Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trolley Dances 2013: The Joy of San Diego

by Joe Nalven

I've been watching, enjoying, reflecting on, getting revv'd up by the San Diego Trolley Dances for a good number of years. I've written about the Trolley Dances before and words are beginning to become less and less important.  Just enjoying the moment .  .  .

Here are a sampling of those wonderful moments that I —and several other professional art photographers (Pasha Turley, Janine Free and Dana Levine) — discovered as we reviewed what our camera lenses had taken.

Joe Nalven / At the new public library

What do you need to know about this year's Trolley Dances? Where is it and when?

September 28-29, 2013
October 5-6, 2013
Saturday Tour Times: 9:00, 9:45, 10:30, 11:15, 12:00, 12:30
Sunday Tour Times: 11:00, 11:45, 12:30, 1:15, 2:00, 2:30
Trolley Dances Start Point
Northgate Market Plaza
1950 Main Street, San Diego, CA 92113
Hop on board and visit 6 stop along the MTS line featuring site-specific dance. This year we tour down town to several iconic San Diego buildings, including the new Central Library and the Monarch School. The colorful foundations of the Coronado Bridge, part of Chicano Park, frames yet another dance as well as the Northgate Market Plaza, home of the new Mercado del Barrio.
Patrons travel under the direction of trained tour guides to the exciting new San Diego Central Library and to the newly opened Monarch School for students impacted by homelessness. Patrons are encouraged to wear good walking shoes, and to bring some water and a sense of adventure.
New work to be performed by 50 of San Diego’s most adventurous dancers!  Featuring choreography by Jean Isaacs, Kyle Sorensen, Kate Watson-Wallace, Kim Epifano, and Khamla Somphanh.

This year's Trolley Dances has much less traveling on the trolley, which allows the audience to experience a more compact set of dances. Each year the challenge and wonderment is different  — the pacing and location contribute to the newness that the dancers and choreographers bring to the experience.

Pasha Turley (upper) / Monarch School Amphitheatre
Janine Free (lower) / Monarch School lobby
Pasha Turley:  The group boarded the trolley and we were in route to our last stop and dance performance on the steps of the new Central library which was celebrating its opening. For many in the in the audience group this was a first time they had ridden the trolley and there were many comments on how, entertaining and gratifying they found the entire event.
For me the 15th. Annual Trolley Dancers performance was the best ever. They Rock!

 Pasha Turley (left) / Janine Free (right) / Chicano Park 

Dana Levine / The Monarch School Playground 

Janine Free:  As a street photographer, the Trolley Dances bring to my awareness areas of San Diego I would have never thought of going to before.  Walking from Barrio Logan towards downtown, the cityscape now takes a completely different skyline with the stadium, the dome of the Central Public Library, and the new East Village condos standing together.

The modern dancers, most of them dressed in ordinary clothes, could be mistaken for pedestrians, you, me, caught in a moment of fantasy and drama.

It takes intuition to capture the moment when the moving dancers can be frozen by the camera into a suspended graphic form intended by the choreographer.  When the photographer presses the shutter, he/she cannot see what the camera actually takes and has to rely on a leap of faith, or luck. The Trolley Dances is a rare occasion to experiment this exciting uncertainty.

Joe Nalven / Painting with my camera 

Joe Nalven / Northgate Plaza 

Pasha Turley / Alpha Project  

Pasha Turley:   For myself and many of the other audience members walking though The Alpha Project homeless shelter filled with bunk beds and extra beds in the aisles and trash cans that housed personal possessions was a reminder of the plight of the homeless and a shock to many of the people attending the dance event. I personally became acutely aware of our need to help our homeless population more and vowed to do more.

 Joe Nalven / Digital infrared image at Northgate Plaza

Joe Nalven / Under the Coronado Bridge/ Chicano Park 
John Valois / Poised (left); Looking Up (right)
 Joe Nalven / Outdoor auditorium at the Monarch School

When I left New York several decades ago, I spoke about Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park (New York City's Central Park).  That was then. This is now.

San Diego offers its own brand of 'have you seen this.' That's the spirit of the Big Apple in San Diego. And the Trolley Dances are the modern urban; it's all over town when one adds up the years. A traveling culture show.

Way to go, Trolley Dances!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Taste of North Park Sat Oct 5 from 11 am to 4 pm

The 5th Annual 2013 Taste of North Park  is on Sat, Oct 5th, – 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Tickets in advance $30, on the day $40 More info: 619.294.2501

The 5th annual Taste of North Park was on Saturday October 5th from 11:00am to 4:00pm. We walked along the streets of one of San Diego's hippest neighborhood and sampled food from North Park's famous eateries and look at art from a wide selection of galleries. the galleries had tastes of craft brews from San Diego's best breweries. 

For one ticket price of $30 we could have enjoyed over 40 restaurants and 12 specialty brews. We only managed a 10 of these in the two hours we were there, but a cool breeze and lots of shade made the streets bearable in the 90 degree weather. 

Each restaurant location offer ed bite size tastes of house favorites and favorites were the eggs Benedict at Urban Solace, a delicious salted caramel from Yog-Art, and a most unusual frozen dessert more like mousse that ice cream from Swoon which is connected to Art Produce Gallery. We enjoyed Cindy Zimmerman's fanciful work.

 I am not such a big fan of beer so the Bar Pink, pink vodka raspberry cranberry shot was more my style.  I had not been to Wang's Chinese restaurant before and the space was spectacular. These new huge eateries seem to be mushrooming in SD and it feels like we are coming of age which these chic modern spaces. 

There were less galleries and more home shops than I remember from previous visits. Pigment reminds me of Mixture with a large selection of gifts and decor. Glimpse is still small and charming. The San Diego Art Department is thriving and Mick Phelen's works are worth a trip. OBR was open but only serving beer with no display. These galleries have been giving creative life to North Park for years.But large murals outside are setting a tone and the one by Mark Paul Deren is large and bold and fun. 

Cindy Zimmerman at Art Produce Gallery

Mural  by Mark Paul Deren on the side of Wang's North Park Chinese Restaurant

Mural at the junction of University and Ray St.
Mick Phelan San Diego Art Department

 Visit www.tastenorthpark for more information.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ellen Dieter: This'a Way or That'a Way

by Joe Nalven

There’s a new solo show at the San Diego Art Institute. The art of Ellen Dieter.

Imagine walking through the exhibit and finding Dieter nearby. What would she say about her art-making? I was surprised by her direct engagement with choice.

Ellen Dieter:  In the beginning, and now in the present, I am very interested in places I'd been or am, rejoicing in my surroundings. As I progress and learn, experience and produce, choices are made and events happen that offer other directions with new information.  Different ways of getting to the same place, yet a different place appear.  An openness, a willingness arises encouraging me to try new things.  Pathways are presented with forks, choices to be made, or not made.

Ellen Dieter / Under the Bridge
As I begin each work, I ask myself, "this'a way or that'a way"? And the process starts anew.

Joe Nalven:  I can appreciate the element of choice as the art unfolds. But there is a further question I have for you:  What makes you tick as an artist?

Ellen Dieter:  I think of myself as a painter, I paint, it is what I do, it is who I am and have been since I was about five. Putting paint to canvas is like breathing for me. Expressing my insides, trying to relate to the outside. Where I've been, physically as well as mentally feeds the process of creating a new piece, a new series. I see myself capturing a moment in time in a way that is open for interpretation by the viewer. Creating a dialogue is what I hope to achieve.

Ellen Dieter:  This'a Way or That'a Way
A solo show as part of a new regional exhibit

When:    September 20, 2013 to October 5, 2013
Hours:    Tues-Sat 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun 12 noon to 4 p.m.
Where:  San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado / Balboa Park
                San Diego, California 92102

For more information:   619-236-0011

Part of Ellen Dieter solo show exhibit at the San Diego Art Institute
 Joe Nalven:  Are there new things on the horizon that might change your approach to art making?

Ellen Dieter:  My art changes all the time depending on where I am. I have different styles although they are all the same to me. And then, I want to change again. Each series presents itself differently.

I do feel though, that I am at a crossroads, which is what my show is about.
Joe Nalven: I know you worked as a collaborator with Richard Messenger and Shahla Dorafshan. Did that change you in any way in your approach to art making?

Ellen Dieter:  Yes, that collaboration led me to a looser style, allowed an opening to become more willing to change, to paint over, push forward, let go. Let go, that best describes the change. We had to let go of our own marks as they may be painted over by the other.  It was a truly freeing experience.

Joe Nalven: Many artists don’t like to talk about specific images — even going to the extent of using arbitrary numbers instead of names. What about you?
Ellen Dieter /  Between The Piano and The Player
Ellen Dieter:  I might  comment about specific images in conversation. Every one is about place, feeling, or trying to feel a connection to where I am.  I  am not an artist that makes political statements, but looks for metaphors that one can relate to, or express through color or movement and energy that can be felt and experienced.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Poke: Debby and Larry Kline by Cathy Breslaw and POKE 2 by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Poke: a series of provocations by Debby and Larry Kline (SD Art Prize, 2013) opens on Thurs. Sept 5, 5 -7 pm. with an artists lecture beginning at  7 pm. Showing until Sept 26 at Mesa College Art Gallery (7250 Mesa College Dr., D101, SD) More info: Alessandra Moctezuma

Report by Cathy Breslaw

When we walk into an exhibition space we don’t expect to see a store with items for sale. Debby and Larry Kline want to mess with us by taking things out of context.  They present us with beautifully crafted objects – shiny, cute, funny, odd, kinetic, and nostalgic. Just when they reel us in with lightness and humor, we are hit with the question “Wait a minute, what is all this and what does it mean?” At the Mesa College exhibition space they have packed in a lot of punches – from a motorized carousel and ferris wheel made with pharmaceuticals, to a large installation called “The Age of Enlightenment”’ consisting of several large white Greek-style columns with relief vignettes of historically significant religious imagery. Included are colorful glossy ceramic containers made partially from ground down pharmaceuticals displayed on the wall, an installation called “The Candy Store” which includes items that poke fun at medications and the healthcare industry and small teddy bears crafted from real tobacco reminding us that cigarettes, regardless of the health risks are marketed to children.  There is also a video and series of photographs related to the Klines ongoing project of documenting their restaurant visits with creating small table sized sculptural works entirely made from items from their meal. Immediate and performative in content, the series of short clip videos are entertaining and engaging to any audience. The Klines who are married and long time collaborators, off us a provocative mix of topical works posing questions we can ponder.

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:

Mesa College Gallery show takes poke at convention  By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Gallery director Alessandra Moctezuma with Smokin' Columbia.

First published in the La Jolla Light

Debby and Larry Kline are a husband-and-wife team of artist-provocateurs who try to make pieces that turn people’s heads.
“We pose provocative questions, challenge preconceptions and generally screw with context to make a point,” they say in their artists’ statement.

At the Sept. 5 opening, artists Debby and Larry Kline pose with poet David Antin. Photos Maurice Hewitt

Their latest exhibit, “POKE,” at Mesa College Gallery, is well worth the drive from La Jolla. A selection of pieces from three different series, it takes jabs at religious imagery, the persistence of war, and our over-medicated society, and explores the unlimited possibilities of creating art out of restaurant-table rubble.
On view is “The Age of Enlightenment,” a temple of 8-foot tall columns, each representing a different belief system, all ornamented with figures from commercial molds that have been cleverly re-purposed by the Klines.
Then there’s “The Candy Store,” which includes a pharmaceutical Ferris wheel and a wall of canopic vessels, not filled with body parts preserved for an ancient Egyptian afterlife, but topped with glazes containing some of the ground-up prescription medications that we contemporary pill-poppers, encouraged by willing doctors, consume like candy.

Deborah and Larry Poteet at the show.

Last but not least is a smorgasbord of photos from their restaurant tabletop art series “My Dinner with the Klines,” some of which were shown at the La Jolla Athenaeum last fall.
Winners of the 2013 San Diego Art Prize, and soon-to-be-featured artists at this year’s Art Fair, the Klines have had exhibitions and commissions around the world. Their work is definitely mixed media, including photography, clay, cement, tobacco, wood, wire, plaster, and ketchup.
Their style is surreal, and their sense of humor is both intelligent and open hearted, a rare combination in the art world and beyond. For a good time, let yourself get “POKED” at Mesa’s Gallery: You may well go out more enlightened than you came in.

Nature Improved: Two museums partner for landscape exhibit

'Village' by Michael Field. Courtesy

Oceanside Museum of Art  and The San Diego History Center join for the exhibit Nature Improved: SD Artists Interpret Our Landscape  with 90 works and 28 SD artists until Jan 26 at SDHC and Feb 23 at OMA. More info: Danielle Susalla Deery 858.414.0792.

‘Nature Improved: San Diego Artists Interpret Our Landscape’

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
First published in the La Jolla Light

  San Diego History Center: Sept. 20-Jan. 26,1649 El Prado, Suite 3, Balboa Park, (619) 232-6203,
Oceanside Museum of Art: Oct. 26- Jan. 26, 704 Pier View Way, downtown Oceanside, (760) 435-3720,

In the world of arts and culture these days, the big word is the “C” word: Collaboration.

With dwindling resources and fierce competition for funding, many organizations have discovered the joys of sharing the costs and rewards of partnership.

Starting this month, San Diego History Center and Oceanside Museum of Art will be presenting their first joint exhibition, “Nature Improved: San Diego Artists Interpret Our Landscape,” opening at SDHC Sept. 20, and OMA Oct. 26. They promise a diversity of perspectives on our region, with each site showing half of some 90 artworks by 26 local artists.

'Howard Street' by Kim Reasor

SDHC, which also operates the Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park, was founded in 1928, and is one of the oldest and largest historical organizations in California. Its newest executive director, Charlotte Cagan, is lead coordinator of the landscape exhibit, and sees it as a great step forward in the center’s connection to the community.

“Our mission is to tell the story of San Diego, and an important aspect of that story is artistic activity,” Cagan said. “We chose the subject because we have a significant collection of landscapes from the past 100 years and we wanted to connect them with contemporary works.”

For this invitational, juried show, submissions had to be recognizably inspired by San Diego landscapes, both rural and urban. “It’s a broader definition than what we might consider traditional landscapes, because many contemporary artists find the urban landscape challenging and exhilarating too,” Cagan said.

'Green Surge' by Stuart Burton

There’s a distinguished panel of curators, including Derrick Cartwright, Director of University Galleries and Professor of Art History at USD; Alessandra Moctezuma, Gallery Director and Professor of Fine Art at Mesa College; and Daniel Foster, Executive Director of Oceanside Museum of Art.

The lead curator is art scholar Bram Dijkstra, who curated the recent exhibit of Charles Reiffel’s post-impressionist landscapes, which was a collaboration between SDHC and the San Diego Museum of Art. “There’s a definite connection between that exhibition and this one,” Cagan said. “We get to see how contemporary artists are interpreting some of the same landscapes.”

Labor Day marked Cagan’s second anniversary with the History Center. “It’s flown by in a frenzy of activity,” she noted. And there’s lots more activity in the works.

Next year’s big thing will be “Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego,” a collaboration between SDHC and eight different military sites, including the Midway, the Aerospace Museum and Camp Pendleton. And in 2015, the Center will be heavily involved in the Balboa Park Centennial.

“We hope to give everyone a sense of the bandwidth of the History Center,” Cagan said. “I believe we are the Smithsonian of San Diego; we have everything here that tells the story of who we are. If you want to connect with our community, past, present, and future, this is the place.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Arts Leaders Motivations

SDVAN Networking Meeting: Wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and dreamin’.
At our last SDVAN meeting we did a brainstorming excercise. We started with the premise that we need more art leaders to make sure that all the wonderful projects generated over the last 10 years of brainstorming actually happen.. Simply put: What do we need to do to encourage more project leaders to launch more creative visual arts projects in SD?

The group was divided into two. Everyone was asked to look at a half glass of water and declare if it was half full or half empty
The Half Full group was asked to put on a critical hat and come up with 5 major things that are keeping people from being arts leaders
The Half Empty group was asked to be positive about 5 major things that would encourage people to be arts leaders.
Ten minutes for allocated for this exercise. Both groups were asked to narrow their list to 5 major categories.

What stops art leaders? – Half full participants: Karen, Angela, Naomi, Naimeh, Ellen, Marti and Diane

Mind set, lack of confidence, fear of failure
Money – paycheck and expenses
Lack of Time – spread too thin
Lack of support – communication with artists and/or team
Fear of inadequate Collaboration   and/or no knowledge of how to collaborate, desire for nurturing

How could arts leaders be encouraged? Half empty participants: Naimeh, Kaz, John
Art Projects offer -
Fun and intellectual stimulation
Self growth and expansion – including monetary gain
Networking outside of your own area, expansion of knowledge base – collaborations, partnerships
Project oriented time frame i.e.  task force instead of ongoing committee
Self empowerment and empowerments of others

We discussed this for 10 minutes and then each individual was asked to choose one item from the list of How could arts leaders be encouraged.  But they were asked to change their mindset and instead of themselves, choose one of the following persona to think about being an art leader:

As a person 100 years in the future
As a 15 year old
As a person in a south sea island
As Marilyn Monroe
As if you had superpowers

These additional motivations were generated.
Art Projects offer -
A creative artistic expression of its leader and an opportunity to be heard
A choice to work outside of the control of the norm. Some projects are rebellious acts.  
Recognition from other – self pride
A chance to develop priorities and think about urgencies of some issues
The importance of Legacy
Opportunities to be creative without resources by using volunteers, recycling and in kind donation
Utilization of the local as a route to expand globally,
A chance to be mentored and offer mentorship
Positive energy and good will – for the leader and the community = win win


We compiled this list of the 14 motivations and they seem to fall into four categories

Self fulfillment

  1. Fun and intellectual stimulation
  2. Self growth and expansion – including monetary gain
  3. Networking outside of your own area, expansion of knowledge base – collaborations, partnerships
  4. Project oriented time frame i.e.  task force instead of ongoing committee
  5. Self empowerment and empowerments of others
  6. A creative artistic expression of its leader and an opportunity to be heard
  7. A choice to work outside of the control of the norm. Some projects are rebellious acts.  
  8. Recognition from others – self pride
  9. A chance to develop priorities and think about urgencies of some issues
  10. The importance of Legacy
  11. Opportunities to be creative without resources by using volunteers, recycling and in kind donation
  12. Utilization of the local as a route to expand globally,
  13. A chance to be mentored and offer mentorship
  14. Positive energy and good will – for the leader and the community = win win

My husband Darwin and I then worked to see how these motivation fits those categories. At this point we had to stop using left brain list and go to a right brain circular diagram which you can see at this link: Arts Leader Motiviations This list could be used for a job description for a calls for an arts leaders for paid and/or volunteer projects. We might use this to attract SDVAN project leaders or it could be modified for other arts job descriptions. It was suggested that we should pass on these ideas to LEAD and other leadership projects in SD including the SD Foundation

As an example, here are the ideas generated by our imaginary 15 year old. We also had ideas from the other categories (i.e. future, island, and superpowers) except for Marilyn Monroe.

I am bored and getting into trouble, this project could be fun and keep me safe
I need something on my college application and this could help me get into the college of my choice.
If I could think of something cool, maybe I could get that gang to stop beating up on me, I need to find out what they like and want
I only have summer vacation to do this.
My mom would have to do what I said.
I could use my facebook to spread the word and even do a Kickstarter to fund it. I want everything to be interactive and use the latest technology and social media.
I like the idea of rebelling and this could be done within a project especially if it was outside of parental control.
I am young but maybe this project could last a long time and I could come back years later and see it.
I want my parents to be proud of me.
Heading a project where you can make a mess could be cool.
Can I get a date (expand my social network) though this leadership project?

One new project was suggested to enable Teens to be involved in the arts and aiding them in knowing where to go.  That concept was added to the list below that was previously generated.

Curator’s prize 
Rotating exhibition - museum guard, menu art, nail art, art of cooking, wedding alters 
Corporate/Private collector prize (add to art prize this year)

Art Limousine - VIPs attendance at art events

Advisory committee of PR Agency ladies

Decathlon of Art and Sport
Art Collectors Club
Mentoring of events by commissioner (delegate, councilpersons, County supervisors)
Art Ship of  Culture which travels up and down coast
United SD Art Council to promote SD Art statewide, nationwide and world wide
Made in San Diego sales program

Teen resources or art involvement – with high interactive element and using the latest technologies and social media apps

Brainstorming Techniques we used today included:
  1.  Time Travel. How would you deal with this if you were in a different time period? 10 years ago? 100 years ago? 1,000 years ago? 10,000 years ago? How about in the future? 10 years later? 100 years later? 1,000 years later? 10,000 years later?
  2. Teleportation: What if you were facing this problem in a different place? Different country? Different geographic region? Different universe? Different plane of existence? How would you handle it?
  3. Iconic Figures. This is a spinoff of rolestorming. What if you were an iconic figure of the past? Buddha? Jesus? Krishna? Albert Einstein? Thomas Edison? Mother Theresa? Princess Diana? Winston Churchill? Adolf Hitler? How about the present? Barack Obama? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? Warren Buffet? Steven Spielberg? Etc? How would you think about your situation?
  4. Superpowers. This is another spinoff of rolestorming. What if you suddenly have superpowers? Superman? Spiderman? Wonderwoman? X-Men? The Hulk? One of the Fantastic Four? What would you do?

Respectfully submitted on Sept 9, 2013
Patricia Frischer, Coordinator 760 943 0148 San Diego Visual Arts Network