Saturday, February 28, 2009

Monster Drawing Rally Recap

As the public transportation gods were smiling upon me last night, I was able to catch the first hour of Southern Exposure's 9th Annual Monster Drawing Rally at Verdi Club

Over 100 local artists, including Brett Amory, participated in the fundraising event. Drawing in one-hour shifts, the artists' completed work was available for sale for $60:

Despite attending the early part of the show when the collection of completed works was smallest, the hall quickly grew crowded:

Megan Wolfe was one of the many volunteers that helped produce the event, staffing the registration desk, check-out tables, and facilitating sales of completed works:

Completed works were posted on the wall for buyers to claim. I was sad to miss the event's culmination with buyers positioning for works like floor traders on the New York Stock Exchange:

Watch for more events with artists featured on Arteaser on the Arteaser Calendar.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Weekend Guide 2.26.09

End of February already?!?! Last chance to catch some great shows around the Bay Area

Openings and Events
Sarah Newton at the Dorothy Herger Gallery on Thursday, February 26 from 11am-12:30pm

Brett Amory at the Monster Drawing Ralley at the Verdi Club on Friday, February 27 from 6-11pm

Ongoing Shows

Phillip Dvorak and Megan Wolfe at Bucheon Gallery through February

Dale Eastman and Zonal Home through February

Josh Hagler at Frey Norris Gallery through February

Mirang Wonne at the USF School of Law Rotunda Gallery

Mirang Wonne at the Ira Wolk Gallery in St. Helena through March 14

For more shows featuring artists interviewed on Arteaser, check out the Arteaser Calendar.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brett Amory

It was another dark night at the West Oakland BART station, where I met Brett Amory. I was the one in the trench coat and the red leather gloves. He was the one in the white hoodie and glasses. The story continues...

Growing up in Chesapeake, Virginia, Brett Amory was well exposed to creative people. His mother's large family included a number of artists and musicians that intrigued and inspired the young Amory:

"When I was really young [...] I always had a really strong interest in art, but I didn't know what it was. So, I'd go into art stores and just look around. I messed around with paper mache and clay and I used to paint with watercolors"

He began playing trombone at age seven, and continues to play music, but became very involved in skateboarding after discovering the sport at age ten. After high school, Amory moved to Colorado to work at ski resorts and pursue snowboarding, but after a couple years he had suffered so many injuries that it was time to move on:

"I grew up skateboarding and always had a video camera [...] I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I thought I might want to study motion pictures"

Amory moved to Bay Area to study filmmaking at the Academy of Art and began playing music with the artist, Gage Opdenbrouw. Through Opdenbrouw, Amory became more interested in drawing, but struggled at first:

"I actually failed my first drawing class, I was really bad. Then, I took it again and my teacher told me I was going to fail, but I luckily passed. Then I took a figure drawing class and the teacher [...] pulled me aside and told me, 'You better go to workshops or you're going to fail my class'"

That advice Ning Ho, the figure drawing teacher, proved to be a pivotal moment:

"I started going [to] two a week, then three a week, and then I was going every day. Then I started going to two a day, three a day.. That's really what got me into drawing, I just got hooked on it"

Amory switched into animation, but wasn't attracted to the video game content. After taking a painting class, he was committed to fine art:

"I think it was color. I was drawing so much, but to actually work with color and solid shapes and masses was such a change from just line and contours and black and white [...] Color came more naturally than value and drawing"

He began a series, called "Waiting," which showed scenes of people in waiting situations, like at train stations or in grocery store lines. Meanwhile, Amory worked part-time at a Kinko's and would create photo montages in Adobe Photoshop when the store was slow. He found that these translated well to working with resin:

"I would build these resin blocks - and they'd work the same way Photoshop works - [using] acetate transparencies in between layers [of poured resin], so it [makes] a 3D kind of image by the use of transparent layers [...] The way the imagery sits on top of each other, you can have different opacities and some layers are transparent so you see the layer underneath it "

Next, Amory experimented with building assemblages of smaller paintings on panel, inspired by David Hockney's image assemblages and cubist works by Pablo Picasso. However, creating up to thirty smaller paintings for a single assemblages took up to three months each and he was anxious to continue to explore further. Amory became intrigued by passport photos and began a series of small portraits:

"The passport is - they're interesting photographs - they're not glamourous, they're informational photography. Usually people getting their passport photo are thinking they're going somewhere [...] They're like mugshots, they're not meant to be seen, they're only used for to leave and enter countries for travel reasons"

Starting with an anonymous passport photo, Amory would create characters for his subjects, eventually assigning names that would be reflected in how he embellished the character's portrait. But became bored with the series and longed to re-introduce a computer designed element:

"Photoshop and computer manipulation is a huge part of why I'm an artist. I started doing Photoshop manipulations before I started painting and that was one of the things that got me into painting. So, I always wanted to tie those two things together"

Inspired by Chuck Close, Amory shifted to doing larger pixelated portraits, and then began adding sections of realism, but constricting his painting tiny squares didn't feel right. So, after a seven year break, Amory went back to the 'Waiting' series:

"When I did that first one, it was like freedom [... The first 'Waiting' series] was just about people waiting for stuff. When I went back to it [the second time], it was more conceptual"

Amory gathers his source material by taking pictures on the street of people waiting. He gravitates towards visible quirks and, by his own admission, a lot of his subjects are older:

"They're something about the way older people carry themselves. They seem to be somewhere else"

The disconnection between an individual's physical and mental location fascinates Amory:

"Waiting is anticipation of what what's to come. Most people, when they're waiting, they're not in the present [...] You can't really place where they're at - they're in multiple places"

To reflect the muliple locations of the subjects, Amory uses a computer to assemble multiple photos taken over time. The figure is repeated in the final work to show time passing:

"I think for me it goes back to film and motion pictures [...] My imagery - a lot of it is multiple images put together on one canvas. So, its the whole break up of time and space, and to me that's kind of what film and TV is"

Catch Brett Amory this Friday at the Monster Drawing Rally at the Verdi Club. He also has upcoming shows at the Hyde Street Gallery opening on March 27, at DaDa during the month of April, and with Terminal 22 for the month of May.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Katie Gilmartin

I met Katie Gilmartin at a show in December, where I peppered her with questions about how she executed her mixed viscosity and lino-cut prints. Armed with the story of her signature technique, I followed up for the rest of her story.

Always the studious type while growing up in Long Island, Katie Gilmartin's bookish tendencies were matched by her creative pursuits early in school. Indeed, a book-making project assigned by her favorite art teacher foreshadowed a lifelong relationship with books, words and the creative process, but the story would take time to unfold:

"I did actually more art as a kid than I did in my early adult life. Once I went to college I had this crazy idea that I had to get serious and buckle down and dispense with all such frivolousness"

Majoring in English Literature at Oberlin College, Gilmartin now regrets somewhat not getting involved with the reputable art program there. She went on to graduate school at Yale, first for literature and then switching to American Studies

"American studies enabled me to branch out a little bit. Whereas literature is pretty much you're studying texts, American Studies gave room for studying all kinds of things including more pop culture things, including doing oral history interviews, at looking more at art. So I started to get more interested in those things, but still I was on my route to a career"

Gilmartin focused her research on Lesbian History, collecting oral histories of women in the Rocky Mountain region about their experiences in the 1940s-60s. It was in this research that she was introduced to pulp novels and their importance.

"The 40s, the 50s, the 60s really interest me a lot. As a historian, that was the period I studied [...] Really interesting things were going on with gender roles at that time. Gender roles actually got more conservative then they had been in the 20s and 30s. And yet today [...] most people look back at that time and think that that's normal, that that's how gender roles have always been, when in fact that was a certain rather conservative [movement]"

With this polarization of gender roles, Gilmartin also observes a counter-weight in the portrayal of feminine sexuality. Perhaps not by coincidence, Gilmartin sees the roles and portrayals rebalanced in contemporary society: 

"I think there was an incredible power to women's sexuality in that period. I think it was in part because women didn't have access to power in a whole lot of other ways, but it seems like there's a lot of imagery of women from the time, and literature as well, of women using their erotic power - using the power of their bodies - in ways that I'm not sure happens in the same way anymore"

After getting her doctorate, Gilmartin went on to teach Women's Studies, American Studies and Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz for ten years. Although she enjoyed teaching, her academic role was unsatisfying:

"I was miserable! So, I started taking printmaking classes [...] It was kind of a shot in the dark and it ended up really working for me"

First studying with Debora Iyall at InkClan (now SOMArts), Gilmartin was initially attracted to printmaking by the aesthetic of WPA and Soviet-era relief-type posters and prints. However, after living in the cerebral world of academia, the physical application of printmaking was also attractive:

"Part of the reason I was attracted to [printmaking] as well is that it's really a craft. It's not just you and the paint. You learn your equipment and its a very physical medium: you carve your image with your hands"

As Gilmartin became more involved in printmaking, she began using educational skills to teach classes. Compared to the power struggle inherent in academic teaching, Gilmartin took immense satisfaction in teaching printmaking and she continues to teach today: 

"I really enjoy teaching in a context where we're both just there because we want to be [there]. The students are there because they really want to learn, not because they need to please me to get a grade"

Contrasting her happiness making and teaching printmaking with her academic role, Gilmartin's priorities began shifting:

"Part of what I was learning at that point of my life - it took me a long time to learn it, but it was a really big lesson for me - was that I end up happier if I follow what gives me pleasure. Sometimes I can't figure out why, but if it gives me pleasure I try to trust that and follow that."

Extracting herself from academia, however, was a long slow process:

"I gradually had less teaching to do and gradually did more and more printmaking. And then when I started teaching it became clear that between teaching, printmaking and doing my art I could actually make a modest living. And that finally gave me the courage to quit academia, but it took a while"

Despite having leapt from the ivory tower, Gilmartin's core academic interests continue to influence her work in many ways. On an visual level, she looks back to the same time period that she focused her research on:

"I get a lot of my inspiration from historical images, in part because contemporary society's aesthetic around female bodies is so focused on thinness [...] Thirty or forty or fifty years ago, there was much more of a celebration of a variety of women's bodies, but in particular fuller women's bodies. Which both represents me and also an aesthetic that I enjoy [...] When I was looking for images of women that I like to look at, a lot of that brought me back to that era"

Her "Pulps" series not only reflects a genre that she discovered doing her graduate studies, but it also satisfies her affinity for words. But instead of a library, Gilmartin frequents the pulp section of KAYO Books for samples of the over-the-top verbiage that defines the genre:

"I really enjoy working with words [...] The way I usually work is I come up with the text first and then the image kind of comes from that [...] I certainly use bits and pieces of actual pulps. Terms like, 'lusting hunks of women flesh,' I could not have come up with on my own! But a lot of what I actually do is editing them down [...] and really try to refine it down to convey the most impact in the fewest words"

Exploring many of the same gender and sexuality topics of her academic past, Gilmartin is now free to use humor and expression to engage and enlighten her audience:

"I think that there's a way in which poking fun or creating a satire of something helps people see it from a slight distance and maybe be able to laugh at it a little bit"

See Katie Gilmartin's work in "Hot! Hot!! Hot!!! Erotic Art" at the City Art Cooperative Gallery through February, where she will also participate in shows in March and June.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Weekend Guide 2.19.09

Mardi Gras may not be until Tuesday, but we've got something to show you this weekend. Just stop by any of these local venues - bead necklaces not required:

Ongoing Shows

Phillip Dvorak and Megan Wolfe at Bucheon Gallery through February

Dale Eastman and Zonal Home through February

Josh Hagler at Frey Norris Gallery through February

Mirang Wonne at the USF School of Law Rotunda Gallery

Mirang Wonne at the Ira Wolk Gallery in St. Helena through March 14

For more shows featuring artists interviewed on Arteaser, check out the Arteaser Calendar.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Weekend Guide 2.13.09

Love is in the air, so when you've finished reading ALL of your valentines, show some love for local artists by checking out these exhibits. Go ahead and wear your heart on your sleeve!

Ongoing Shows

Phillip Dvorak and Megan Wolfe at Bucheon Gallery through February

Dale Eastman and Zonal Home through February

Josh Hagler at Frey Norris Gallery through February

Mirang Wonne at the USF School of Law Rotunda Gallery

Mirang Wonne at the Ira Wolk Gallery in St. Helena through March 14

For more shows featuring artists interviewed on Arteaser, check out the Arteaser Calendar.

Dale Eastman

I met Dale Eastman at the opening of her show at Zonal, where I was intrigued by her studies of language and the visual and conceptual space between words. Although I was quite intimidated by her own editorial background, we met again for this story.

Born in San Mateo, Dale Eastman was the second of six children. Her father had been a cowboy who would buy herds of sheep and eventually became a salesman, so the family moved several times:

"It was a lot of energy - emotional energy - and a lot of movement. It's astonishing how much time that can take up. I think I was kind of the visual guardian. We all kind of took care of each other because we moved around a lot, so we [the kids] became a little tribe"

With all the activity and interaction, Eastman didn't reserve herself for quiet things like reading or journal writing, but she did take up sewing and even considered becoming a fashion designer:

"Sewing was, I think, the first thing that helped me focus and I think really that was why I was drawn to it as strongly as I was. And my mom sewed most of my clothes and I really loved the idea of that, that she could teach me something"

But after studying History in college, Eastman began a career in journalism. Becoming an investigative journalist, Eastman's work involved in-depth, personal studies of subjects like Jesse Jackson:

"I think what I was trying to do with other people was what I couldn't do yet with myself. And that was ask every single question, probe every possible nuance of every sentence"

Eventually, Eastman's career brought her back to San Francisco to be editor-in-chief of San Francisco Magazine. In 2000, she left the magazine and began writing fiction, but after a childhood and career of focusing externally, Eastman struggled to capture her own feelings:

"There was so much even then, in the fiction, that I couldn't get out because the words weren't enough [...] Writing is a very spacial thing for me and I could sense these literal depths and I could feel myself at times reaching down and pulling things up. After years and years of feeling this and not even knowing what I was feeling, I thought, again, 'What if I don't reach down and pull that stuff up? What if I do something that allows me to stay down there and record that level?'"

To capture that emotional content that was beyond words, Eastman began experimenting outside of writing, with photography and sound installations:

"Just to play with a different side of my brain, I started doing little projects. They're mostly conceptual, but not with thread at all. I was trying to recreate sound and movement that I saw out on the street"

Eventually, she gravitated back to her passion for sewing, connecting fabric squares with abstract thread patterning that contemplated negative space and oriented lines in other ways than the left to right horizontal stripes of text:

"I was kind of just examining the energy that moves between moments that we identify"

With the act of writing revolutionized by computers and word processing, Eastman felt disconnected from the writing process and craved more physical engagement. She thought about sewing the dictionary, to both connect to the process of "making words" and also to reflect on literally feeling at a loss for words:

"It was this physical, spacial awareness [...] part of what I felt was I was just getting so far away from literally making a story"

Meanwhile, Eastman was frustrated with the impassive direction of work by contemporary conceptual artists, such as Damien Hirst, and the emotional deceit within the revelation of false memoirs, like that of JT Leroy. Seeking to embrace emotional authenticity, she took a 1500-word short story she had written and sewed it a word at a time on individual squares and then wound the story in a large glass bottle:

"[To make] people to feel as close as possible what I felt[,] I made a tangled mess and created a story where someone literally has to go through the same process I went through and felt"

Having bridged her writing with visual expression, Eastman was ready to move beyond sewing words:

"I think this is why I love writing, but I think this is why I love art even more: With words, we think because we assign a word to something, we understand it. But with this, I wanted to get to those feelings where: 'I can't describe it, but here's how it feels'"

Still working with thread on fabric squares, every morning Eastman began recording her emotional memories from the prior day. She then strung the squares together and hung the strips from wood, creating a linear pattern that reflected words on a page as much as days on a calendar. What began as a square per day, became strips of squares per day, but some squares are missing:

"[It's] expanding consciousness, so now I'm to the point where I can pretty much remember everything that happens [...] When I couldn't remember a feeling from the day before, I left a space. So then when it's up on the wall and the string continues, what you see is the framework that holds us up"

In this context, Eastman's threads create a skeleton and the cloth squares, each with their cardiogram-like emotional recording, become the bits of flesh hanging from the bones. But in contrast to a written autobiography, this emotional self-portrait is not recognizable:

"For me they're extraordinarily supercharged because of what I went through. So, again, it's something that's simple on the surface but behind it there's an extraordinary amount of generally emotional information"

By recording and displaying without writing, Eastman plays with the very notion of verbal communication. Compared to her earlier struggle to find words, Eastman now turns the expository nature of writing on its ear:

"I think writers [or] artists of almost any ilk have secrets and there's a duality to a secret: a secret isn't a secret if other people know about it, but if other people don't know about it, [then] they don't know you"

Going further with the notions of secrets, Eastman's next project involves sewing boxes, but not always revealing the contents. Thus, after years of writing, her visual creations are now taking her further from words and deeper into feeling:

"For me, art is a way into the psyche of first and foremost myself; but then, because I don't think I'm that much different from anybody else, hopefully the culture around me"

See Dale Eastman's "Making Something Out of Nothing" show at Zonal Home through February.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend Recap 2.9.09

My first stop was the "Supernatural" show at Hang Gallery Annex, which included geometric abstractions by Facundo Arganaraz (below):

On display through February, the show also included angelic deer by Thomas Frongillo (below):

Focused on both animal figures and landscapes elements of natural imagery, the show featured ghostly trees by Ute Zaunbauer (below):

I then crossed the street to the main Hang Gallery, which was opening its Freya Prowe show, "Black Water":

In rich, textured ink pieces, Freya Prowe portrays a watery dreamscape:

Fairies, fish and other sea creatures inhabit and do battle on a monochromatic landscape that bubbles with fairy-tale tension: 

Prowe creates her pieces on a variety of surfaces: wood, panel, and zinc among them:

The show will be on display through February:

Finally, I made my way over to Frey Norris Gallery for the opening of Joshua Hagler's "72 Virgins to Die For":

Hagler's powerful paintings and installations explore notions of purity and violence across various settings:

His work suggests a darker truth to the pursuit of purity:

Hagler draws on religious, historical, social and gastronomic references:

The show is on display through February:

For shows and events featuring artists interview by Arteaser, check the Arteaser calendar.

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