Monday, April 24, 2017

Richard Deacon: What You See Is What You Get

by Patricia Frischer

I am a huge fan of sculpture. I have a master degree in this field and it has always been one of my passions. I have also been a painter half of my life, but as a glutton, why have two dimensions when you can have three. 

I was immensely looking forward to the Richard Deacon exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art.  What a treat to see again a major show by a major contemporary artist in this space which has not recently given that much exposure to contemporary art. Don't get me wrong, I love the large pieces out in front of the museum and the works in the sculpture garden, but an in-depth show of one artist does ring my bell. 

This show does not disappoint. The craft of making is on view in some pieces, others are highly finished. There are large impressive structures. How did they even get those into the space? There are small intimate works that allow you to see the humor and connect more directly to the artist. There were wonderful shadows created in the space from the well thought out lighting and some amazing vistas from one work, through another to a third. I just found out that photography is allowed in this show so I might just have to go back. The show is heavily guarded and I wrongly presumed it was a no photo area but   once I relaxed my reporter duties, I was able to be even more in the moment. One work not illustrated here was a vast structure that looked like part of an air vent from a space station. You could also imagine a homeless person making a habitat in this seemingly discarded piece of urban debris. But the twist of the structure and the variation of the two opening ends gave it an elegance that proves intention. 

The show is up to June 25 and I urge not to miss it. It is impressive but can only be experienced up close and personal. 

Some lovingly applied polychrome affects the enhanced this wall work

Two views of this helter skelter roller coaster of a work, showing some minor reflections on the floor which were delightful to see 

A mysterious floor work that I thought was some sort of black hole.

Not the large unfinished looking piece I described above, but the very finished work you could see through it. 

Playful lines in space, like a doddle come to life.

Extremely finished wood piece that seems to have a use if it was made of metal and house electrics, but in wood it just demands to be admired as a pure structure. 

Text from the museum
Now through July 25, 2017
Richard Deacon: What You See Is What You Get is the renowned British artist's first major museum exhibition in the United States. Winner of the Turner Prize in 1987 and the subject of a survey at Tate Britain in 2014, Deacon has been exhibited frequently internationally and remains a pioneering figure in the field of contemporary sculpture. A self proclaimed "fabricator"—a maker of things and of meaning, neither carved nor cast—Deacon sidesteps the issue of technique by never focusing on any one material, challenging the viewers' expectations with unusual combinations. While the titles of his work can appear literal, they often invoke a range of metaphors, as well as mythological and literary allusions. The full range of the artist’s oeuvre includes free-standing sculptures and wall-mounted works, to glazed ceramics and works on paper.
Richard Deacon: What You See Is What You Get includes roughly 40 works from more than three decades of Deacon's oeuvre. Along with loans from private collections as well as from institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., this exhibition will debut a new work by Deacon.
On final event occurs on May 15 | Lecture with the North County Chapter Support Council

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Off with the new, on with the old

By Patricia Frischer

I wrote of my mother’s passing last month and now I find that I am breathing in the essence of my mother more and more. I thought it would be a letting go process, but it seems that it honors her more to let her be part of me. When we are young we separate from our parents, but as I become more secure in myself, I feel that I now am able to absorb them.

Each item that I kept of my mother's I made a concerted effort to let go something of mine that was no longer needed. Often this was an upgrade, sometimes it was just an edit. But there were also vast quantities of things that went out into the universe. Some to friends and relatives...I now have many girl friends who have a piece of her clothing that they felt was chic enough to give a second life. Jewelry and scarves will go into my annual SDVAN accessory exchange this holiday. A vintage flea market of the Encinitas Friends of the Arts has been given four large boxes of items to sell in July, with the proceed going to a public art project to which I am contributing.  Masses of things went to charity shops for animals or abused women.

For all the items left in the house after this clearing process, we held an estate sale. We made a few pennies but the house is now emptied which is a great lesson and reminder that things are very fleeting. No matter how much we as artist think we are creating for history, the truth is that most of our efforts should be appreciated for the joy they bring in our own life times. My house and my heart are now full. I intend to use what I now have to improve the art I have already made and use up frames and supplies while I am still able. Burn the good candles, lather up the good soap. Live in the moment as much as possible. Now for a nice whiskey with a pickle back. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Las Comadres Collective Reassessed: Women Artists, Scholars and Activists Talk About Four Life-Changing Years

Las Comadres (part of exhibition:)
Making Communities: Art and the Border
Exhibition through April 13th – UCSD Gallery

Article by Cathy Breslaw

Making Communities: Art and the Border brings together a diverse selection of artists with one commonality: the drive to create work focusing on the multi-dimensional cultural, social, political and economic issues of the San Diego/Tijuana border region. As a visitor to the show, I found my attention drawn and riveted to a video slide show of black and white portraits of women that were part of a group called Las Comadres.  These photos plus the other works exhibited by this group, compelled me to learn more. Artist and group member Cindy Zimmerman offered to help me on my quest by connecting me with members’ email responses to questions I posed to the group.  A valuable ‘closed’ online conversation ensued among group members highlighting the depth and legacy of this fascinating collective of women artists, scholars and activists.

Artist/Las Comadres group member Frances Charteris who created those potent portraits comments “I elected to do individual portraits rather than group images because I felt it was the only way I could honor the depth, richness and beauty of the women engaged in our collective…When we discussed readings, art or politics I sensed and witnessed the intensity of the reactions; the cross cultural tensions and the way we’d stumble on the inexpressible or incommunicable…” 

This transnational group functioned as Las Comadres from 1988-1992.  It began as a reading/study group by founders Emily Hicks, Rocío Weiss and Berta Jottar who had collaborated previously while in a former group, the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo. In a discussion with Ruth Wallen and Anna O’Cain, the emergent group’s form was further outlined. Hicks comments: “I wanted to be in a feminist group that was open to experimentation and focused on border/immigration issues. The diversity in Las Comadres was inspiring and as more women joined the group, I realized it would be possible to expand to showing our work…. I wanted Las Comadres to be an anti-racist, inclusive feminist art collective”. Member Ruth Wallen added “the forming of the group was “sparked by conversations at the opening of artist Hung Liu’s work at Southwestern College, having to do with Chinese footbinding”. She also noted “Las Comadres included students, both grads and undergrads, including some studying at Southwestern, and faculty, all learning together…then other women

Many of the Las Comadres were UC San Diego alumna, but some were not – some became affiliated from their involvement in Centro Cultural de la Raza.  Graciela Ovejero Postigo comments: (we’re)”from a long list of names coming from very different fields of cultural, ethnic, work/disciplinary experiences and personal memories….self declared feminists…there was a sense of trust shared that we all understood somehow and consequently, could ably function on more organic non-hierarchial ways. I remember great enthusiasm…there was a general sense that anyone could invite somebody else to participate in the group.”

There were varied reasons as to why members were drawn to Las Comadres. Eloise De Leon comments “I worked in the field of women’s health and The Centro Cultural de la Raza served as my training ground for understanding art that was political and the politics of art, and my experience with Las Comadres helped pave the way for my entrance to UCSD’s MFA program.” Postigo comments “membership became a catalyst - as a feminist woman artist immigrant from Latin America, attempting to make sense of myself everyday, in a foreign culture. Also, the interest of working as geopolitically situated women artists critically dialoguing and intervening on the immediate realities of the border region and contesting the persistently relegated and denied
recognition to the work of women artists within the art system.”  Zimmerman comments “ Las Comadres brought a dimension of honoring womens’ perceptions and connections to the issues and to daily life, with a sensual and ritual aspect I had been longing for; an invitation and permission to explore and expand in political, metaphysical and social aspects.”

Most members agree that a few formal institutions in the community that supported the ideas of the group and their work were: Centro Cultural de la Raza, UCSD and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.  Zimmerman comments: these and the Bridge Center for Contemporary Art in El Paso hosted our shows.” Postigo also comments: “the Centro and its community became the true supportive institution for our projects and concerns.” In 1992, a binational exhibition took place, co-organized by San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centro Cultural de la Raza with work from Las Comadres. The title of that exhibition was La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexico/United States Border Experience.

Las Comadres were involved in performance art exhibitions but also inserted their strong sympathies in social and political activism. One example had to do with a response to a San Diego conservative populist campaign led by former mayor and talk show host, Roger Hedgecock in Fall, 1989 called “Light Up the Border”, a protest against ‘illegal aliens’ . He encouraged a series of protests for San Diegans to line up their cars on the border and aim their headlights to aid Border Patrols in apprehending the undocumented trying to cross the border. In response, Las Comadres positioned themselves opposite headlights of over 1000 cars by holding up mirrors and mylar reflectors, returning the lights back on them. In addition, they hired a plane to fly over the area occupied by protestors, with a banner reading “1000 Points of Fear – Another Berlin Wall?” Some group members also distributed “Border Handbooks” explaining the history of the area and attempting a dialogue with the press and demonstrators. Wallen comments “I feel that our participation, offering historical facts, and an alternative point of view was very important. We were also interviewed at length in subsequent demonstrations. Aida Mancillas represented us in a half hour interview with NPR. Many of us kept attending the subsequent demonstrations. I kept documenting the protests and saw my role as silent witness…”  Kit Aaboe in commenting on Las Comadres contributions on the border issue says “Many more activists have been born and feel empowered, and are standing up for not ony their rights, but are acting as advocates for those at risk. This is the core concept of Las Comadres: understanding each other’s points of views and values and acting out of sincere respect and concern for our neighbors.”

A major collaboration of the Las Comadres was an exhibition in 1990 at the Centro Cultural de la Raza called La Vecindad/The Neighborhood ,a multi-media, multidisciplinary exhibition. The installation featured three principle spaces representing different frameworks. A bright, multicolored kitchen contrasted with a completely black and white "conflict room." A third space, actually two small rooms, included a border feminist library and video viewing room. A performance, Border Boda, (Wedding) which was staged in the installation, centered around the differences between written and oral, as well as "First World" and "Third World" histories. Wallen comments “We explored what it meant to create border culture, a culture that instead of highlighting the alien and destitute celebrated the entire neighborhood.” De Leon comments: “ Our performance of Border Boda explored crossing borders and losing one’s language. That was a running theme in my life at that time. I’m currently serving in the Peace Corps and my goal is to finally learn Spanish. I like to imagine that I can finally speak to my grandparents who spoke only Spanish.” In her article Border Boda or Divorce Fronterizo?, Las Comadres member Marguerite Waller states “ Border Boda is not representational theater but a ritual performance processed out of our collective(if heterogeneous) memories, to give our audiences and ourselves the strength and spirit to come to terms with our painful histories and conflicted relationships to each other.”

Since 1992, the Las Comadres collective has not actively engaged in collaborations and now in 2017, have some reflective thoughts about themselves and the group:

“ We hoped to become closer to each other through telling our stories and weaving them into performance.” Marguerite Waller

“ The experience was memorable for me because I found it to be a healing space – a parenthesis: for the first time in my life I could speak openly on multiple levels – things I had never been able to say to anyone; ideas and thoughts I didn’t know had burst forth because of working with other women. .. It was transformational, life-changing, painful and joyful simultaneously. I ceased to care about patriarchy or even mention it because I discovered another way of being and living; other ways of creating and another space in which to create, one that was safe, experimental, playful, collaborative, female and often loving. These friendships were/are deep – hence the quality of communication today. …At that time, our collective allowed for privacy and intimacy. No one was expected to open up like some chose to. Nothing was forced or exacted on a personal level. Noone had to be transparent. We worked and played hard together in the best way we could.” Frances Charteris

And, in looking toward the future, the conversation among the members asked: Are you OK with Las Comadres continuing as a group? And do you want to be part of the group(and to what degree)?

“My answer is yes and yes. I think it is a powerful step to reassemble and move forward as a group. This time in history calls us back into action! For me, this time also calls me to reassert my feminist identity and reassess my feminist approach to art and activism.” Kit Anaboe

“I am very happy that Las Comadres is in the process of discussing whether or not we wish to continue as a group…I vote yes and yes….. I am very grateful that years ago, thanks to members of Las Comadres, I was able as a mother of a young child to participate in an inspiring community of women artists. I hope in future projects, to look at the diversity in our border feminist group and to discern some patterns. …” Emily Hicks

Las Comadres is a strong group of women who continued to succeed in their academic, artistic and life pursuits after 1992 in meaningful ways impacting their respective communities. Their re-connections these many years later with this online conversation, appears to have rekindled the spirit of the group. It will be exciting to see how Las Comadres evolves!

*Some of the Las Comadres group continues to be on view at the exhibition at UCSD Art Gallery continuing through April 13th.

Las Comadres Members: Kirsten Aaboe, Maria Kristina Dybbro Aguirre, Yareli Arizmendi, Camela Castrejon, Frances Charteris, Maria Erana, Eloisa de Leon, Laura Esparza, Emily Hicks, Berta Jottar, Aida Mancillas(deceased), Anna O'Cain, Graciela Ovejero Postigo , Lynn Susholtz, Ruth Wallen, Marguerite Waller, RoÍo Weiss, Cindy Zimmerman

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Performing Arts Five on Five: Innovative Happenings in the Arts: NCAN at New Village Arts

   Justin Hudnall, Kristen Fogle, Judy Bauerlein, Carolyn Grant,  Soroya Rowley( kneeling)

by Patricia Frischer

North County Arts Network Quarterly Meeting Performing Arts Five on Five: Innovative Happenings in the Arts was hosted on Wed, March 29th from 6 to 9 pm by Alex Goodman at New Village Arts (2787 State St. #B, Carlsbad, CA 92008)

The Five on Five format is an opportunity for NCAN attendees to hear concise, results- and replication-oriented presentations on innovations happening in the arts and culture field. It features five different moderators, each of whom will be allotted a strictly-limited five minutes to present a PowerPoint-based presentation.

We were honored to hear presentation by the following who are all dealing with social issues of concern to us all:

Judy Bauerlein, California State University San Marcos who told us about the innovation new programs for drama which include working with the homeless to portray their challenges. With only 40 students in this new department, they are making great progress in a non-traditional curriculum.

Kristen Fogle, Writers, Ink who helps folks to write their stories with a huge variety of programs. They even send writers into the community to write about them and to help them write their own stories

Justin Hudnall, So Say We All takes the writing of our lives to the next stage by helping people to speak their stories in a entertaining and confident way.

Soroya Rowley, Circle Circle Dot Dot has also taken her company into the community with a totally collaborative methodology to produce live theater. Their name"circle circle dot dot now you have a cootie shot..." is representative of the healing nature of their mission.

Carolyn Grant, Museum of Making Music have a short program that they hope to extend which works specifically with two groups: young women who are either at risk or recovery from sex trafficking and young people transitioning into the world from care facilities. Both are using music with a team of professional musicians to express themselves, gain confidence and learn how to be creative with a place in a team. 

We also heard about the next NCAN quarterly meeting which will be held July titled Flash Forward. Maria Mingalone and the Oceanside Museum of art will host a group of museum directors who will tell us about their plans for 2019 and beyond. Not to be missed so watch for more information. 

The Looking Glass project is now a joint project  between NCAN, San Diego Visual Arts Network and Encinitas Friends of the Arts. This is a public mural project. There should be more information about that at the next quarterly meeting.

Randy Cohen from Americans for the Arts will be the keynote speaker at the NCAN Arts and Economic Summit to be help in October. Let NCAN know if you want to be involved in the preparations for that event.

Some lovely new business cards were distributed at the meeting to help members spread the word about NCAN.