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!

Illusion of Choice – The Art of Tanya Wilkinson

tanya-2The most recent works by Tanya Wilkinson are a series of half life-sized paper dolls collaged over layers of fashion magazine layouts.  They are inspired, in part, by the semi-destroyed temporary walls that you often see surrounding construction sites.  The walls are plastered with tattered posters making vague promises, partially peeled away; revealing fragments of older posters with more vague promises. I was really taken with one of these new works in particular.  Tanya was struggling with a title for that work and she threw out a few possibilities.  The potential title that immediately resonated was “Illusion of Choice”.  It was a title that, for me, tied together many of the threads running throughout her art.

 Tanya’s career as an artist was nearly stillborn.  She began formally studying art in college.  Ambient (window) lightHowever, in one of her first classes in painting, the professor was quite dismissive of her efforts.  For him, the only work that was “worthy” was abstract expressionism.  He characterized her piece, which incorporated quilt collage elements, as “very feminine”.  This was not a compliment.  The tone was sexist and derisive; and it led to a ten year hiatus from seriously making art.  Tanya’s immediate reaction was to seek out the only department with a tenured female professor. That department was the Psychology Department.  Thus began her professional career as a practicing clinical psychologist.  She is also on the faculty of California Institute of Integral Studies where she teaches Clinical Psychology. It was a serendipitous detour for her artistic career.  Her professional work combining feminism and Jungian theory/practice has deeply informed her art. 

Tanya Wilkinson  When cotton was King

After the decade long, self-imposed exile from art, Tanya’s initial artistic explorations were more about texture and less about context.  She, by her own account, “obsessed” with papermaking.  She made paper from every conceivable fiber possibility.  Stacks of handmade paper accumulated everywhere.  When a certain critical mass was achieved, she started to work with the paper in collages, eventually expanding her experiments into sculptural castings.  This direction in art was not really an accident.  Tanya was born without depth perception.  And, it is only natural that her artistic work would involve a physical exploration of space. 

About ten years ago, Tanya took an intensive workshop with renowned book artist, Julie Chen at Mills College.  Slowly content had begun to infuse her work.  The results were typically “one offs” that she exhibited in a series of feminist shows.  There she met artist and curator, Tricia Grame.  This “force of nature” strongly encouraged Tanya to focus on “the political, autobiographical and narrative elements of the Feminist Art Movement” that sharply define her work today.  

Artist BookThe exploration of the nature of the choices that women make is a recurring exploration in Tanya Wilkinson’s work.  In recent years, she has specifically investigated the place that women occupy in society.  Which of the choices that women make are fundamental? Which are illusionary?  In her “Female Personae” series, the focus was on women’s clothing.  In many cultures, clothing is specifically used to subjugate women:  bound feet and burqas.  However, even here and now, in this most “modern” of societies, women love their clothes, but their clothes do not love them back.  High heels injure.  Corsets and underwire injure.  Skin tight pants and dresses injure.  These are the obvious physical injuries.  Layers of more subtle psychological injury are reflected in the collaged mixed-media layers from which Tanya fashions her garments.  

Pieces like ‘Strap/Yoke/Halter/Hook’, which sports a skirt decorated with the names of menacing-sounding fashions or ‘GoodGood Mornin' Little Schoolgirl Mornin’ Little School Girl’, a sweet little sundress fabricated from escort and massage parlor ads, use rather blatant strategies to show the seductiveness of a persona that injures.

Women invest massive resources of time, energy and money making choices about their physical appearance.  These decisions create the illusion of choice.  Deeply ingrained cultural patterns obscure the real choices surrounding this need to create a public personae; this need for some sort of idealized presentation of self.  As Tanya points out:

Female personae are pretty things made of sinister materials. They are a feminine disguise that slowly and surely confuses both the wearer and the beholder as to the nature of the person within. Yet, the seductiveness of Feminine disguise remains largely impervious to this insight. That is the conundrum that my work explores.

 Tanya Wilkinson maintains a studio at the Noonan Building in San Francisco.  Her work consists of Mixed Media Paintings and Artist Books.  She will be participating in Fall Open Studios during October.  You can also visit her studio by appointment.  In addition, she 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, next Sunday, August 16th, with Alan Bamberger.  Tanya is also a published author.  She is currently writing a book, entitled Joy in the Making:  Artist’s Dreams and the Recovery of Delight in Art-Making, to be published by Council Oak Books later this year.