Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2011 – Collage Monsters

Today’s piece for the 2011 Project is an experiment. And with 240 previous pieces so far, there are plenty of scraps and bits to work with. I like these little monsters, so stay tuned, more to come….

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011 – Watching You

There is always something haunting about old portraits. Especially when you focus in on the eyes. And when the eyes are in portraits at the Legion of Honor they are usually more intense. It’s a museum that sits on top of an old cemetery. Oh sure, they “moved” the graves before they built the museum. One wonders what those eyes see, especially after hours at the museum.

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29, 2011 – Ishi

Not far from his homeland, in the shadow of Mt. Lassen, one hundred years ago today, a Yana man walked out of the mountains near Oroville, California. He was a Native American and the last of his people —The Yana. He actually did not have a name, he was alone and he never had a naming ceremony. The anthropologist Alfred Kroeber named him Ishi, which means man in the Yana language. Ishi was brought to San Francisco and lived for the remaining five years of life on the campus at of UCSF.

If the story is at all familiar to you, you probably learned about Ishi in an Intro to Anthropology course back in collage. Kroeber built his career on Ishi and sadly all that most of us know about Ishi has been distilled into a multiple-choice question on a midterm exam.

As a country, America still remains a long way from really coming to terms with its history. We still have not grasped much of what ensued in the years since 1492. Most of us have moved beyond the simplistic old Hollywood Cowboys and Indians mentality. Nowadays there is generally a better understanding of the diversity and richness of different Native American peoples. Occasionally we even get some more “realistic” depictions of Native Americans in popular culture. There has been a marked improvement of the way history has been presented. But there still is something missing.

America is afraid to use the “G” word. We shy away from using the word genocide when telling American history. It’s not an easy for any culture to comes to terms with the darker side of its history. Without an honest understanding of all the facets of the American story, and particularly some of the sadder and darker stories, it may be impossible to truly heal many of the wounds inflicted as America expanded.

One hundred years ago, when Ishi emerged from the wilderness, he was the last of his people. They did not die out. They were brutally murdered. The California Gold Rush was not just a search for riches. There was a systematic campaign of what we now call ethnic cleansing in the Sierra Nevada. Native Californians were the victims of the kind of genocide that many Americans would rather imagine happening in other places, but not in America and certainly not in the Golden State.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 - 701 S. Grammercy Drive

In a recent haul of postcards from a Cape Cod estate sale I came across this one sent in 1952. Flora and her husband were settling into a corner apartment with maid service at the Ancelle Apartment Hotel at 701 South Grammercy Drive in Los Angeles. They seemed happy enough, they wrote a card to friends back in Newton, Mass. to tell them: “Thought we would let you know that we were in Calif. It got to hot for us in Fla, sold our home and came here to be near our Daughter & Family, guess it is better for year round living. We will try it any way. Have a very pleasant apt and like it so far.” Curiosity had me searching the building online. The exterior has not changed much in 60 years. It’s in Koreatown now and like many urban neighborhoods this building has seen its ups and downs. The neighborhood has been gentrifying and there are scathing reviews online regarding the condition of the building. There is also a “boudoir” photography studio located somewhere in the building nowadays. I am not sure what Flora would think of that.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27, 2011 - Long Beach Lines

An inspiring little visit to the Long Beach Museum of Art and then the multitudes of cranes and harbor gear make for today’s piece of art for the 2011 Project.

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011 - Poolside in L.A.

Flipping through magazines, tearing them up and sitting by the side of the pool.

Below is a photo of the piece drying by the pool in the Southern California sun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 2011 – Off to Los Angeles

One should not assume that my rendering of a freeway overpass is some snarky little dig at L.A. Yes, we could endlessly critique the car culture, but you have to admit, some of those overpasses are pretty impressive and they just demand to be painted. So it’s off to Los Angeles today for a little trip for some family time, some art time and undoubtedly some inspiration.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011 – China Camp

Hiding in plain sight is a treasure of a state park called China Camp. It’s just off the freeway on the shore of San Pablo Bay. The park derives its names from a shrimp fishing village settled by Chinese immigrants in the 1880’s. It’s a quiet and calm place with a collection of historic buildings.

California has an impressive collection of state parks (many are what one might call “national park caliber”). California is one of the richest states in one of the world’s richest countries, yet plans are on the table to close China Camp along with many other state parks. You better go soon if you want to see the place. It’s hard to imagine the park being closed, but it looks more and more likely.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23, 2011 – From Black & White to Blue

It usually happens a little earlier in August but at least the summer is over and the summer has begun. The fog summer is easing up and the hot summer can start. Today there were even blue skies at the Legion of Honor. It’s always nice to head out there for a little inspiration. The current “big” show of 17th Century Dutch painting was all about the sky as well. In a land of a featureless flat landscape, Dutch artists are always forced to play up the sky – and they did a good job of it 400 years ago. Adding drama where there might not have been all that much.


234 pieces are done, #235 is drying and only 130 more pieces to complete the 2011 Project. The temporary installation in my home will pretty much fill the wall before it heads out on the road.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 – Accordion Boy

When you’re a teenager, being cool is so important. Alas, most teenagers are still too young to get what really is cool. Many teenagers simply crave the latest iGadget or something overpriced with a designer label. It’s refreshing to see that some kids get what’s cool. Shane is a kid that gets it. And what could be cooler than getting a new accordion? Actually it’s an old accordion, a real beauty, about 80 years old and sounds great. The accordion even came with its original case, lined in purple crushed velvet. Now we need to find him a tuxedo to match.

The accordion was purchased at the Accordion Festival up in Cotati. I love the Accordion Festival and go almost every year. How can you not smile and have a good time in a park filled with happy music and some of the most fun people ever. And unlike Burning Man, there is no dust involved. Afterwards you can stop for a nice dinner in Petaluma and just come home.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011 – Kidnapped

"Kidnapped" - mixed media on canvas, 4"x4"

100 years ago today the Mona Lisa was kidnapped from the Louvre. Many would say she was stolen, but I think when it comes to the Mona Lisa, we’ll call it a kidnapping. She didn’t make it back to her French home for two years. Even Pablo Picasso was questioned as a possible suspect. In the end, the culprit was a Louvre employee named Vincenzo Peruggia. Mona lived with him for two years. And that thought alone makes me want to write a play. If only I had the time. Finally, Signore Peruggia tried to sell the painting to the Uffizi in Florence. He was arrested and served a scant six months with the reputation of being a patriotic Italian trying to repatriate the Mona Lisa.

She took a tour of Italy before returning to Paris. Spent World War II in hiding and since has survived acid attacks and a rock. Safely now behind bulletproof glass, she even survived a coffee mug hurled at her in 2009. It makes one wonder why museums sell things like coffee mugs at all. It’s been quite the century.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20, 2011 – Travel the World and Never Leave the Country

"Travel the World" - mixed media on canvas, 4"x4"

As Europeans colonized all over the world they loved to affix their place names to new places. In the United States you can go to all sorts of faraway places without ever leaving the country. But does Paris, Texas have an Eiffel Tower? Will there be a bullfight in Toledo, Ohio? Is there a coliseum in Rome, New York? I particularly like when the smallest towns have such big names. Moscow, Maine is a real one-horse town (or is it one moose?). The time I drove through Moscow I wondered if the red painted flower boxes on the small town hall were a nod to the other Moscow. I suspect the town clerk was just fond of red.

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19, 2011 – Ready for a New Deal

"Ready for a New Deal" - mixed media on canvas, 4"x4"

We are so ready for a New Deal, or do we call it a Renew Deal? It’s time to return to the 3 R’s of government, Relief, Recovery and Reform. A New Deal to get us all back to work, to repair and rebuild our infrastructure, and to reform a government held hostage by the one percenters and their lobbyists.

I am ready to sign up for the next WPA Federal Artists Project and follow in the footsteps of many of America’s greatest artists and writers. In the meantime, for those feeling generous and looking to support the arts with a tax-deductible contribution. Please follow the link to my fiscal sponsor and help the support the 2011 Project.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, 2011 – Tioga Afternoon

"Tioga Afternoon" - mixed media, photo collage, on canvas, 4"x4"

In summertime the quickest way to Mono Lake is straight to Yosemite and then up and over the Tioga Pass. It’s not all that quick and still takes about 6 hours. Not that there is any rush, it is one of my favorite road trips. There are plenty of places to pull off the road along the pass. A wander through Tuolomne Meadows is a requirement for the journey. I’ve done the trip many times and it has inspired more than a few paintings over the years. The timing of the trip means that I always get there for the afternoon light. The way some of the streams glow in that golden light is worth the trip itself.

I grew up with a manual focus, 35mm camera. Never knowing if the picture turned out. Photography included the waiting, the cost to develop film, etc. I always feel a bit like I am cheating with a digital camera. But I don’t regret the device at all. It is the ideal tool for capturing the brilliant mix of light and water on a Tioga afternoon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011 – State of Green Chile

"State of Green Chile" - mixed media on canvas, 4"x4"

It’s that time of the year in the Holy Land (aka New Mexico). The green chiles are being harvested and readied for roasting. There is nothing like that wonderful aroma of roasting chiles. It seems in every other strip mall parking lot in Albuquerque (okay I am exaggerating a bit), there is someone offering delicious, roasted green chiles. If I leave now, I could be there by the weekend….

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16, 2011 – The Wonder City

I recently have been accumulating more vintage postcards and postcard booklets for various art projects including the 2011 Project. Today a booklet popped out of the pile titled New York – The Wonder City. When I saw the 1914 copyright, I was a bit reluctant to put this one under the exacto knife. But it was already damaged, so here it is.

I’ve never heard New York given the moniker The Wonder City but a century ago the description surely fit. Back then there were few cities in the world with skyscrapers and they were virtually all in America (there were just a handful of skyscrapers in Europe at the time). Skyscrapers were initially an American phenomenon. The earliest ones were in cities like San Francisco, St. Louis, Buffalo and of course Chicago and New York.

Even today, it’s hard not to be impressed your first time in New York. But 100 years ago, New York must have been truly an amazing sight. So many Americans have ancestors who first arrived in the United States through New York. And it’s never really stopped, for much of the world New York remains America’s front door. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like seeing New York for the first time a century ago. It truly would have been like nothing else you had seen before. I wonder what was going through my great grandfather’s head as that ship sailed in from Europe, as he saw the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Manhattan. It was definitely was nothing like the countryside of Poland. It was the Wonder City.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011 – Imagine a Wall

This week is the 50th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Yesterday’s piece for the 2011 Project was about the Berlin Wall’s rise and fall and it’s representation on maps. I have always been fascinated with the Wall, and have decided the project needs a second Berlin Wall piece.

Unless you lived through it in Berlin, I think it’s really difficult to imagine what it would be like to have your city divided by a wall. Here is what you might do. Imagine your city like I have imagined San Francisco. Get a map and draw that inconvenient and random line splitting the city.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14, 2011 – Die Mauer

50 years ago this week, a wall started going up in Berlin. The wall was “permanent” and the city was divided. And then, in less than 30 years, the wall came down. Of course, there is much more to the story of the Berlin Wall, but one of the ideas I always take from it is that the lines we put on maps are never permanent. I have a pile of atlases that I recycle for my art. It did not take long to find four maps of Berlin for this piece. Before World War II, post-war, then divided with West Berlin like an island and finally a modern map showing the German capital.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13, 2011 – Map of Hitchcock

If Hitchcock were a place, what would the map look like? In Hitchcock, Monaco is featured on the coast, Mt. Rushmore is in the center and some of the major cities include London and New York and of course San Francisco. Just north of San Francisco you’ll find the little town of Bodega Bay.

For many people, film is the first and perhaps only means they will have to travel to far-flung places. The “reality” that the movie industry creates about places is another issue. San Franciscans know that issue well and I have explored that in other pieces for the 2011 Project. All those issues aside, today we honor Alfred Hitchcock, born on this day in 1899. Hitchcock was one of the first filmmakers to really take us places.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011 – Does a bear sit in the road in the woods?

As a kid, I remember being fascinated by the thought of going on a car trip with my family to some national park where bears would come up to the car. Those images of happy families feeding snacks to bears in the middle of the road — who wouldn’t want to try that? By the time we all knew better, bears were better managed in parks. But it’s not surprising that I tend to collect those of bears with people on old postcards and in old photos. In my bathroom I even have some framed photos of bears and a car in the 1930’s. It wasn’t until two years ago that I finally saw a bear along the road. It was in Sequoia National Park and the bear was big and brown and completely uninterested. Not even willing to look up when I snapped a picture from the safe confines of my rent-a-car.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11, 2011 – Your Pen Pal Olga

I am pretty much the last generation that had the pen pal experience. There might be a modern version via the internet. But the experience cannot be the same. There was a limit to the amount of information you could really put in a letter. It’s not just email — the forwarding of websites and images, instant messaging and social network sites would all make for a very different experience. Part of the pen pal experience involved time. The time between letters and waiting for responses was part of the experience. Young people with pen pals had an understanding of the size of the world and how long and tenuous those connections to other kids around the planet were. For many young people it was their first connection with different people in far away places.

So, when was the last time you wrote a letter to Olga?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10, 2011 – Sunset Postcards

If the place has a beach it inevitably has some cheesy sunset postcards. And even if the actual sunsets are the vivid Technicolor spectacles depicted in the postcards, the postcards usually cross the line into kitsch. And I still send them. Ironically, San Francisco with its Inner and Outer Sunset neighborhoods and it’s big expanse of Ocean Beach rarely has what you’d call a good sunset. Muted in clouds and fog it’s usually a rather dull event. Only after an air scouring winter rain or when a dome of high pressure holds the smog in place do we really get a sunset worth looking at. Fortunately, we have plenty of other distractions.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9, 2011 – L’Enfant’s City

Peter L’Enfant’s city is a place that all Americans can call “our city.” L’Enfant was the civil engineer and architect commissioned by George Washington to design the nation’s capital. Ultimately the design of Washington, D.C. was a collaborative effort but the heart of the plan came from L’Enfant. Peter started using an Americanized name when serving in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. L’Enfant was born Pierre Charles L’Enfant in France on this day, August 9, 1754. It seems appropriate that America has a capital city designed by an immigrant.

Regardless of how one feels about the people running things in Washington, it is hard not to be impressed by the city. The streets are wide and open though still feel comfortable for pedestrians. The buildings and monuments are in many ways an expression of an imperial city yet Washington can be described as a city of accessible grandeur. The accessibility of our capital city and our country is something all Americans have to fight to maintain. The One Percenters have their lobbyists and functionaries in Washington. We have seen that they are willing to hold the country hostage for their own gain. We need to remind them that L’Enfant’s City belongs to all of us.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8, 2011 – Rusty

I grew up in a world where rust was dreaded. Rust meant the wind at your feet as the bottom of the car was falling out. It was a Subaru where all that was between you and the road was some grungy car mats. Living West gave me a different appreciation of rust. It’s the objects slowly, very slowly disintegrating in the desert. Rust is cold war ghosts in national park land. Reminding us that we’ve managed to reclaim some military bases for more peaceful purposes. I take a lot of photographs for future art projects, and I always photograph rust.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 7, 2011 – Lucky Number 7

  • 7 – The luckiest of numbers
  • 7 – The number of Chakras
  • 7 – Principal Islands of Atlantis
  • 7 – Cities of Gold
  • 7 – Candles on the Menorah
  • 7 – Layers of Heaven
  • 7 – Virtues and Deadly Sins (I kind of like to mix those up a bit)
  • 7 – Seas
  • 7 – Dwarves, Samurai and Magnificent ones
  • 7 – Hills of Rome
  • 7 x 7 Miles of San Francisco
  • 7 – Shichi Fukujin (Lucky Gods) 七福神

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6, 2011 – I Love Lucy

Lucille Ball, the mother of television comedy, was born 100 years ago today. Happy Birthday Lucy!