Archive for the ‘artist’ Category

Jan Rindfleisch

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Jan Rindfleisch is an artist, educator, writer, curator and cultural worker. She was the executive director of the Euphrat Museum at De Anza College in Cupertino for 32 years. During that time Rindfleisch laid the groundwork for an engaged and inclusive museum environment by continuously tapping the diverse local voices of Silicon Valley. Rindfleisch continues her work as a community builder with Roots and Offshoots: Silicon Valley’s Arts Community, a history of the art of the greater South Bay area from the post-Mission era artifacts of our First Nation peoples to the artists and activists that have made the western/southern half of the Bay Area the rich and vibrant scene it is today.

Rindfleisch has a BA in Physics from Purdue University and an MFA from San José State University. Her awards include: Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of Influence (2014); San José City Hall Exhibits Committee (2006–2013); The ABBY Awards (2010); Silicon Valley Arts & Business Awards; Arts Leadership Award; Santa Clara County Woman of Achievement, (1989); Leadership Vision Award in the Arts, Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce (1993); Civic Service Award, City of Cupertino, Cultural Arts, and the Asian Heritage Council Arts Award (1988).

Whirligig: What was the impetus for you to write this book?

Roots and Offshoots cover image

Jan: I am one of those people that love to question boundaries. I started thinking: How did we get past the exclusion in the art world in the monochromatic 1970s, which didn’t reflect the breakthroughs of the 1960s, such as women’s rights and civil rights? How did we take that early cultural landscape, break new ground, and build new forms for the future? After decades as an arts museum director and a lifetime career as an artist, author, community advocate, and educator with an earlier background in the sciences, I decided to put some of the explorations and findings together.

My book and project Roots and Offshoots: Silicon Valley’s Arts Community begins with an essay entitled The Blossoming of Silicon Valley’s Arts Community and a profile of artist/activist Ruth Tunstall Grant. A Spiral Through Time follows threads between the ancestral Muwekma Ohlone, Juana Briones in the 1800s, Marjorie Eaton and her arts colony in the 1900s, and artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood today. Over a period of years of research and writing, the book grew to about twenty profiles and two additional guest essays; one by Maribel Alvarez about MACLA, Doing that Latino Art Thing, and the other by Raj Jayadev about Silicon Valley De-Bug, The Anatomy of an ‘Un- Organization.

There are people in Silicon Valley connected with incredible history, but their story isn’t being told. Their experiences tell a different story of who we are. Origins of organizations are often forgotten or rewritten, and the originators erased. How can one or a few names stand for an organization/period/idea and the rest be forgotten? How does this erasure affect our view of ourselves as creators and as being worthy of judging or promoting art, or taking a larger role in our community? I wanted to add some of these missing pieces that contribute to a richer story of Silicon Valley’s art scene. Frustration with systems can be a motivating force. Another big personal motivation was gratitude. This book is a way to thank so many people who paved the way and with whom I worked.

Whirligig: The Bay Area is deeply rich in terms of cultural diversity and creative output. How did you determine which groups to represent, likely knowing that you could not include them all? Who was left out? Will there be a second volume?

Jan: The book is not a survey of the South Bay Area scene. I wanted to tell the story of the trailblazers who truly made a difference in Silicon Valley, and to provide broader historical context for their experience. A major/shared motivator was to share with the reader how the artists/activists in this book enrich us personally. The artists/activists open us to the art of daily life, and to the artist within each of us. They get us to examine ourselves, to question our lives, and to think freely. They inspire us to dream and imagine and effectuate change—to build connections (not walls!) and enliven our communities.

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Michelle Wilson

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Michelle Wilson is a papermaker in an extremely complex sense. Her work with paper is both conceptual and concrete as it extends from the making of sheets for artist’s books and printmaking to social practice, sculpture and installation. As a somewhat recent transplant to the Bay Area, Wilson has quickly embedded herself and her work into the consciousness of the local art scene with a residency at the School of Visual Philosophy, a Small Plates commission from San Francisco Center for the Book, teaching at both San José State and Stanford, engagement with a handful of arts organizations, and many exhibitions.

This summer, Wilson’s collaboration with Anne Beck, The Rhinoceros Project, travels to the Salina Art Center (Salina, Kansas), Shotwell Paper Mill (San Francisco, California), the Healdsburg Center for the Arts (Healdsburg, California), and later this fall to the Janet Turner Print Museum in Chico, California. Her work is included in The Power of the Page: Artist Books as Agents for Change at the New Museum of Los Gatos (NUMU in Los Gatos, California), and Pulp as Portal, Socially Engaged Hand Papermaking at the Salina Art Center in Salina, KS. Wilson has a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design, and an MFA from the University of the Arts, both in Philadelphia.

We got together on a lovely spring afternoon towards the end of the semester to talk about art and teaching.

Whirligig: I first became acquainted with your work in 2010 at an SGCI Conference in Philadelphia, occurring at the same time as Philagrafika, where I came upon a Book Bomb intervention in a public park. How did this collaboration with Mary Tasillo come about?

Michelle: Book Bombs began as a question I posed on Facebook. I was reading about yarn bombing, the tradition of knitting or crocheting something that is then bombed — left in a public space — a form of craft meets street art. I’m not a knitter or a crocheter; I’m a book artist, and so I posted a status update, “What would it mean to book bomb?” Mary took me seriously, and through our conversation, we discussed where people read in public space, who owns public space, and it led us to the idea of park benches. In Philly, every park bench has this center bar installed that is called the “arm rest,” but is designed to prevent a homeless person from sleeping comfortably on a bench. This seemed like an ideal place to install a book. Our project grew from this initial idea. And thus, Book Bombs was born.

Whirligig: What were you envisioning regarding the scope and effects of Book Bombs?

Michelle: We originally saw Book Bombs as just a project for Philagrafika 2010. However, we’ve had so much fun, we’ve continued. It’s been tricky to keep it up transcontinentally, but we manage. Most recently, we did a sort of intervention-workshop at the Center for Book Arts in New York called Keeping the Fire Alive. This was designed as a workshop for activists who were interested in using papermaking in their work, as well using it as a form of self-care against fatigue and for continued resistance. We’d originally proposed the workshop during the summer of 2016, before the election, thinking it would be a very different conversation.

Whirligig: How is papermaking used for self-care?

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C.K. Itamura

Monday, April 24th, 2017

C.K. Itamura is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and producer. Her work responds to a wide range of personal and social content; and is realized as richly engaging, metaphorically layered, participatory, conceptual installations. C.K. is Director of Marketing and Events for San Francisco Center for the Book and a board member for Healdsburg Center for the Arts.

Her most recent work s+oryprobl=m is a three part series of exhibitions which may be experienced at: O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, Loft Gallery in Mill Valley (June – July 2017); The Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa (April- June 2017), and City Hall Council Chambers also in Santa Rosa (thru May 4, 2017).

We chatted over an early evening cup of tea in mid April.

Whirligig: You are making and exhibiting complex, multi-layered, series of works that are highly metaphorical and cross media distinctions. How would you advise new art audiences to approach and experience your work? What do you hope people will “get” from experiencing your art?

C.K.: I’ll use my piece Ladies (2015) to illustrate your point.

Ladies was inspired by a surreal hours-long conversation I had one afternoon in 2013, with two strangers in an art gallery. One woman was a retired physician with crutches, the other woman was an art patron that I’ve seen at artist receptions but had never spoken with before. Over the course of the afternoon, the retired physician revealed that she wanted to die because her crippled legs prevent her from doing all the things that hold joy for her, such as hiking, swimming and traveling. The art patron revealed that she had lost all of her money and was now living in a van that she had to park in a different place every night to prevent getting into trouble with the police. After the conversation concluded when the gallery closed for the day, I wrote down notes that would remind me of this curious encounter. Two years later, the notes evolved into Ladies, a wall mounted sculpture in the style of a mini-dress that Tina Turner wore on stage during a performance with Mick Jagger on the British stage of the Live Aid Concert in 1985.

Ladies is constructed of torn paper grocery bags; it is a bag dress that suggests the phrase “bag ladies,” a term recalled from childhood that was used to describe seemingly homeless women who kept all their belonging in bags they carried with them, from place-to-place, at all times. Ladies is symbolic of contrasts: the façades of the retired physician and the art patron vs. a hidden desire to die and destitution; the opulence of Tina Turner’s memorable performance during a come back era of her career vs. the desperation of forgotten “bag ladies.” Excerpts from the notes I wrote after the curious conversation were written on the paper bag sections in pencil then selected words were traced over in permanent marker. In a final nod to another lady, my maternal grandmother, who hung laundry outside, rain or shine, the inside of the piece is filled with wooden clothes pins that are not plainly visible from the outside, as my grandmother was rarely seen away from her home.

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Angelica Muro

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Angelica MuroAngelica Muro is an integrated artist, curator, and art educator with a strong interest in cultural criticism. Originally from the Central Valley agricultural community of Hopeton, California, Muro grew up on an apple orchard. As a child she became interested in photography, media imagery and popular culture. Muro served as Gallery Coordinator for WORKS/San José for five years, and as Educational Programmer for Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA, San José, California) for three years. She has a B.A. in photography from San José State University, and an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California. She is currently Director and Chair of Visual and Public Art at California State University, Monterey where she teaches courses in photography, integrated media and media culture.

Her newest project, created with Juan Luna-Avin, Club Lido: Wild Eyes & Occasional Dreams opened February 12 at Empire Seven Studios in San José. We chatted over tea in early January, at Angelica’s Japantown (San José) bungalow. Reina Sofía, Angelica’s eight-year-old rescue pup, sat on her lap.

Whirligig: How did you come to be an artist?

Angelica: I’ve been interested in art since I was a child, but I was never really good at making—I suppose my vision never matched my actual skill set, it still doesn’t. I remember always trying to make things such as sculptures and drawings, but never having the dexterity. Photography came into my life very early—my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Dixon, had a pile of National Geographic magazines I was pointed to whenever I finished my assignment early—this was the first time I was truly able to look at images, photographs, people. Since then, it’s become my primary area of interest, socially and culturally.

Whirligig: The first time you were able to look at images or that you became aware of the power of images?

Angelica: Aware of the power, of ways of seeing, of actually looking. We are so visually saturated, so much so that we are not actually seeing. I read recently that the brain is on a need-to-know basis. Our brains store the information in our environment and we don’t actually see it, even as we know it is there.

I very vividly remember looking through these National Geographics and seeing, seeing things that I had never seen before. It was new information. This is why travel is so exciting, it’s overwhelming new information for us that we are absorbing in a completely different way, and we take that absorption as being creative influences.

Whirligig: Much of your work exploits and reveals the tensions between consumer celebrity culture and the realities of working class and immigrant lives in contemporary America, perhaps even specifically California. Who do you see as your audience for this work and what do you hope it achieves?

Angelica: I don’t often think about audience in the traditional sense; although as an educator, I often address ethical concerns involving audience with my students. I happen to live and work in California, so my work deals with the complexities of this eco-system—the spectrum of productivity, exploitation, and the distribution of wealth—and often explores issues of gender, race, and class. I’m interested in social issues, and I find that visual tension inspires me to create.

I think there’s several ways to think about audience—I remember being in graduate school, a time that allowed me to experiment with ideas with a critical, yet limited audience. Suddenly, I had a body of work about being Latina, being a woman, being the daughter of a farmworker, and navigating social constructs. And then my audience became people who where interested in issues of identity. However, my work deals with larger social issues of equalization, socialization, conditioning, and the various codes of gender identification. It’s a dialogue with my community, my artist cohort, scholars, thinkers, curators, and activists who are interested in issues of positionality and privilege. I suppose that in the simplest and most complicated sense, my audience is one interested in issues of difference, otherness, and diasporic culture. I question ideological frameworks of meritocracy, social mobility, and distribution of wealth, because I want to, in small part, be in dialogue with someone, anyone, interested in discourse about the complicated social structure we live in.

Angelica Muro

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MicroClimate Collective

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Victoria Heilweil & Glenna Cole Allee of MicroClimate Collective

Glenna Cole Allee (right) and Victoria Mara Heilweil (left) make up the collaborative curatorial project known as MicroClimate Collective. The exhibitions they produce are thematic (Hypnagogia, Wabi Sabi, Night Light, Chance Operations, Unseen Unsaid, Everything Must Go!, Eidolon, Perfect Place/No Place, X Libris, A.D.D.) with strong considerations for the nuances of layered meanings within the language of the title, and appear to seek unexpected, if not surprising, interpretations across creative genres.

MicroClimate has a focus of interdisciplinary visual and performing arts programming which provides a context for cross-pollination between diverse circles of Bay Area artists. Their mission is to foster experimentation, collaboration, and risk-taking in an atmosphere free of commercial pressures.

Within this entity they have curated eleven multi-disciplinary exhibitions during the last seven years. They are currently preparing their twelfth, Obsidere which opens at Alter Space Gallery (San Francisco) on May 9.

Glenna and Victoria are both exhibiting visual artists, often working with photography. We chatted in late January in Victoria’s Mission District flat.

Whirligig: Individually, how did you come to be an artist?

Victoria: I started off doing film and video work while I was in high school and majored in that in college. While in college I also took quite a few photography classes, which is where I discovered that I loved all media that utilized a frame. I made an experimental film in college, and also did some less than traditional photography. I think I knew then that I wanted to be an artist, but feared that I wouldn’t be able to support myself and so didn’t immediately call myself that, or move in that direction. Out of college I worked first in the feature film industry in editing, and then in the commercial photo industry as a photo assistant and studio manager. While working I was still doing my own personal photography work, and it became apparent that I wasn’t cut out to be a commercial photographer. At that point I committed to getting my MFA and being an artist. I would say that it’s only been the last ten years that I have been really actively showing my work and moving my art career forward.

Glenna: I certainly tried not to. This fact of who we are, as artists, seems to be a wider circle that persistently swallows whatever other circles we draw. I tried to do other things and deny it but it wouldn’t leave, this predicament, “artist.” I have become better at putting parentheses around the resistance and the doubt. Recently I’ve been inhabiting a certain excitement and deep joy in working consistently, as well as a daily sense of appreciation for being able to make, and give time to, my work.

Whirligig: How did you come to be MicroClimate Collective and how do you think of yourselves inside of this entity?

Victoria: I had a friend who was the Artistic Director for the Climate Theater on 9th and Folsom Street. It was a small theater that had been around a while, but when she took it over she had a vision of it having other programming than just theater. She invited me in to check out a space she thought could work for visual art and asked me to tell her what could be done there. I gave her some suggestions and then she asked if I would run it. I had been doing some curating as part of my teaching at City College of San Francisco, but was definitely interested in doing more curating outside of that arena so I said yes. Very quickly I realized I needed help with this and invited Glenna and another artist to join me.

microclimatecollective_kramer_Biblio-Babel_XLibris

I knew Glenna from showing her work in the student gallery at City College. There was also a music series and a film series at the theater. The three of us joined forces with the three film series curators to put on one night shows that took over the whole floor. We showed all different media including music, performance and spoken word. It was exciting, but very tiring and eventually the other curators left to go on to other pursuits leaving just Glenna and I. We had decided after a few years that we wanted to start looking for other spaces to curate our thematic shows, and to have them last more than one night. Right about that time the Climate Theater lost their lease and closed, which forced us to move on.

I think of myself as one of the co-founders and primary co-curators of MicroClimate Collective. Glenna and I each have different strengths and wear different hats, although we can switch off if needed.

Glenna: I was just finished with an MFA and there was Victoria, beckoning. The MFA experience I’d just finished had been transformative–the constant company and critique of others who understood art as the main focus, having everything needed right there. I wanted to actively sustain dialogue and community, and this curatorial project seemed like a possible way. It was very interesting, to create a project together to try to foster creative community–the multi-genre shows might become a conversation between artists. That was one main motivation that drew me–the notion that MicroClimate might initiate work, and even collaboration between artists. It’s been a very satisfying thing, that we have inspired others in this way a little bit.

How I think of myself within MicroClimate: as an artist, with all my personal aesthetics and sensibilities, working intentionally to be a creative collaborator. Which entails seeking to meet halfway, and to be receptive/inviting to the third thing in the room, to what would not be created alone.

I often am in the role of filtering our ideas into language, of pushing to articulate our themes, and sometimes raveling them into little knots and back out again. I find this interesting; actually enjoy it.
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