Thursday, June 28, 2012

Postage Stamps + Map = Art



Eurostamps, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

A few years ago I received this cool piece of French Canadian folk art.  In the mid-20th Century a group of Franciscan nuns were fundraising by making little images out of old postage stamps. Since then, I have wanted to make some of my own postage stamp art.  Considering my love of maps, and the huge bag of stamps I acquired earlier this year, something like this piece was inevitable.   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

One City, Two Bridges



One City, Two Bridges, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

No travel themed series would be complete without a San Francisco piece.  It’s easy to forget that we are a travel destination when we live our lives in Everyone’s Favorite City.  Living close to Alamo Square, it still baffles me a bit the way so many tourists traipse up that hill for that photo.  I did this piece with vintage postcards from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  It’s noteworthy to point out that San Francisco postcards were all about our two bridges back then.  Other themes were our skyline and the exoticism of Chinatown.  There were no cable cars or Victorians on San Francisco postcards in the 1940’s.  Obviously these were just seen as old and had not yet reached the point of being charming.  As I go through postcards from different places and different eras there are noticeable changes in what sort of attractions are “postcard worthy.”  That’s said, our two bridges are still the big stars.

Monday, June 25, 2012

This Must Be Belgium



This Must Be Belgium, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

This year I worked on a scanning project where I scanned and digitized hundreds of slides.  They were mainly travel photos from the 1970’s through 1980’s.  The slides belonged to a friend’s grandparents.  Earlier in their retirement they traveled all over the world, often with tour groups.  As I was scanning Europe circa 1973, I kept thinking about that silly old movie If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.  It was one of those movies that was repeated on TV often when I was growing up.  As I have been working on travel themed mixed media art this year, I knew I wanted to reference the movie in a piece.   Here it is.  I even made prints of some of those old slides for this one.

As for the movie, many of the great character actors from the original cast are now gone.  Suzanne Pleshette, Norman Fell and Peggy Cass to name just a few.  One actor who is still with us is Ian McShane.  He played the handsome, young tour guide back in 1969.  How I would love to see a remake with Mr. McShane reprising his role.  Today he is better known for playing the foul-mouthed Al Swearengen on the series Deadwood.  Imagine a character like Swearengen leading a bus tour around Europe.  That’s a movie I want to see!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

London



London, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

This Fall I will have an installation of new, travel-themed, mixed media work.  This month I’ve done pieces about Cape Cod, Paris and Rome.  The series would be incomplete if not for a London piece.  It’s one of my favorite cities in the world and I wish I could get to visit more often.  With a bit of influence of Gilbert and George, Vivienne Westwood and a dash of Petula Clark, among others, here it is, London. 

Wrap a laptop or iPhone or get a print at Society 6.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jump in, the water is fine



Jump in, the water is fine, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

I admire that even in an emergency, your hair can look fabulous.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The GLBT Museum: A Model for an Ideal San Francisco History Museum?



Last year San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society found a home in the Castro when the GLBT History Museum opened up on 18th Street.   This week I finally made a visit.  In recent years the Castro has evolved from being a gay tourist destination to being a tourist destination.  The neighborhood has really needed something beyond rainbow themed souvenirs.  Not that you have to be a tourist to take away something from the museum.  The museum does a great job and that could be the end of the story, but it really made me think about other museum possibilities.

I have always loved history and some of that love goes back to a childhood in Buffalo.  Buffalo has the Historical Society.  It’s a grand museum with room after room of exhibits and (if it’s still there) a recreation of olde time streets on the lower level.  As a kid, it was one of my favorite museums.  I have always wondered why San Francisco doesn’t have such a museum.  We have the history for it and we even have a place.  The Old Mint on 5th and Market is slated to become that museum.  But unless we find an ├╝ber-wealthy history nerd as a backer, it’s still years away.  We do have the California Historical Society on Mission Street.  It’s small, but their exhibits are always worth checking out, in particular their current show on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Across the Bay the Oakland Museum’s History Department was good, and now, since the renovation, it’s fantastic.  Currently it’s the closest thing we have to a grand history museum in the Bay Area,

My visit to the GLBT Museum got me thinking.  I still want to see that BIG museum happen in the Old Mint, but at the same time we need something more.  The GLBT Museum’s space is in a renovated, large storefront.  Why couldn’t we have museums like that in different neighborhoods?  A sort of branch library model for a history museum spread across the City.  The Mission, Chinatown, Jackson Square, Japantown, and the Haight are just some of the neighborhoods that would have locations.  All the individual museums would be modest in size.  They would be ideal for a small dose of museum time.  Or, one could make a day of it, adventuring to different museum spots all over San Francisco.

As much as I love the big museum concept, perhaps the best way to experience San Francisco’s history is to have to explore the City and it’s different neighborhoods at the same time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Arrivederci Roma



Arrivederci Roma, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

I’ve just squeezed about every piece of art I can out of the Carr Family’s vacation album from 1961 (more about that old photo album I found in 1996 here). One of the few things left were these old black and white postcards from Rome.  They went under the exacto knife while Nino Rota was playing in the background and then presto, here it is.

Prints and other goodies based on this piece are available from Society 6.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mambo Parisienne



Mambo Parisienne, mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”

Friends are always giving me travel ephemera for my art projects.  I have piles of maps, postcards and brochures all ready to be cut up.  Inevitably, everyone I know goes to Paris and this is what happens, years later, with the things that make it back in your luggage.

Prints and other goodies based on this piece are available from Society 6.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Old Cape Cod



Old Cape Cod, mixed media on canvas 10”x10”

What can you do with a stack of vintage postcards from the 1960’s and 1970’s?  With a bit of Patti Page playing in your head, you start to cutting and gluing.  I realized that one of the postcards even had a long lost motel in East Sandwich where my family first rented a cottage in the 1970’s.  That was before we moved to Cape Cod. 

The postcards I used are more than vintage, they also show something that is now all but lost.  The Cape Cod I remember had hundreds of small summer cottages.  Cottages covered with weathered cedar shingles.  There usually was a white picket fence overgrown with salt spray roses (Rosa rugosa).  The cottages were “quaint” and “rustic.”  They were filed with furniture that was often one step away from the dump.  There was no cable, no phones and no air conditioning.  When it was hot, you opened a window and hoped for a sea breeze.  And there was that smell of damp, the mix of humid summer air, a touch of mildew, and a bit of salt marsh.  Lift up the rag rug and you might disturb an earwig.  Today those cottages are mostly history.  Torn down to their foundations and converted into ordinary houses with little charm.  If the remodeled cottages are rented out to tourists, they come with all the comforts they now demand.  Cable, wifi and high thread count duvet covers in place of old chenille bedspreads. 

If you want to have a little of Old Cape Cod you can get a print or even laptop cases or an iPhone cover from Society 6.  It’ll look swell with you madras plaid shorts. 


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Moonlight



Moonlight, 24"x24", mixed media on canvas.
Made with approximately 2000 small pieces of vintage postcards with nighttime scenes of American cities and tourist sites including San Francisco, Niagara Falls and a 1913 postcard booklet of Denver at Night.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Farmer as Artist



It might seem unusual for me to recommend a book like Davis Mas Masumoto’s Four Seasons in Five Senses.  For the most part I avoid foodism and any writing that is associated with it.  I find food nerds and dietary fanatics tiresome. 

I might fit the profile of a so-called foodie.  I do love food, I love to cook and I love to eat.  I couldn’t remember my first trip to a farmer’s market, because I was an infant.  I grew up in a world where farmer’s markets, canning, pickling, baking and cooking from scratch were the norms.  “Slow food” was just food.  Now, I am not a purist.  For example, there are emergency brownie mixes in my cupboard at all times.  I really do admire the slow food movement, I even like to apply many of its principals to what I do, calling it slow art.  It’s just when people take their foodism to the extreme.  When anyone lives their lives trying to convert others, and particularly me, I become a little more than cynical.  I have experienced that scowl when I make the mildest, critical comment against a fancy, high-end, slow food festival in San Francisco.  We have all met that person. 

David Mas Masumoto has a credibility that few writers about slow food have.  He is a good writer.  But first and foremost, he is a farmer.  And no, he is not some gentleman farmer, moved back-to-the-land, etc.  Masumoto is a third generation California farmer growing peaches and grapes in California’s Central Valley.  At times his writing is overly sentimental and even hokey.  Masumoto gets a pass.  He’s out there every day working in the hot sun.  He’s an organic grower and his book details his traditional, “slow” methods for growing peaches in a way a factory farm is incapable of doing.   He is the definition of labor-intensive. 

The story Masumoto Peaches is the story that could be told of many California crops and family farms.  California is the biggest agricultural producer in the United States and ranks number one in crop after crop.  The odd thing about California is that most of us in our cities and suburbs are completely disconnected from agricultural California.  Sure, we eat the food, we might even have our favorite stalls at a local farmer’s market, but we easily forget there is this “other” California where our food is grown.  Why I so recommend Davis Mas Masumoto’s Four Seasons in Five Senses is that it helps connects us to a part of California that we simply don’t know very well.  It is a book that most of us in California need to read. 

As I read the book I also discovered that I was reading an art book.  And yes, Masumoto’s peaches might be called works of art.  The way the Masumoto Family and their workers grow and care for their peaches speaks greatly to the artistic process.  But there is more going on in the book.  As Masumoto travels around California and speaks to different groups he realizes he too is like an artist.  His affinity to artists goes beyond the care with which he grows peaches.  He explains that farmers and artists are similar because they both toil for the love of their work and the results of their labor.  And, both farmers and artists struggle to make ends meet, often needing to have other work to supplement their income, etc.  Farmers and artists don’t choose their professions to get rich.  Masumoto has helped connect me to a world that my family left many generations ago, but he also has shown me that as an artist I have affinity with farmers that I had not recognized before.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

Round 1


The first round of cards for the Millennia Mail Art Project is ready to go to the post office!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Phantoms of Asia



I say it over and over, but the Asian Art Museum keeps proving me right – it is the best place to see modern art in San Francisco.  This summer’s Phantoms of Asia show is filled with some amazing contemporary work from Asian and Asian-American artists.  The show is not entirely a modern art show.  The museum has juxtaposed traditional and contemporary art.  Many of the pieces are hundreds and in some cases thousands of years old.  But I confess, I was there for the new work.  It steals the show. 

The show takes up the main floor special exhibition space and is also referenced with exhibits throughout the entire museum.  In the corner of the second floor, there is a room known as the Tateuchi Thematic Gallery.  There is always something good here and I check it out on every visit. 

For this exhibit you’ll find one end of the gallery filled with large paintings by the Taiwanese artist Lin Chuan-Chu. Rock V held me and kept pulling me back to look again and again.  Lin has managed to create a piece that is both abstract and at the same time a photo realistic painting of carved stone.  The other corner of the room is filled with the Japanese artist Aki Kondo’s epic piece Mountain Gods.  Seven panels wrap around the far corner of the room.  The piece is 5 feet tall and over 33 feet long (see above, left).  Kondo is a true painter’s painter with a somewhat muted palette that harkens back to Picasso and Dali.  Mountain Gods is a recent work (2011) and still has the smell of fresh oil paint.  The smell, which I love, surrounds you as you walk into the corner and explore the painting.  It adds a sensory experience to the work that will diminish over time.

If there is a “star” of the show, it would be the Tibetan-American artist Palden Weinreb  (see above center).  His work can be viewed on his website.  It’s nearly impossible for a digital image to do justice to his work, which is graphite on board under a layer of encaustic wax.  The show includes just one of his pieces, Envelop.  I looked at the piece close up and then backed up and viewed it from across the room.  I needed to move out of the way of a small, docent-lead tour.  Now, I wouldn’t interrupt a docent, and she was technically correct when she described how you could be “drawn into” the piece.  But truly, from across the room, Envelop does something much different.  You look at and you start to feel you are floating above it.  It’s like the sensation you have during a dream when you can start to fly.  I’ve never had a work art give me that sensation.

Phantoms of Asia is up until September 2.  Palden Weinreb is giving a gallery talk on June 28.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

My new mail art project



Millennia Mail Art Project

I have always been fascinated by cutaway, side view illustrations of the Earth.  One reason is because they illustrate the passage of time. They show the building up of layers of Earth, year after year.   I always like going to places where those layers have been cutaway in nature.  This is why I return to the Grand Canyon year after year. It's a place that is both stunningly beautiful and it is a place where the Colorado River has exposed the millennia.

These layered images have inspired my new mail art project. The idea is that each artist will contribute a layer of art to a card.  As different artists add to the cards, the layers will build up.  Somewhat like in the images shown above.  After they have completed their layer, artists are asked to send the card on to another artist. The end result will be a series of collaborative mail art pieces. Each one will be created by at least five different artists.


Project Instructions

1) When receive one of the cards, please fill in the next available layer with some of your work.
2) Add your name on the back of the card with the number for the layer you completed.
3) Send, mail or give the card to another artist so they can complete the next layer.
4) If you have finished the last layer, please mail the card back to:

Tofu
P.O. Box 170681
San Francisco, CA 94117

When the cards are returned, they will be added to a website.

If you would like to receive a blank card, please email me or just send one of your cards to the address above. 

For more about the project see tofuart.com/mailart