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Monumental and Miniature

December 4th, 2012

I recently went hiking through the Grand Canyon with my boyfriend and was struck by how freaking beautiful the place is. There was a class at my art school called “Monumental and Miniature,” and I didn’t take it so I don’t know what it was about, but those words sum up the Grand Canyon pretty well. It seems like all of the big rock faces on the sides of the canyon are repeated in a miniature way in all of the small rocks that have fallen off and lie in the valleys. You could look at any rock, no matter what size, and see monumental and miniature worlds everywhere within it.

The Spiral Jetty, An Environmental Art Piece

September 3rd, 2012

The Spiral Jetty, Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Prismatic Spring… the thing that these all have in common is that I didn’t believe they existed until I saw them. Sure, I had seen images of them throughout my life; a picture of the Spiral Jetty in a math text book to go along with the fractals, or Mt. Rushmore in a muppet movie… but they just seemed too odd to be real.

After spending nearly 10 years of my life living only five hours away from the Spiral Jetty, I I finally saw it this summer en route to Wyoming. Yes folks, it’s real. I think what makes it so hard to believe that the Spiral Jetty exists is that there is a small niche group of people who know about it. I had lived so close to it, in Jackson, WY for most of my 20’s, yet nobody talked about it. I heard about it through two of my artsy college friends who visited me during a cross-country road trip.

When I left Jackson to go to art school, everyone there knew about it. It was a major point on the curriculum of most of my art history and visual studies classes, as the art world sees it as one of the more significant works of art in the 20th century. It’s part of a movement of work called Environmental Art, which included The Lightning Field in New Mexico, which took art out of the gallery.

While I was in school, I was desperately curious to know how other artists made art that was about the environment, environmental destruction, and the environmental movement; issues that speak to me. Many teachers told me to study Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, since it was environmental art. I didn’t believe them, that the Spiral Jetty, although made from the environment, as Smithson literally bulldozed large rocks into the shape of the spiral jetty, was about the environment, or environmental activism, since it was merely a group of rocks.

It took me seeing it to believe it. Once I arrived there, I totally got it. I had been expecting the jetty itself to be remarkable. While the jetty is pretty cool, it’s the jaw-dropping views of the mountains and colors of the lake lake that the jetty is situated in that are astonishingly beautiful. The Spiral Jetty is part of the environmental movement because it got people from cities to head out into the wild places of the West and experience them first hand.

Here are some directions to the Jetty. It’s worth a trip! I made a funny little map starting at the Golden Spike Visitor Center.

  • From I-15, take exit 365
  • Drive west on Highway 13 through Corinne for 2.7 miles
  • At the fork in the road, take the left fork for Highway 83 for 17.9 miles
  • At Lampo Junction, turn left. Go 7.8 miles to the Golden Spike Visitor Center
  • At the Golden Spike Visitor Center, drive 5.6 miles west on the main gravel road to a fork. Go left at this fork. There is sign just before the fork directing visitors to make a left to the Spiral Jetty.
  • Drive 1.3 miles and make a right at a fork.
  • Drive 8.2 miles to the end of the road. The Spiral Jetty will be on your left.

imperfect action

August 17th, 2012

I graduated from art school in May, and I learned a lot about painting. I really learned a lot of things, starting with how to gather paints and everything else I’d need to make a painting. Moving on to how to make my own canvases, how to see things technically like light, shadow, shape, form, warm vs. cool colors, etc., and also how to see things in my own unique way that no teacher can tell me, but can help guide me in listening to myself.

After graduation, I felt like I needed to start right away and set up my own painting studio before I let everything I learned slip away. I also felt like I could use some support in committing myself to a lifetime studio practice. I came across an online program called The Mindful Artist Mentorship Program, and I enrolled in June. There are about 20 of us artists enrolled in this three-month program, from around the country and even some internationally. Michele Theberge, a bay area artist who created the program and runs it, has been really great in offering her wisdom and experience from when she started her own art practice, and how to keep it going.

One idea that Michele proposes is the idea of imperfect action. This is as simple as it sounds – you just jump right in. Not everything has to be perfect. Sometimes we hold ourselves back because we are intimidated and feel like things need to be perfect, but she suggests that sometimes you can really free yourself up by trying something knowing that you don’t have to make it completely perfect. She gave us a special assignment to make 15 imperfect pieces. I decided to make three collages from a magazine and then make 12 paintings of various sizes and mediums from the collages. I think the process has been great in getting me to kickstart my post-graduation art practice!

Showing Up

February 29th, 2012

Lately I’ve been on a search for quotables, since one of my painting teachers has us start our weekly class by going around the room and saying an inspirational quote. My quote from the other week came from a yoga workshop that I had done earlier in the month. The teachers from this workshop suggested incorporating yoga, meditation and writing or making art in some sort of ritual or practice to get the creative juices flowing and to give yourself the time and space to create.

At one point in the class, one of the teachers, named Nick Krieger said, “It’s easy to show up when we are at our best, but what a practice asks of us is to show up when we are at our worst. Eventually the distinction between the two fades away and all that remains is showing up. This is where art lives.”

I felt like I had a day like that today in the studio. I started with a bunch of sketches that I wasn’t that into, but then when I got back into the subject matter I was excited about (painting the Oakland Ports) things just started flowing.

It’s true: everybody hearts Franklin

January 24th, 2012

“What’s your major?”
“Painting.”
“Have you taken a class with Franklin Williams?”
“No.”
“Oh. My God. You have got to take a class with Franklin. He will change your life.”

I have had that conversation in those exact words with at least 10 different people in the last year and a half since I’ve started art school. Basically every student that I’ve encountered at CCA has raved about this man, so it’s no surprise that my expectations for his class were high.

I’ve been wanting “to loosen up” with my art, which is a tough task for a type-A person such as myself. Like, my usual approach to making stuff happen is to write things I need to do on a list and methodically check them off. This approach was obviously not going to work here. What would that list have looked like? 1. Feed cat 2. Make banana bread 3. Loosen up in paintings 4. Put together powerpoint. Imagine trying to take out a kink in a curly phone cord. It just doesn’t seem to take to the free and at-ease shape you have in your mind’s eye.

However, I must say that after my second class with Franklin today, I felt like he delivered. Something seemed to click; some kink had ironed itself out so that my art could flow a little more smoothly. Granted I just got back from vacation and have been making paintings and drawings pretty consistently for the last year and a half, so it’s not entirely his doing, but I felt like something was really working in class today.

My experience with art teachers is that they generally walk around the room spouting advice to students individually. Every student needs a different pearl of wisdom at a different time, so it’s like having a doctor go around the room, giving one person a band-aid for a paper cut, administering a spinal adjustment on another person, or performing a lobotomy on a third. (Yes, art school has the reputation for having harsh critiques at times.) I’ve noticed that when offering critiques, most art teachers generally observe what it is that the student is working towards, and I mean some REALLY FEEL it. Then they offer some tip, usually in the variety of slow down, go lightly at first, take a moment to observe, use your intuition, use more paint, try a different color, make a collage before you start the painting or next time choose a subject matter or object to paint that you absolutely 100 percent are in love with.

Franklin adds another step before he gives his advice, which I’ll call Step 2: “go to a crazy-place.” The crazy-place is different for every student, yet he somehow seems to connect with each person in a deep and meaningful way. I honestly can’t remember what exactly transpired during our journey to the crazy-place today because it was a little hard to follow and I was trying to make sense of it, but it resulted in him suggesting to me that I cut my drawing into pieces to change up (and in some cases abstract) the composition, and then make larger paintings out of those smaller sketches. While other teachers had made this suggestion to me before, and I had thought that it was a nice and lovely idea, he stood over my shoulder and waited for me to pull out my scissors and cut the paper before he left. I had asked if I could just take a picture of my drawing without cutting it, and he said nope, you’ve gotta make the cut. He made me take the risk of ruining the drawing I had spent the class working on, but doing so really helped me see my work in a new light, both the actual art piece as well as the process of working. I’m excited about exploring this new way of working and am posting pictures from class today.

Fall painting at a glance

January 24th, 2012

I’d like to thank my friends who participated in my painting guessing game last month… but unfortunately no one guessed correctly! The correct answer was painting #4, which I call Oakland Sunset. Most people guessed the horse painting (painting #1), which my classmate Tej Greenhill painted. I’m speculating that everyone was thrown off because I haven’t been diligent about updating my blog and because I really admire the way that Tej paints. Below, I’m posting my paintings from the summer and fall semester. I played around with different subjects, so it feels a little scattered to me, but I’m in the process of figuring out what’s working for making art. Enjoy!

Guess Again!

December 20th, 2011

Back by popular demand, I have another guessing game! I’m posting seven pictures of paintings done by students in my painting classes from this past semester. Only one of them is mine. Post your guess below in the comments area, and if you’re correct, I’ll enter you into a contest for a prize from Thailand. Check back mid-January when I’m back from my travels. (Please don’t guess if I have shown you my painting!)

Arizmendi Mural

December 20th, 2011

Today I had the pleasure of painting a mural for Arizmendi, an amazing bakery in San Francisco’s Mission district. They are a worker-owned cooperative and make some of the most delicious breads, pastries and cookies I’ve ever had. (And I’ve lived in France!) They wanted their mission statement on the wall in English and Spanish, as well as some graphics that related to it, which is about making quality and affordable food as a co-op while supporting their community and the environment. They wanted the mural to look classic with flourishes, and have a hand-done look.

It was a blast to be in the bakery today, since the staff was gearing up for the holidays with all sorts of gingerbread cookies, shortbread lavender star cookies, and even shortbread dreidels. It felt a little like how I’d image santa’s workshop to be. It was great to be part of their team for the day. I felt like they had created a positive work environment, with people who cared about what they were making, respected eachother, and were having fun doing it!

Be sure to stop by Arizmendi to check out the mural and have some delicious goodies. They’re open weekdays (except Tuesday) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

30.40.50.60

September 30th, 2011

In an article about the New York art dealer Larry Gagosian, he talks about how he encourages new art collectors to just start buying. He said, “at times they’ll ask you, ‘How do I know I’ll like this in five years?’ Well, you don’t know. It’s a process. You have to get in there and start living with art and seeing how it changes your thinking and your perceptions.”

I had an opportunity to see my work installed in a nice, well-lit space this week, as I organized an exhibition at one of my school’s galleries for myself and three of my classmates. I’ve enjoyed meandering into the gallery between classes this week. When empty, it’s been a nice sanctuary for me to reflect. It’s hard to put it into words, but my mood changes when I enter this space. Maybe it’s the memory of all the meditative time I spent working on the paintings, observing my subject in silence, or just the awe of the final pieces; how the colors and brushwork seem to fit together so nicely with so much to take in.

The show is called 30.40.50.60 and includes work by me, Tej Greenhill, Eline Johannessen and Dominique Wohrer. We named the show as such, as we are four women artists one decade apart in age. I’m posting some pictures from the installation as well as this week’s reception. The show continues running through Saturday, October 8 (my birthday!) so please stop by if you’re in the bay area.

30.40.50.60
Bruce Gallery 2B
California College of the Arts
1111 8th Street, San Francisco CA

Mac seeks PC input

June 26th, 2011

Flipping through my college’s alumni magazine, I came across a letter from President Michael Roth, who coincidently became the president at Wesleyan a few years ago after leaving his post as president at California College of the Arts, where I’m now a painting student. Roth discusses a debate currently framing higher education: the importance of science training versus liberal arts. He writes that these two sides are embodied by Microsoft founder Bill Gates who values the sciences and engineering, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who prioritizes the arts, humanities and design. Roth asks, “So what is education, PC or Mac?”

Roth proposes that it’s not so black and white. Instead, he insists that the key to our future success will be to integrate the disciplines, and he offers that Wesleyan has seen some intense creative work with programs that link the sciences, arts and humanities. He asks us to consider thinking of education not so much as a tool to increase our income, but rather as a platform that inspires us to generate further curiosity; something that energizes us and continues to shape our lives in ways that we may not have necessarily imagined at the beginning. Getting back to the Mac vs. PC debate, he writes, “Successful education is a platform of lifelong learning from which new possibilities are created, and that works for both PCs and Macs.”

Although I’ve never been a “PC,” I took a class last semester that integrated art and science. My peers in the class included jewelry/metal artists, graphic designers, industrial designers, photographers and fashion designers, and together we put on a show to display our science-inspired art projects. The show was really fun — we had it in an industrial-feeling space off-campus in Oakland. I chose climate change as my topic and made a painting based on the book CO2 rising: The World’s Greatest Environmental Challenge by Tyler Volk. I enjoyed deepening my understanding of my topic through research. It seemed to open a window for more creative thought for me, and I liked painting something that went beyond just my imagination. I’m posting some photos of the show, my painting, the graph that inspired my painting, the poster that I designed for the show, and my artist statement for my painting.

Artist Statement: Humans do not have the ability to sense carbon dioxide. To us, it is an odorless, colorless gas. However, by analyzing air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice and by testing air from an observatory on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, scientists have discerned that the amount of carbon dioxide molecules in our atmosphere remained relatively steady over time, until it increased dramatically with our Industrial Revolution in 1850. This painting shows how today we live our lives in a way that is changing the composition of our atmosphere even though we cannot sense it without scientific data.