SF Open Studios Weekend One – Where’s Mike Going?


SF Open StudiosWith over 300 studios to choose from this weekend, everyone is asking “So Mike, where are you going?” 

Well, here is my traditional strategy:  I go to the San Francisco Open Studios Preview Gallery at SomArts, 934 Brannon Street.  Before I go, I pick up a copy of this week’s Bay Guardian.  There is a pull-out map for Weekend One that lists everyone who is an official San Francisco Open Studios participant, along with their location on the map.  I go to the Preview Gallery, map in hand, and chart out where I am going based on which works exhibited appeal to me.  While there, I also pick up a free copy of the Guide. 

That is my traditional strategy.  However, I have been going to SF Open Studios for a long-time.  Therefore, I have a pretty good idea of where I am going this year and why.  So, time to spill the beans.


Friday Night Receptions

There are a ton of Friday Night Opening Receptions.  I have a pretty comprehensive list here under “San Francisco Fall Open Studios“.  Realistically, there is no way I am going to get to all of them on Friday night.  So my strategy this year is to start with some of the more “Off the Beaten Track” openings.  Here are my choices and why:


Secession Art & Design
3361 Mission St (across from 30th & Safeway)


Heather Robinson


Nate Tan


Brain Schcuk


Twelve Designs


Coleen Mauer

 Secession Art & Design  is near my house, so that is where I am going to start.  Since it is going to be a jamming night, I might go by before they officially open and see if I can get a private preview!  I featured Secession in an article I wrote earlier this year: “Alternatives in Alternative Spaces“.  It is one of a number of boutique/gallery spaces that have expanded the exhibition opportunities for local artists.   
3318 22nd Street (near Valencia)
Ursula_Young_281Next up: Fabric8.  This is another one of the boutique/gallery spaces.  Here the emphasis is definitely on younger artists with a Manga sensibility.  The emphasis is also on “gallery”.  Since opening their back space, the gallery exhibition space here is really impressive.  Fabric8 is hosting the open studio for UrsulaX and her “Altered States, Dreamscapes and Underworlds” solo show.  It kicks off with a Friday night reception.  And, since there is a distinct possiblity of some of my favorite street vendors showing up, with some luck, I am going to hopefully be able to fuel up for the evening’s art trekking, in addition to checking out a great show.
1084 Capp Street (between 25th & 26th)
hilary williamsdk haasThese are another two of my local neighborhood artists.  I have seen their work at City Art Gallery, Artist X-Change and Secession Art & Design, but I have never been to their studios.  I am guessing that this is their home, so it really harkens back to the original spirit of San Francisco Open Studios, when the artists who created the event, largely were showing in live-work spaces.  The work on the left is by Hilary Williams.  The work on the right is by dk haas.  About this time, I should be thirsty.  Rumour has it that the wine will be flowing, so I am going to see if that is true.
1890 Bryant Street (at Mariposa)
1890Bryant-ad-sm2If you can only go to one party all night, this is the one!  Cynthia Tom and Tanya Wilkinson are sharing a studio – both have been featured on SF Art News.  But there are 50 artists in the building and most will be showing on Friday night.  Don’t miss Jeremy Sutton‘s studio.  Always a crowd favorite, there is a good chance he will be dancing the night away on his permanently installed dance floor (who knows when the urge to dance will suddenly strike?).  This building has some of the Mission’s most impressive artists.  In addition to the one’s that I named above, I always try to make it to see Annie Arrasmith, Aubrey Rhodes, Katja Leibenath, Trish Tunney and Sevilla Granger.  Visit everyone!  This building has attracted some amazing artists – discover your own favorites.  This should pretty much stick a fork in me for the night.  After 1890, I’m heading home to rest up for Saturday and Sunday – so many artists and so little time.

I am going to try to get to as many studios as possible over the weekend.  For anyone who wants to join me in my marathon efforts, I will be starting at the Coffee Bar on both days around 10am – email me at mikeyoke3@gmail.com to let me know you want to tag along.  This means that my intinerary is simply too long to post, so I am going to just give you the highlights.  For starters, in addition to 1890 Bryant Street Studios, there are several large group sites that are part of Mission Artists United, which you definitely want to start with:


Project Artaud
499 Alabama Street

OS09-1.inddEvery year, I start my SF Open Studios adventure here.  Why?  Because this is “ground zero” for San Francisco Open Studios.  This is, as they put it, the pioneering artist live-work space in San Francisco.  A number of the original Open Studios founding artists lived at Artaud when SF Open Studios started 34 years ago.   I come in through the Alabama Street entrance and walk into the courtyard studio of Pico Sanchez, “The Prince of Artaud“.  I walk through his live-work space and enter into the maze of studios that is Project Artaud.  Once again, this is a building with a lot of serious artists.  Try to get to as many as possible, not only because they are wonderful artists, but also because the live-work environment is so incredibly interesting.  A few of my favorites, in addition to Pico:  Victor Cartagena, Carrie Nardello, William McElhiney and Dale Erickson.


Developing Environments
499 Alabama Street

EwingFrom Artaud, I am going to start following the footsteps on the sidewalk and street to the other Mission Artists United group sites.  Developing Environments, just around the corner is another seminal live-work space.  Not as many artists actually open their live-work spaces here, but it still definitely worth visiting.  I plan to visit the studio of Jennifer Ewing.  Her work is also featured at the Kathleen McMahon Gallery over at ActivSpace, where there will be a Friday night reception.  I will check out her work there, as well, since ActivSpace will be my next stop on Saturday.



3150 18th Street


Kristin Grahn

Where Project Artaud and Developing Environments have been part of San Francisco Open Studios from the beginning, ActivSpace is very much the new kid on the block.  They opened there doors to a vibrant mix of artists, entrepreneurs and trades people in 2008.  From the start, they have been demonstrated that they value community, actively participating in the Mission community and the community of San Francisco artists. Kristin Grahn, David Bontempo, Sandra Masae Kawano and Jonathan Yen are among the artists circled on my map.



Workspace Ltd
2150 Folsom Street

WorkspaceThe last major group site (whoa – think I need some caffeine!) is going to be WorkSpace Limited.  This is a major site with more than 50 artists, many of them participating in SF Open Studios.  This is one of my “don’t miss” studios every year.  This year, I have circled Maxine Solomon, Derek Nunn, Charli Ornett and Delfina Piretti on my map; but who knows what other artists I will discover during my visit?



Silvia Poloto
442 Shotwell Street

ObservationsGreen1And finally, my personal favorite – the fabulous live-work space of Silvia Poloto.  It is an oasis for a tired art trekker.  Who would ever guess that a studio this fabulous lurked behind the industrial facades of Shotwell Street.  And the art? Oh my.  I profiled Silvia on SF Art News earlier this year in an article that I titled “Art=Life=Art“.  Truly hers is a life that is fully immersed in life.  I am a traditionalist.   When I dine, I save dessert for last, because I love dessert.  On Saturday, when I over-indulge in art, I will still have room for Silvia, because there is always room for dessert.




After Saturday’s marathon, I plan to be a little more relaxed on Sunday.  Mostly, I will be focusing on individual or small group studios.  Here are a few that I will definitely be visiting:


Alan Mazzetti
834 Moultrie Street

MazzettiI have known Alan for years.  As usual, he will be exhibiting at the Garage Gallery on Weekend Three.  Here, however, is a rare opportunity to see his actual, real studio in Bernal Heights.  And since this is my stomping ground, I will be stopping by.



Rebekah Goldstein
69-A Richland Avenue

GoldsteinAnother Bernal Heights artist – I am not really familiar with her work.  Just liked her image in the catalogue.  I am a sucker for collage.



Somboun Sayosane
292 Whitney Street

SombounI have always been partial to Samboun’s work.  Plus, once again, the home studio is spitting distance from my house.  And, to some extent, the original idea of Open Studios was to open real working studios to the public.  San Francisco Open Studios is dominated by the large group sites and I love visiting them.  But I also love to visit the home studios right in my neighborhood.  And, that is what Sunday will be largely dedicated too.  I have not decided what other studios I will visit on Sunday.  And, I may visit some smaller group sites too.  But, I am definitely largely reserving Sunday to Bernal Heights, Glen Park and Noe Valley – as many artists as  I can fit in.


Hope everyone has as much fun this weekend as I am going to have and GET YOUR ART ON!

“A Place of Her Own” – The Art of Cynthia Tom

The idea for “A Place of Her Own” , Cynthia Tom’s on-going collaborative art project, really took shape about three years ago when Cynthia began showing work at the annual Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibition DAy_of_the_Dead_10-06__27__webin San Francisco.  This show has traditionally been dedicated to victims of violent death in the Bay Area.  It is not, however, simply or exclusively a memorial to those who have died.  It is also about those left behind and it is about art’s power to heal.  For the exhibition, artists create installation pieces of reverence and remembrance.  Often the installations are rooms – full scale assemblages.  

It is work that Cynthia Tom is uniquely qualified to pursue.  Since childhood, she has been creating assemblages.  She was taught by her mother, also an artist, who grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Sue Tom was one of seven children of a merchant-class father who was a gambling and opium addict. Her mother had been sold to him in China and brought to San Francisco in a cargo-hold.  After her father died when she was 12, there was no money for art supplies.  With no formal training and limited resources, Sue Tom fashioned assemblages from things others had thrown away.  It was, for her, a way to re-invent her world – one that she passed on to her daughter. 

Cynthia works in a variety of media – painting, collage and sculpture.  Bright colors, texture and 3D are all characteristics of her art.  In terms of process, she starts with a single germ of an idea or an image.  Over time she builds onflying_in_the_trees_2_op_800x1208 that seed, gradually adding context and narrative to the work.  The process can be a long one and she is often working on as many as 20 pieces at a time. Her background did not provide the opportunity for formal training in an art school.  However, my guess is that this is fortunate.  The unique combination of whimsy with a serious message that is present in her best work probably would not have benefited from a BFA degree.

Her art is an exploration of personal and social issues – those in the lives of her ancestors, those in her own life and those in the broader community of women, and Asian women specifically.  The rooms that Cynthia created for the Dia De Los Muertos exhibitions were extensions of these explorations.  Like many third and fourth generation San Francisco Chinese-Americans, Cynthia Tom’s journey began years before she was born.  It began in China and ran through Angel Island on the way to San Francisco’s Chinatown.  The experiences of her grandparents and her parents, experiences that hugely influenced who she is as both an individual and an artist, were often shrouded in mystery Boxed Set Meta IVand shadows. The stories were harrowing.  Like many Chinese of their generation, her parents were reluctant to talk about them. 

In the Dia De Los Muertos rooms she had license to more fully explore those stories. The scale of the project made her think about their impact on her in new ways.  She began to question her assumptions.  Which assumptions were hers?  Which assumptions had been imposed on her by others?  She posed the question, “If you had a place of your own, what would it be?”  Starting with an Artist-In-Residence program at the de Young Museum (in association with the Asian American Women Artists Association) in January this year, she has created a five-year collaborative project seeking multi-faceted artistic responses to that query.

You can see Cynthia’s work at San Francisco Open Studios.  She is also a featured artist on ArtSpan’s Tour des Artistes, an exclusive tour of select artist studios this Sunday, that raises funds to support art education in San Francisco elementary schools.