London Bridge Is Falling Down

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I am often drawn to art that chronicles urban decay.  I particularly love the abandoned buildings that dot the waterfront in San Francisco and the artist studio buildings that have taken root in that landscape, from the Noonan Building at Pier 70 to the Shipyard at Hunters Point.  It is not clear if Jenny Robinson’s choice to locate her studio at the Shipyard was cause or effect.  It is clear that her work is deeply rooted in that, and similar, urban landscapes.

With particular emphasis on the ordinary features of her city surroundings, Jenny chronicles the “cycle of decay and renewal” that impact our bridges, highway interchanges, billboards and, my favorite, the under-maintained industrial buildings.  She notes that “by exploring the dichotomy of these often abandoned structures, at once monumental and fragile, unsightly yet beautiful, I aim to bring attention to the drama of the over-looked and abandoned corners of the world”.

Jenny’s journey began in Borneo.  Her father was an expatriate engineer.  She spent much of her childhood growing up there; and later, traveling between Southeast Asia and Britain when she, like many children of expatriates, attended boarding school in London.  From early on, she exhibited a facility in drawing.  She carried a sketchbook everywhere, fascinated by the differences in light and shadow.  From these early experiences. she developed a taste for travel that persists to this day.

In the 80’s, she formally entered art school in West Surrey.  There she was exposed to every possible medium and technique.  Britain was a great place to study art.  All of the material costs were covered.  Art students could freely explore their world and find their voice.  Jenny found that printmaking (and to a lesser extent, photography) was where her creativity best flowed.  That was where she took her “foundations”.  After college, she worked in the commercial art worlds of design, illustration and animation.  In the later, she had quite fortuitously made a connection through a friend with film and video producers.  She worked on films creating special effects.  The work was project-oriented and it paid well.  With each project, she would save up; then use her savings to go traveling.  As was her habit, everywhere she went, she carried her sketchbook.  She would also bring a camera for “back-up” photographs.  The art that she produced was, in her own words, “popular, but a little too romantic”.   Before she became a captive of her own success, she changed directions.  The early work had focused on light and shadow, but it was, in her opinion, overly pretty.  She started to sketch grittier, urban subject matter; and her color palette began to focus on the ochre’s and gray’s that dominate her current works.

Jenny’s work continues to evolve.  At first, she tended to rely more heavily on the photographic references.  Stylistically, the work was very detailed.  More recently, she has made a conscious decision to rely more heavily on the sketches.  The result has been work with a more painterly quality.  Technically, the work has also evolved.  Printmakers are, according to Jenny, a very generous community.  They attend workshops together and share techniques.  So her work is always growing technically.  I am particularly intrigued with her current printmaking technique, which owes a lot to both monotype and dry-point.  She actually creates her images on cardboard, illustration board to be precise.  After creating the image, she seals the illustration board with varnish.  She then carves into that sealed “plate” from which she prints, in a process similar to dry-point.  This allows her to create the detailed drawing of the infrastructure which is her subject.  Then, to achieve the more painterly quality, she adds the color washes in 4-6 passes, in a technique that owes more to monoprinting.

Jenny has taught at the Academy of Art and Chico State.  She is currently a resident artist at Kala in Berkeley.  She teaches workshops regularly at ICA in San Jose and at the San Francisco Center for the Book.  She also participates nationally in various residency and workshop programs, including this past summer at the Cabrillo Arts Summer Santa Cruz Workshops.  She has exhibited nationally and internationally.  Currently, she has gallery representation at Davidson Gallery in Seattle & Warnock Fine Arts in Palm Springs.  This weekend you can see her work during San Francisco Open Studios Weekend Four.  And, her studio is also open by appointment.


SF Open Studios Weekend Three – “So, Where’s Mike Off to Now?”


SF Open Studios This weekend, over 200 artists will be opening their studios from Third Street -> SOMA ->  Downtown -> over to North Beach.  It is a daunting journey, but if anyone is up for the challenge, it is me.  And, once again, everyone is asking “So Mike, where are you off to now?” 

Well, I have already outlined 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 Three 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 (there is also an online copy here), and chart out where I am going based on which works exhibited appeal to me.  While there, if I have not picked up a copy of this year’s Guide, I definitely get myself a copy.  


Friday Night Receptions

This is a big weekend for Friday Night Opening Receptions.  I have a compilied a list here under “San Francisco Fall Open Studios“.  I am going to try to get to as many as possible.  For efficiency, I am going to start with the SOMA Open Studios that are having Friday Night Receptions.


SOMA Open Studios
689 Bryant Street

Io by Erica Meriaux

Io by Erica Meriaux

This is the largest of the Friday Night opening receptions with over 40 artists exhibiting.  They are hosting a reception and silent auction, with proceeds from the auctions benefiting RAMS.  This studio has a number of my favorite artists.  Erika Mériaux was featured in a profile: Artist and Collector – A Spark of Recognition here earlier this year.   Mike Kimball is featured in a profile on an excellent local art blog: Arteaser.  Other artists that I never miss the chance to visit include Tama Greenberg, Jana Grover, Renee Eaton, Suzanne Radcliffe and Deloris Thomas.

1544 Market Street 
Alan Mazzetti

Alan Mazzetti

Just a couple of doors down, Garage Gallery will be featuring the work of Alan Mazzetti (paintings), Dan Newman (photographs), Tara Gill (photographs), Dennis Smith (paintings), Henry Epstein (paintings), and Susan Tuttle (photographs).  Definitely worth a peek.  Plus it is a cool space with a cool owner, who couples his automobile repair business with a gallery!

340 Bryant Street
Sandy Yagi

Sandy Yagi

A few blocks up Bryant Street is a relatively new artist studio building.  The entrance is a little bit tricky.  You go like you would be getting on the freeway in the carpool lanes; but stay right and go past the freeway entrance.  The building is immediately on your left.  Featured artists:  Alan Brenner, Amanda Blanton, Florence Gray, Heather Sandler, Jonah Ward, Karl Roeseler, Margot Hartford, Sandra Yagi, Susan Joy Rippberger, Susan Taylor, & William Cooper

739 Clementina Street
ab4Catchsm_awHidden away on a small street just off 9th, is Liz Mamorsky’s magic castle.  I never ever miss her openings.  It is a really fun place to visit.  And, her husband is in the wine business so the house wine should be just wonderful.  I will be kicking off Weekend Three tomorrow (Friday) with a profile on Liz, so check back tomorrow morning!
One Rankin Street
hausDeparting SOMA , I head out to the industrial section of San Francisco just off Third Street for two last studios.  First up, the mostly sculpture studio fronting on Islais Creek.  Over a dozen artists have open studios.  I featured Rebecca Fox here on SF Art News earlier this year.  But there are many other talented artists, as well.  Some of my favorites include Alex MacLeitch (work pictured here) and Min Hwan Park
1750 Armstrong Avenue
patchen-vaseContinuing further south on Third Street towards Candlestick, I am finishing the night at Public Glass.  They say that they are only staying open until 9pm, but I am hoping the party turns into an after-party.  It’s been known to happen.  This studio is a real crowd-pleaser with hot glass generally being blown.  You may want to come back, in fact, next weekend for the Halloween Party on the 31st!  Hot Glass, Cold Beer makes another appearance.  Make a donation; get a hand-blown mug; use it to drink beer while you watch the glass blowers perform their alchemy.  Davd Patchen, shown here, was featured in a SF Art News profile earlier this year.

No time to waste on Saturday.  A friend of mine from Berkeley, Yoko Ueno Lewis is a Japanese designer.  She has never been to San Francisco Open Studios so I am going to show her around.  I am picking her up at BART and we will re-trace my SOMA steps from Friday night for the most part, but with a couple of notable additions.


Hot Studios
585 Howard Street, First Floor

Carlo_Abruzzese_552Hot Studios is a  design studio, founded by Maria Giudice. an artist and calligrapher.  It will open its doors for the second year in a row and exhibit artwork created by its employees: Renee Anderson (kiln-worked glass), Peter Jacques (collage) and Holger Struppek (photography) along with an equally diverse group of local artists: Ramekon (mixed media, assemblage), Carlo Abruzzese (painting, mixed media), Christopher Craig (mixed media) and Benji Hunt (mixed media).  Since my guest is a designer of some renown, I think she will really enjoy visiting this studio.  Also, Carlo, whose work is pictured here, is one of my personal favs!
61 Bluxome Street
BubblesIIMy guest also designs ceramics, so we will be stopping by The Clay Studios.  Most of the clay artists are pretty traditional, but Jane Grimm, whose work is prictured here, is definitely not.  I try to visit her studio every year to see her new works.




61 Bluxome Street 
storeshotWell, this is not SF Open Studios.  However, I love this store and it is not too far out of the way.  More importantly,my guest for the day, YokoUeno Lewis, has designed some of the ceramics in the store from Bee House.  And, she has never been to the store.  It will be fun to introduce her to Lisa Congdon, the proprietor (and a talented SF artist herself).






Sunday, I am going to be a little more relaxed.  I am heading over to Just For You Cafe for some eggs & grits.  Then I am going to visit the studios around Dogpatch. 

Noonan Building
Pier 70 near 20th & Third
HuaThis building houses some outstanding artists and it is well-worth visiting.  Iwill be stoppin by to visit Philip Hua (work pictured here), Suzy Barnard and Adele Shaw, for sure.  I also love the view of the San Francisco bay from this building.  There are some abandoned buildings along the waterfront that are incredibly photogenic.  If you have never been out there, be sure to add it to your itinerary.




2565 Third Street

PVOne of my favorite artists, Pete Villasenor shows at Graphic Arts Workshop.  Including Pete, there are ten artists showing here.  It is a great place todo your Christmas shopping!  Many of the works are produced in editions and. as a result, the work can be really affordable.  I am definitely bringing my checkbook. 




I am going to finish by visiting some of the individual studios.  There are dozens and I have not completely decided which I will visit yet.  But I will definitely go see  Kathryn Arnold, Reiko Muranaga, John Melvin, Katie Gilmartin (who is giving demonstrations & free stuff!) and Annie Galvin.

Support San Francisco Art & Artists & GET YOUR ART ON!

Five Year Plan

DimitriKourouniotisWhen I met with Dimitri Kourounitis recently, we discussed how his original transition to becoming a professional artist started with a “five-year plan”.  It soon became evident; however, that it was not really a “five-year plan”.  It was always the plan.  Dimitri Kourouniotis grew up in Greece and in England.  His father was an artist.  And, while he studied math and statistics, he always assumed that he, too, would eventually make his living as an artist.  Everywhere that he formally attended school; there were subtle reminders that art was really the road he wanted to take.  It seemed that there were always art classes being taught across the street or around the corner – in Greece and then in England.  He took evening classes and weekend classes.  From an early age, he had demonstrated an ability to draw; and, for the most part, he continued to concentrate on drawing in those studies.

Charcoal on PaperWhen Dimitri moved to the Bay Area in the mid-90’s, he went to work for a large technology firm.  Once again, the ubiquitous drawing classes popped up across the street.  Once again, Dimitri took those classes.  He got an actual art studio in 1998 and participated in his first Open Studios that year.  In 2001, he re-located his studio to Hunters Point, where he maintains a studio today.  With some early success, Dimitri decided to craft a business plan – a five-year plan to transition full-time to being an artist.  He took workshops with Cay Lang, who founded Taking the Leap, a business school for artists.  He realized that, if he was going to successfully transition from a mainstream 9-5 job to self-employment, working as an artist, he needed to understand the business of being an artist:  curating shows, applying to galleries, marketing his art.  It was not enough to simply make art.  If he wanted to survive as an artist, then he needed to know how to sell his art.

AbstractCanyonAbout this time, Dimitri was thrown a curve.  It was 2001 and busted.  Caught in the wake of that bust, Dimitri lost his technology job.  That was when he decided to turn his five-year plan into a one-year plan instead.  He began marketing his work to galleries, eventually showing his paintings in over 20 different galleries nationally.  He joined the Artists Guild of San Francisco and began exhibiting his work most weekends.  He explored alternative venues, working with McKinley Art Solutions, and exhibiting his work in restaurants, office buildings and cafes.  For the last six years, he has wintered in Arizona at Celebrate Art, a ten-week long annual  premium art exhibit with over 100 open studios.  And, of course, he participates in the Hunters Point Open Studios every Spring and in San Francisco Open Studios every Fall.  It is a wonder that he finds the time to actually make art.  However, a visit to his studio reveals a prolific artist.

Shadow It is interesting to track the development of Dimitri’s work over the past ten years.  His early works were, not surprisingly, mostly charcoal drawings.  This was, doubtless, a natural outgrowth of his formal training.  He was heavily influenced by Leonardo Da Vinci in general, and Da Vinci’s drawings in particular.  When he was living and studying in London, he had the opportunity to see a series of drawings of horses that Da VInci made as studies for statues.  These works had a profound and lasting impact.ClipperSt

 When Dimitri transitioned to painting in the late 90’s, the additional influence of works such as Theodore Gericault’s “Charging Light Cavalryman” and Jean-Antoine Gros’ “Battle of Aboukir” came into play.  He acknowledges a fascination with the large historical paintings of the Napoleonic wars.  The influence of their color palette, their energy, not to mention their use of horses, is evident in his early abstract works; and, then again, in the abstracted horses that emerged from those works.  For the past couple of years, Dimitri has been focusing more on semi-abstract landscapes which feature a bold interplay of light and shadow.

 Most recently Dimitri has begun to revisit his roots.  He is integrating his early work in drawing into his oil paintings.  In landscapes that he is currently working on, he uses drawing to actually document the decision-making process that occurs when you make a painting.  First there is the under-drawing; then, he lays in the landscapes in bold, colorful, almost abstract brush strokes; and finally, he draws back in a portion of the under-drawing, in charcoal over-laid on the oil paints.  It is a way to “pull back the curtain” to some degree.  I very much look forward to seeing a number of these works in the upcoming San Francisco Open Studios in late October.TheHeights-DrawingElements

 You can see Dimitri Kourouniotis’ painting at his studio by appointment.  He also continues to show relatively frequently in the Artist Guild of San Francisco shows. His studio at Hunters Point will be open for San Francisco Open Studios on October 31st & November 1st, with a preview party on October 30th.  You can also visit his studio by appointment.  In addition, he will be a featured artist on ArtSpan’s Tour des Artistes, a fundraiser for the Art for City Youth program, which I will be co-hosting, on Sunday, August 16th, with Alan Bamberger.

“Why Birds?” The Art of Zannah Noe

NOE_FRTSan Francisco Open Studios kicks off every year with a celebratory party previewing many of the works that will be shown over the month of October and into November, as over 800 artists open their studios.  One of the recent traditions has been to have many of those artists paint wine glasses as gifts of appreciation for the fellow artists, art collectors and patrons who attend the Private Preview party.  For a number of years, my wife and I sought out the glasses painted by Zannah Noe, adorned with her distinctive images of crows and ravens.  It was, therefore, a minor tragedy when, at a recent party, someone knocked over the glass we had carefully sought out, and shattered it.  I shared our misery with Zannah. She generously offered to replace it; and the result was a wonderful set of painted champagne glasses.  I share this story because I have admired her work for years, strangely drawn to her images of the birds – sometimes solitary, more often in groups.  And yet, I had never really asked her about them. 

When we recently met over coffee for the interview for this profile, we chit-chatted briefly – then Zannah asked: “How are we going to do this?”  I hesitated briefly and responded: “So, why birds?”  Zannah pointed out that the Corvidae family of birds, which includes ravens, crows, magpies and jays – among others, are the most intelligent of birds.  Many have self-awareness and tool-making abilities.  As a result, man has from time immemorial been fascinated with them. They appear in the myths and legends of most cultures.  They are iconic.

In most Western cultures, as we have looked to religion to provide absolute answers, the raven has morphed into a singular symbol of ill-will or misfortune.  However, in virtually all pre-conversion, shamanistic cultures the Raven has been a more complex symbol.  They are about the Zannah_Noe_Portraitquest for knowledge – knowledge which can be both a boon, but also perilous.  They stand at the gateway between this world and the after-world; they are healer, but not entirely trust-worthy; they are creator and trickster.  It is that duality that has drawn Zannah to them.  One or two in a painting, and they are waiting and watching.  They are about possibilities.  Put them all in a line, and they are gatekeepers waiting to take you to the other side. They are about transformation.  Repeating these images into the picture frame is a way for Zannah to tell a story, but not in a linear way.  Why birds?  It is because, for Zannah, the ravens and crows tie together many avenues of exploration.

In addition to her painting, Zannah also embraces yet another of the Raven’s traits: assemblage.   The raven’s nests can be works of art, brightly incorporating man-made objects in their construction.  “Her new interest in assemblage stems from utilizing her collection of objects and images from solely functioning as inspiration into becoming the art itself.”  The latest works are more overtly conceptual in nature, with the collection of objects contained in each box conveying a message with a wide range of potential interpretations.

fish_and_bird_It is interesting to look at the work of some of the artists that she lists as influences. There is the brilliant graphic novelist Bill Sienkiewicz. His seminal work, Stray Toasters, is a crime thriller with a protagonist, “Magik” who is either a wrong-accused, unfairly incarcerated hero, or possibly an untrustworthy narrator – you be the judge. She pulled out a powerful image of “Woman with Dead Child” by Kathe Kollwitz.   This German illustrator/printmaker spent a lifetime chronicling injustice in the world around her.  She studied under Carrie Mae Weems, at the University of Massachusetts. The works in series by this distinguished photographer exploreTransAmerica_Pyramid racism and gender issues and bravely challenge the establishment. And then she throws in Bansky, the infamous graffiti artist, whose work is both politically-charged, but also tongue in cheek.  Clearly Zannah is a little bit complicated.  With the Crow, she seems to have found a perfect avatar.  I know that for me, drinking champagne from flutes encircled by crows on glass branches will always be a little more thought-provoking from now on.

Zannah Noe maintains a studio at Hunters Point.  She is a landscape artist (Birds on a Wire & Cityscapes) and an Assemblage artist.  You can see her work at both Spring and Fall Open Studios; or at her studio by appointment.  She will be a featured artist this month on ArtSpan’s Tour des Artistes, a fundraiser for the Art for City Youth program, which I will be co-hosting.

“Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That”

Earlier this week I stopped by for a studio visit with Mitchell Confer, who was is the midst of preparing for this weekend’s Hunters Point Spring Open Studios.  Since he was working on one the pieces for a new series that he will be showing, I thought that it would be a good time to talk about “process”, and also to talk about some of the debates that swirl around the use of digital technology in art.

 confer-cityscapeMitchell attended college in Fullerton where he received a degree in Printing.  He then went on to formally study art at the Arts Center College of Design in Pasadena.  For the past 20 years, he has worked as a commercial illustrator, photographer, artist and teacher.  The marriage of art and technology in his work is no accident.  It was almost pre-destined.  His mother was an artist.  His father was an engineer.  He is the resolution of his left and right brain mixed heritage. 

 Mitchell approaches his work, as he puts it, “as a long running experiment, of sorts”.  We discussed some of the controversy surrounding the use of technology in art.  As he points out, most of the artists who utilize digitalconfer-wall-walking technology are not very transparent about it.  They seem to feel a little bit guilty that it was not all created with traditional drawing and painting techniques.  He is, on the other hand, unapologetic.  He fully embraces digital technology, which he combines much of the time with drawing, painting and photography.  For him, it is about “solving the problem”.  He talks about “happy accidents” – starting with an idea, exploring that idea, but also allowing “process” to take him in unexpected directions.  Because he has both an art and a technical background, he is constantly forging new ground in what is possible, particularly with his innovative printing techniques.  Watching him print multiple layers on a wood veneer is a really eye-opening experience.

 In the end, however, it is about artistic vision.  Picasso (or perhaps it was Matisse) said of Paul Cezanne that “he is the father of us all”.  Certainly there is a case to be made that much of modern art is taking the vocabulary thconfer-abstractat Cezanne gave us and finding new ways to use that vocabulary.  Cezanne intensely studied his subjects, more often than not landscapes.  He deconstructed the subjects and then reassembled them into planes of color.  You cannot help but to see that continuing conversation in Confer’s work.  He has a real sense of design, combined with a truly deft touch with an unconstrained color palette.  And, with almost missionary zeal, he is embracing modern technology and incorporating that into the conversation, as well. 

Mitchell Confer’s studio is at the Hunters Point Shipyard.  Don’t miss Spring Open Studios at the Shipyard and at Islais Creek, this weekend.  And, if you go to the Shipyard, be sure to visit Studio 2114 in Building 101.

Art at the Base Canteen

For many visitors to the Hunters Point Shipyard, their open studios experience begins and ends in the main complex, Building 101.  There are, however, seven buildings housing artists at the converted shipyard.  And, one of the most impressive studio complexes of all is shared by brother/sister artists: Robin and Monica Denevan in Building 116.  Both are very accomplished artists and both have enjoyed professional success.  Robin produces luminescent landscapes that are quiet, mysterious and yet strangely inviting.  Monica’s transcendent images of the landscapes and people of Burma are like prayers for harmony in the world.


I was curious to learn how their current success was reached.  In speaking with both of them, the quote from the Roman philosopher, Seneca, came to mind:  “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Both Robin and Monica are professionally trained artists.  Robin, a painter, graduated from California College of Arts in Oakland.  Monica, a photographer, graduated from San Francisco State University.  Their artist careers intersected at San Francisco Open Studios about ten years ago when they began exhibiting together in the hallways of 101.  Both love to travel and they began to travel together.  It was those travels, particularly in Burma, that helped provide new directions for both of them in their work. 

rio-tuichi-g1For Robin, painting has always been a part of his life.   Like most artists, he worked in a variety of jobs after college that allowed him to continue to paint.  He attributes a lot of his current success to his participation in Open Studios.  That is where he had his first real success selling his work to the general public. That is where his work was discovered, leading to early representation at galleries in Palo Alto.   And, that is where he continues to show and sell his paintings even now.   He has focused on his encaustic landscapes for the past ten years, creating a highly identifiable, unmistakable style.  When opportunity knocked, he was ready.  His commitment to his craft was palpable.

Robin Denevan is represented by Addinton Gallery in Chicago where he will have a solo show opening on June 5th.  He is also represented by Julie Nestor Gallery in Park City, Utah where there will be a solo show opening on July 31st.




For Monica, the path to success has been a little bit different.  She also worked multiple jobs, jobs that allowed her to pursue her passion for photography.  However, even though she too credits Open Studios with a lot of her success – Open Studios success has been mostly in direct sales.  For gallery representation, chance has definitely played a part.  Certainly it was fortunate that one of her clients, who saw her work in Black & White magazine, championed that work to a gallery owner in Los Angeles.  And, it was fortunate that Henry Rasmussen (founder of B&W Magazine) was ill when he was supposed to critique her work – which led to a follow-up critique at his home – which led to a profile in B&W magazine.   And, it was fortunate that a colleague showing with her in a group show in Cambodia forwarded a postcard of her work to his gallery in Hong Kong, leading to representation there.  But in the final analysis, quinn-and-ashleydiscovery, leading to gallery representation came from taking every opportunity to exhibit in group shows; participate in artistic critiques, and join professional organizations.

Monica Denevan is represented in San Francisco by Scott Nichols Gallery.  She is represented in Hong Kong by Tao Evolution.  And, she is represented in London by Capital Culture.

Be sure to visit the Denevan studios at Hunter’s Point for Spring Open Studios.  Their Preview Party will be on Friday, May 1st, from 6-9.  Open Studios is on May 2nd & 3rd, from 11-6.  Monica will be showing a new, exciting series of ballet dancers, in addition to her signature Burma photographs.  Robin will be showing some of his painting on metal for the first time, in addition to his encaustic works.