Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Filters and Masks: The PB Taylor Library Continues Its Select Art Exhibits

By Joe Nalven

After a 2 year hiatus with the departure of Mark Elliott Lugo, the Pacific Beach Taylor Library began anew with its having substantial art exhibits. The first exhibit was West Coast Drawing that ended on May 9th. 

The Digital Art Guild has followed up with a juried exhibit. Filters and Masks that runs through July 31st.

The exhibit catalog is available online and in hardcover. (Nb. The percentage of art exhibits that document the show is low. The Digital Art Guild has made a dedicated effort to document many of its exhibits:  To Send Light Into the Darkness, Cross-Pollination, Homage, and Urban Legends and Country Tales.) 

Unity of Theme / Diversity of Aesthetic 
One path to crafting an art show is to allow each artist to select their own work (with or without a juried or curated process). Another path is to propose a theme. Often, the theme is simply a veneer for marketing purposes. At other times, the artists seek a meaningful connection with the proposed exhibit's theme.  Given the ingenuity of individuals, such connections make for wonderful surprises for the audience as well as for the other artists in the exhibit. 

This exhibit is abundant in surprise. Part of the surprise can be found in the dual level of thinking required for contemporary art in digital media. 

Parenthetically, the same could be said for the innovators of earlier art genres -- impressionism, pointillism, cubism and the like. It might be heretical for one to opine that this is less true for those plying those same paths; after all, there has been an acceptance of these aesthetics. At the inception of these genres, artists and their critics engaged in pitched verbal battles of how art ought to be done. Now it is hard to imagine a criticism, 'that would have been good except that it is an impressionistic painting.' 

Perhaps it is not so much the style so much as the toolsets. Digital toolsets often result in precise imagery. Is that a 'bad' thing? I recall Mark Elliott Lugo saying at a meeting in preparation for the first SIGGRAPH art exhibit in San Diego (2003) that digital art looked "too highly rendered." 

Consider the art work below of Dolores Glover Kaufman, Michael Sussna and Henry Heerschap. There is an aspect of perfection in the lines, color and texture of these images compared to the messiness of paintings or pastels (see the work below of Kira Carrillo Corser and Lee Zasloff). 

This objection is becoming increasingly passé, especially as some venues embrace the reality of digital media. This is especially true in photography, less so in painting.

The theme of the exhibit plays upon the social and cultural reality of how are perceptions filter what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch and how we and others wear masks that disguise our thoughts and attitudes. At the same time, digital media employs tools that are called masks and filters, as well as other tools that transform, adjust color in spectacular ways, allow for multiple layers of varying opacity, and the like. For those artists employing digital media, the dual layered meaning offers more than the traditional palette. 

A Sampling of the Participating Artists
Kira Carrillo Corser  /  The Music Beneath the Mask
Kira Carrillo Corser:  Making, wearing and photographing masks has fascinated me for 25 years and for years was hidden from public viewing, Now, I know it feeds my soul and gives me connection on a deep level. In photography, if you don’t show a real face, you can shift the viewer into a story, a metaphor for some experience or shared perhaps universal emotion. In my images, masks hide or expand some element, ranging from; those I made symbolizing the dark side of creativity to hundreds of windows shut, hiding lives in Venice where masks are one of the city’s icons, yet once outlawed because people wearing them daily became deceptive.

Michael Sussna  /  Purple Mountain Majesty
Michael Sussna:  These images are all from my “astral architecture” series. I use Ultra Fractal to create my images. I then use Photoshop to enhance brightness and contrast. Occasionally I significantly alter images in Photoshop. The astral architecture images feature major modification. They invoke otherworldly structures and scenery despite being built entirely with mathematics.

Dolores Glover Kaufman  /   Anybody’s Guess 
Dolores Glover Kaufman: For my own purposes I have chosen to exploit the computer's inherently transformative powers. It is, for me, a form of artistic alchemy. I work in series using a single photograph as 'parent' and call the resulting images 'Transmutations' as the parent photograph becomes completely transformed into a series of completely different iterations. While steering the process using a quantity of parameters, my main focus of interest is on the hidden meanings and associations that begin to emerge. Working with the computer I strive for an expression of this medium that is uniquely my own. If I had to use one word to describe what I seek with my art, I would have to say that it is 'essence'. Essence as presented in this series is the spiritual life of women. 

Henry Heerschap  /  Spherical Union
Henry HeerschapI discovered digital infrared photography seven years ago. I was immediately drawn to how it enabled me to look at familiar objects in a completely new way. Stripped of the usual expectations of color and tone, I found myself forced to consider texture, shape and form. This was especially true of plant life – flowers, tree, even produce. Simple, everyday objects became a form of abstract art when captured via infrared.

Lee Zasloff  /  Sort Of Close Friends
Lee Zasloff:  Sort Of Close Friends was originally painted using acrylic on canvas. Ultimately, I took the face on the right and transformed it digitally to tell the story of two different species trying to communicate. I saw this work as a metaphor for how much difficulty, in this age of rapid communication, we have actually communicating. I used dramatic contrast, a luscious, high color painted palette and flat color and pattern areas to create drama. To me, what's interesting in this piece is the combination of the original conventionally painted face and flat painted pattern areas combined with the digitally transformed face. In thinking about my life experiences, the areas that have consistently interested me are color in all its magnificent presence and the mesmerizing affect of faces. Like newly remembered songs, color, as seen through the filter of our life experiences, affects how we view everything. It creates mood, it can create joy, it can revive, it can exhilarate. On the other side of the coin, the infinite variety of facial expressions, memories writ large on these faces and my creative ability which can change, warp, transform, reform, objectify, age, make fascinating, mysterious, unrecognizable, those are the areas that interest me when I'm creating or recreating my versions of faces. 

Participating Artists
Ron Belanger, Charlie Anne Breese, Kira Corser, Celia Durand, Joan Everds, Ursula Freer, Henry Heerschap, Valerie Samuel Henderson, Kris Hodson Moore, Dolores Glover Kaufman, Marc Kitaen, Kat Larsen, Beverly LaRock, Kaz Maslanka, Joe Nalven, Sfona Pelah, Jill Rowe, Renata Spiazzi, Mel Strawn, Michael Sussna, Pasha Turley, John Valois, Michael Wright, Lee Zasloff,

The juror for the exhibit is Chantel Paul, a curator at the Museum of Photographic Arts. 

Reception at the PB Taylor Library Art Room      Photo Credit:  Ron Belanger
The Venue:  Pacific Beach Earl & Birdie Taylor Art Gallery
Mark Elliott Lugo, former art critic with the Evening Tribune, began the well-respected art exhibits at the Pacific Beach Earl & Birdie Taylor Library (now simply, the Taylor Library) in 1997.  He worked on the elements of the art gallery at the new downtown San Diego Public Library before retiring in 2012. 

Christina Wainwright, the Taylor Branch manager, has been coordinating these new exhibits until the central library creates a centralized application process for this and all other library branches.

Note:  Joe Nalven is a founding member of the Digital Art Guild and a participant in this exhibit. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Contemporaries VII at Meyer Fine Arts, Artists in Residence Walk Through

New Contemporaries VII at Meyer Fine Arts (2400 Kettner Blvd, Suite 104, SD 92101) a special Artist “In Residence” Reception: Saturday, June 14 from 2 to 5 pm with Kim Reasor , Dave Ghilarducci, Bhavna Mehta, Vicki Walsh. On exhibit from Fri. May 9 to Sat June 28 including Shane Anderson, Dave Ghilarducci, Garrett P. Goodwin,  Emily Grenader, Bhavna Mehta, Margaret Noble, Kim Reasor , Gail Schneider , Lauren Siry, Cheryl Tall, Vicki Walsh and Joe Yorty. Free to download: New Contemporaries VII Catalog More info:: 619.358.9512.

Kim Reasor  has an intense interest in the environment and things ecological. Once you know that, you look at her images of garbage and box filled alleys and underpasses in a more poignant way. She is pointing out the waste and over consumption all around us. But she does it with such a eye for light and color that you might not first notice this hidden message. Kim takes photos from moving trains and cars that are self confessed not very professional, but because they are very strongly edited, you would think that she lives in a world none of us have ever noticed. 

Dave Ghilarducci does not make public often the fact that he manufactures all the various part of his highly technically art works from designing the mother boards to milling the plastic. He has a book overflowing with ideas and designs and works on several sculptures at the same time. His works speak for him and the two works in this show were about community and infinite possibilities.

Bhavna Mehta (who was chosen by Marianella de la Hoz as the SD Art Prize emerging artists for 2014) confided that she lets the story unfold as she is drawing and cutting each work. She has only recently started to work large and worked with words in her cut paper art. She admires Vicki and Kim and Dave with their high level of skill and says cutting paper is not hard to learn, but there are various tricks that make her life easier, like moving the paper instead of her hands and using huge quantities of Exacto knife blades.

Vicki Walsh is constantly astonished to be told that people see the art she makes first as portraits. She sees them as landscapes of skin and bones. She does not want them judged as likenesses of the subject. The most recent models have been asked to smash their faces against clear plate glass. This distorts the hills and valleys of nose and mouth. But this distortion that seems so strange to the public and very mild compared to the real bodies she had to portray as a medical illustrator.

DNA of Creativity at t Oceanside Museum of Art, PAMM - PolyAesthetic Mapping: The Muses evening

DNA of Creativity at the Oceanside Museum of Art (704 Pier View Way Oceanside, 92054) Pamm Art and Science - Tuesday, June 17, 7- 8:30pm, DNA of Creativity PechaKucha Lecture with  PAMM - PolyAesthetic Mapping: The Muses microtonal performance and  poetry reading and Photoscopia demonstration. More info:

We had a very unusual evening at the OMA which was packed with activities. 

When the guests arrived, Vicki Leon was there  to do individual demonstrations of her Photoscopia.
The Concert begins with Jonathan Glasier and Arthur Frick and Ted Washington’s Poetry reading about the PAMM muses.

Daniel Foster , director of OMA formally welcomed us to the msueum and gave his thanks for the entire DNA of Creativity project which is drawing great crowds to the museum

Patricia Frischer gave an overview of the project and explained that a PechaKucha is a time limited (10 slides, 20 seconds per slide) lecture.
Kira Corser’s slides explained the
Sea Changes: Act (a project featuring ways to save our ocean)
Jason Rogalski described
Urban Succession (preserving wildlife in urban settings)
Patricia then spoke about the
SD View Art Now (a smart phone app to locate SD events)

Kaz Maslanka gave a much more indepth presentation of the: PAMM - PolyAesthetic Mapping: The Muses and  Vicki Leon showed the muses influences on her art work. 
Ted’s recited the final five poems inspired by the muses and co written with Jeffery Haynes and Brianna DelGuidice
Joe Monzo floored us with his digitally created software music and AntiQuark with Sergio Ordonez soulful singing
We tried a very successful new way of presenting questions and answers at the end of the evening. Called Fishbowl we set three stools at front, filling two seats with audience who have something to say or ask, the third seat is filled by whoever needs to answer the question. One seat always stay empty and ready for someone to fill it.  This resulted in a discussion mainly about the whether innovation occurs when one is alone or involved in a group collaboration.

Ant and Sergio of AntiQuark performing live

Arthur Flick singing

Daniel Foster hosting the evening

Our Fishbowl discussion with Deidre, Kira Corser and Vicki Leon

Joe Monzo

Jonathan Glasier

Kaz Maslanka with Daniel Foster

Patricia Frischer

Ted Washington

Vicki Leon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Prize Winning Jewelry from the SD County Fair.

We received these images from Kaarin Vaughn who was a assistant judge in the jewelry category and helped decide the prize winners for this year's SD County Fair at the Del Mar Fair Grounds until July 6. Remember, closed on Monday.

We hope you enjoy these images and get a chance to see the full display at the fair of all the arts and crafts. 

Thanks so much to Sasha Bravo for sending us the  names for the artists of these works.

Wood Bracelet- Ron Boyd

Two Tone Ring- Cary West

Link Chain- Richard Miller

Fuchsia Earrings- Sasha Bravo

Fish & Chips Theme- Christine Westerbeak

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Review of Ron Newby’s Literary Adventure: Homo sapiens, A Liberal Perspective


Joe Nalven

There are some superficial similarities between my annual adventure in teaching an introductory course in cultural anthropology and Ron Newby’s extended essay. We both pay attention to the evolution of the hominin line and our own species Homo sapiens sapiens, a branch of the great apes; we both consider perplexities in the nature/nurture understandings of genes and behavior; and we both look at current understandings and governmental policies that affect how society is managed (or mismanaged).

However, Newby’s adventure does not pretend to a professional’s expertise, but rather that of the generally informed reader and he limits the latter half of the book to what might be broadly viewed as human nature and its manifestation in governance within the U.S. In my class, the text that I use pretends to systematically examine the human condition in a global perspective with chapters dedicated to kinship and family, language, political systems, economic systems, race and ethnicity, religion, the arts, etc. (I use the word pretends since it is truly impossible to capture the vastness of this subject, both at present and historically, particularly with our information base expanding in a multiplicity of ways.)

It would be unfair for the comments in this review to confuse the two approaches. Still, it is important to recognize that Newby limits his view of modern humanity to contemporary U.S. issues and concerns. Newby provides a liberal’s perspective on issues that range from man’s inhumanity to man, what makes for good and bad behavior, man’s inhumanity to the planet.

Liberals, of course, do not own the concerns set out in this book; still, Newby’s evidence and interpretations make for an interesting battleground of ideas.

Newby is upfront about his personal history and biases: “I am a biologist, an artist, a liberal and an atheist; a nonconformist, maybe an outsider.” (p. 3)

By contrast, I tell my students, “I don’t do PC in this class.”

However, there is a next step to being transparent. I take care to develop a testing approach that does not penalize students for different views.

Newby takes a partisan approach. From a broad perspective, he advocates that the reader join the Liberal tribe: “There is a tribe whose members are composed of educated and reasoned individuals . . . . The tribe’s name: ‘The Liberals.’” (p. 148)

(Given the history of the word liberal, it might be useful for Newby to define how he is using the term in this essay.)

Newby’s approach makes sense within his frame of reference. For example, in discussing climate change, he suggests that two elected officials in Congress need to have their views changed (to the Liberal way of doing science and to the policy springing from that view): “Have they read the reports on climate change; shall we force them to read it? Send them back to college to take some basic science courses? Take away their Bibles? How can they ignore scientific evidence? Here’s the answer: take away the money they receive from Fossil Fuel corporations and Super Pacs.” (p. 129) (Emphasis added)

Whether or not one agrees with Newby’s attitude towards some elected officials and their policies and rationales, and whether their policies are distorted by pecuniary interests, take a moment to focus on Newby’s preferred methods: Force them, send them back, take away. That’s a coercive approach to changing the belief systems of those who do not agree with one’s own.

Not only is this approach off putting to those who are members of the other political tribes, but it also undermines the belief in the utility of rational persuasive methods.

(Of course, I would have to suffer this re-education program which Newby describes. But this is not so bad since I engage these points of views – to the extent that they appear in the textbook that I use – as a way to make the educational process come alive, and then let the students pick whatever they find most useful in their lives.)

His comments about coercive re-education in this chapter seem out of step with his chapter dealing with the difficulties of changing beliefs. Newby notes that “anger towards those who fail to conform to one’s own beliefs is the first step towards hate and revenge. Revenge can lead to some unpleasant consequences.” (p. 144)

So, what is one to think? On the one hand, Newby suggests soft methods of persuasion advocated by Howard Gardner and Susan Perry – a mix of repeated messages in a variety of ways and with the listener’s perceived self-interest in mind as well as being aware of their level of intelligence. (pp. 142–43)

But this persuasive process may not work; something more may be required.

As I read Newby, when one is faced with a divided world of opinion, it may require more than the give and take of reasoned discussion. It requires membership in the Liberal tribe. (pp. 147–49)

That is all well and good except that the title of the book would be better retitled as: From Homo sapiens to Homo American Liberal.  

Newby could avoid some of the traps he sets for himself by either including more of the other point of view and seeking a less partisan approach (clearly, he is not interested in this scenario) or avoid a print edition. Print editions, including the textbook I use, suffer the fate of being outdated the moment they are printed. If Newby’s book were only available as an eBook he could avoid being surprised by the latest news.

For example, one can slice and dice statistical numbers to prove a point of view. The better approach is to examine a variety of ways to slice and dice those numbers and see whether there are confounding or intervening variables. Newby argues the issue about charitable giving from the perspective of lower-, middle- and upper-class membership. Fine. That leads Newby to one set of conclusions. BUT, if he looked at other studies, those that disaggregate the data by states, one takes away a different appreciation of charitable giving.

Newby’s point is that the lower class is relatively more generous simply because they cannot take advantage of tax code credits. (p. 115)  

However, reconsider the data from the variable of Red States versus Blue States. Do Conservatives or Liberals give more (following this line of analysis)?

From the Huffington Post (8/9/2013):

“People who live in deeply religious regions of the country — the solid-red states of the Bible Belt and Utah – give more of their income to charity than those who don't. Of the top 10 most generous states, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy study based on itemized charitable contributions among people who made at least $50,000, nine voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

"Charitable causes include churches, and Salt Lake City is the nation's most generous city. Its residents donate an average of nine percent of their discretionary income to charity; the Mormon Church asks its members for one-tenth of their income as tithing. When you remove religion from the picture and look only at secular charities, the map shifts dramatically towards the Northeast.”

Worth noting: Volunteering time does not present the same picture as charitable giving. 

A similar argument  using a regional (Blue vs. Red state) analysis  is equally informative with respect to redistribution policies and income inequality. The findings challenge Newby's belief about higher taxation leading to more income equality. (pp. 116-17)

So, even if Newby committed to his Liberal tribal approach, he could still make the argument more nuanced. But partisanship is not about nuance.

Newby does a better job in identifying those perceptual and interpretive processes that constrain rationality. We are not computers.

So, the reader is challenged by Newby’s Liberal partisanship on the one hand and important topics dealing with understanding the nature and constraints of human rationality on the other. These should fit together, but there is an uneasy tension between the two.

Occasionally, there is the odd comment and wrong word choices which would be edited out by professional editing. Doing an eBook offers the seductive option of skipping layers of copy editing. While these are minor, one merits being singled out since I am unable to make sense out of it.

In discussing whether Free Will is part of the Homo sapiens’ Intrinsic nature (pp. 133–135), Newby juxtaposes two behaviors – one of which raises the dander on post-WWII observers. Perhaps coming back from Berlin, Germany, with its significant attempts to combat the horrors of their country, I am more attuned to this phraseology.

“We all seem to know what Free Will is and we all believe we have it . . . . A beautiful woman sauntering in front of us; would you not check her out? Do you really have a choice? Did the old hormones take over? When I called my friend a Jew, was this an example of Free Will or was I acting out of instinct? Now I expect you to say: “But wait a minute, I have Free Will. I can choose which stocks to buy based upon my market research. I can make an analytical decision”. (pp. 134–35)

I singled out the reference to calling his friend a Jew. In the context of the preceding sentence, calling his friend a “lecher” or a “ladies man” or a “Romeo” makes more sense. But an ethnic designation is out of left field, especially when Newby asks if it was “acting out of instinct”? What instinct would that be? If Newby meant that this ethnic reference was clearly not the same as a sex instinct, fine. But why the “Jew” designation without some additional connective language. It is a non-sequitur that raises connotative meanings that Newby ought to avoid. Perhaps my comment is one urging PC; but it is more than that when one looks at the narrative structure and logic of this paragraph.

Fortunately, this type of writing is rare compared to the challenge of deciding whether one is part of the Liberal or the Conservative (or Libertarian or the Peace and Freedom or the other affinity groups we loosely refer to as ‘tribes.’)

A final note. Newby notes his artistic bias. I would love to know if the cover art was done by Newby. It is an appropriate portrait to what the book is about. However, there is no credit given to the artwork.

Homo sapiens A Liberal Perspective, Ron Newby, 2014, ISBN 0615970095

From Ron Newby, June 16, 2014

I have been offered this opportunity to reply to Joe Nalven’s review of my book, Homo sapiens, A Liberal’s Perspective.

His lengthy review is greatly appreciated. There are a few points that I consider worth considering and there are more sections of his review that I consider his quibbles.  That which is gratifying  is that Nalven read deeply the book and, most importantly, he asked questions.  Conversations and critical thinking regarding man’s plight are most urgently needed. 

His quibbles seemed to dominate his review.  My great concern is that I believe he missed the the point of view of my book.  The objective for my book is to stimulate critical thinking concerning man’s plight and how we became to be a species that seems to be on a path of self-destruction.  
Humans are tribal animals with ancient behavioral roots.  We use our brain to make decisions, a brain that has evolved to be able to outwit outplay and out last all other hominins.  We are the survivors; but for long?  Our brain with its ancient roots may be the cause of today’s present condition.  We war, we torture, we pollute, we ethnic cleanse, we scheme and lie and we look to God for salvation.  We have developed constructs that often have short term goals neglecting our long term survival.  These constructs and man’s genetic heritage may likely hasten our demise; or at the minimum, our pleasant life we now enjoy.  Humans seem not to be able to change our path, no matter how we lecture, protest or use friendly persuasion.  We are trapped by our genetics. 
Individually, we process information differently. We have selective vision, auditory and processing facilities.  Fear and anger are genetic traits that clouds one’s ability to observe and analysis many situations.  The genetic tribal traits of compassion and cooperation insured H. sapiens survival.  In contrast there are also genetic traits that lead us to be selfish, insuring our individual survival.  

The quibbles:  
Nalven comments, in the section on prejudice, page 135, on a question I posed; When I called my friend a Jew, was this an example of Free Will or was I acting out of instinct?”
On page 57, I related a childhood experience that occurred when I was 7 or 8 years of age.  A neighbor boy behaving as a bully gave me a big push.  My immediate reaction; “You’re a Jew.”  This was a word I had very recently heard for the first time, from my father.  He used this word in an obvious disparaging manner.  As I had related on page 57, I had no understanding of either the definition or implications of that word.  I asked the thought question: Was it free will or instinctual?  Is retaliation instinctual?  Nalven had difficulty with this concept.  What is obvious is that it was an early learning experience; discovering the power of words/epithets.  

“Newby is upfront about his personal history and biases: “I am a biologist, an artist, a liberal and an atheist; a nonconformist, maybe an outsider.” (p. 3)   “By contrast, I (Nalven) tell my students, “I don’t do PC in this class.”  I have no idea why this is part of his review.  I assume that PC equates to politically correct.  This book is not intended for a classroom in a public school.  It’s just a book with a political slant, which I clearly indicate.  There is a significant difference between being “Politically Correct” and disclosing one bias.   I do appreciate that he “take care to develop a testing approach that does not penalize students for different views.”  Nalven may have a wonderful teaching protocol, but I fail to see the relevance to the review of the book.  
Referencing page 129:  Nalven: “That’s a coercive approach to changing the belief systems of those who do not agree with one’s own.”  I posed several ludicrous questions as to methods of changing conservatives beliefs regarding their view on the climate crisis.   Should conservatives be forced to read the climate reports or we should take away their Bibles?  Nalven states that this is “Newby’s preferred methods”.  Really?   I concluded the paragraph with:  “Here’s the answer: take away the money they receive from Fossil Fuel corporations and Super Pacs.”  This approach may be unrealistic, but it’s certainly not coercive, but it would be, I surmise, very effective. 

Again Nalven seems to miss my objective:  He states ”That is all well and good except that the title of the book would be better retitled as: From Homo sapiens to Homo American Liberal.      
I do draw a considerable amount of material from Americana, such as references to Donald Trump, Dick Cheney and others.  I think they are emblematic of some human traits found in most conservative cultures and societies.  All the biological traits described in the book are universal and not restricted to the USA.
Was Nalven’s attempt to re-title the book relevant or accurate, or just a quibble?   

Another Nalven quibble: the “correct” nomenclature of our species.  He felt it necessary to add the subspecies designation. The wider accepted nomenclature of humans (by lumpers)  is Homo sapiens.  Splitters may consider modern humans as a subspecies.  See page 24. This Nalven addition is not a big problem, but was it really not necessary?
There are other parts of Nalven’s review that I could comment but will not.  Joe Nalven gave considerable thought and time in his review.  He did not gloss over the book.  He took his assignment seriously and with intellectual vigor.  Regardless if the reviewer likes or, in this case takes exception, it was certainly well considered.

I intentionally did not give credit (to myself) for the cover art.  Modesty prevailed and I did not think/consider that would have been all that important.  The painting speaks for itself.  

Ron Newby