Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

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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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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Beau Beausoleil

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Beau Beausoleil is a San Francisco-based poet and the proprietor of the Great Overland Book Company, which is located in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood. Beausoleil has written more than ten books of poetry. His most recent collection, Ways to Reach the Open Boat, was published by Barley Books, UK in 2013.

Beau Beausoleil at the Great Overland Book Company

In 2007 Beausoleil read an article in The New York Times about a car bombing on al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic bookseller’s street in Bagdad. This incident inspired the creation of the al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition, a project which currently has five distinct components: 130 letterpress printed broadsides; 260 artists’ books; a publication of poetry and prose titled Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here; the coordination of poetry readings around the world each year on the March 5th anniversary of the bombing; and most recently Absence and Presence, a call to 260 printmakers for the creation of fine art prints.

The project involves hundreds of artists who have created work specifically as a response to the 2007 bombing; and extensive local and international exhibition schedules, much of which Beausoleil coordinates himself. Complete editions of the visual art responses will ultimately be donated to the Iraqi National Library in Bagdad.

We met in early February over a cup of tea at Beau’s kitchen table.

Whirligig: What is poetry?

Beau: What is poetry? At one point in my life I stood on the corner of Powell and Geary, it was real close to Union Square not that far from Macy’s, and I had a little box next to me on the ground that had a sign that read “Support your local poet.” I would give out multiple copies of a poem that I had printed out to anyone who would take them. They didn’t know that they were poetry. My secret hope was that some patron would appear out of nowhere with a wallet, but of course that never happened.

I usually made enough to print out the next batch of poems. Some people would avoid me. They would go out into the street thinking that I was handing out a religious tract or a political tract of one kind or another. Some people would take them. I’d see them read them. I’d see them crumple them up after half a block and throw them away. But every now and then something would happen. I remember this one guy who took a poem. I watched him walk down Powell and I could see that he was reading the poem. He got about three quarters down the block. He turned around and walked back to me and said in this agitated voice, “I don’t know what this means, but this one line, that speaks to my life.” That’s poetry.

One time I was part of a group that was visiting Folsom Prison where there was a writer’s workshop. The visitors would read and then the prisoners would read. During the break this guy came up to me and said, “Are you Beau Beausoleil?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Did you have a poem in . . .” and he named this small magazine, and I said, “Yes.” He said. “Did it go like this. . .” and he recited my poem back to me. I was pretty stunned. He said, “I just wanted to tell you that that is the poem that started me writing.” That’s poetry.

Lorca, the Spanish poet, tells a story about duende. Duende is the inexpressible in art, in beauty. It’s there and you can feel it. Some people can recognize it. It’s an important part of the life of any artist who is really at that point. He tells a story to illustrate it.

There was a flamenco contest in this basement in Spain. All these young women are assembled. They are all in their 20s and beautiful. They are getting ready to go on the stage to perform before these three judges. Suddenly the door opens. A woman in her late 50s walks in, walks straight up to the stage, throws her arms in the air and the judges declare the contest over because they could see that she had duende. That’s poetry.

Poetry is something that gives you back part of your own life. It allows you to see your own life in another form, another way. That’s what poetry is.
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Jane Reichhold

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Jane Reichhold is an internationally recognized and award-winning artist and poet, prolific writer, editor, publisher, and scholar based in Gualala, California. Jane has written thousands of poems and published nearly 35 books on haiku, tanka, and renga, including Basho: The Complete Haiku (2008); Ten Years Haikujane (2008); and Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands on Guide (2002). Jane is a co-editor of LYNX, the publisher of AHA Books, and editor of AHA! POETRY where she keeps the practice of writing successful haiku and other Japanese poetry forms alive and lively.

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Whirligig: You spent over twenty years working on Basho: The Complete Haiku. What compelled you to create this book? Can you talk about your motivations and processes?

Jane: I felt that if I could really see how Basho wrote his hokku, by seeing each word he used and not some translator’s idea of what a haiku could be in English, I could figure out how to write a better haiku. I started first by collecting every translation of each of his poems and comparing them. Then I asked Japanese friends to give me a word-for-word translation. I began to study Japanese but still depended on Japanese translators. My only contribution was to understand how Japanese poetry works and to make the translations fit or follow these precepts.

Whirligig: That’s a very humble response for twenty years of work which resulted in invaluable insights for both Basho and haiku scholars and enthusiasts.

Jane: Truth, like haiku, is so simple.

Whirligig: What initially drew you to haiku?

Jane: On the sale table at City Lights Books Store in San Francisco, in 1968, I found a Peter Pauper book of translations for a quarter. Though I had been writing poetry since college, I felt that here in the Japanese poems was a new way of expressing poetry. Soon afterwards I was making a vessel on a potter’s wheel and just as I pulled the clay upward a bird sang out. I had the feeling that it was the bird’s voice that caused the clay to rise. I realized that in this coincidence what I felt was the same kind of inspiration Japanese poets valued.

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Alice Templeton

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Alice Templeton is winner of the New Women’s Voices Prize in Poetry (2008), which she received for Archaeology: Twenty-one Poems. Alice is a poet, musician, songwriter, educator, and scholar. In 2007 she received the distinction of honorable mention from the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation for her poem Homing. Journals which have published her work include: Poetry, 88, Puerto del Sol, and Many Mountains Moving. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco.

alicetempleton_smWhirligig: When we first met you told me your poetry was about nature, but it actually encompasses so much more than what might typically be called nature poetry. I see yours as more like landscapes with an aftermath of human residue. What inspires you to write?

Alice: That’s a wonderful description of it. I think I am very place oriented, and that place is the way I measure what I feel and think. In the poetry I try to define, through concrete imagery and language, where I am so that I can know how far I’ve come — what my thoughts are now, what my feelings are now

I often write about the places that have been meaningful to me, like my parents’ farm where I lived during high school and have continued to go back to throughout my adulthood. I think those images, those cycles of labor that we went through on the farm, were formative in my sense of who I am and what language is. I hear my parents’ voices and phrases a lot. I hear that connection between the language and the tools and the landscape. So landscape does shape my poetry, but I’m also interested in and driven by philosophical and cultural questions like: What is justice? and What is history?  Hopefully those human things inform my poetry as well.

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