems to function as an exclamation point, a reminder of art as an eternal, fundamental means of communication.


Everts likes to call his compositions a meeting of disparate parts.  This is not to say they do not assume a significance beyond the formal.  The letters and words and scraps of paper are, nevertheless, frequently meaningful to the artist through personal meditations, may reference small fragments of his own life, and appear as code to be deciphered by the artist only.  Other references, such as the baseball, a beer can, or the words AUTOMATIC Stick Shift for instance, and exodus gallery are more easily accessed by the viewer, as are flags and postage stamps that connect to history, travel, observations of commerce and movement on the docks and an artist’s restless journey.  His work also seems to evoke his studio by the railroad tracks, the imagery and symbolism of railroad cars, and a weathered era of the rails.


Connor Everts: The Chinese General Writes, 6-5-06


A series of images under the title The Chinese General Writes, from 2005-2006, particularly embraces the kind of engaging surface that layering paint, then handbills, then more paint and slapped on messages and stickers present over time.  Unidentified Asian characters – scrawled at an angle, a bold red word in the Cyrillic alphabet and stenciled ABCs join a collaged image of art viewers at a salon exhibition and a zigzag yellow-gold arrow on a whitewashed surface.  The yellow arrow conducts a formal dialogue with another small gold-hued rectangular image in the upper right corner.  Beneath the white layer we see blue outlines of rectangles that function to draw back into the grid, more faint layers of red and black Asian characters and a large blue “Five”.  It is impossible to see how deeply the layers are piled up. In speaking pf this series, the artist tells of his reflections on war, its futility in problem solving, and the complexity of interpersonal relationships that are affected both during and after such profound events.

Connor Everts: Painting 4, collage and paint on paper


Many other works in this show function within a brown field that recall the sides of dusty, rusty rail cars, fences along the right-of-way and cargo containers.  All seem to look back to eras lived by Connor Everts in the political history of the last 60 years, the art world and especially Southern California. Those “disparate parts” that at first may appear random, begin to take on meaning and combine to make their own statement as one pieces together the fascinating history of the artist’s life.


Leaving Everts’ exhibition of collage paintings in the Thompson Gallery, one may have noted and wondered about the signature in a lower corner of each work: Loren D. Sims.  Surgalski tells how, once upon a time, a curator took exception to Everts’ custom of signing his works on the back.  Everts stood his ground, refusing to sign in front, insisting that the viewer would know the author of the work anyway.  However, leaving the exhibition site, Everts found a pile of parking tickets in the street discarded by the “scofflaw” Loren D. Sims.  Inspired, he decided that such notable civic disobedience would earn Sims’ name an ongoing spot in his artworks henceforth.


kfunk <![CDATA[Atmospheric Firings]]> 2011-08-25T04:27:23Z 2011-08-25T04:16:23Z a tradition of acceptance

Atmospheric Firings at the Triton Museum, Santa Clara, California

July 30 – Sept 11, 2011

by Susannah Israel

Nine wood-firing artists presented strong, diverse work at the Triton Museum, masterfully constructed, elegantly conceived and collaboratively fired.  The opening reception was well-attended, with viewers filling the large gallery for the duration of the event. All around the room, groups of people gathered by the artwork to engage in discussion and enthusiastic observation.  The artists were in attendance to answer questions and meet the public, adding to the sense of celebration.

I had the opportunity to talk with Hiroshi Ogawa (my notebook in hand) expecting he would have information to offer about his work.  Instead he wanted to give me details about the work of the other artists.  His knowledge and enthusiasm were the perfect advocacy for better understanding the diversity of these works.  Ogawa modestly made no mention of his own work or his role in the community, but I later learned that seven of the artists fire in his kiln in Oregon. All speak of his generosity and knowledge as part of their experience and the spirit of the work.

Installation view, photo- James Dewrance

Installation view, photo- James Dewrance

The collaborative nature of wood-firing is intensive.  Providing the best possible results for everyone’s pieces translates to physically working twelve-hour shifts, through day and night, throwing wood into a small port in a flaming brick kiln wall. This is serious commitment.  Diane Levinson, who proposed the exhibition, talked with me about the process of curating and installing the work, informed by the same careful respect and attention that characterizes the wood-firing process. Just as the pieces are placed in the kiln to maximize the possibilities of the firing, the work was placed in the museum with an eye to creating the most beautiful and successful totality.  For example, an important sense of the work’s identity was lost when the pieces were commingled in the gallery space, leading to the collective decision to create an area for each artist instead.  The installation took all day, under the direction of Levinson and Terry Inokuma.

The unabashed pursuit of beauty is an aesthetic that requires an attention inherent in traditional clay practice, especially in Japan.  Japan’s cultural traditions include an elegant, meditative approach to viewing the form and surface of wood-fired work, reminiscent of the subtle distinctions within the Inuit vocabulary for snow.  Awareness of such distinctions, of natural patterns and the behaviors of the elements, makes up an important part of wood-firing.

Hiroshi Ogawa, Vase with Tigers Eye

Hiroshi Ogawa, Vase with Tigers Eye

Hiroshi Ogawa refers to “the path of flames” that gives each piece its individual beauty. Deposits of ash and the direct contact with the fire create atmospheric effects on clay and glaze.  The work is arduous and the firings last for three to nine days.  So why choose atmospheric firing? Even the term eludes immediate comprehension. Certainly no flame can burn in a vacuum, since when deprived of oxygen, fire is soon snuffed out.  Aren’t all firings atmospheric?


In the 21st century, atmospheric firing is a specialization and a choice.  Early in ceramic history, wood-burning kilns were developed to make durable, waterproof work. Oil, coal, and gas kilns subsequently evolved.  With the advent of the electrically powered kiln, it became possible to fire ceramics with no atmospheric effects. Electric firings were touted as clean-burning, reliable and predictable.  Aspects appealing to industry and production became available for art purposes as well.  Convenient and controlled, good for schools, electric kilns were followed by computerized kiln controllers, making the monitoring of kilns a matter of choice, preference and equipment budget.  But the magical mystery tour of atmospheric firing needs live fuel as a vehicle, otherwise air-fuel mixtures cannot be adjusted, and there can be no movement of the flames.  Within the atmospheric firing, thermochemical changes occur at a tremendous rate, even at submolecular levels.  This, according to Ogawa, is the essence: “ a project of the soul, rather than a project of the intellect.”

Sam Hoffman, wall platter

Sam Hoffman, wall platter

The ceramic pieces in this show can be grouped into distinct categories. Samuel Hoffman, Jennifer Klein, Hiroshi Ogawa, Masuo Ojima and Tim Steele presented work based on traditional and utilitarian vessel forms.  Samuel Hoffman draws marks into the wet clay surface to attract and enhance the deposition of wood ash.  Hoffman’s plates are a canvas for abstract, geometric compositions.  He uses wadding, normally a discarded material, as an integral part of the designs.  Wadding is a mixture of refractory ceramic material that withstands high temperatures without sticking to the piece or the shelf.  It forms a characteristic small white spot on the base or side of the works.  Hoffman has expanded the use of wadding into a resist technique, enhancing his formal compositions and bringing a crisply outlined circle into play on his plates.

Masuo Ojima, sculpture

Masuo Ojima, sculpture


Terry Inokuma, Ume (plum) and Cloud

Terry Inokuma, Ume (plum) and Cloud

Terry Inokuma’s trays are a departure from the traditional utilitarian esthetic, with a sociopolitical commentary as well. Inokuma first fires her trays in the wood kiln, then applies stains and clear glaze, refiring at low temperatures for bright color and crisply detailed drawings. The trays depict known scenes from Japanese Hanafuda playing cards, but with the insertion of nuclear towers and biohazard signs slyly juxtaposed to match the cheerful look of the cards.

Jenny Klein, Teapot

Jenny Klein, Teapot

Jennifer Klein makes cleanly thrown functional pots.  Her “Teapot,” especially, has a feeling of lively volume, its ceramic skin textured with patterns that beautifully emphasize the variations of the glaze.  The sturdy, quiet strength of Hiroshi Ogawa’s pieces have an unpretentious simplicity.  Ogawa places many of his pots horizontally in the kiln, to promote the dripping of glaze and wood ash around the circumference.  Masuo Ojima is an accomplished potter, who is also drawn to explore the reconfigurations of geometric composition, with variations like the saw tooth edges of a strangely familiar machine.  Tim Steele makes functional hand-built pots without the use of the potter’s wheel. His pieces are subtly faceted bottles, some with angular shoulders and squared necks, and long-necked organic forms like flowers.

Tim Steele, Twisted 3 corner vase

Tim Steele, Twisted 3 corner vase


Andy Ruble, Relic with Growth

Andy Ruble, Relic with Growth

Sculptors Andy Ruble, Diane Levinson and Marc Lancet employ formal, structural elements in their work.  Ruble explored the Anasazi ruins as a child on family trips.  Returning to the site many times on his own, he examined and pondered the visual effects of open structure.  He is inspired by function that shows “how the process was planned, how the people thought about making things, how they designed it to work.” Ruble’s pieces feel familiar, though we’ve never seen them before; they create a vocabulary of cantilevered, precisely related modules, centered on an open axis of space.

Levinson, Diane, Weapons of Mass Construction #13, 2011

Levinson, Diane, Weapons of Mass Construction #13, 2011

Diane Levinson’s Weapons of Mass Construction are a wry commentary on the American war economy.  An Albert Einstein quote, chosen by the artist for the catalog, warns us that ultimately war will bring humanity back to the Stone Age, and Levinson’s giant abstractions of the mortar-and-pestle form seem designed for heavy service.  Levinson’s formal compositions of cube, circle and rings are enhanced by the addition of rusted metal elements like chains.

Mark Lancet,  She walks in beauty as the night, 2005

Mark Lancet, She walks in beauty as the night, 2005

Mark Lancet’s figurative work reveals areas of structure inside, as if sections have broken away.  The structure thus revealed is geometric and architectonic, not the human anatomy we might expect.  This evidence of built construction gives us access to the work, referring to the process of making it.  The wood-fired pieces, with blurred, obscured features, have a sense of ritual; they could be recently unearthed public monuments of a time past or a place far away.


The exhibition is accompanied by a lovely catalog, underwritten by Ko Nishimura.  Notably, each of the artists makes reference, in their own ways, to the essential spirit of surrender.  “Risk and chance are allies in the creative process” for Samuel Hoffman. “Adjusting to uncontrollable elements” gives Terry Inokuma “the choice to reach a little further.”  Jennifer Klein’s “eyes were opened to a new esthetic allowing (her) work to grow in unforeseen ways.”  Marc Lancet declares the arduous process the right approach to  “a beauty worth working for.”  Diane Levinson speaks to her eight years dedicated to learning to “paint with fire.”  Ogawa reaches for “shibui, the power of quiet illumination.”  Masuo Ojima’s secret is to “let the power of Ego disappear.”  Ruble’s pieces are an expression of marvel and wonder at the world around him. Tim Steele shapes his forms in anticipation of the kiln environment while consciously relinquishing the predictable.


In his introduction to the catalog, Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator of the Triton Museum, writes: …”no one knows exactly what will happen in the river of fire” inside the kiln.  His poetic phrase is also accurate.  Ceramic science in the 21st century has given us new clay bodies, formulated for precise temperatures, specific textures and behaviors, color and strength.  None of these factors alone are a match for the mighty furor of the wood kiln at the peak of the firing cycle.  It is important to note that the discipline in the practice of wood-firing is modestly assumed.  Many ceramicists have had their pieces slump and crack, and their glaze results run, crawl, dunt or change color under far less rigorous  conditions.  The expertise of these nine artists is an unspoken yet critical factor in the success and strength of the exhibition.  To be surrendered to the wood kiln process, the pieces must be constructed so well that they can withstand days of transformation at over 2400 degrees.   Atmospheric Firings presents us with the annotation of that transformation: beauty in the unexpected, evidence of this dance with fire.


Susannah Israel

Oakland, California

August 2011

Atmospheric Firings – catalogue

kfunk <![CDATA[HANNA HANNAH: FRAMES OF WAR]]> 2011-08-25T04:18:24Z 2011-08-21T00:13:57Z Hanna Hannah: Frames of War

by Tom Leddy

Immanuel Kant’s discussion of aesthetics (in his Critique of Judgment) begins with something he calls “The Analytic of Beauty” in which he describes beauty as being detached from matters of morality and cognition.  Free beauty is exemplified by flowers and wall-paper, among other things (including, oddly, crustaceans).  Such beauties have the capacity to cause our cognitive faculties, the imagination and the understanding, to go into free play, giving rise to pleasure.  Beauty is not in the thing itself but in its capacity to cause this experience.  Flowers and wallpaper often have elaborate designs that encourage us to linger in contemplation.  This contemplation is a relaxing mental activity very unlike problem-solving and scientific thinking.  The freedom involves not having to apply concepts.

Untitled, (Lebanon), 2009

Untitled, (Lebanon), 2009, Casein on paper 72 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: rr jones

Decorative wallpaper, unlike flowers, is actually designed by an artist or craftsman.  But the main point is that it subordinates content to pleasing formal arrangement.  We enjoy good wallpaper design but think of it as something that should be in the background.  Kant insisted that, although objects of free beauty have a designed look, a look of purposiveness, we should not think about the actual purpose, since then we would no longer be engaging in free play.  A botanist, for example, has no advantage in appreciating flowers and should set aside his or her knowledge of plant reproduction if he or she wishes to appreciate its beauty.  Kant excluded the sensual pleasures of color from his account of beauty: color counted merely as adding charm.  But this seems wrong, since our appreciation of flowers and wallpaper includes the colors, and neither would be the same in black and white.  So Kant should have said that the free play is between imagination, understanding and sense.

Untitled (Iraqi and American soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq), 2009-2010

Untitled (Iraqi and American soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq), 2009-2010, Casein on paper, Courtesy of the Artist Photo: rr jones

Hanna Hannah is no doubt drawing on the fascination we have with the free beauties of flowers and wallpaper in her current show at the Institute for Contemporary Art.  This is doubled by the fact that most of her wallpaper images are of flowers (there are also a couple scenes of Venice and at least one bird).  However, when we look closer we find that in the center of most of her paintings there is another, smaller image embedded within the first.  This smaller image has little to do with Kant’s concept of free beauty since it usually portrays horror and destruction.  Also, although the wallpaper design has a distinctly Victorian look, the interior image is done in a kind of abstracted realist style based on a contemporary news photograph.

Untitled (Iraqi and American soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq), 2009-2010 (detail)

Untitled (Iraqi and American soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq), 2009-2010, (detail) Casein on paper, Courtesy of the Artist Photo: rr jones

Kant insists that aesthetic experience should be distinguished from moral experience.  For example, the pleasure we gain through the free play of imagination and understanding is different from that which we gain from perceiving a morally good act, or from the pain we may get from perceiving something that is morally wrong.  He thinks that to aesthetically appreciate a palace we need to set aside the suffering and class exploitation that may have gone into its production.  This does not prevent us from criticizing the ruler who constructed it for violating basic moral rules, for example, that you should never treat someone as a mere means to your own ends.  It is just that morality and aesthetics are separate.  Hannah (and she is hardly alone in this) wants to deconstruct that separation.  She is more interested in the juxtaposition of examples of free beauty and depictions of hellish scenes.

Amerli, Iraq, Site of Suicide Bomb II, 2010, detail from (embedment)

Amerli, Iraq, Site of Suicide Bomb II, 2010, detail from (embedment)

There is a danger in the strategy, of which I am sure Hannah is quite aware.  It is that framing abstracted and painful scenes in a field of free beauty will aestheticize the very images that she presumably wants us to ponder.  In short, there is a danger of beautifying war and destruction by placing these terrible and terrifying things within a beautiful frame.  If the media presentation of these events (the original context of the photographs she uses) numbs us and makes us indifferent, how can their prettification through being framed by lovely wallpaper improve matters?   I believe Hannah wants to us to think about how we increasingly distance ourselves from these worrying events, even though they have become parts of our everyday lives.  She wants us to be disturbed by the experience of toggling between images of free beauty and abstracted renderings of photographs of, for example, a suicide bombing in a marketplace.  One strategy she uses to counter our tendency to ignore the violent images around us is to draw us into her paintings, past the lovely foliage, to a small window onto a scene of carnage.  It is as if we are asked to look through a keyhole into another world.  What we see is not always easy to make out, a hand here, a child’s face there, something that looks like it might be a body part.  Most of what we see consists of ruins, for example of the bombed marketplace with people standing around after the disaster.

(embedment),  2011, installation view

(embedment), 2011, installation view

The most impressive part of the exhibit is a special installation in a room in which Hannah’s wallpaper covers all four walls, and four framed paintings are hung.  These paintings, unlike others in the show, feature three embedded framings:  one frame of light-colored wallpaper flowers, an inner frame of brighter colored flowers in a different design non-continuous with the first, and then an oval frame for the site of a bomb attack in Iraq, mostly in dull or gray colors.  The wall text says that the wallpaper in the room is meant to resemble camouflage fatigues, although I am not sure where that thought takes us.  In general, one cannot help but think that a lot in this work depends on background information.

Wall, 2011 (installation view)

Wall, 2011 (installation view)

We only know that we are looking at scenes of war, or of an earthquake in one instance and Chernobyl in another, because of the label.  A case in point is Wall, a work that consists of fifteen long hanging mulberry scrolls with calligraphy-like images of the aftermath of an attack on a crowded market in Amerli, Iraq.  The scrolls are very pretty, but so too are the figures, thus reducing the sense of conflict between the decorative and moral dimensions of the work.  However, the overall impact of the show is of one that skillfully raises interesting issues about the relations between the pleasures of beauty and the sufferings of war and disaster.  We can thank ICA for providing us with thought-provoking work like this.

Amerli, Iraq. July 9, 2007, 2010

Amerli, Iraq. July 9, 2007, 2010. Mixed media on mulberry paper 38 x 42 inches Courtesy of the Artist

There will be an artist talk on Thursday, Sept. 8, 7-9PM, admission $10 for ICA members and $15 for non-members. The show runs through Sept. 10.

Tom Leddy teaches in the Philosophy Department at San Jose State University – specializing in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art.

erin <![CDATA[In Response: Lynn Powers’ Triton Museum Exhibiton]]> 2011-07-06T20:01:02Z 2011-07-06T19:56:16Z ARTSHIFT welcomes responses from the community to our articles and reviews.  Here are Stephen French’s comments, received in response to Erin Goodwin-Guerrero’s review of Lynn Powers paintings in her Winter show at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara. We apologize for a somewhat tardy publication of this thoughtful commentary on both the exhibition and works in question.

By Stephen French

Lynn Powers revisits Vermeer

In her ARTSHIFT review of Lynn Power’s Twenty Year Survey at the Triton Museum, Erin Goodwin finds Powers’ most recent work (based on familiar Vermeer paintings) narrow in focus, missing the richness of surface and symbol of earlier work and “relatively impersonal next to her signature painting style.”

True, Power’s most recent paintings move away from the familiar painterly surfaces and varied textures of the artist’s earlier work but in doing so they greatly expand on the essential and most personal qualities of her work.

These include the rich play of light, shadow and luminosity found in Power’s early work which is continued and greatly intensified in the new Vermeer pieces.  These new pieces also amplify the meditative qualities of stillness and repose that reside at the heart of her most powerful work. In addition the notioon of the “precious object” often highlighted in previous work is reinvented – now found in Vermeer’s paintings.  A partial string of pearls, a spool of thread, an earring are celebrated and given unexpected personal focus.  Ironically what is new and enriching in these paintings is what is missing – Vermeer’s figures.  We are presented with a dramatic conundrum.  Where is the milk maid, the lady of the house, where are they, where have they gone, why are they missing?  No longer present (except in memory) they conjure a magical disappearance, an absence, an enigma that brings a new dream like, surreal character to Power’s 21 Century remembrances.

Powers alters size, scale and proportions, to achieve meditative qualities without reference to the human form.

Its important to note that these “Vermeer paintings” are not attempts to simply replicate the originals.  Powers has changed the size, the scale, the proportions of the paintings and the details of paintings to her own ends.  Like composers from Mozart to Stravinsky, artists and poets have borrowed predecessors’ themes and structures to enhance, inform and enlarge their own work.  The best of cases as here,  honor the forerunner and enrich the borrower’s art.  And, as an artist friend said to me, when you work with Vermeer you really can show what a kick-ass painter you are!

kfunk <![CDATA[INTERVIEW 5 – the first of a series]]> 2011-07-21T01:09:30Z 2011-07-02T04:19:49Z Interview 5 series
by Pantea Karimi

Interview 5 is a series of interviews with individual artists who have left a meaningful impact in their communities.
Interviewee: Corinne Okada Takara

Corrine Okada Takara is a mixed-media artist and arts educator, who composes sculptures of both elegant and mundane materials that tell stories about the collision and intersection of cultures. Okada was selected as one of three Silicon Valley educators to represent the Bay Area at the Microsoft 2011 Innovative Education Forum. She will be presenting the You Are Here Street Banner Project.

Interview 5: Tell me about your current project, You Are Here Street Banner. What is the main goal you would like to achieve by doing this project?

Corinne Okada Takara (COT): The You Are Here Street Banner project is a workshop series exploring community and identity through photography and digital textile design. This project idea began in the summer of 2010. We started the workshops in the winter and are now in the phase of photographing the neighborhoods. On June 20th students presented their collaborative banner designs to the Alum Rock Village Business Association for approval. The following day they presented to the Office of Cultural Affairs at City Hall. The final install date (at the time of this writing) is yet to be determined. I am hopeful for a July or August date.

The project engages the entire fifth grade student body of Cureton Elementary of Alum Rock, San Jose in thinking about what makes their community visually unique. To compare and contrast different community visual vocabularies, the third graders at Hawaii Preparatory Academy also participated in the initial textile pattern workshops. First students at both schools drew radial textile patterns using markers, pencils and tracing papers. These images were posted on VoiceThread, an online freeware communication site, where the students from both schools commented on the textile patterns they created. They either typed in or voice recorded their comments to the other students. These initial marker compositions, became digitally printed fabrics; the 12 yards of fabrics were installed at the Montalvo Arts Center’s Art Splash in April:  A portion of the fabric was cut into squares for the students to keep and to learn how to make an eco-friendly Japanese furoshiki wrapping carry-cloth. The radial pattern project done in marker was a way to introduce students to visual vocabularies and to the math involved in creating radial patterns – both main components of the second project: You Are Here Street Banner.  I wanted students to have the experience of creating a radial pattern design by hand before they experimented with digital tools.


Furoshiki - wrapping carry-cloth

Furoshiki – wrapping carry-cloth

The You Are Here Street Banner project started with a workshop on photography. The photo project challenged students to think more about community imagery.  Discussions about what constitutes unique community imagery started while students were creating the marker drawings.  Once they received cameras the students knew what community imagery was and were more focused on what they photographed.  They drew upon the themes of their textile exploration, such as food carts, fruit trees, VTA tracks, Calvary Cemetery and Peters Bakery.  Comparing and contrasting their drawing explorations with Hawaii students also prepared the Alum Rock students to have a deeper understanding of unique community imagery.


Work station image using software

Work station image using software

The San Jose students are currently going out into their neighborhoods sharing 32 single use cameras to photograph what they think represents the beauty and uniqueness of their neighborhoods. The students will each place one of their photographs into the freeware pattern tool Repper Pro to create unique textile patterns. Then, working in teams of four, they will design street banners from the photos and patterns they generated using both collage on paper and another freeware tool SumoPaint. The final collaborative compositions will be used to create seventeen 8×2 feet banners that will be hung from lamp posts along Alum Rock avenue: The resulting collaborative designs will carry the conversation about community out into the neighborhood via street banners.


Work station image using software

Work station image using software

The student technology training organization, Mouse Squad, has made a huge difference in getting the lab set up for my projects at Cureton. Last year it took me two hours to get animation still images on to all the computers and then half of the computers crashed during the project. This year, I came to the lab and the Mouse Squad team had all the files set up and ready to go and I have not seen a computer crash yet. The tools I am introducing the Cureton’s students to are new. They are using online freeware tools: Repper Pro by Studio Ludens in Netherlands, Voicethread for peer commenting and Google docs to write pre- and post- assessments.  I would say that up to last year, students in Cureton Alum Rock were not computer literate. They had not used these tools before but through my project I introduced these tools to them in a fun context and they have been learning well.

These two schools, Cureton Elementary of Alum Rock and Hawaii Preparatory Academy, were selected for several reasons; I selected the San Jose school because I have been teaching art multimedia projects there for the past five years and I have a long working relationship with the teachers and principal. I enjoy their open collaborative spirit. This community on the edge of Silicon Valley still echoes an agricultural past and the students are not as exposed to the technology industries that drive the rest of the Valley. I feel it is important that I expose them to art-technology projects. I selected the Hawaii school because I met the teacher over the summer in an educator technology training workshop and we spoke of working together. Also, having family from Hawaii, I could easily interpret cultural reference for the San Jose students. The project I conduct is about process, experimentation and collaboration, both among the students and the educators. Therefore, it is really important that I know I can work with the teachers and administrators at each school site either locally or remotely.
Through this project I hope children have a strong positive experience of being active creators and curators of culture rather than passive consumers of mass culture.  Exposure to the synergy of art and technology, which drives Silicon Valley, hopefully will excite these students to continue the pursuit of learning to use technologies’ tools, explore art and possibly a creative career.
Interview 5: Where is the inspiration coming from for You Are Here Street Banner project?

COT: Last summer I was inspired by both my digital textile explorations with the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and by my experience as a Merit Scholar at the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College.  The fusionwearsv project I designed for the museum invited the public to reflect on what visually represents the Silicon Valley in photos and patterns.  These images were expressed in textiles. The result of this project was the collaborative installation TECHStyleSoftWEAR: Surface & Shape that I brought to life with fashion designer Colleen Quen and environment/furniture designer, Rick Lee. At the same time I was going through an educator training program at Foothill College, the KCI Merit scholar program that focuses on innovative use of technology and teaching practices in the K-12 classroom. I began to think it would be really exciting to integrate my learning in a project that invited children to reflect on community using digital tools and get their ideas up on banners in their neighborhood.

Interview 5: What is your background in art? Also, briefly explain your interest in arts, education and community works.

COT: I have a BA in Design from Stanford University. In the 1990’s I freelanced for start ups creating icons, cursors, illustrations, interface design and simple animations. My clients ranged from computer game, educational curriculum media to large software companies. Since having children, I have become more interested in installation art and arts education. I see a great need to bring arts and collaborative projects to schools. As we face more and more budget cuts to public schools, there are fewer opportunities for children to experience the innate synergy of arts with the other disciplines they are learning. I find that I work best when I am doing both community art education and my own work; one informs and fuels the other. I also come from a family of creative individuals and am fortunate to have been nurtured to express myself, seek knowledge and experiment through art. I hope to instill in children the knowledge that they can problem solve through creativity and artistic expression.

Interview 5: How do you raise the necessary funds for your projects? Do you collaborate with anyone else? Do you have any other project/s in hand?

COT: I began applying for grants in earnest in 2009. I found that taking the free fall arts grant writing classes with the Foundation Center very useful in learning about grants. I usually start by creating a shell of a website for the project and identifying a fiscal sponsor with whom to partner. I also investigate grants that align with what I’m trying to create. I have worked with education foundations and museums on grant projects. I have also begun to explore crowd funding through Kickstarter. I was unsuccessful in my first attempt at using that site but it was a great learning experience and I will try it again. Often, I begin my projects building from a smaller scale and work toward the larger scale components as I raise the funds. I have been fortunate raising funds through grants and, in one case, through award money at the end of the project.

The other projects I have in the works all involve technology, art and education. I am consulting with the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles to create a digital textile lab/education space. I am working on a Target Arts Grant at Horace Mann Elementary where we are creating a large tapestry of recycled materials I am also beginning to formulate a collaborative student art project for the next academic school year called Slot Shelters. I hope to submit it for the 01SJ 2012 Biennial as it will be designed to take form as both online Google Sketch Up structures and as large scale slot cards to be assembled in public spaces.

Interview 5: Anything else you would like to add?

COT: I think art, like science begins with questions and when completed, inspires another series of questions. Art invites us to think and feel. I have been very fortunate to work with organizations and educators who are willing to take risks and begin with questions rather than answers. I would like to thank the following people: Arlene U. Illa and Kelsey Rothrock of Cureton Elementary in Alum Rock San Jose, Mike Hu and Jana Weber of Stevens Creek Elementary in Cupertino, Cobey Doi of Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Island of Hawaii and Karen Tseng, Wendy Chew and Steven Chew of Meyerholz Elementary in Cupertino. Special thanks to Jane Przybysz, the former Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles for her vision and absolute faith in giving me the fusionwearsv collaborative project to design and shape. I am grateful to the MERIT program at The Krause Center of Innovation directed by Rushton Hurley under the guidance of Steven McGriff. In this program I grew as an arts educator and learned tools to expand the scope of my art collaborative experiments beyond the Bay Area. Finally, I would like to thank The Donor Circle for the Arts of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation , KCI and the Alum Rock Education Foundation for taking the leap of faith and funding the You Are Here Street Banner project.


Thank you for sharing your artistic experience with Interview 5.

If you know someone that should be interviewed, contact Pantea Karimi:

kfunk <![CDATA[Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits]]> 2011-06-22T15:19:02Z 2011-06-20T01:51:29Z From Truman Capote to Laurie Anderson: Mapplethorpe’s Portraits at the San Jose Museum of Art

Twenty-two years after the controversial show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art closed-or actually never opened, Mapplethorpe’s work is celebrated world-wide without a blink of hesitation. The controversy is just a blip in the cultural memory of the late 1980s – early 1990s culture wars that created famous verbal spars between artists like Karen Finley and political leaders like Senator Jessie Helms. The obscenity wars shaped a generation and our memory of American life in the last part of the 20th century.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Iggy Pop, 1981, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

The traveling show, Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits, originating from the Palm Springs Art Museum is currently on exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art.  The collection of over 100 portraits reads like a little black book of who’s who in the New York hip art world of the 1970s and1980s. What made Mapplethorpe so infamous is “barely” present.  The collection consists of early unpolished portraits and later refined portraits of celebrities, artists and several unknown models.  Only a few images have a flavor of the underground BDSM world Mapplethorpe explored in his most controversial work. There are no nude/body studies of the black male figure.  Shocking only in the expanse of who he photographed, Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits steer clear of phallic flowers and enormous extremities.


After his death, Mapplethorpe became a poster boy for queer politics and identity politics of the 1990s.  His overt approach to sexuality tapped into a homo-erotic representation of gay life in NYC. His self-portraits are powerful testaments to sensuality and an identity in flux. In two portraits Mapplethorpe poses with a rockabilly hairdo flip, leather motorcycle jacket and cigarette dangling from pouty lips.  His masculinity exudes in his portrayal of a leather boy looking for a pick-up in the local Eagle aka gay leather bar. In a more serious self-portrait – obviously shot/created later in his life during his physical decline as a result of contracting AIDS – Mapplethorpe looks like a king of a secret society, holding court, firmly gripping the staff of life and death (represented with a skull), understanding his own mortality.  Dressed in a black turtle-neck sweater, he stares at the camera – staring at himself, as if to say silently and unapologetically who he was, is, and will be. Mapplethorpe lives on through his art, describing and pinpointing a specific time in American history, culture and location.

it, 1988, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1988, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Sequenced last, though not chronological, Mapplethorpe poses in drag- not to disguise his maleness or even to suggest that he could pass as female, but to declare his identity, his queerness, his desire to love men, and be loved by men, performing his femaleness.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Gere, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Gere, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Mapplethorpe’s portraits show us not so much about the individuals but about their relationships with Mapplethorpe. Susan Sarandon posed and had her children pose for Mapplethorpe. Richard Gere, a sex symbol, willingly posed bare-chested, objectified by Mapplethorpe and the public. Kathy Acker, a renegade, feminist poet covers her face in an act of defiance and perhaps challenging Mapplethorpe’s desire to reveal her true self to the public.  There are celebrities who posed multiple times for Mapplethorpe.  There are celebrities and artists who probably posed for Mapplethorpe simply because that’s what you did, if you were somebody in NYC in 1982.  Take, for example, the portrait of Andy Warhol.  It is void of any closeness or intimacy.  There is a disdain for each other, artist to artist, subject to author.

Robert Mapplethorpe, Kathy Acker, 1983, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Robert Mapplethorpe, Kathy Acker, 1983, gelatin silver print, Courtesy of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation


In a city obsessed with parties, what’s hot and new, and itself, Mapplethorpe captures the narcissistic nature of the art world and all its groupies.  His images are stunning and memorable as is his legacy and symbolic place in queer history and contemporary photography.


Sheila A. Malone, MFA

independent artist, educator and curator


Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits

January 29 through June 5, 2011


San Jose Museum of Art

110 South Market Street

San Jose, CA 95113



erin <![CDATA[Kenna Moser shows at Grover Thurston Gallery, Seattle]]> 2011-06-07T02:28:22Z 2011-06-07T02:28:22Z AN HISTORIC OVERVIEW OF THE HUMAN CONDITION

Kenna Moser, Observe at Grover Thurston Gallery

Kenna Moser performs a whimsical play with stamps, botanical drawings, postmarks, precise and studied handwritten names and addresses, and collage paintings of diminutive people cut out of old dictionaries They come together to say something about the essence of human endeavor: we strive for the same things, we play the same way, we make the same mistakes, we are guilty of the same follies, we love the same things through the ages. Like a lost letter that arrives at its destination one hundred years later, her small juxtapositions of imagery buried in encaustic, are a surprise and a delight.   Each is an intimate reward for the viewer’s attention, not intended to be monumental, but rather very personal, perhaps like a confession to a dear friend or a narrative of everyday life from a distant relative. Moser works on top of small wooden box forms that give her paintings a sculptural dimension and the sense of containing artifacts as much as being art.  A short story, a few precious antiques, small, collaged historical elements and detailed botanical paintings executed by the artist herself, all are embedded in the carefully prepared wax environment that makes each jewel-like work seem a glimpse into history.

Feat by Kenna Moser

It helps to know the titles.  To some of these tiny narratives we will say, “How true!” Others will make as laugh as we discover visual puns and silly connections between names and objects.  Observe features a tiny woman in a diving posture that, when attached to a bright orange nasturtium, makes her appear to be hang-gliding.  In Feat, we see a tiny track and field competitor leaping feet first over a large hydrangea-like blossom.  Direct shows a small figure conducting life’s symphony with an enormous green fern. Life‘s challenges and vicissitudes go on.

Enrich by Kenna Moser

Kenna Moser used to live in Palo Alto, as ARTSHIFT readers will recall, and in 2004 she moved to the Pacific Northwest. She now creates her meticulous little miracles in a studio on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound.  She is represented by the Gail Severn Gallery in Idaho and the Sue Greenwood Gallery in Laguna Beach, California as well Seattle’s Grover Thurston Gallery where her work was featured in the month of May.  The works can still be viewed in the Grover Thurston Gallery through June, 2011.

erin <![CDATA[GUSTAVO MARTINEZ IN SEATTLE]]> 2011-06-20T02:13:08Z 2011-06-04T20:04:31Z
Graduate Work Soars in University of Washington Shows

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Parts of Kirby vacuum cleaner, early aircraft technology and bat wings lift Gustavo Martinez’ fantastic creature upward to emerge from the clay earth.

Over a period of years, we have watched Gustavo Martinez use ceramics to track his own life path from his roots in Mexico as he traveled north to Central California and his mixed media installations at San Jose State University, where metaphors for movement forward from an historic culture included railroad tracks and pots and potsherds.  Most recently, investigating symbols from native cultures throughout the Americas, Martinez has focused on animals — possibly taking off from the Quetzalcoatl story — that particularly embrace the concepts of rebirth, transformation, and flight. Finally, flight itself as a concept seems to have drawn the artist into the present, allowing for meditations on what our human journey is all about and why we want to fly to the heavens.

The wings of Martinez’ untitled creatures expand with their shadows.

In his graduate work at the University of Washington, the earlier pieces seemed to grow upward from the earth on spindly apple wood legs.  They embraced androgyny; a creation god with a pregnant belly, has large hands ready to work, but it is still hiding behind a MesoAmerican mask.  An awkward bird creature, full-figured with feminine contours but whose wings have yet to spread, drags its prodigious feathers behind.

In Euphoria, at the Henry Gallery, Gustavo Martinez allows his flying form to draw energy from the clay and minerals of the earth.

As his tenure in the graduate program draws to a close, Martinez’ final work truly breaks through to another level of confidence and takes off.  He revisits his love of line and the drawing he had worked into the surfaces of his ceramic sculpture, and takes it a step further into constructs of welded aluminum tubing, weaving a network of struts, ribs, veins and claw-like fingers into his hybrid creations.  In two of the three galleries where his last works are shown, these lacy forms cast a drama of shadows on the white walls, forming a continuum from the silvery aluminum to the space that dissolves into and beyond the walls.  The viewer will see references to bird wings, bat winds and dragon-fly wings. In my favorite piece, a Kirby vacuum cleaner part becomes a bird’s head that emerges from a ceramic ruff that contains three old style aircraft cylinders as might be situated around the propeller. There is alchemy working hand in hand with technology. The entire creature is rising from the earth, a well-worked, mighty mound of clay that is the artist’s source.

Martinez’ birdlike hybrid ceramic creature is still dragging its plumes.

Martinez supports his large sculpture and its relationship to line work with some interesting drawings in one of the student galleries.  The most informative is probably a giant, yet crude, green architectural form, rendered in expressive brushwork that appears to be a Tower of Babel.  Indeed, using whatever means and technology available, we are determined to get closer to the heavens. We envy and emulate the life forms that fly.