Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The San Diego Art Institute Regional Awards Exhibition Sparks Some Memorable Works: By Cathy Breslaw

The San Diego Art Institute’s current Regional Awards Exhibition is a large display of ninety works, selected from 360 entries by judge, Deborah Klochko, Executive Director of the Museum of Photographic Arts. The exhibition is a combination of painting, sculpture, drawings, photography, monotype and assemblage. As it is with many open call competitions, quality and technical skill of the artists included varies greatly, but several works emerge as standouts.

Artist Diane Brunner’s sculptural work “Be Fabulous - Don’t Let One Thing Ruin Your Life”, is a charming mixed media piece portraying a ton of small paper maiche human figures, signs and messages, animals, boats, buildings and the ocean- all crowded into a small space. The work creates the sense of the bustling,lively activity of the San Diego harbor during tourist season - all seemingly sliding off of a somewhat vertical plane. The piece is protected by a clear acrylic frame.

Warren Bakley’s “Relic”, a quietly compelling clay stoneware wall sculpture, portrays an abstract-like figure of a man in neutral gray-black tones. The face, which curiously has no features, almost seems to be melting or burning however the gesture of the figure appears stoic. The figure’s abstract forms create the feeling of a traveler dressed from an earlier era in time.

 “The Dream I Had Today”, an assemblage by artist Michael McAlister, is a wall piece - a small black chest housing a white skull-like object, stone, cork, photograph, and medicine bottle. A serpent-like head sits atop the chest leaving the viewer to wonder what personal story that snake might tell if he could talk.

 Cheryl Griffith’s “Hope”, a monotype with dry point which received a merit award, is a personal and charming tribute to the idea of “hope”. It portrays a young boy’s head looking out sideways with a bluebird perched on his head. A quote about “hope”  by Emily Dickinson is printed prominently across the figure, seemingly indicating Griffith’s heartfelt thoughts about “hope”.

The quietly present and smaller work “Floating City”, by Brandon Holmes, is a well crafted detailed realistic graphite drawing portraying Romanesque buildings, eighteenth century sailing vessels and three figures holding up some of the buildings. This fantastical drawing appears to be structured around the front end of a ship suggesting a mythological story that only the artist knows.

Across a vertically painted gray wall, artist Judith Parenio exhibits “Pollen”, a well designed sculptural work made of several hexagonal wooden/encaustic elements referring  to shapes in a honeycomb. Bats, birds, bees, and plants are the subject matter suggesting Parenio’s obvious love of nature.

 “Modern Woman Story” by Bhavna Mehta, is a black paper-cut work attached to a framed white background. As a traditional Indian art form spanning hundreds of years, this piece follows well In this traditions’ footsteps. Mehta depicts a personal journey of childhood symbols- kites, daisies, a girl playing basketball and reading a biology book.

 In the category of painting, there were three pieces of note by Eva D’Amico, John Brodie and Lauren Carrerera. D’Amico’s “Protecting Innocence”, refers to impressionistic painting whose subject of a young girl sleeping, intermingles with branches of a tree. This acrylic painting with a beautifully limited color palette expresses the artist’s love of movement and form. John Brodie’s “Fabulous Beast of Uncertain Returns”, is a boldly colored acrylic painting on clear polyester that seems to reference African masks and female symbols. Wildly expressed forms, brushwork and colors are curiously set against the backdrop of a formal abstract composition. Last, but not least, “The Audition” by Lauren Carrera, is a large abstract oil painting which is reminiscent of color field painting. It is a subtle mixture of turquoises, warm tones and burnt oranges in an overall tiny quilt-like pattern, like a blanket covering us in the fall season.

This exhibition runs through May 13th

Cathy Breslaw is a southern California visual artist, writer and lecturer who has had over 25 solo exhibitions, and 50 group exhibitions across the country at museums, art centers, college and university galleries and commercial galleries. Her work can be found in many private and corporate collections.
Her work and writing can be seen at:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A+ Art Blog: Three Things You Can Do to Help the Art World

I was recently asked to be on a panel in El Cajon at Studio C Contemporary  where artists, journalists, writers, university professors, critics, and business people discussed the role the arts play in bettering East County and its diverse population. The panel was mediated by Justin Hudnall, creator and leading operative of The Far East Movement. One question he asked was, “Do you think East County can host and support an art community?” My answer, in looking at the healthy crowd in attendance, was that it was already supporting an art community. I would rather see a “fake it til you make it” can do stance than the inferiority complex driven attitude that is still all to prevalent in SD. But having said that, here are three suggestions to challenge every reader into action. (you can watch the video of the panel at this link https://vimeo.com/41384166)

  1. More Curators: Commercial and University Galleries and Museums should hold, at least once a year, an open call for curators to propose exhibitions. I don’t mean artists submitting their work for showing or even grouping together with friends to show. I mean really interesting theme shows which showcase what happening here in the underground spaces and pop up galleries. Alexandra Moctezuma is open to these kinds of proposals at the Mesa Collage Art Gallery and the students from her Gallery case are often putting together exhibitions at other venues like Space4Art. She offers the only hands-on program in Museum Studies and Gallery Management. We need to encourage independent curators and I might as well put in a plug for more independent art critics as well.
  2. Traveling Exhibitions: Collaborations should be made to put together exhibitions so that each has at least two venues for display – North, East, South or Central. Making the effort to organize a really wonderful exhibition is wasted if it is not seen by more people.  It makes sense to travel shows around the community especially when it take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get from North to South in our county. I miss lots of local events, as I do try to cover the whole county, but with fuel cost so high and public transportation so difficult, why not bring the art to the people. These collaborations would also help unite our community and I believe that is a strength that can produce more funding, more energy and more audience. Maybe this is happening somewhere in SD, but I have not noticed it.

  3. Artists Projects for Schools: Artists should be proactive in organizing art initiative for schools, especially those with under privileged students.  We are excited that the Artist Teaching Institute is funded by the SD Foundation and should start in the fall. Bravo to Jennifer Oliver for working so diligently to enable more artists to be professionally trained to teach. But there are many spontaneous projects that could be happening as well. For example, take a look at  Janet Cooling and her latest commission for the Harriet Tubman Charter School in the SDSU College Area. The glass mosaic painting will be 7’x19’ over the entrance of the school auditorium. She is paying for supplies herself plus fundraising by selling works from her own studio and SDSU students' art to fund this display which will add a level of creative energy to this school that almost looks like a prison.

    And speaking about funding, how about this new idea for SD called Pizza Parlay. Up until the Thursday before each Parlay, you can send proposals for creative projects that could use a bit of funding to raise them off the ground or to the next level. Pizza Parlay will take place one Sunday a month, usually the last. Parlay-goers will each receive a packet of proposals to review over pizza, and everyone will vote on site. Proceeds from the $12 per person cover donation will be granted to the winning proposal. The more people attend, the bigger the grant. Urbanistguide.com will announce the winner the Monday after the Parlay, and unlike most grants, winners will receive the award immediately. The locations vary each month but the next is Sunday April 29th, from 5-7pm at URBN Coal Fired Pizza & Bar 3085 University. At the last one $460 was awarded to Elias Sidney Blood won for a short film. 

Artists every where should raise the bar and be challenged to make better art work…work that is challenging, exciting, emotionally saturated, honest, enlivening and reflective of our wishes and desires.

There are many who are taking the initiative and working on projects. Hats off to: Jolee Pink who started her own Encinitas Foodie Fest: to showcase artists and sustainability; Sandi Cottrell of Mission Federal Art Walk for giving student scholarships, this year to Stephanie Wang (SDVAN sponsors this with mentor training); to Sherri Fox of Trios Gallery for transforming an Encinitas storefront into a mini Trios a Go Go; to SmartSpace Gallery a brand new idea to locate art in modern executive office suites; to Girl Fest San Diego at Art Lab Studios for providing a space for individuals to create a vision of freedom; Sixteen Plus One Art the first show of a new space at the On Assignment Studios and Gallery. These are just a few of the items listed in our RAW column for April.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Joe Brubaker: The Exquisite Garden

Joe Brubaker: The Exquisite Garden is showing at the William D. Cannon Gallery in Carlsbad ( 1775 Dove Lane) from Apr. 1 – June 24, 2012.
We arrived at the gallery and were delighted to see that it had been completely transformed. No longer the white box but instead a garden of deathly delights. The atmosphere was one of a cemetery at night, dark with shadowy shapes. When you looked close you saw sculptures by the artist Joe Brubaker, almost all carves wood figures with the look of outsider art but of course, this is not the case. Brubaker and two San Diego artists (Vista sculptor Elon Eubanks and Carlsbad muralist Ron Juncal) and two art students from MiraCosta College joined the crew of 12 who contributed found object assemblages dropped from the ceiling and rising from islands of foliage from cardboard trees. The audience was fascinated as there was so much to see. It only lacked a participation element. I longed to add a little piece of trash of my own to mark my spot.

UCSD Open Studios 2012

UCSD 2012 Open Studios Crowd from Emily Grenader on Vimeo.

UCSD Open Studios 2012 have come again with this year’s crop of emerging artists. .Sat. April 7, 1-7 pm at UCSD Visual Arts Department, UCSD, La Jolla 92083 More info Sheena Ghanbari 858.822.7755

I have been following the work of several of the UCSD students for a few years now. You see them working as raw students, trying to find their way through the ivory towers of learning. They too many times learn art speak as a way to boast your confidence in their work. I am always drawn to those student willing to talk to me openly and clearly, but sometimes the work does speak for itself.

Josh Tonies presented visually interesting video last year with lots of optical tricks. Interestingly, he was able to do that with still images of ships this year. They appear almost sliced and diced and futuristic and fantasy all at the same time. But at first glance they may appear to just look like a commercial for a cruise. And with Titantic in all the headlines this week, it seems he was riding a wave.

Emily Grenader disarmed me with sly little portraits of chef used on ice cream containers. I loved the whole idea of the glass refridgerated display as an art display. Let’s hope she brings this project to San Diego soon. In the meantime her group portraits which she was assembling from the visitors was charming and you can now see me above about the fourth row down on the left bending over to kiss Katherine Sweetman in a video painting. So much fun!!!.

Brian Zimmerman was there showing his new works and you will get a change to see him at the SDVAN New Contemporaries show at Susan Street Fine art opening on June 7 in Solana Beach.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"Ring around the Rosie" New Works by Tom Torluemke

Marie Antoinette

A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
We’re all tumbled down.

“Though it seems at times as if nothing could rout him out of the inertia in which he is entrenched, it is quite possible that he may one day be shocked into a greater state of awareness.  Precept and example seem to have had little effect: basically the civilized man is little different from primitive man.  He has not accepted the world, neither has he shown any desire to partake of the reality which invests it.  He is still bound to myth and taboo, still the slave of the victim of history, still the enemy of his own brother.  The simple, obvious truth, that to accept the world is to transform it, seems utterly beyond his powers of comprehension.”
- Henry Miller, The Hour of Man

“So I’ll tell you what I would like.  I would like some bad-acting and wrong-thinking.  I would like to see some art that is courageously silly and frivolous, that cannot be construed as anything else.  I would like a bunch of twenty-three-old troublemakers to become so enthusiastic, so noisy, and so involved in some stupid, seductive, destructive brand of visual culture that I would feel called upon to rise up in righteous indignation, spewing vitriol, to bemoan the arrogance and self-indulgence of the younger generation and all of its artifacts.”
- Dave Hickey, Frivolity and Unction 

And so would I Mr. Hickey… 
Hickey and Miller what a pair!  A generation or so separates them at birth yet they arrive at the same elegant conclusion.  They beg us to awaken to the “obvious truth” that to live fully in this world as a Man or Woman we must, we are obligated, in fact condemned to “transform it.”  It is also a responsibility artists must share - otherwise, go out and get a fucking job.  You are after all, the perfect example of a contemporary peripatetic global artist.  You will survive.  Nonetheless, be it for better or worse, we cannot as “civilized man” or “twenty-something” woman continue to ignore this.  The result will inevitably be we’re all tumbled down or strip-searched.
I am concerned about this and so is Tom Torluemke it appears.  But Torluemke is an artist; society tells us he’s supposed to worry about these things: war, famine, death, and erections.  He is after all, the sensitive type.

The Greeks colored their statues, the Spaniards slaughtered their bulls, The Germans invented Hasenpfeffer, we dream and act impatient, hoping for fame without labor, admiration without a contract, sex with an erection.
- Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara, excerpt from How to Proceed in the Arts

However, there are very few artists or memorable works that have actually succeeded in transforming the world if at all (it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try).  There are those however, like the cognoscenti and their pocketbooks, who will disagree.  Pay them no mind.  Those artists who have opened our eyes to the way the world is, and nowadays it ain’t pretty, do so by remaining relevant.  Their works mirror society, its culture and politics, and tell us something about its people.  An artist’s work is only a snapshot of a particular moment in the continuum, like a photograph, it can only tell us so much.  Could the French Revolution been what it was without Jean-Paul Marat and the painter Jacques-Louis David? 
Tom Torluemke has been making art for over thirty years and I don’t see him stopping anytime soon.  It coincides with his devout belief in the transformative and eye-opening (revelatory) power of art.  He does not produce snake-oil.  We should be grateful and excited for what he offers and thankful for showing us who we truly are - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Read more here

Sunday, April 8, 2012

East county panel discussion on the arts

Silvia Valentino and Carlos Castrejon of STUDIO C Contemporary are hosting: Artists, journalists, writers, university professors, critics, and business people who will discuss the role the arts play in bettering East County and its diverse population. The panel will be mediated by Justin Hudnall, creator and leading operative of The Far East Movement. Additionally, the panel discussion will coincide with the closing reception of The Black and White Show at Studio C, featuring 21 of Southern California's most prominent contemporary visual and music artists, who will also be in attendance. After the panel, we will have an experimental music performance by Chris Warren and The Bitwise Operators.

Panelists include: Seema Sueko from the (San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Commission), Felicia Shaw (The San Diego Foundation), Kevin Freitas (Art As Authority), Eldonna Lay (El Cajon Historical Society), and Patricia Frischer (San Diego Visual Arts Network).  Moderator: Justin Hudnell

We hope that you take this opportunity to contribute to our cause in making East County and El Cajon a better place for the arts to thrive!

Studio C Contemporary
140 E Main St., El Cajon, CA 92020
Friday, April 13, 2012 - 5:30pm