Kristina Quinones – Emotional Sojourns

KristinaQ_Portrait_byBryanSunWEBMark Rothko wrote “I am not an abstractionist … I am not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. … I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions ― tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on”.  The work of Kristina Quinones falls squarely into this tradition of the so-called “color-field” painters – painters such as Rothko, Clifford Still, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Morris Louis, among many others.  What was revolutionary about their work at the time was that it aggressively and specifically separated itself from any reference to objective context and sought, instead, to convey emotional complexity solely with the paint itself, both with color choice but also with technique – how it was applied.Justice_WEB

When I recently met with Kristina for this interview, we danced around the question of what the work was about.  When someone visits your studio, I asked her, do they want to know what the work is about or do they want to know how it was made?  In a somewhat resigned manner, she said that most of the time they wanted to know only about process.  As I have thought about this for a while, I realize that I asked the wrong question.  The question implied that the process of making her work and the context of her work were two entirely separate things.  And, in the case of Kristina’s paintings, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the continuing evolution of color field painting, paths are forged with new and innovative ways of using paint itself.  The work is very much about the materiality of the medium.  New paths can also be forged more subtly in context – the way that emotional states are described sub-consciously in the work.  Kristina’s work breaks new ground in both of these areas.

Relic_WEBThe process itself is innovative.  Acrylic mediums are poured over a wood panel and gently mixed by rocking the panel, creating the swirling effect.  The movement itself is almost a dance.  No brushes are ever used.  Kristina describes entering an almost meditative state, but not in the classic at peace kind of way.  Rather “meditation” allows whatever emotional state she is in at the moment to be translated directly into the movement of the paint and the choice of the colors. Her work consists of multiple layers.  Each layer must be allowed to dry completely before another layer is applied.  The layers vary in opacity – some are more transparent, some more mysterious.  There are typically 10-12 layers; each layer interrupted by 3-4 days.  There is a constant battle between control and uncertainty.  And, each time a layer is applied the emotional state that is transcribed can be different.  The range of emotions in any given work can be narrow or wide.Breed_WEB

What would meditation look like if it was visually represented?  What if the meditation did not dampen emotion, but rather created an efficient conduit?  What if the journey that was described was not simply a reflection of emotional state, but also a reflection of emotional direction, not strictly a transcription, but also aspirational?  Kristina’s work is a complex emotional sojourn memorialized.  Process and content are inextricably interwoven.

Forgiveness_WEBI first met Kristina shortly after she graduated from San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied printmaking.  She was already transitioning to painting.  Although, even when she was printmaking, her process was non-traditional – eschewing the traditional implements of the printmaker in favor of more direct applications of ink fields.  The paintings were a natural extension of those studies.

Since 2010, Kristina has been widely exhibited, with exhibitions in that year at Nieto Fine Art and Mina Dresden Gallery.  I invited Kristina to be part of the inaugural “FourSquared” exhibition at Arc Gallery in 2010, where she was one of 16 artists who created 16 micro-exhibitions.  In 2011, her work was featured in “Shine” at the Berkeley Art Center. She had a prestigious residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts and was in their Affliate Artist program from 2010-2012.  Then, in 2012 she began working with Joan McLoughlin who has since featured her work in her 2012 exhibition: “Who’s Afraid of Color”;  and exhibited her work in art fairs in San Francisco, Miami and Houston.  Her second exhibition at The McLoughlin Gallery  “Sugar High” will open this Friday, November 22nd in San Francisco.


To arrange a studio visit or to see additional work, please contact The McLoughlin Gallery here.

Night Eyes

While fully half of our life passes in the night, still it remains in many ways foreign to us. We take for granted that what we are seeing in the daytime is what is there. At night, however, that same place can be completely transformed. There is a sense of something just out of view, lurking. We become hyper-aware as we stretch our sensory muscles. Edward Hopper in an interview about his iconic painting “Nighthawks” said that the painting had more to do with the possibility of predators in the night than with loneliness. And, it is that sense of possibilities that night photography seeks to explore.

For photographers, Manu and Greta Schnetzler the night is an adventure. Not all places are equally transformed by the night. It takes night eyes to see the potential for magic and mystery in a place that seems quite mundane in the daytime. So, when a candidate is discovered, re-visiting the place at night is a must. Photography is uniquely qualified as an art form to capture the emotion that the qualities of night evoke. We always feel that there is something unseen just outside of our perception; and, the camera actually captures a piece of that. Michael Kenna observed that the photography at night “has an unpredictable character – our eyes cannot see cumulatively, like film. So what is being photographed is often impossible for us to see. Certainly it’s a good antidote for pre-visualization”.

Manu and Greta have both been photographing since childhood. Their paths crossed paths nearly twenty years ago at Stanford. There, appropriately enough, they bonded over a Hasselblad. On an early adventure to Zion and Bryce National Parks, they first began photographing at night. Night photography is technically quite challenging and lends itself well to collaboration. Often there are multiple cameras, all shooting with different exposures. Lighting is jury-rigged. And, at the end of the shoot, it can be difficult to identify who authored any particular shot. The resulting arguments over who authored which images were soon resolved by simply declaring all images to be collaborations.

Over the years, they have been drawn to what they describe as “unnoticed places”. Always they are places that have a very different presence at night than during the day. As with the Potrero Hill gas pumps in the banner image, they often end up photographing things that “have been left behind to decay or to be destroyed”. I asked Greta Schnetzler to describe a favorite photo shoot. She showed me a photograph that they took near Bode in the desert. It was a group outing with The Nocturnes, an amazing group of loosely affiliated night photographers here in the Bay Area, founded by Tim Baskerville. The group came across an abandoned trailer. Greta and Manu were certain that everyone would come back that night to photograph it, but astonishingly they were the only ones. The Schnetzler’s are very “old school”. They use an old Hasselblad camera, a few Holgas and recently an 8 x 10 view camera. The photograph on Fuji Velvia film. For this shoot, they lit the trailer with hand-held flashlights and gels. Otherwise, the image is unaltered.

Many times the subject is a very ordinary object – such as a simple park bench in their San Francisco neighborhood. In an article by the French poet, Laureline Amanieux, the resulting image was described: “What does a bench do in the night while I sleep? Does it suffer from its sudden solitude or does the bench live much more without the trace of a body?” This anthropomorphizing of ordinary objects is a power that the night possesses. Film, as it slows the light, uniquely captures that. In the hands of the Schneltzer’s, the camera is a tool for exploring their environment. It is a way to see beyond what is immediately visible; capturing images that, at their best, reveal not only what is seen in these night places, but also what is felt. Manu & Greta Schneltzer participate annually in the San Francisco Open Studios with The Noctournes. They have shown in numerous exhibitions here and abroad. Their work was recently featured in B&W Magazine. Studio visits can be arranged by appointment.

“Ok to Burn” – John Fitzsimmons

On the afternoon of October 25, 2003, a hunter in the Cleveland National Park became disoriented.  He lit a small fire to signal for help.  By the time that they announced the fire had been contained a week and a half later, almost 300,000 acres had burned, nearly 3000 buildings had been destroyed and fifteen people had lost their lives.  It was the largest fire in California history.

In 1970, John Fitzsimmons and Kat Flyn drifted to San Diego from New York City.  It was not part of any real plan, but John got a job as a teacher and Kat started the first vintage clothing store in that city.  The store was successful and John soon joined the business.  Some of the customers wanted to rent the vintage clothing rather than buy it.  The next thing you know, a small costume spin-off business was born, ultimately swallowing up the original business.  It was quite successful and thirty years later, they began planning their retirement.  They built their dream home just outside of San Diego, surrounded by towering pines, near the national forest, in the town of Cuyamaca.

As part of their business, Kat had designed some of the costumes and John had photographed some of the models.  It was artistic to a degree, but both dreamed of seriously pursuing art.  Kat, who was and is a talented assemblage artist, had taken boxes and boxes of materials from the business, storing them in the basement of their home.   A lifetime of artist supplies was assembled and ready to go.  Then, on October 27th and 28th, the fire reached Cuyamaca and all 120 homes in that community were incinerated.

Remarkably, both John and Kat not only physically survived the fire; emotionally, as well, they rose from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.  John photographed the aftermath of the fire.  He took the photographs to a local gallery and had his first solo show.  It was a new beginning.

With no trees and no real prospect for trees, they decided not to rebuild in Cuyamaca.  Almost arbitrarily, they moved up to San Francisco.  They loved it right away.  Artistically, they moved to the SOMA Artist Studios, where they still maintain a studio, and they began making art.  Kat produces wonderful assemblages.  She also collaborates with John on his photography, making the trademark frames that work so well with his photographs of urban decay.

I have always been particularly drawn to that body of John’s work.  Last year, in the “Guerrilla Show” at Arc Gallery, I was ready to buy “Green Trailer, Salton Sea” when someone snatched it off the wall just in front of me.  I went to Open Studios in October hoping to find a similar work.  Then I noticed a photograph of three abandoned homes in Atascadero.  I had to have it.  The work, shown here in the banner for this story, was called “Ok to Burn”.  At that time, I did not know anything about their personal story.  It was only when I began writing this profile that the significance of the work become apparent.

John’s photography divides into two broad categories of work:  urban decay and fantasy.  The fantasy work has a staged element to it.  It is a touchstone back to the costume design business.  John cites contemporary influences such as Maggie Taylor and Jerry Uelsmann.  Overtly manipulated, the photographs are visual collages of imagery that explore themes of sex, bigotry, drugs, global warming.

The other works, which explore themes of urban decay, will be prominently on display next week in the Arc Gallery exhibition “FourSquared”, where John will be one of the sixteen featured artists.  These works have a political edge.  They revisit American glory, now left behind and rotting away.  Cars are abandoned and rusting.  Drive-in movie theaters are overgrown.  Houses are ok to burn.  Even the landscape itself is allowed to deteriorate from willful neglect in a series of works photographed in the Salton Sea.  The images are powerful, yet somewhat ambiguous; nostalgic, yet somehow bittersweet.  They evoke memories of the longing in Charles Foster Kane’s plantive last word: “Rosebud”.

You can see John Fitzsimmon’s work in the upcoming Arc Gallery exhibition: “FourSquared”, opening on Saturday, August 27th and continuing through September 28th.  He will be participating in San Francisco Fall Open Studios, the weekend of October 14th.  You can also contact John directly for a studio visit by appointment.

Deconstruct Reconstruct: The Art of John Waguespack

Our conversation meandered.  We spoke about his journey from finance to graphic design and then to painting.  We spoke about the “big break” – getting a solo exhibition at a fine art gallery without the requisite CV – no group exhibitions, no art awards, no articles in prestigious art journals, no work in prominent private or public collections.  We spoke about philosophy – Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” instead of George Orwell’s “1984”; how we seemed to have ended up in a world of information overload, where it is hard to know what is true and where we are desensitized to what we see and what we hear.  But mostly, we spoke about how we as human beings explore and make sense of the world around us and our place in that world.  It was not the conversation that I had expected.

I met with John Waguespack at the McLoughlin Gallery, the site of his current exhibition of new works.  Joan McLoughlin, the gallerist, was there with John.  Initially, I was most curious about how an unknown artist garnered a high profile solo exhibition.  Joan shared her experiences working in start-up companies in Silicon Valley – a successful career that allowed her to pursue her passion for art and become a gallerist.  She considers herself very fortunate and so part of her mission in the arts is to share that good fortune.  She gives back a portion of all sales to charity.  And, she is also very open to exhibiting new artists and giving them the opportunity to be seen.  A mutual friend and a fan of John’s work (which he became acquainted with through San Francisco Open Studios) made the introduction.  The large-scale mixed media works were very much in keeping with Joan’s sensibility.  More importantly, she was able to relate to his work intellectually and emotionally.  The paintings were social commentary without being obvious.  Those factors, combined with what had become a substantial body of work, led her to offer John the exhibition opportunity.  This is the first solo exhibition she has mounted for a previously unknown artist.

John grew up in the South.  The boom and bust times of the era in the 90’s and early 00’s, combined with a business school education, brought John to the West Coast.  He started out with a Japanese company in Silicon Valley helping them to market bad technology on the path to bankruptcy.  It was a blessing.  He received a severance which allowed him to contemplate the possibility that he was on the wrong path in life.  Returning to Atlanta, he attended a design school.  This was a step in the right direction, though still not entirely fine art.  He got a job with an ad agency back in the Bay Area.  Surviving there for nearly five years, he was able to land another severance package. This afforded the luxury to reinvent himself yet again – this time as an artist, a painter.

For the past several years, John painted nearly full-time, much of that time in semi-isolation.  He exhibited his work in Open Studios and in alternative venues, but mostly he just painted non-stop.  He retained some graphic design jobs to help pay the bills, but his focus was his art.  From his earliest experiences in school, visual vocabulary had always made more sense to him than written vocabulary.  He now firmly committed himself to exploring the world and his relationship to the world using that vocabulary.

Growing up in the South, which is quite conservative and was even more so then, John did not “come out” as a gay man until he was 26.  This was a watershed moment for him.  In one of the prominent works in the current exhibition: “1971”, John re-visited the year in which he was born.  He wanted to go back to “the beginning” and re-think his upbringing and his assumptions.  His approach is interesting.  As a culture, we have a very constrained attention span.  The media takes a complex series of events and edits them down to sound bites. John’s work is very much a product of these times.  He heavily researches his materials.  Then he distills the result in ways that say as much about him as they say about the ostensible subject.  It is transformed into a series of visual bites.  1971 is deconstructed, and then reconstructed as a highlight film:  Jim Morrison and Charles Manson; The Colts and the Cowboys; Soul Train and Nascar; Nixon and All In The Family.

In another work, “Lincoln in Metal”, John visually poses the question: “What would Lincoln think of the current world if he was reincarnated today?”.  This is a heavily textured work built up in many layers.  Layering is not so much a reflection of conscious technique as it is a reflection of sub-conscious process.  It is like an internal dialogue on the subject.  Ideas are entertained, modified, rejected, accepted, and finalized.  Only, instead of a verbal dialogue, in this case it is a visual dialogue.  And, the layers of the re-worked surface are the wake it leaves in the water.

Perhaps the best example of this process is his work: “Resurrecting Liberty”.  Here John explores the world in the aftermath of 9/11.  It is a great example because the consequences of 9/11 continue to unfold.  So, he kept re-painting the work over and over again.  Fortunately, he pulled out digital points in time along the journey.  This leaves us with a record of the internal dialogue. He said that he wishes that he had kept some of the works, rather than painting over them as his point of view on the events changed.  However, I believe that conceptually it is the process of visual exploration that makes the work interesting; and if there are casualties along the way – so be it.

I often ask artists how they know that a work is done.  John’s answer to the question was very illuminating.  He said that he knows that he is done when a work stops bothering him.

The current exhibition at McLoughlin Gallery has been extended through mid-January.  There is a “First Thursdays” reception next week on January 6th from 5:30-7:30 pm.  McLoughlin Gallery is located in the 49 Geary gallery complex near Union Square.  After the exhibition closes, work can be viewed by appointment.

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.

Curiosity Dissected the Cat – Sandra Yagi

Earlier this year we visited the studio of Sandra Yagi in San Francisco’s SOMA area.  Her studio is in an industrial building in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, but it has great light – very important for an artist whose work is rooted in life drawing.  While Sandy’s work often has a surreal feel to it, an exploration of her studio reveals the references that inform that work.  She is a diligent student of nature.  There are books on botany and anatomy.  There are taxidermy forms.  There is a skeleton named Frederick.

Sandy’s life as an artist was a dream deferred.  While she was always interested in making art, that was not an education that her father, ever practical, was going to pay for.  Instead, she started out with a business degree and a career in finance.  After Bank of America relocated her here to San Francisco from Denver, she began seriously studying and making art on the side.  With her business/finance background, she developed a formal plan to transition to art.  She and her partner settled into a very frugal lifestyle, saving towards the goal of being able to support themselves with Sandy pursuing art.  There was an actual business plan.  They worked with the most conservative assumption that there would be no revenue from art initially.  And, they set a standard of living for themselves that allowed for that.  This gave Sandy the time she needed to find her voice as an artist.

And, it is a fascinating voice, indeed.  Sandy is intensely interested in how things work.  And, at the same time, she is very interested in how different societies at different times have tried to unravel those mysteries.  Much of her work explores both the modern world’s scientific discoveries and the ancient world’s mythology looking for similarities and disconnects.

In one series of work, she specifically explores myth and symbolism.  She scientifically illustrates horses with detailed anatomy in one painting that is based on the myth of the Mares of Diomedes – horses with an unnatural appetite for human flesh.  The story resonates in the modern world as parable of nature punishing man.  She paints skulls with reptiles crawling around in the cranial cavity.  The paintings are not just a little disturbing.  And, it is not an accident that one of these paintings is in the collection of Axl Rose.  But the symbolism is again very modern.  It is a direct reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is a representation of man’s reptilian brain taking over.  Consumption of the bird in the painting symbolizes consumption of freedom or the soul.

In a more recent series of paintings, Sandy has focused specifically on the skeletal forms.  She shows skeletons having sex – an amusing reference to Petit Mort.  She illustrates Madonna and Child, where the child is a skeleton of conjoined fetal twins – the opposite of perfection.  And, there is a whole series of dancing skeletal conjoined twins, appealing to her desire to intensely study how the body works, but in a slightly twisted and highly amusing way.

Recently, Sandy produced a series of sixteen small works for an exhibition at ARC Gallery in San Francisco, “FourSquared”, that I had the honor of co-curating.  The concept of the exhibition was to showcase sixteen artists in sixteen articulated grids, effectively creating sixteen small separate exhibitions.  All of the works were small and affordable.  Sandy embraced the concept enthusiastically and characteristically.  She used the exhibition as an opportunity to embark on yet another series of works exploring the world both scientifically and surrealistically.  The question she asked was “What if evolution took a different path?”.  With obsessive detail, she imagined hybrid creatures:  Mandrill Demons, Feathertail Possums, and PigeonRats.  In meticulous rendered small oil paintings, she not only imagined these creatures, she also created entire worlds for them to inhabit. SpiderMonkey now graces my personal collection.

Everyone has a wonderful opportunity to visit Sandy in her studio this weekend as San Francisco Open Studios moves to SOMA for Weekend Two (October 15-17).  Her studio is in the South Beach Artists Studios at 2nd & Bryant Streets.  And, if you miss her this weekend, she will be featured in a solo exhibition at the Bert Green Fine Art Gallery in Los Angeles in January 2011.  You can also arrange to see Sandra Yagi’s studio by appointment.

Profile in Art: Sidnea D’Amico

”Warm colors, shapes and lines drive my work.  I like to work in series, and enjoy being playful with the subjects I have in mind.  I work with acrylics, often incorporating resin, Polaroid transfer, transfers or collage in my paintings.” -Sidnea D’Amico, Artist Statement

I recently visited artist Sidnea D’Amico in her San Francisco studio, where she was busy getting ready for San Francisco Open Studios this October.  Her work at this year’s Open Studios will feature recent collage-based paintings.  Working with a brightly saturated palette, Sidnea is concerned with her urban environment.  Her experience growing up in Sao Paolo with its particular graffiti style has been particularly important in her art.  Because graffiti is seen as a subversive act on the urban landscape, as an art form, it retains a traditional ‘outsider’ aspect to it, akin to 1960s counterculture and ‘bad boy’ personas.  The 21st century, however, has enjoyed a validation of graffiti with the work of artists such as Blek le Rat and Banksy, resulting in appreciation and enjoyment by artists and the general public of previously perceived vandalisms.  Sidnea has responded to São Paolo’s graffiti by re-purposing the visual memory of it in her paintings; creating a set of images that remind her of home, while pursuing her artwork and supporting her family in her newly adopted California home.  Such was her appreciation of graffiti, that, on a recent trip to São Paolo, while driving around with her parents, in response to their despair at the blight and urban decay symbolized by São Paolo’s prominent graffiti culture, Sidnea pointed out that the graffiti represented hope and beautiful imagery.  By the end of that trip, her parents began to appreciate their new discovery and pointed out their favorite instances of graffiti to her.  Skilled at representing abstract contemporary ideas, Sidnea addresses her environment using a visual vernacular that is contemporary and of the moment.

Born in Brazil, Sidnea studied photography and jewelry design.  When she settled in the USA, she began to develop her career as a visual artist.  Well read, literate, and articulate, Sidnea’s current reading reflects her love of biographies with a list that includes Lives of the Artists and Interview vols. 1 & 2 by Hans Ulrich Obrist.  She is multi-lingual, including Italian, Portuguese and is pursuing conversational French.

Among her many accomplishments, some of the highlights include:  California group exhibitions; shows in Dubai, Greece and Italy; an invitation to speak about her work at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts exhibition for Visionary Women; representative of Brazil at the Florence Biennale for Contemporary Art; and recently a third place award (while representing Brazil) at the Dubai International Art Symposium.  She has been invited twice, in 2007 and 2008, to participate in Hearts and Heroes, a public art project to benefit San Francisco General Hospital.  One of those works is now part of the Stanford permanent collection where it can be viewed at the Stanford Outpatient Center in Redwood City, California.

Visiting an artist’s studio offers a glimpse into a much more personal and intimate space than a gallery or museum. Sidnea’s studio, a bright compact space in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, is a colorful, vital place, full of paint samples, small paintings, sketches and most importantly, light. She showed us a few works in progress, a few pieces prepared for the recent group exhibition, FourSquared, at ARC Gallery; and, also, her more recent work forming the vernacular of her series addressing the urban landscape.

Meeting with Sidnea was very pleasant.  Young, pretty and bright, a parent, and a working professional, she was open and easy to speak with.  Recalling a recent residency in Serbia, she spoke of the beautiful rural landscapes and environment.  But she also noted her realization that her heart was firmly entrenched in urban visual culture.

Just for fun, I asked Sidnea to answer a few personal questions for our Profile in Art:

Where were you born and where do you live now?

I was born in Brazil, live in San Francisco

Education and occupation?

I studied photography and Jewelry design in Brazil, here I start architecture but drop to do fine arts.  Now I am a visual artist.


I always donate my work for non profit organizations that I believe is doing something important for the community. I absolute believe that when you have your heart into helping others, your life is enriched in all meanings.

High point(s) of your life?

While at JFK airport (New York), enroute to Brazil, after living in Switzerland, at the last minute I decided to change my path, got my luggage, and caught the last flight to San Francisco.  I had never been to San Francisco before but felt it would open my future…

When I quit architecture to pursue art, determined to never give up.

When my daughter was born – I will never forget that moment!


I used to love to travel by myself, discover new places, meet new people.  Lately I enjoy traveling when art is involved, meet other artists and show my work

I have been invited to Dubai, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and next year I will be showing my work in Poland.

Do you like music?

Brazilian jazz is my favorite

What defines you?


Are you a fashionista, cerebral, both, why?

I am impulsive, instinctive and emotional.  Inexplicably, I care about fashion only when on vacation. Here, in my daily life I just like to wear the same old jeans and t-shirt.

What entertains you?

I am entertained by my work. I deeply enjoy painting. My studio is my playground.  Also, I enjoy a good biography, the movies, watching my daughter play volleyball, walking in G.G. Park listening to music.

What is the best thing about your life?

That I am able to do what I do, Paint! I am thankful everyday that I do what I do.

-Micaëla Van Zwoll, 09.2010

Seeing the Man in the Moon

liz@RG09Liz Mamorsky’s work is a trip.  Living through the late 60’s and early 70’s, I know a trip when I see one.  I distinctly remember sitting on my bed, watching a montage of Liz Mamorsky paintings play out on the cinder block walls of my dorm room in 1971.  Well, maybe not distinctly.  By that time, Liz had relocated from the East Coast.  She graduated from Bennington in Vermont; spend time in the Village in New York City; then, made her way to San Francisco where the counter-cultural revolution was in full force.  Liz has a wondeful studio just south of Market off of 9th Street.  We spent an afternoon chatting about shared history.  Not surprisingly, when I pointed out the similarities between the light shows of the 60’s and some of her work, Liz noted that she produced light shows for rock bands with liquid gels – both in New York and in San Francisco.

Liz Mamorsky’s work has been referred to as “organic abstraction”.  Like the forms in the light shows, the abstact shapes are amoeba-like.  The roots of her art in the Op Art movement of the 60’s is clearly evident.  There are also distinct echoes of artists stretching from Hieronymous Bosch to James Ensor.  Some of her works, such as the montage in the current banner above, are identifiable as mainstream Op Art.  It is “right-brain” art, regardless of medium.  In heBeneaththesurfacer signature drawing and painting style, forms mysteriously emerge “from a tangle of brushmarks, spills and splatters, randomly applied to the stretched canvas, obliterating the oppressive whitespace”.  Those forms seem to live and breathe. I was very intrigued with her techniques.  With painting, she lays down the color and form abstractly.  She then spends a lot of time contemplating the result.  Human beings are hard-wired to see patterns in seeming chaos.  It is why we see animals dancing across the sky in cloud formations.  It is why we see the Man in the Moon.  So, as Liz contemplates her painting, faces and bodies – both human and animal – take shape.  She re-works the painting and the strongest impressions ultimately define the final painting. 

popRictusLiz’s drawings are similar, but also different.  With the drawings, the surface is not a blank canvas.  She draws on amate bark.  The texture of this remarkable bark is already etched with distinct patterns.  Again making art is a contemplative, meditative process.  But here, she coaxes her images out of the existing texture.  The drawing is surprising meticulous.  But the result is once again psychedelic.  Liz describes them as “little dreams or haikus dancing in the realm of the psyche”. ab4Catchsm_aw

In recent years, Liz has become well known for her sculpture, notably her art-bots.  She has been using recyled materials to produce sculptures since the 60’s.  However, it was only after meeting Allison Walton at Float Gallery that she started to seriously produce her whimisical bot creatures.  Float Gallery is a pretty interesting gallery in its own right.  It is a “urban art spa”.  Inspired by a movie that Allison saw when she was 16, the iconic “Altered States”, she started a flotation tank spa and expanded it to include a gallery.  Not surprisingly, Liz Mamorsky’s work fit right in.  And when Allison invited Liz to make art-bots for a show she was curating, Liz really enjoyed herself.  The process of the art was very much in tune with what she had been doing for years.  She would take recycled materials:  foundry patterns and old computer motherboards.  Then, she bigtiemoose028would lay them out on her studio floor, rearranging the parts until something anthropomorphic suggested itself.  The results are great fun.  Most importantly, she has enjoyed meeting the collectors and fans of the artbots.  It is, as she says, “like going to geek camp”.  For the past two years, she has competed in the “Artbot Division” of Robogames, where her work has consistently garnered acclaim.

Lizland will be opening its doors to the public for San Francisco Open Studios this weekend.  There is a reception tonight that you do not want to miss.  Liz’s husband, Mel Knox will be pouring his Ici/La-Bas & Uvaggio wines.  The studio will also be open from 11am – 6pm both Saturday & Sunday.  Liz exhibits frequently in California and beyond.  She keeps her calendar updated and current.  And, of course, you can always call to arrange for a studio visit.

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!

Burnt Kettle – The Art of Rebecca Chang


She was jolted out of bed by a smoke alarm. Miserable with a cold, she had dozed off and left the tea kettle on the burner. Rebecca Chang‘s first thought when she saw the blazing kettle was “Where’s my camera?”.  Thus began her most recent series: “Studies in K”.  It is a series that encapsulates many of the elements that Rebecca has touched on throughout her career as a photographer.


Much of Rebecca’s work begins with a journalistic idea.  If she is traveling abroad, the photo seriesChangR_OnTheNileDiptypch_2001 begins as a chronicle of that journey.  What makes her work more interesting for me, however, is the inevitable departure from that original story.  The early photographs are clear photographs of people, places, things.  They are easily comprehended as pictorial adjuncts to written journalism.  Her photos “In Egypt” could easily accompany a National Geographic story.  But then, at a certain point, her focus narrows.  She starts to photograph details directly or she crops photographs, excising those details.  The images no longer chronicle people, places, and things.  They transcend what she is seeing; and become how she is seeing. 


Another recent series of photographs illustrates this process wonderfully.  Piedmont Stables started as a mini-series about workers on break in various industries.  The ChangR_PeepingThomasina_2000concept was a photo-essay on who the workers were; as opposed to what the workers do.  Rebecca had met a woman who worked at the Piedmont stables.  They talked about this concept and it was arranged for Rebecca to start photographing workers in and around the stables.  She met and spoke with the owners a number of times; conversations that led to discussions of their relationship with their horses.  This led Rebecca down the path of exploring her own emerging relationship with these same horses.  She went back time and time again.  Sometimes she photographed.  Sometimes she did not.  Gradually she developed a sense of how the horses wanted to be photographed.  This led to images of details of the horses; images that became, in the end, quite abstract.  A series that started as a photo essay about workers became instead a series about equine nature.



With the burnt kettle, some of these steps were skipped.  Certainly the image of the burnt kettle was photogenic.  The early photographs in the series are simple photographs of the actual kettle in its entirety.  They are an exploration of an interesting object.  However, something about the kettle deeply resonated with Rebecca.  She would wrap up the kettle and put it away.  Then, later she would pull out the kettle and just sit with it, an object of meditation.  As she began to dissect the kettle photographically, it became a conduit of artistic communication bridging a number of worlds.  While attending high school on Guam, Rebecca played oboe in the Guam Symphony Orchestra and dreamed of a career as a professional musician.  Re-directed by her parents into a more “practical”ChangR_K3-13_2009 channel, Rebecca detoured for some years into finance.  Eventually, she decided that she needed a more creative job.  She studied graphic design, becoming credentialed.  Photographic elements of graphic art were particularly appealing to her, with that leading her to seriously study photography.  In the images of the kettles, one can clearly see the influences of her graphic arts background.  More subtly, when you view the work in a series, you can also see a distinct rhythm in the works.  Here is the influence of her musical interests.  In fact, this is why she named the series “Studies in K”, after the concept of musical studies: “etudes”. 


You can see Rebecca’s work on display with the Nocturnes tonight, Saturday and Sunday at Fort Mason.  Have her pull out her “Studies in K” and listen to the visual music.  You can also see her work at RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco.  And, of course, you can contact Rebecca directly for a studio visit.