I have added some new pieces that were commissioned in 2013 and 2012, including in progress shots and final installation shots! Click on the image to go to the Art page.

SOLD - "Blue Rivers Run Deep" 2013

SOLD – “Blue Rivers Run Deep” 2013

I’m willing to bet that at least half of the pennies laying in the bottom of wishing wells across the world are from kids who’ve dreamed of flying like Peter Pan, unhindered by anything but the air rushing against their face. I know that was my #1 wish and could be the reason for my undying fascination with things that fly, float, soar or are suspended in air; could also be the reason I am dating a guy who flies in fighter jets for a living… Anyway, back to suspended objects like stars, clouds, parachutes and Jim Campbell’s Exploded Views installation at SFMOMA (San Franciscio Museum of Modern Art). At the entrance to SFMOMA you are practically oblivious to the thousands of LED light that hang over head as you walk inside, typically I’m too busy staring at the beautiful interior of the museum with the polished black granite juxtaposed to the rough granite that layers the staircase, wall and floor. The start white walls and brilliant skylight contrast beautifully with the artfully designed granite. When you climb the stairs to the second and third level it’s hard to miss the soft glow and slow twinkle of the lights. Once you stop to see that it is more than an overpriced chandelier you start to notice abstracted figures flitting across the cube of lights, that’s when you run back downstairs to study the signage that explains the piece:

This new installation by acclaimed San Francisco-based artist Jim Campbell explodes the moving image into three dimensions, illuminating the Haas Atrium with a flickering grid of light that is part sculpture, part cinematic screen. Thousands of computer-controlled LED spheres create the illusion of fleeting shadowlike figures that dissolve and resolve as one moves around and beneath the suspended, chandelierlike matrix. Exploded Views investigates the nuances of perception through a series of four different films, changing every two months. The first and final film was a collaboration with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet; the second studied a flock of birds; the third considered the unrehearsed movements of San Francisco pedestrians; the intensely choreographed fourth film captured a boxing match up close with a moving camera.”

Just HOW did he do that?? I have no idea, but yes, it is amazing.  My preferred view was beneath the installation. Before I knew anything about the fancy cinematic effect it had I stood underneath it like a cemented road block to the entrance of the museum. I was mesmerized by the hypnotizing soft glow and flickering patterns of the ping pong size LEDs. The not so linear placement of the lights paired with the blinking action reminds you of a bright night sky filled with the twinkle of stars. The view from the stairs is more like watching a number of silhouettes gracefully dancing across a 3D screen. The figures fade in and out of recognition allowing your eyes to rest on the entire screen instead of trying to watch the figures specifically. It would be fascinating to see this piece with the museum in complete darkness; what an experience to have those LEDs illuminate the space and the silhouettes create an even bigger contrast on their screen. I can’t wait to see what Jim Campbell does next! He is being honored at the 2012 Bay Area Treasure Award banquet tomorrow evening!

As a graduate student of art history I spend all my time studying the eccentricities and intimate details of art and its creators. I look into the artist’s life to detect any connections that may have not been seen before, I look for reasons why they may have done something in particular and I analyze; above all else we analyze. Artists are complicated characters that more often than not create a web of confusion for art historians. Through letters, journals, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews and biographies we try to piece together lives of the past to get a clearer picture of the treasured works of art we cherish so. But will we ever really know? Will we ever be able to confidently say exactly why Caravaggio decided to paint with ferocious intensity and shock the world as he knew it? No.

I think there are so art historians that feel like they know an artist better than they know themselves, or even better than an artist knew themselves. Unfortunately, it just isn’t the case. For years art has been an outlet for me. Anger or sadness was the biggest motivator of all. I never quite realized that until I thought about my most recent hiatus from painting. Why had I stopped? Was it really because I was ‘busy’? Or was it because my life was without turmoil for a longer period of time then I was used to? If I do not realize the motivations initially… How would an art historian? Better yet, how would they know if my motivations changed? The dynamics of anyone’s urges are complicated, I can only imagine the reasons behind someone like Van Gogh or Edvard Munch’s actions.

That’s the gist of my 2:30am thought after a productive night of painting, happy painting. No turmoil motivated this session, hence the late night ramble!

I started this painting last year, around this time. I did the sketch and color theme then painted the sketch on the canvas with an ochre ground, shaded. This is the 2nd phase, I am thinking I will need another two sessions to complete it.

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Mesmerized by the ever so slight sway of the collective cube, I stood there in awe, soaking up the experiential qualities of way lay in front of me. I had never seen something so beautiful come of such an ugly act. Hundreds of charred pieces of wood hung suspended as if an explosion was frozen in time, captured just as the pieces started to rip away from each other. The smaller pieces lay on the outskirts of the implied cube, slowly rotating in the air as would a spider dangling from its thin line of web in a summer breeze. As my eyes moved slowly into the center, the pieces became larger and one could see how they may fit snugly into one another like puzzle pieces. They sparkled with the crystals of carbon saturating the surface, the wood glimmered in the sunshine that poured through the walls of glass. Knowing the surface of the wood would be tender and unstable to the touch from the break down of organic material, the sleek, hard, manufactured walls surrounding it only further implied the fragility of the elements. The result of an intense fire and complete annihilation of the structure it once was, the slivers, splinters, shards and stakes of wood peacefully danced together in a silent symphony. Each piece pointing to one another, each piece allowing your eye to gracefully connect them as if trying to reverse the destruction that created it. I felt as if all of a sudden there would be a rewind and all the small elements would snap back, connecting with the larger elements until the structure was once again whole. The beauty of it was that it would remain, suspended in time, remembering what it once was and knowing its renewed purpose.

 

Cindy Sherman’s work is like a trick question. At first glance you see a lost, scared, beautiful woman captured at an unsure moment in quick need of help, or so it seems. Her steep angles and versatile background settings, chameleon like appearance and convincing expressions cause the viewer to have some deja vu. “Have I seen this movie?” “Who is this actress?” “Which Alfred Hitchcock movie is this still from?” When in fact all of the above do not apply. Her witty titles for this series Untitled Film Stills from 1977-80 convinces the viewer that they are looking at film still from the 50′s, or even older. In return for the uneducated (in art history) viewers’ ignorance Sherman slaps them with the reality of the series, things are not as they seem. 

 
 
 
The issue of male gaze cannot be ignored when analyzing the familiar yet unknown film scenes that Sherman has materialized. Laura Mulvey reveals the pleasure people experience in watching films, with characters like Sherman in them. In Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Mulvey argues that the pleasure people seek in films is that of scopophilia and identification with the ideal ego, the main male character, or the hero in the film. The pleasure is not unisex though, it is divided between the active male (actor and viewer) and the passive female (actress and viewer). Only male viewers can completely identify with the active male actor, according to Mulvey. The female viewer can try to identify or just play the passive viewer. This dynamic focuses films and their entertainment value on satisfying the male ego, hence the passive female actresses that do not pose any threat to the male character. In fact her presence is an affirmation of the strength of the male character because the female will typically need him in some fashion, and he will not be in need of her aside from her physical or aesthetic presence.
 
Sherman touches on both of these pleasure points by turning the viewer of her film still into the voyeur. She places them in a position of voyeurism and therefore by looking at her work, they are receiving the pleasure of non-consequential gazing. The moment she captures herself, or the unknown female character, is always a tense, dramatic moment and the viewer expects the male character to arrive onsite at anytime to assist her in her distress. The absence of the male character is in fact a reinforcement of his presence, an unseen presence. The viewer, therefore still  identifies with him, whether male or female.
Skin deep is never something that describes the multi-faceted works of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. He has his hands in many pots including blogging, sculpting, photography, humanitarian and internet activism, that he can’t help but create dynamic works that have a voice of their own.

At first glance this piece, Map of China (2004) looks like a beautiful, quality sculpture of the map of China, as the title describes. The sculpture is completed with excellent technical virtuosity. Ai Weiwei hires traditional Chinese carpenters to join his wood pieces together without the use of nails to present a seamless presentation. This is the one way the view can look at the piece, a 3-D wood map of China. However, after a small amount of research one can find that Ai Weiwei uses pieces of 14th-17th century wood from dismantled Chinese temples to create the map. Is this piece now a tool for his anti-authority voice that he publicly shares with the world? Are the old materials used to make a Contemporary artwork a comment on how the old and new can co-exist in China? Can the piece remain “voiceless” with the viewer knowing where the material came from and more importantly the artist’s activist background?

Kathe Kollwitz immediately came to mind as I started reading D’Alleva’s chapter on context and even more as I was reading Paul Wood and Terry Smiths essays in ” Critical Terms”. I would say that her work encapsulates all of the contexts described, however I firmly believe she was not a feminist  nor did she attempt to promote women’s suffrage or liberation in her work even though it has been argued that she did. Kollwitz was a self proclaimed Socialist from a very early age. Her politics evolved as she grew older as did her work. I will be using a work from her earliest years of production and one from her mid-career when she largely produced wood cuts.

This etching, Riot, done in 1897 was part of a series calledWeavers. The series was based off of the play The Weavers produced by Gehardt Hauptmann in 1892. The plot of the play was appropriated from a workers revolt that happened in the mountainous region of Prussia early in the 19th century. The play had obvious Socialist leanings and the Kollwitz family became good friends with the playwright. As a Socialist living in a conservative Germany, Kollwitz was very active politically despite the dangers of doing so. This etching and the series it belongs to is a great example of her bravado regarding the social context of her time. Kollwitz’s friend entered this series into the Berlin juried art competition and Kollwitz was selected to win but a suggestion “from above” prevented her from winning first place. It was said that her series was too radical to be celebrated in that light. This piece can be viewed an analyzed many different ways but the Marxist reading is so obvious, it cannot be ignored.
The medium alone that Kollwitz uses speaks to the commodification and production of Marxist theory. Terry Smith discusses production as a two pronged word that can mean creating something from raw material and also a presentation, exhibit or play. Kollwitz embodies both of these meanings within this series of work. By transforming raw materials into etchings she is able to communicate immaterial concepts. A production within a production. Her and her husband were more well off than the people within the community they lived in. Kollwitz often strived to assist the people around her in anyway she could, including making her work accessible to them. She was able to reproduce her pieces inexpensively by doing etchings, woodcuts and lithographs. In this sense she was able to disseminate her images that encouraged her political and personal leanings that many people around her shared. D’Alleva says that art, from a Marxist perspective, is an “idealogical form” that revolutionaries may use to undermine the power of the dominant class. (p.50) I think that Kollwitz is definitely using her talent and abilities to create an ideological series to support the oppressed classes of Germany. In the same way that D’Alleva and Smith relate Courbet to the working man and the labor in which he strives to present to his audience, Kollowitz also does this. She isn’t showing the people working as weavers, but she is showing their reaction against the injustice they are experiencing as underpaid weavers. The diagram that Marx formulates is also evident in this piece. The superstructure would be the ‘unseen’ but given owners that are cutting the wages of the weavers, causing the riots. The weavers are the base. They are being mistreated in order for the owners to continually receive their profit.

This next image was done in 1920 by Kollwtiz. This is, in my opinion, when her political views and artistic style begins to evolve. She starts out as an outspoken Socialist and drifts into a more passive role that touches on Communism and eventually into complete pacifism where she yearns for the cessation of destruction and death. This poster is in reaction to the brutal assassination of the Communist leader Karl Liebenknecht who was leading a revolt against the Socialist government in 1919. Like I said previously, to ignore the social history of this piece would be a disservice to it and the viewer. D’Alleva describes the social history of art as “focusing on the role of art in society rather than on iconography or stylistic analysis.”(p.54) The woodcut above plays a significant role in the society in which it was created, in the same breath, the society that Kollwitz lived in also had a large effect on the work. This poster was not uncommon to see in Germany. In fact even the politically charged works of Kollwtiz were collected and cherish by the Nazis later on and other political persons who ignored the polemic ideals behind her works. Although Craig Clunas discusses the social history of art as a methodology that has long since been on its way out, I think there are certain cases like this one that it is a methodology suited perfectly to analyze a piece. In his comment regarding Robert Shift’s thought that the linkage between art and the environment surrounding it is a largely German scholarship, it makes me wonder if it is also a tendency of German artists to make art that is so heavily contextualized within the society it is produced.

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