Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Women's Museum of California: Exhibits and Collections

by Joe Nalven

The Women's Museum of California connects us with memories we've had or should have had. These memories are a kaleidoscopic view of women in California, as reflected in its collection, library and gallery exhibits. It may seem odd that I refer to memories we should have had, but in this whirlwind society our memories often seem less tangible. You can call this the stuff of history and page through a book or see it as a televised special; and yet history becomes more real we walk through an exhibit with treasures memorializing those experiences.

In San Diego, the Women's Museum of California (WMC) has been actively involved in reminding us of the California women's experience. Currently on display is an exhibit about women who were in the glamour industry. Perhaps emphasizing glamour may seem politically incorrect from today's encouragement of women to be scientists, astronauts, doctor, engineers and the like. But there is the history that comes before a changing world and hoped for futures.

Collections manager, Bonnie Domingos, discussing an item from the Glamour Industry exhibit

I spoke at length with Bonnie Domingos, the collections manager for the WMC’s Library, Archive, and Museum collections. Her BA is in Visual Arts and Technology with her Masters in Library Information & Science, emphasizing emerging technologies and special collections.

Behind the Glamour: The Women Who Built the Industry 1920-1940
Open through February 2, 2014
Women's Museum of California Gallery
NTC Liberty Station 2730 Historic Decatur Road, Suite #104
San Diego, CA 92106
Open:  Wednesday to Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm
Regular admission:  $5; Seniors: $3, and WMC members: Free.
For more information:  (610) 233-7963  

Bonnie Domingos:  Our current exhibit is Behind the Glamour: The Women Who Built the Industry 1920-1940.  Despite the female image construction being produced in Hollywood during the 1920s – 1930s which emphasized what a woman could be, this exhibit documents the lives of pioneering women who directed and managed some of the world’s leading cosmetic and fashion design industries. Women like Madame C.J. Walker, Edith Head, and Helena Rubenstein are documented within the exhibit, as well as a world class collection of over 200 cosmetic compacts and carry-alls from the period, and original Edith Head costume design sketches from Hollywood’s biggest studios of the period.

Edith Head drawings (Courtesy of C. Esquevin)

Joe Nalven:  Can you tell me about the current exhibit and the exhibit coming up shortly?
Bonnie Domingos: Our next exhibit is Beautiful, Brilliant and Brave, A Celebration of Black Women. This exhibit celebrates the diverse beauty, brilliance and bravery of Black women throughout the world and highlights many local women that have made amazing contributions within their communities and professions. This exhibit coincides with Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March.

Beautiful, Brilliant and Brave, A Celebration of Black Women
Curated by Starla Lewis:  "The Beauty of the Black woman birthed in Africa and travelled throughout the Diaspora from continent to continent, island to island, and as a result this beauty is represented throughout the world. The outer beauty is a manifestation of the spirit’s inner beauty. This beauty has polished the soul through generations of joys, sorrows, triumphs and tragedies."
February 7, 2014 to Sunday, March 30, 2014
Women's Museum of California Gallery
NTC Liberty Station 2730 Historic Decatur Road, Suite #104
San Diego, CA 92106
Open:  Wednesday to Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm
Regular admission:  $5; Seniors: $3, and WMC members: Free.
For more information:  (610) 233-7963  

Joe Nalven:  You have a book collection, yet we live in a digital age. How does this book collection fit in with the overall concept of the Women's Museum ? 

Bonnie Domingos: In many ways our library collection operates both as a reference library and an archive. While its current purpose is to collect and provide resources to the public on a range of issues that concentrate on the female experience, it also documents a very specialized focus; with a collection of rare and out-of-print books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and self-published zines; documenting a crucial period in second wave feminism of the early 1960’s through the mid 1070’s. That, you can’t find online! Not in the profound and united manner this collection provides. Sure the digital age is terrific in its capacity but it can be daunting. The WMC library provides a unique collection, one that has been carefully curated overtime and one that documents not only the museums founding history but its evolution though three decades and the women responsible for that!

Joe Nalven: Would you accept more books for the collection?  What type of theme would fit best? The collection seems to have a feminist direction. Does this stand in contrast to the glamour exhibit or is glamour a different way of expressing feminism?  

Bonnie Domingos: We accept donations for the Library, Archive, and Museum Collection but we have a very rigorous acquisition policy. Materials have to meet all the marks since we are so very limited in resources. I want to be clear that the direction of our collecting efforts are not feminist in nature. We collect materials that document meaningful feminine experiences, from the pervasive to the more radical. It’s not one thing that defines this collection, it’s an expedition. Feminism is just one journey.

Joe Nalven:  One of the objects in the collection, up on the top shelf, is a doll in a chair.
Bonnie Domingos: Within our folk art collection, we have a series of dolls that were created by fiber artist Muriel Fisher, who was the founder of the oldest artist cooperative in San Diego, Many Hands Craft Gallery and was a member for thirty years. As an artist working with found objects, her crowning achievement Exceptional Women in the Arts was a series of twelve dolls depicting leading women such as; Georgia O’keefe, Gertrude Stein, Barbara McDonald, Anias Nin, Martha Graham, Toni Morrison, Virginia Wolf, and Frida Kahlo which is the one documented in your photograph.  This grant funded project was made in part due to assistance from the ‘Thanks Be to Grandmother Winifred Foundation’ which was a foundation encouraging creativity to women over the age of 54 to implement projects that empowered and enriched adult women’s well-being. Her artistic process was also documented in  PBS series.

Frida Kahlo doll / Muriel Fisher

Joe Nalven: You have boxes and boxes of things. I am curious about what's in them and would love to spend the day — or maybe the week — sorting through them. Do you ever display these objects?

Bonnie Domingos: Yes, it is a treasure trove! For nearly 30 years the museum has been collecting but no real collection development has shaped the collection. I am the first person to undertake this, so it is at times overwhelming. But tremendous progress has been done since I came on board a year and a half ago, joining Ashley Gardner, Executive Director
Duane McGregor, Exhibition Designer and Tina Clarke, Operations manager. I think the WMC has a much clearer vision of its identify and stewardship for the future.

Inside the WMC collection / What can you add to the history of California women?
Joe Nalven: How do you work your collecton into the WMC's programming?

Bonnie Domingos:  We try to develop programming that can incorporate our collections as much as possible but that is not always the case. I can give you a general idea of what the collection contains within our museum and archive collections that include a women’s clothing collection of more than 400 items of historic and period clothing dating from as early as 1870. We also house a small art collection, objets de art collection, daguerreotype and tintype photograph collection, and an empherma collection of objects from the Alice Park archive that includes original propaganda regarding the 19th amendment and women winning that vote in California in 1911. We have a number of archives from leading women in San Diego including, Nancy Reeves, Lucy Killea, the Women’s International League, U.N. Conferences on Women, California Women for Agriculture, the National Organization for Women (NOW), and many others.
Joe Nalven:  The objects on display invite one to remember what those days were like - even if our memories are from movies and books.  The pink and black gown has a subtle imperial feel to it just as the furs and make-up cases have.  Why did you select these items of glamour? 

Bonnie Domingos: For the purpose of the show, we wanted to display some of the best pieces we had in the collection but also to document the process a fashion designer like Edith Head would have conducted; from the sketch art to the actual fabrication of the garment. This dress was an exceptional piece, highlighting the importance of haute couture in Hollywood as well as showcase its exceptional garment construction, detail, and exclusivity.

Joe Nalven:  I know I can google this question, but it might be of interest about women in California. When did the women get the vote in California compared to the U.S. constitutional amendment?

Bonnie Domingos:  Woman’s suffrage was making headway in the West. While most eastern politicians were dead set against woman suffrage, politicians and voters in several western states enfranchised women and, at times, battled Congress for the right to do so. In 1869 Wyoming led the nation in the adoption of woman suffrage while still a territory; in 1890, when it appeared that Congress would not approve its application for statehood as long as the state allowed woman suffrage, the legislature declared "we will remain out of the Union a hundred years rather than come in without the women." Even the Mormon stronghold of Utah enacted woman suffrage as a territory in 1870 and came into the union with woman suffrage in 1896. Colorado (1893) and Idaho (1896) were the other pioneering suffrage states. The next round of state victories did not come until 1910, and these were also in the West (Washington, 1910; California, 1911; Oregon, 1912; Kansas, 1912; and Arizona, (1912). 

Monday, January 13, 2014

La Jolla Update Farber at Quint, Hebert and Dunn at Athenaeum

By Patricia Frischer

Manny Farber at Quint Contemporary Art  and Matthew Hebert and Jeanne Dunn at the Athenaeum are all shows listed on SDVAN in January and are very worth a visit to La Jolla and all are open to the public Jan 11 to Feb 15

Manny Farber at Quint Contemporary Art
 Early color field painting by Manny Farber from 1967 to 1975 (Farber died in 2008 in Leucadia, CA) were an amazing revelation to me. I had a visceral reaction to these works. And although I am predesposed to like the works of Farber, these works are very different from the floral and table scape works I have seen at Quint in the past decade (they have held 18 solo shows for this fine artist.)  These very large  painting on paper were intensely lit in this show so that they truly glow with color and the texture is strongly revealed. I was challenged to think about why these works are so very impressive. I think the honesty of construction affected me like a Rothko work. In other words, I could believe in this works and never thought that they were meant to trick me with technique or illusion. Many of these work enabled me to freely associate meaning and content. They gave me a window into my own thoughts. The work before for example, looked like an airplane view of a city scape that morphed into a rhino hide. When you almost hallucinate when you look at a work, you know it is powerful or at least has a powerful message for you.  

MANNY FARBER, Untitled, circa 1967-1975, acrylic on collaged paper, 1119 x 110 inches. Photo credit Philipp Scholz Rittermann. 

The technique of how these works were constructed was explained in a  Press release of the New York show for Farber held also in January at the Van Doren Waxter Gallery.  I have reprinted this below:

"These large-scale, process-driven paintings were constructed with Kraft paper that Farber meticulously layered to create a strong foundation for paint. Three-foot squares of paper were joined with one-inch seams and then cut into decisive shapes: lozenges, trapezoids, ovoids, etc. which he laid out on top of plastic sheeting. First he poured acrylic paint over the surface, dispersed it using rollers, then flipped it over onto the plastic to dry - where after a preparatory soaking with water he would repeat this process on the other side using a deliberately different, yet complimentary color, this time adding a sheet of muslin that the paint would be poured over and which was later removed. The seams guided the water and paint, dictated how the two colors merged and interacted with each other. This method resulted in works where the surface and image became one.

In addition to this consuming, permeable painting process, Farber utilized linear underdrawings on the raw paper made with snapped chalk lines and by dragging a paint-soaked piece of string over the painting’s surface to create pockets of movement that added a certain depth to the image’s surface. The resulting lyrical fa├žade looks atmospheric, planetary, aqueous and geologic, with layers of color and the natural creasing of the paper. Crackled paint, veins, scars are all part of what makes up the “skin” of these paintings."

 Matthew Hebert: Cover to Cover and Jeanne Dunn: Wild Walk at the Athenaeum

In Cover to Cover Matthew Hebert presents work that draws inspiration from artists’ books in the Athenaeum’s collection all chosen from those published in 1975, the year of the artist's birth. Hebert has done us the great favor of looking at this selection and taking the best possible bit out of context and reproducing those very words with 3-d text. It look like jig cut wood and some of the most intriguing of these almost seems to disintegrate. The exhibition is hung with the very books on display and opened to the text. The entire set of quotes is places in the board room and the table that is always present in that room is placed on top in its normal place. One of the examples is a Baldesari conceptual work:

Four Events and Reactions:
1. Putting a finger in milk
2. Touching a cactus (Touching a cake)
3. Putting out a cigerette
4. Pushing a plate off of a table

Above this is the quote, "Facing the setting sun" and at the time I was reading this, I was in fact, facing the setting sun.


In addition to these site specific interactions with the Athenaeum, Hebert exhibits six Opaque Displays. These are sculptural square metal boxes with peep holes on two sides. They house mechanical dioramas depicting works of post-minimalist art. Hebert is re-purposing art works and that gives us a new view of old favorites. 

Jeanne Dunn's walk was not very wild but there were some charming small watercolor that were vibrantly full and satisfying. 

My bonus post is a painting by JC Carino at Thumbprint Gallery. Thumbprint consistently shows Dark Art, Outsider Art and Lowbrow Art and art inspired by Graffiti Art. They have two in Hillcrest and one in La Jolla on Kline Street.



And how are we feeling today? at the UCSD University Art Gallery

By Joe Nalven

The premise of this UCSD Art Gallery exhibit is about the nuance of feeling.  But not disconnected feeling.  Feeling framed as capital, the economy, and commodity. 

How do we feel about capital?  What are the "economies of affect" and what is our emotional response to objects that provoke us in this way?

For me, I drift off and think about the quest for a living wage, about the frenzy for penny stocks in the movie Wolf of Wall Street, the effects of long-term unemployment from an economy burdened by  overregulation, about the stereotypes of poverty being confronted by Alessandra Pelosi and Bill Marr, and the partisan divide for how we can cure these ills. What remains is a malaise in the quest to locate the good life.
University Art Gallery

So many things to think about. But how do I feel about them? 
I think, therefore I feel.  Very curious.

Melanie Gilligan / Self-Capital (3 episodes)

That is the position of the viewer confronted by these objects.  How should I (or you) feel about them?  How would you feel about them?

Mierle Laderman Ukeles  /  (detail) Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969! Proposal for an exhibition "CARE" (1969)  

There is an interesting conversation that awaits the viewer - a conversation with the artist through the object, a conversation with oneself and if you find the curator, Michelle Hyun at the gallery, having  a conversation with her.  Hyun is very much open to discussing these objects, but at the end, she messages: "How do you FEEL about your everyday life, your place in this world?" Good point.

Reena Katz (aka Radiodress)  /  use     hold     strike: proposed sounds for collective grieving (2012)
In a separate room, there are more than a dozen hanging pipes with text about lives that have been grieved; the pipes can be struck with a small mallet, creating a soundscape - an "improvised soundscape for collective grieving." The smallness of the enclosed room intensifies the feeling and perhaps best illuminates the primary exhibit (what is the word for a sound that illuminates?) The largeness of the main exhibit area allows the exhibits separation from each other, but at the cost of not forcing or encouraging  the viewer to become emotionally attached - the exhibits in the main gallery are more intellectualized when compared to the soundscape. 

Feminist Economics Department / Fedora Archive / How much is this worth? (Upper and lower objects)
A caveat of sorts:  What if the frame of reference had been religion - a significant competitor to an economic framing of feelings?  Or other frames of reference? Race? Gender? Biology? etc. as well as how these intersect with each other.  Or even if the question about capital had been framed across the millennia, across social complexities of foraging, tribal and the modern state? 

The objects in this exhibit are mostly about us -  middle to upper-middle class Western-oriented consumers.  This is not a criticism of an economic framing of feeling, but simply a reminder as one walks the exhibit that there can be many more such exhibits framed geared to how feelings are experienced in other lands, at other times. That may be obvious, but it is easy to forget the compartmentalization one inhabits at any given moment. 

And how are we feeling today?
Curated by Michelle Huyn, Design by Stephen Serrato
The artists in this exhibit are:  Nina Canell, the Feminist Economics Department (the FED), Melanie Gilligan, Vishal Jugdeo, Reena Katz aka Radiodress, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Anna Sew Hoy and Wages for Facebook, Laurel Ptak.
The contributors of this exhibition variously consider our current structure of feeling through experiments with relationality. Empathic relations expand to electromagnetic waves of radio frequency and other imperceptible scales of matter. Demonstrations of other sensory modes, such as the aural and haptic, induce empathy through operations of resonance, absorption, and support. Simulated spaces of affective exchange introduce rupture into capitalism’s psychic and biopolitical dimensions. Proposals for action address certain forms of affect production, in which carework are both paternalistic and feminist political formulations, and social media is self-service as well as unwaged labor.

The exhibit runs through February 14, 2014.

Exhibition hours:
Tuesday & Thursday 11am - 5pm
Wednesday & Friday 11am - 7:30pm
Free Admission
Contact information:  Tel 858-534-2107 / Fax 858-534-3548 / /

Vishal Jugdeo  /  The Thing That Precedes The You  (digital infrared image)

Vishal Jugdeo  /  The Thing That Precedes The You  (Different view from infrared image)

Wages for Facebook:  Workshop & Discussion

Tuesday February 11, 2014  |  5:30 - 7:30pm

The Wages For Facebook campaign will launch for the first time
on the west coast with a discussion-based workshop that engages
a public to think critically about the enormous amount of digital
labor that has become a routine part of our existence online.
Nina Canell / Into the Eyes as Ends of Hair (2012)

Ana Sew Hoy / Tissue Dispensing (for Stom Sogo) (2102)
Feminist Economics Department featuring Cassie Thornton / How I Feel / How Debt Makes Me (2012)

Michelle Hyun deserves considerable credit for curating this exhibit and providing us with points of interest (ah yes, the artists!!) about how our feelings are affected by capital. Stephen Serrato's design makes it easy to segregate each object within an open environment. 

And take a friend when you go to the exhibit.  There are conversations worth having that go beyond oneself and one's habits of feeling.

Note:  The UCSD campus is large and a bit daunting to find parking for first time visitors. Recommendation:  Print out the gallery directions and be prepared to ask for assistance.

All photos by the author, Joe Nalven.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Han Nguyen, "Tracing Shadows", Unique Photograms at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

By Cathy Breslaw

Han Nguyen  ‘Tracing Shadows’
January 11 – March 1, 2014
Jospeh Bellows Gallery, La Jolla CA

The works by Han Nguyen are a delicate, sensitive, and quietly moving portrayal of organic and natural forms expressed through the use of unique photograms. Simple compositions achieved by exposing arranged natural objects to light leave their marks on photosensitive lightly toned papers. Through the use of plant and rock forms, Nguyen uses light to help us absorb and take notice of the beauty that surrounds us in the natural world.  His works refer back to the early calotypes of Fox Talbot and the plant forms recorded by Blossfeldt.  Photograms, often called ‘camera-less photography’, a process that lies somewhere between photography and printmaking, is a unique way of documenting natural objects.
Leaving only the ‘shadows’ of an object, Nguyen takes us on his journey to recognize his reverence for nature and the forms they create. His works, displayed in groupings and grids as well as large-scale prints, transcend their object-hood revealing a meditative and ephemeral quality to the images.
Tracing Shadows #44   unique photogram on gelatin silver paper

Tracing Shadows #130   unique photogram on gelatin silver paper  2013

Review by Cathy Breslaw

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jason Godeke, Classical Oil Painter with a Contemporary Vision, R.B. Stevenson Gallery, La Jolla

By Cathy Breslaw

Jason Godeke
R.B. Stevenson Gallery, La Jolla, CA

Exhibition opens Saturday, January 11 and closes February 21st

Jason Godeke is an accomplished classical oil painter who uses the backdrop of still life and landscapes to play out theatrical narratives that include toy-like figurines that appear to be part human, and part machine.Though beautifully painted flowers, fruit and cloud filled landscapes create the atmosphere of the works, there is the sense of foreboding – and the figures which appear to be mythological and symbolic, provide a glimpse into Godeke’s personal journey.

 “Contemplating My Inert Psyche”, his largest painting in the show, is of two men - one who is a human, dressed figure and the other a copy of the man, naked, who appears to be made of rock and metal. The two who are facing each other, with symbolically placed oversized fruit between them, are set against a warm-toned bucolic landscape with dramatic lighting applied to the figures. 

Titles of the paintings like “Passing the Burden”, “Adrift”, “Wandering Companions”, “Setting Forth Alone”, and “Torpor” all seem to provide clues to the themes of his work. His use of a combination of realism and surrealism serve to explore the personal challenges and complexities of being human in our contemporary world.

Contemplating My Inert Psyche   oil on canvas   70" x 78"

Windfall   oil on canvas   22" x 24"
Review by Cathy Breslaw,,

Artist David Adey Explores Self-Identity in 'Hither and Yon', Scott White Contemporary, La Jolla

By Cathy Breslaw

Hither and Yon
 is a combination of two-dimensional fragmented images of body parts laser cut on paper and arranged in three dimensional space, electronic works and sculptural installations. 

David Adey is inspired by concepts and ideas related to pop culture, outer space, mortality and resurrection, religion and self identity.  A central work is ‘Hide’, Adey’s exploration of the skin and surface of the human body where he gleaned 75,000 triangles from a 3-D model of his own body, that was peeled and flattened in one piece. He then used straight pins punched into each piece meticulously placed and arranged on a plastic board resulting in a ten by nine foot symmetrical diptych. 

Besides the deconstructed self mapping works, ‘Omega Man’ contemplates our human experience of ‘time’ with numerical electronic boards that are a visual countdown from one trillion seconds to zero with numbers moving in and out using Russian-surplus nixie tubes and the use of synchronized timers with GPS receivers. 

‘Life Clock’ is a personal piece. Working with Jeremy Clear, a fellow of the Society of Actuaries, Adey’s expected time of death was calculated down to the second based on his family history, lifestyle and health data.  

‘Flock”, a sculptural installation piece, is comprised of forty ceramic sheep made from the same mold that are leashed together by electrical cords connected to the same power source that lights a pink neon halo around each sheep’s head. This piece explores our notions of conflict between self identity and following the group. 

‘Fill My Cup’ is a fourteen foot singular tower comprised of ordinary commercially produced cups and containers of varying sizes – everything from small plastic cups to Starbucks cups, 7-11 Big Gulp to plastic large trash barrels – each sitting inside one another. This work sheds light on our consumer insatiability and consumerism in general.  

David Adey’s exhibition is  powerfully provocative – the works elicit deeply human questions about our individual place on earth, in the universe, and how we interact and navigate our way through our lives.

The show opens Saturday, January 11th and runs through February 15th. There is a film about David Adey showing at the Athenaeum on Feb 8 where he explains his process more thoroughly.
Flock   ceramic lambs, neon halos, electronics and wiring 

Hide   laser cut paper, fluorescent acrylic, pins,on pvc foam panel   120" x 54" diptych