The 2009 ARTSHIFT Awards Nominees

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero, Editor

Just to get your curiosity piqued, ARTSHIFT is publishing a brief profile of each of the artists and curators who have been nominated this year for their valued contributions to the art community of Silicon Valley. Every individual represents a unique and significant aspect of our rich art scene and it is rewarding to see the community respond with such a broad range of nominations. They will all be celebrated on October 21, at 6:00 pm, at Works Gallery in San Jose’s Sofa District. The public is invited to attend as Downtown Association Excecutive Director Scott Knies presents special cash awards to two of the nominees.



Ben Alexy: Children prepare to engage the universe

Ben Alexy is a young figurative artist whose mural-sized canvases have been seen recently in numerous Silicon Valley venues from the City Windows Gallery, Bill Gould Design, Anne Sconberg and Mark Henderson’s Art Parties, to the Sobrato Foundation Non Profit Center. He spends most of his time between his studio and his work on bicycles that are a passion and featured in several of his paintings. Viewers are always astounded by the compassion Alexy shows for his subjects, from animals to humans. Ben Alexy is a graduate of the BFA program at San Jose State. He maintains a studio in the Citadel Studios in the Martha Gardens District.


Kelly Detweiler: Faculty Meeting

Kelly Detweiler is a Professor of Art and Chair of the Art Department at Santa Clara University. For years, Detweiler has delighted Silicon Valley with his still lives, landscapes and wry portraits of family, friends and anthropomorphic animals in a style that is a unique play off Picasso and cartoony illustration. In his most recent exhibition at the Triton Museum of Art, Detweiler’s paintings have taken on a new focus on the social ills of our time: lack of civility in the public forum, lack of integrity in our economic institutions, a pessimism about the fate of future generations. One series in the exhibition is a mixed media development of collage and painting on the framework of a calendar. As the world deteriorates into chaos, violence and contamination, Detweiler asks if our heads are so buried in the sand that we look to comic superheroes and campy film stars for solutions. Or should we move to the moon?


Margo Jones: Remnants

Margo Jones, is a photographer skilled in many photographic processes. She showed a moving selection of family images from the forties, in her series Remnants, seen at the San Jose ICA’s “Lift Off” exhibition, exploring the impact of family photographs and memory on the interior development of self. By incorporating mixed media – in an enveloping installation, Jones creates an environment that provokes reflections of the same sort in her viewers. Jones, now a resident of Santa Cruz, was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, received a BA in studio art from Humboldt State University in 2005, and her MFA from San Jose State in 2009. She has taught beginning photography at San Jose State and the University of California, Berkeley.


Pantea Karimi: Threads

Pantea Karimi, a recent graduate of the SJSU MFA program, has two other advanced degrees in art. Karimi earned a Master of Graphic Design degree at University of Art in Tehran, and worked as a graphic designer for several graphics companies before moving to England. She earned a BTEC Diploma in Printmaking at Hastings College of Arts and Technology in England, in 2004. In her prints and watercolors, Karimi indulges her love of graphics and graphic processes to mesh images of herself with images of Iranian women in history and important political events in Iran from historic print publications and newspapers up to the present. She continues to investigate her relationship to Iran in the recent Los Angeles exhibition, Traces of Being: Iran in the Passage of Time, at the Morono Kiang Gallery. Karimi is praised for her passionate dedication to art and as an exceptional teacher of children’s art.


Ken Matsumoto: Ei-Yi-Yi

Ken Matsumoto is beloved for his contributions the community and admired as a sculptor. Matsumoto graduated from the SJSU MFA program and has gone on to produce many intimate yet elegant works in stone, glass and steel for private collections. His many public commissions of large scale work are both local – the entrance gate to San Jose’s Japan Town – and as far away as Arizona and North Carolina. In a recent exhibition at the Triton Museum of Art, Matsumoto talked about his stone vessels with simple recesses in the center as expressing the intimacy of man’s relationship to nature. Like the wind and water, “I am the agent of erosion.” Matsumoto’s Art Object Gallery is adjacent to his studio in an old factory in Japan Town. He has invited respected artists to show and share their talents in the attractive gallery alongside poetry readings, theatre and musical productions. Over ten years Matsumoto has created a community space with a large following. It is the longest surviving private gallery in San Jose.


Al Preciado: Jump

Al Preciado graduated from the MFA Program at San Jose State and charmed us with his ferocious yet diminutive ceramic dogs. Soon after, he began a fearless journey to New York, Europe and Los Angeles, living for a time in each place, getting involved in the art community, starting galleries and creating opportunities for other artists along the way. Preciado has returned to Silcon Valley, to teach ceramics at Bellarmine College Prep, open a couple more galleries and join the Board of Works Gallery. His love of community and the arts extends to embracing poetry and music in his gallery spaces, and showing his own work in Kaleid Gallery and street festivals in the Sofa District. He recently curated the exhibition, Beast Figurative, at Works.


Fanny Retsek: Baghdad Morgue

Fanny Retsek, Master Printer at the San Jose ICA Print Center, has established an amazing portfolio of excellent work from guest artists working at the Center, since its inception. Her classes in the Center have expanded the influence of prints in the Silicon Valley area and supported the annual Monotype Marathon. Her own works have been called obsessive manifestations of tragic and overwhelming concepts. Like a prisoner of war, she makes endless marks on her paper marking time, deaths, soldiers, crimes and other numbing statistics that become visible and horrifying when she turns them into an unending texture. Retsek received her MFA in printmaking from San Jose State University.


Samuel Rodriguez: Bike Workshop

Samuel Rodriguez is also part Shorty Fatz, where low rider bikes become works of art. Rodriguez’ Raza Writer was a collaboration with public artist Mel Chin, done for the City of San Jose’s Martin Luther King Library and received a national public art award. Rodriguez has shown widely in the Bay Area, including exhibitions at the Euphrat Museum and Anno Domini. As a public artist he finds images and media to celebrate the Latino community, and often includes references to custom bicycles. His drawing and painting style is satirical as seen in images such as lepitbull, lewaterhole and halfnhalf.

ARTSHIFT Advisory Board member Ann Sherman gives us the profiles of individuals nominated for an award as curators:


Cathy Kimball: Chris Dorosz’ Painted Room

Cathy Kimball, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art /Strategic Excellence

Until recently working as both the Chief Curator and Director of SJICA, Cathy Kimball’s curatorial strategy deftly balances group shows addressing salient issues, exhibition opportunities for emerging talent, and re-examinations of established artists. Making the most of the institute’s new site, Kimball’s savvy selections, thematic development, installations and accompanying information are always top-notch, rivalling that of any large museum. During the 2008–2009 season, Kimball’s curatorial touch on the Elmer Bischoff and Lewis de Soto exhibitions were particularly singled out for their astute accomplishment.


Katherine Aoki and Karen Kienzle: “Tech” in our domestic life

Katherine Aoki & Karen Kienzle, de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University/Challenging Collaboration

SCU assistant professor of digital arts Katherine Aoki and de Saisset curator Karen Kienzle were nominated for their collaborative curatorial work on a uniquely interactive exhibition, Tech Tools of the Trade: Contemporary New Media Art. Adroitly juggling juxtapositions of humor and whimsy with provocative paradox and dark metaphor, Aoki and Kienzle’s survey of the continually changing landscape of art’s means simultaneously challenged viewers to reconsider the exigencies of modern life.


Anne Sconberg and Mark Henderson: Will Marino featured at “the Art Party”

Anne Sconberg & Mark Henderson, Art Party/Hosting Community

For the past three years, this generous couple have literally thrown open their doors and invited the Silicon Valley arts community to celebrate its distinctive flair at an elegantly staged Art Party. Guests circulate from attic to basement, bedroom to kitchen, out to porch, garage and garden and back again, enjoying cleverly presented, eclectic work while chatting with its creators over sumptuous finger foods and freely flowing beverages. They bankroll the entire extravaganza and seek no commission for any resulting sales. Thanks to these true patrons of the arts and their avidly anticipated annual soiree, the South Bay/Santa Cruz creative scene is truly happening.

Park with Women Laughing

Susan Hillhouse: Paul Wonner’s Park with Women Laughing

Susan Hillhouse, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History/Heroic Vision

A legendarily tireless, inventive and dedicated curator, Hillhouse took her game to a whole new level by organizing Assemblage + Collage + Construction, a collective view of mixed-media work presented in 14 Santa Cruz County venues. Commandeering this ambitious regional exhibition, Hillhouse brought to bear her endless enthusiasm and talents, yielding a cooperative, 14-week celebration of the area’s multifaceted creativity that was literally free for all.


Susan OMalley: This Show Needs You

Susan O’Malley, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art/Engaging Involvement In both her own art and her curatorial work, Susan O’Malley explores the part of the creative equation that for many is but a second thought: the involvement of the viewer. She is less concerned with displaying her own considerable intelligence than with inviting others to share or realize theirs. Her work on Lift Off 2009, the most recent showcase for San Jose State MFA graduates, and This Show Needs You enlisted active engagement in the creative process, extending a meaningful opportunity to all participants.

(Susan OMally has asked to be withdrawn from consideration because of conflict of interest.)


Valerie Raps: Ema Sintamarian’s drawing viewed by Art Ark visitors

Valerie Raps, Art Ark/Uncommon Steward

As the Art Ark’s Artist in Residence overseeing the Common House Gallery, Raps coordinates the residents’ Arts Council charged with nurturing the enclave’s arts community. Thanks to her efforts, the gallery enjoys a synergetic relationship with the School of Art and Design at San Jose State and is one of the “go-to” venues for graduation showcases like the 2009 Graphic Design and the Pictorial BFA shows. Other Art Ark exhibitions, like the annual Big Red Shiny Show, bring together working artists from throughout the community. As steward of this communal resource, Raps shines a beacon of possibility for artists navigating the sometimes rocky shoals of creative life beyond the campus.


Tobin Keller and Rose Sellery: Assemblage by Philo Northrup

Tobin Keller and Rose Sellery, Cabrillo College Gallery, Aptos/Resourcefulness Personified

Two accomplished artists who serve as director and assistant director, respectively, of the Cabrillo College Gallery, Keller and Sellery have earned the reputation for running one of the best community college art venues in California. With a rigorous exhibition schedule of 12 shows per year, Keller and Sellery’s curatorial range embraces both students and national and internationally known artists working in diverse media. Despite ever-pressing budgetary constraints, the duo’s exhibitions exude style and professionalism.


Angelica Muro: Chris Sicat’s Tagalog

Angelica Muro, Space 47, San Jose/Truly Independent Arts Entrepreneur

As co-founder of the independent gallery Space 47, Muro has awakened the sleeping beast of experimental arts enterprise in San Jose’s SoFA. Space 47’s Mentoring Arts Program, which fosters the professional development of emerging artists via collaborative, mentored residencies and exhibitions, shows how Muro thinks bigger than most gallery operators. Over the past year, Muro was sole curator for the private venue, presenting artists whose single common characteristic is a restlessly investigative creative intelligence much like her own.

Paul Hau and Thai Bui

Rindfliesh: Paul Hau and thai Bui exhibition

Jan Rindfleisch, Euphrat Museum of Art, De Anza Community College, Cupertino/Inspiring Engagement

Thanks to the unflagging devotion of its Executive Director Jan Rindfleisch, the Euphrat Museum of Art’s claims of being more than a museum are not mere hype. Rindfleisch’s persistently realized vision of a resource that reflects the constantly evolving cultural diversity of the urban community it serves has been the Euphrat’s hallmark from its bunker-like days to the inaugural show in its long-awaited new exhibition space early this year. Looking Back, Looking Ahead demonstrated Rindfleisch’s trademark ability to sleuth out and illuminate threads of unifying subtext in works as disparate as master painter Paul Pei-Jen Hau’s watercolors and the cartoons and custom bikes of Shorty Fatz. That the Euphrat has not only endured but thrived is testament to Rindfleisch’s singular synthesis of tenacity, diplomacy, creative generosity and insight.


Signe Mayfield: the exhibition, Actor, Actor

Signe Mayfield, Palo Alto Art Center/Engineering Regional Significance

As if her infallible discernment and superior scholarship were not enough to distinguish Signe Mayfield’s 17-year curatorial reign at the Palo Alto Art Center, the ability to mount exhibitions that find a national, as well as loyal, local audience sets her further apart from the rest. Thanks to a knack for tapping the greater zeitgeist matched only by her coordinating capabilities, Mayfield’s sophisticated yet accessible shows frequently travel to venues as far-flung as Chicago and Honolulu. Mounting national tours that spotlight the work of regional artists and explicate its significance in beautifully produced exhibition catalogs, Mayfield is without peer in promoting wider recognition of this community’s contributions to and influence upon contemporary art.

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