Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Yolanda Lopez: Portrait of the (Late) Artist at MCASD

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt. 

Running: On My Own (1977). A large-scale self-portrait of the artist on the UCSD campus, where she developed an interest in running while pursuing her MFA.

After a long Covid-caused shutdown, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) has opened its downtown doors again with a fascinating exhibition of some of the groundbreaking works of Yolanda Lopez, a Chicana artist and activist who was born in San Diego and received her MFA from UCSD in 1979.

Sadly, the artist died at 79, just a few weeks before the show was due to open, having spent half a century creating art that made her people—especially the women—defiantly visible. “The work that Yolanda did as an artist, activist, and mother continues with all of us,’’ her son wrote. “Keep on getting into good trouble.” 

This exhibit is a great memorial tribute, a display of over 50 artworks, revealing her special interests and some of the “good trouble” she got into during her time in San Diego.

At the entry is an array of six larger-than-life-size charcoal portraits of Yolanda, her mother, and her grandmother. In the second three, each woman is shown imitating the pose of one of the others in the first three.

Grandmother and Artist Standing as Grandmother, from the series of six portraits in Three Generations: Tres Mujeres.

Curator Jill Dawsey, with the artist’s self-portrait from Three Generations.

Here’s what she wrote in 1978, while working on her MFA: “Such stereotypes as the Latin bombshell and the passive long-suffering wife/mother negate the humanity of Raza women. The depth and breadth of our potential for moral, intellectual, spiritual and physical courage has rarely been displayed.”

Small but mighty, this 1978 photo of the artist in performance by Susan Mogul—a UCSD friend—shows her brandishing a handful of paintbrushes, wearing running shoes and an exuberant smile. 

The Guadalupe Triptych is another look at the tres mujeres—all portrayed as the Virgin of Guadalupe, encircled by rays of sunlight, with the Virgin’s starry cloak somewhere in the picture. “Because I feel living, breathing women also deserve the respect and love given to Guadalupe, I have chosen to transform the image,” Yolanda wrote.

Her own image here—truly that of an activist artist—is the best-known, but the others are also engaging: her mother, at the industrial sewing machine she used in her job at the Naval Training Center, shown here working on the starry cloak; and her grandmother, seated on the cloak, quietly holding a rattlesnake and a knife in her hands.

The Guadalupe Triptych: Grandmother

The Guadalupe Triptych:  Mother 

The Guadalupe Triptych:  Artist

Arriba Yolanda y Las Guadalupes! Thanks to MCASD Director/CEO Kathryn Kanjo and her staff for presenting such a timely and well-thought-out show.

Afterword: There are two other interesting exhibits on view here, both drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. You can’t miss Abstract Vocabularies in the main lobby, but take time to check out Joan Jonas weird and colorful video installations in the right-side gallery as well.

YOLANDA LOPEZ, Activist Artist (1942-2021)
Born and raised in Barrio Logan, Yolanda Lopez spent most of her life in San Francisco, returning to San Diego to complete her advanced education with a BA from SDSU in 1975 and an MFA from UCSD in 1979. She returned to San Francisco to continue her work as an artist/activist, became Director of Education at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, and taught art at UC Berkeley and Stanford. But until recently, she has largely been ignored by mainstream arts institutions. The MCASD exhibition is her first solo museum show.

Yolanda Lopez: Portrait of the Artist
On view until April 24, 2022
MCASD Downtown, 1100 Kettner Blvd., San Diego
HOURS:  Thurs-Sunday, 10 am-4 pm. Free Admission.
NOTE: Free tickets will be available for two-hour time slots, but visitors must reserve in advance. Questions?  info@mcasd.org or 213-633-5351.  

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at hew2@sbcglobal.net.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Ocean Prototype Nights: Reclaiming Native Waterways, from the Kumeyaay Coast to Lake Cahuilla ICA North, Birch Aquarium & Old Town

 By Patricia Frischer

Click this link to watch all of this 3 part virtual presentation.

Part 1: Kumeyaay tule boats (ha kwaiyo) link land and sea, past and present in the Kumeyaay language and culture revitalization movement.

Stanley Rodriguez, in dialog with Amy Sara Carroll and Nan Renner at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Professor Rodriquez was truly an elegant spokesperson who brought to life the charm and sincerity of the Kumeyaay people. He explained how the native language is in severe danger of being lost. This can be prevented not by teaching it like English. It has to be emersion training of the young. In their culture every place is a school. Learning is all the time and hands on. You do, to learn, and you do together in a community and holistically. He spoke of the importance of water above and water below being a spiritual reality. Having a good cry is cleansing. Tears are salty like the ocean. He was so poetic and funny and authentic. He passionately cares about passing this experience on to the younger generation so it does not die.

Rodriquez used his native language to show and tell about fishing for sea urchin, abalone, lobster, starfish, sand crabs, shrimp, grunion all caught with line made of yucca  plants, with rock weights and fish bone hooks in tule boats.  Traps were made with willow. They used to fish for whale with harpoons that had paralyzing poison on their tips. In September of this year, they launched 22 tule boats made by family and volunteers.  This is the first time tule boats were on the bay in 100 years.

Stanley Rodriguez with some of the samples at Scripps Birch Aquarium

An acorn gathering basket, set up on logs so the bottom will not rot.  Material gathered for the boats. 

20 tule boats ready to launch

An anonymous artist catches the scene, most appropriately in water color

Part 2: Kumeyaay coiled weaving, from baskets (some made of pine needles) to fishnets, show artistry and ingenuity, drawing from a varied terrain from the coast to the Colorado River.

In contrast Martha Rodriguez, was in dialog with Ricardo Dominguez and Lisa Cartwright  to take us on a tour of the Kosay Kumeyaay Market. This was hard to hear and see, which means to really experience it you need to go to Old Town where you can find not only find baskets but ceramics and rattles, paintings, stone work, and abalone jewelry. Some of the tule boats are stored here.

Part 3: Position Vector Salton Sea measures the rapid disappearance of the Salton Sea on tribal lands (site of ancient Lake Cahuilla) in a site-specific art installation created by the Torres Martinez Cahuilla Desert Indian Tribal Community in partnership with land artist Hans Baumann. Documentation is on view at Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego/North (ICA North) until Nov 14, 2021.

Hans Baumann in dialog with James Nisbet, Manuel Schvartzberg Carrió and Joe Riley at the ICA North was unfortunately filled with a bit too much art speak. But the project is so worthwhile and it appears that the students taught the artist quite a bit about thinking in a different way about land and sea.   The Collective of 40 students worked to build large cauldrons out of clay to mark the disappearing of the water from the sea. These were so large that they were fired on site by building fires within. The young people were also challenged to make a communal drawing of the tribal land that started in the present, imagined the future and then imagined the past. The exhibition at ICA North has artifacts, film, photography and these drawings. There was a discussion about the political nature of land ownership as well as information about why the Salton Sea shrinks and comes back.

Estimate of how the the shore will recede by 2030

Photo only a few weeks apart, showing a ladder near the shore, and it's current location

Firing the clay

Marking the recession of the water over time.

Installation view at ICA North

Note: This was a virtual event in three parts which is part of an ongoing series called Ocean Prototype Nights, which is in turn a UC San Diego Navigating the Pacific project anticipating Getty Pacific Standard Time "Art + Science" 2024. It is produced by Paolo Zuñiga and hosted and sponsored by UC San Diego Visual Arts, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Institute of Arts and Humanities, Design Lab, and the Getty Foundation.

There are six live-streamed evening dialogs twice a quarter from October through June about the Navigating the Pacific project, as well as a dozen 3-year artist-scientist-scholar collaborations about oceanographic and Indigenous ocean art and science. They will culminate in 2024, in rolling exhibitions at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and the Geisel Library.

Part of the Getty Pacific Standard Time 2024 regional collaboration of exhibitions, this year themed Graphic Ocean and Navigating the Pacific, there are forthcoming publication and exhibitions promoting intersections between art and science around oceanic conservation, contestation, and communities of practice. These dialogs are "prototypes" in the sense that they show ideas in progress. See https://www.graphicocean.org/ for art/science projects in development at UC San Diego as part of Getty Pacific Standard Time 2024 exhibitions.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Seeking Truth & Other Science-Inspired Installations at La Jolla Historical Society

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt.

Standing by their TRUTH: Artists Debby & Larry Kline at the focal point of their 16-foot-long installation Seeking Truth.

There’s an art exhibition now on view at La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) that will open your eyes to new ways of seeing and thinking about art, science, philanthropy, and life. 

Trifecta: Art, Science, Patron, curated by Chi Essary, features ten pieces by regional artists who were paired with scientists from the Salk Institute and asked to create artworks inspired by their meetings. Essary previously curated a memorable art-and-science exhibition at San Diego Art Institute in 2017 but this one recognizes an additional component: funding.

Wanting to give the LJHS show some appropriate historical context, she researched the history of Salk Institute and discovered that Irwin Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm, had initiated what was known as the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Chair Challenge to encourage local philanthropists to endow scientists’ chairs at Salk.

“If donors came up with two million dollars, he'd supply the additional million needed to endow each chair,” Essary explained. “Scientists spend an inordinate amount of time writing grants to fund their work, so when a chair is endowed, it basically means they can just do their cutting-edge science, which we can all benefit from. This visionary gift to society—which has endowed over 30 chairs— really touched me. So I reached out to the endowed chairs to see if they’d be interested in meeting with an artist and the rest is history.”  

Two of the Trifecta artists—who were part of the 2017 exhibition—are Debby and Larry Kline, whose immersive installation Seeking Truth is the star of the current show. It’s the first piece on your right as you enter, and the one that invites the most contemplation.  

The scientist they met with, Dr. Thomas Albright (Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Research), is a neuroscientist who studies how we perceive—and misperceive—visual information. He has worked with the criminal justice system, pointing out why having eyewitnesses identify the perpetrator in a lineup is often fallible, and why seeing only two people at a time could yield more reliable results. He has also worked with schools, designing classrooms that are conducive to learning, and showing how even fixing a school’s architecture can make students do better. His 2016 TED talk Why eyewitnesses fail (you can watch it on youtube) ends with these words: “Seeing is believing, but neither seeing nor believing is equivalent to truth.” And the Klines used what they learned from him to create their own Truth

Though I immediately found their installation interesting, I couldn’t perceive their Truth. As I stood in the entry to the tunnel of tilted walls, half-hearing soft voices on both sides reciting poetry, and half-seeing what looked like a rectangle of shimmering stars against the rear wall, the artists asked me: What do you see?

They were surprised by my response, as was my husband, who had easily seen the Truth himself. Walking slowly to the tunnel’s end, I passed between a cacophony of voices and came face to face with a polished granite slab that no longer looked starry but held no sign of Truth. Then I stood under each of two domed speakers listening to the same voices I’d heard at first, now reciting something that sounded like Latin—a language I’d never learned. 

Encouraged by the Klines, I started over, went back to the entry and just stared at the slab for a few minutes until—at last!—I saw the word TRUTH emerging on its surface. Evidently, all I needed was a little time and distance to be able to see the truth. 

Afterwards, they gave me an explanation: They’d created a kind of forced perspective—those tilted walls—and added competing sounds from multiple directions that were meant to be confusing, even a little disturbing—a demonstration of how distractions affect perception. The TRUTH carved into the granite slab was stippled to look blurry: the word appeared gradually in 15-minute cycles, then water jets washed it away. Dim lighting made things even more confusing, and I couldn’t hear myself in the cacophony of voices, recorded at a 2017 tribute to the late poet David Antin, where all of us present read one of his poems in unison. The solo voices belonged to his widow, artist Eleanor Antin, and their close friend, poet Jerome Rothenberg, reading two of David’s poems…and some Latin gibberish. 

“It’s like the political scene these days,” Larry Kline said. “So many voices, you can’t really hear.” Added Debby: “We are the Truth and the Light!” Then turning to Larry, she said: “You wanna be Truth this week, or you wanna be the Light?” The Klines and their artworks are both serious and playful—a fortunate combination.

Suggestion to visitors: Try entering Seeking Truth alone, taking time to stop, look, and listen, maybe closing your eyes now and then, to see how that affects your perception. One way or another, persevere and you’ll find your own truth here. 

There are other attention-grabbing pieces in this exhibition; we’ve included a few photos below. But what’s on view really needs to be experienced. Trifecta, originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed when Covid took over, shows LJHS at the top of its form, and it’s great to be back in their gallery again. 

2020  by Marcos Raminez ERRE.  

(Clodagh O’Shea, Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory, Wicklow Chair)

     This large-scale crossword was not ERRE’s original intention. But when pandemic lockdowns made his complex art-and-science project impossible, he decided to address some of the issues we all had to face in the title year instead. Covering aluminum panels with automotive paint and rust, he created “a series of definitions that fade and…certainties that collapse,” and a puzzle that has easier solutions than the problems we’re still facing. If you’re looking for answers, you’ll find them in the current issue of Timekeeper magazine, at the gallery’s front desk.

Interactome, by Christopher Puzio.

(Dr. Geoffrey Wahl, Professor, Gene Expression Laboratory, Daniel & Martina Lewis Chair)

      Yes, it is a real word, referring to physical interactions between molecules and/or indirect interactions among genes. And Puzio is an artist who has a background in metalwork and has long been interested in the interactions between art and science. This impressive stainless-steel piece is kinetic; if you’d like to interact with it, ask at the front desk.

Hand of the Milkmaid, by Siobhan Arnold.

(Susan Kaech, Professor and Director, NOMIS Center for Immunobiology & Microbial Pathogenesis, NOMIS Chair)

      Responding to Dr. Kaech’s studies in the role memory plays in developing our bodies’ protective responses to deadly pathogens, the artist became interested in the way lymphocytes gather together to create immune responses. She also explored the history of vaccination, and the story of the young cowpox-infected milkmaid who supposedly provided Edward Jenner with material for developing the first smallpox vaccine. Hand-spun fibers imitate the form of the lymphatic system, and there’s a woven “memory” inside each node.  

Fountainhead, by David Adey.

(Jan Karlseder, Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, Donald & Darlene Shiley Chair.)

     A contemporary view of the legendary Fountain of Youth: a neon waterfall pouring down from a garden-like mass that’s actually an assemblage of green plastic cleaning products, with neon-haloed lambs—remember Dolly, the cloned sheep? 

The Artist Lineup: (Come see them all!)  David Adey, Siobhan Arnold, Mely Barragan, Cesar&Lois Collective, De la Torre Brothers, Marcos Ramirez ERRE, Debby&Larry Kline, Wendy Maruyama, Xuchi Nayngayan Eggleton, Christopher Puzio

Trifecta: Art, Science, Patron
LaJolla Historical Society
Wisteria Cottage Gallery
780 Prospect Street, La Jolla
HOURS: Wed-Sunday, 12-4 p.m. through January 16. Free admission.
(858) 459-5335

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at hew2@sbcglobal.net

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Coming Home: Unearthing Indigenous History at ICA North

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt.

An indoor/outdoor view from the main gallery: Christine Howard Sandoval’s  Surveillance Mound—like a surveyor’s tripod looking out on the SoCal landscape—and one of her wall hangings: Angle of Integration.

Closeup of Surveillance Mound.

This month, ICA North—the former Lux Art Institute—is giving new life to the long-buried history of the indigenous people of California, who inhabited the area for thousands of years before the missionaries marched in.

Christine Howard Sandoval, an artist of mixed indigenous, Mexican, and Spanish ancestry who received her art education in New York City and is currently teaching interdisciplinary art in Vancouver, has for some time been trying to unearth the complicated history of California’s indigenous people, including her own. By digging deep into mission archives, she is tracing the migration of her northern California Chalon Ohlone ancestors, piecing together the story of her community and her family, and effectively coming home to California.

Following the missionaries’ arrival in the late 18th century and the Gold Rush up north in the mid-19th century, California’s indigenous people were dislocated, stripped of their identities, and often killed. Treaties were broken, and they were subjected to countless indignities, including forced labor and virtual eradication from California history. But what Howard Sandoval found embedded in the archives is a wealth of information on the language, traditions, and plant knowledge of her indigenous ancestors.

In her examination of mission architecture, she noted that the arches commonly used in entrances and passageways had the same shape as indigenous mounds and woven baskets, as well as the wooden hobbles that were commonly placed between the legs of defiant Mission Indians. In her ICA North exhibit, she uses the arch as a passageway into the somber truths of indigenous history. 

False Arch—the span of an opening (adobe mud and graphite on paper).

A large, impressively textured piece—120 x 52 inches.

To create the pieces during her month-long residency here, she hand-mixed adobe mud that she made from soil, clay, sand and water, using glue as a binder. She would do a drawing on paper, marking out negative spaces with masking tape, then covering it with adobe, removing the tape before the adobe dried to reveal the final artwork.

Document Mound. Application for Enrollment with the Indians of the State of California (Inkjet print on vinyl tape, adobe mud and steel—including strips of paper from a copy of the document)

An interesting factoid, shared by Guusje Sanders, ICA’s associate curator, who took us through the exhibit: adobe was not used by indigenous people in California, but was introduced by the Spanish for the building of their missions. 

For the Transportation of Water. Water was carried long distances by indigenous people for construction of the missions.

In her artist statement online, Christine Howard Sandoval writes: “Artistically, research drives my ideas and ideas determine aesthetics… I seek long-term engagement with places and their people as a means of exploring my own self-identity that is intimately formed by land and community.”

Be sure to get up close to admire the texture of her pieces and consider the history behind them. And on your way out, enjoy the lovely landscape, and check out the installation at the street-level Education Pavilion, created by artist Hans Baumann in collaboration with young tribal people who live near the Salton Sea.


Christine Howard Sandoval: Coming Home

On view through Oct 31 at ICA North.

Thursday-Sunday, 12-5 p.m. Free admission.

ICA San Diego North

1550 S El Camino Real, Encinitas

760-436-6611/ icasandiego.org/

Special Event: Art Exploration

Drinks and discussion of the exhibit on October 28, 5-6 p.m. Free.


Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at hew2@sbcglobal.net.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

SD Art Prize 2021 at Bread & Salt, plus Sugar Museum and Best Practice

by Patricia Frischer

We are so pleased to share with you a little taste of the SD Art Prize 2021 presented by the San Diego Visual Arts Network at Bread & Salt. Hopefully this will encourage you to see the exhibition, collect a free catalog (as long as they last!) that was fundraised by the arts community. This is a stellar show curated by Chi Essary  for the prize started in 2006. The exhibition is open until Dec 31, 2021 and features all of our recipients for 2021: Beliz Iristay, Hugo Crosthwaite, PANCA, Perry Vasquez

While you are at the Bread & Salt building, don't miss the First Supper: Post Pandemic, Sugar Museum at the Athenaeum Art Center, Logan Heights,  and Alida Cervantes at Best Practices. Great thanks to James Brown and Isabel Dutra was supporting this wonderful space for local arts. 

Watch for a full report by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt with Photos by Maurice Hewitt coming soon. 


Patricia Frischer, Founder and Coordinator of San Diego Visual Arts Network

First Supper Post Pandemic, Sugar Museum at the Athenaeum Art Center, Logan Heights, Bread and Salt


Alida Cervantes at Best Practices, Bread & Salt


Kumeyaay Pictographs, Petroglyphs & More, by Don Liponi, Ph.D., Imperial Valley Historical Museum

 By Patricia Frischer

Don Liponi, Ph. D., Imperial Valley Historical Museum, member of the Kumeyaay Education Council and Instructor, Kumeyaay Internship Program was our guide and the photographer for a lecture on rock images. The spiritual communications of the Kumeyaay and Tipai Native Americans are recorded in their pictographs (mineral based paintings on rocks) and petroglyphs (carvings into the rocks). Even though many of these images have seemed to disappear, there is a new DStretch technology that makes it possible to see these works using your digital phone with a special app. 

There has been a cultural genocide of the Kumeyaay way of life but the prehistory and ancient history of the Tipai Shaman records a life harmoniously with nature. This tradition of ancient art is called La Rumorosa, after a site in northeastern Baja, Mexico. These photos record first some geometric shapes and the shape of a man, then a half man/half animal and animals that were guide for the Shamanistic hallucination travels and finally man transformed/ with geometric shapes.

I found these images so compelling and the idea of understanding more about native American Shaman fascinating. These seemingly very basic images which we think of as the foundation of primitive art, may after all be much more sophisticated and be a conduit to living a more wholistic and balanced life. This is just a taste of the lecture sponsored by Mira Costa’s LIFE so make sure and watch it for yourself as it is available until the end of the year. 

Don Liponi