My own contribution to this exhibition can be found in two picture posts on this website: BAN 7 Power to the People, and BAN 7 #TEXTME#.
BAN 7 CLINIC: Object of Transformation
During the run of Bay Area Now 7 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the Room for Big Ideas (aka The Front Door Gallery) was given over to four artists to create ‘clinics’. I was asked to be one of these four artist/curators, to create work for the space as well as to invite three other artists to participate in the space with me. As this space is dedicated to projects that engage the visitors to the institution, I chose three other artists whose practice was completed by their engagement with the public. Our clinic was given the title, Object of Transformation, quite fitting for the range of works and intentions of our group of artists which included Cameron Kelly, Alicia Escott and Michal Wisniowski and myself. Also invited for a one-day project was José Iñiguez.
The drive to transform and restore relationships—to others and ultimately to the self—is the key to survival for the artists participating in Object of Transformation. In response to the strategy of openness of BAN 7, the artists here find a material metaphor in the physical holes in the windows of this gallery. Playing with these points of connection between inside and outside, the artists invite visitors to transform simple gestures of communication and transmission into acts of performance and participation. In the end, we are all the object of transformation – a continuous summation of what’s lost and what’s left.
Cameron Kelly tailors supportive devices- physical ones, that actually counteract the forces of gravity- and emotional ones, that deal with the gravity of the spirit. In Hug Your Center she tailors her work around the load bearing ‘objects’ of support for the gallery- the support post in the middle of the room; and the patron of the art institution. Cameron invites visitors to literally hug the center, and have a message sewn into an article of clothing. Kelly was the inaugural artist in residence at the JB Blunk Residency, and has had exhibitions at Kunst Verein Rheinlan-Pfalz, Germany, CUNorte, Guadalajara, AC2, Albuquerque, Reform Gallery, Los Angeles, among others. She currently divides her time between Cal State University at Chico, where she teaches sculpture, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Alicia Escott locates her work in relationships- person to person, person to community, community to species, species to planet. In A Brief History of the Sunset / After You Left We Started Buying things on Amazon, the objects she creates carry the communication back and forth like vectors for these relationships- physical letters, packaging pillows, butterflies made extinct by advancing human development. Through on-line transactions, conversations with visitors and letters sent through the mail, she transforms loss into reconciliation, while honoring some of its inevitable emptiness. Alicia invites visitors into a conversation starting simply with “What is your mailing address?” as a point of departure, with the possibility of a back and forth mail correspondence. Escott received an MFA from California College of the Arts, and has had residencies at Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Anderson Ranch, and the JB Blunk Fellowship.
Having migrated from communist Poland as a child, Michal Wisniowski attempts to transform his view of ‘home’ from a brutalist architect’s no-future, into a vision-board composite of his friends’ actual residences in the Bay Area. From the soul crushing uni-vision of the block house to the collective strength that makes up his Bay Area community, Building / Our Homes explores how development threatens and destroys the communities it seeks to be a part of. Using community as a survival strategy, Michal invites visitors into the institution by submitting an image of their home for the community composition, and in having tea on the patio just outside the gallery’s glass window. Michal holds an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute, and is the co-director of Studio 110 Projects in Sausalito.
José Iñiguez works with ground substances: earth and dust, but also powders. He takes the acts of collecting and milling with intention as spiritual practices, imbuing the materials with power and magic. Collecting traditional magic materials from Mexico, he believes in the simple powers stated on the label. I knew José would be wonderful for Object of Transformation because it is what he already does- takes humble materials, imbues them with intention, and then gives them away. For Object of Transformation, he attempted to communicate with visitors using only the holes in the windows. Inside, he created a special magic amulet for the visitor waiting outside, and then, in an act of grace, the small bags of power were passed through the portals to the other side. José graduated from California College of the Arts in 2014, and has shown at Studio 110 Gallery in Marin, as well as other Bay Area venues.
images from the exhibition
see other picture-posts on this website for more images of Power to The People and #TEXTME#
Helena Hallway Memorial Gallery
Helena Hallway Gallery
Welcome to the Inaugural Exhibition of the Helena Hallway Gallery, the Castro’s “only” “gallery” of art. How can that be you say? No galleries in the gayest part of town? Have the steeds of Pride been unleashed from the very cart carrying the people? “The cart before the horse might be bad for business”, but runaway steeds don’t get you very far either. The moral? Stay connected.
Helena Hallway was the drag persona of an early-era, pre-Castro personality, who also happened to be in the art business. Although details are unclear, it is reported that s/he actually lived on Polk Street. In those times, most gay people were creative- writers, artists, people walking around with question marks in their pockets, thinkers. Gay pride started because people recognized that being last-picked and left out of the game, left them to be on the most fabulous team ever. Mostly they just came here because it was all they had. The seeds of pride may have lain dormant, cast off into the outfield, but no longer.
Helena Hallway was one of those cast off seeds. Purportedly, she took her name from something she heard at a 12-step meeting: “when one door opens, another one closes. But it’s Hell Inna Hallway!”. Whether this is true or not, we know that she had a knack for finding drag names in everything- her creativity wasn’t notable to leave us much in the way of history, just pushing out the seams of her work-a-day business suit was enough for the times. So- businessman, drag persona, raconteur, if you will- all these barely touch the surface of just what Helena Hallway was. What she is– well, that’s to be decided by her influence on this small gallery, and what is contained herein. In Ms. Hallway’s oft quoted saying, “Look at it baby, it’s just art!”.
Inaugural Exhibition: In Search of the Miraculous
The artists included in this show are representative of that particular moment in time for which Hell In The Hallway is the goddess: post-art school, pre-famous. Come have a look at the view in the hallway.
This inaugural show represents a new format for exhibitions: it is the result of a small dinner party of artists at the home of artist, Raphael Noz. It includes the work of Justin Hurty, Ben Vilmain, Nicola Buffa, Natalia Gomez, Dustin Kelly and Katie Guthrie.
The show title “In Search of the Miraculous” is taken, as was the poster, from an exhibition of the same name, and was a group decision at the first salon/dinner party. It is the intention of the gallery to create exhibitions that represent the results of conversations at salon/dinner parties, or similar gatherings. The show titles and content represent the result of group conversations, negotiated understandings synthesizing all participating artists.
The title piece is comprised of a found 11”x14” poster showing a photograph of the words “IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS”, done in graffitti. The top border of the poster is the on-going accumulation of bobby pins found on the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Marfa Texas. For Raphael Noz, the bobby pins are reminders of the presence of his mother. These spiritual intersections with the sidewalks of the city and the internal life of the artist repeat in each bobby pin. This work operates as accumulated milagros at a shrine site, while remaining grounded in the mundane. A map without a map, when we look for the spirit, we find presence without location. The spiritual/profane balance of paper and crowding hairpins, manages to stay on the wall, for now.
All of the included works don’t fit into categories of spirit and magic, however. Still, in the use of common materials, common situations and the human condition as presented in these works, lies the shadow of the spiritual. Each work here can be read to reveal the artist’s personal stance: either directly facing spiritual experience, or a silent appeal for something of its redemption by the simple expression of the pain of this life. No appeal for spiritual hand-outs here, judge the work for its mature acceptance of fate among the papers and scraps of this world.
Natalia Gomez here presents a diary, or the beginnings of one. Detailing the confused and overwhelmed mind of someone going through a breakup, it stops abruptly after the first few pages. Working through issues of colonization, the book stands for “future as frontier”, and is here to be added onto, corrected, or in other ways altered. We can’t interract with this landscape without claiming it, and it claiming us.
Katie Guthrie’s addition to the show, an ordinary pair of scissors chosen on-site, brings up questions of add-on and deletion simultaneously. Not singularly an object, but a potentiator of action in the viewer, it invites action, suggests juxtaposition (with Natalia’s piece?) fades to the banal, then reasserts itself. Perhaps there’s a caution here: what can be cut away will be made more present. Yoko? Oh, no.
Ben Vilmain’s small, collaged images employ the human hand as the point of power in his small, desktop images. The hands conjure, they point, they lay still, but they also sit for portraits, and live cheaply in poorer parts of town. These hands then, are surrogates for the soul that inhabits them, however briefly.
Justin Hurty created two small objects, or perhaps I should say an object and an after-object. One framed, one not framed,; one small, the other smaller. Paint on board, the cardboard partially wrapped by foil, this work points to the time in which the art object exists,- something we can call “static time”, but also to the intrusion of that space by the after-object. This then pushes the boundaries of the two dimensional plane-space to approaching the third dimension.
Nicola Buffa has created an intricate rendering on paper, a self-drawing as multi-dimensional time traveller. Living the metaphor “multi-media for multi-dimensionality”, this work is a sailor’s valentine from a distant galaxy, in fact many of them. The figure in the image has La Gironde’s resonant smile, while the amulet she offers us like a tab of acid.
Zina Al-Shukri here plays with the shipping and packaging of meaning. She calls me on the phone and details a dream. I take dictation on an ancient typewriter. The performance echoes elements of the spiritualist parlor game we had played on the night of our gathering. Images from beyond time, whispered into the future of a cell phone, set into the past on a typewriter, to be deposited into the mind of the reader. There’s the meaning of the dream, which you can read for yourself, and the meaning of the transmission, which, circle any verb tenses of choice– has been, is, will be, was, might be- affecting us all.
Dustin Kelly’ inclusion, a small (4×6”) framed drawing on paper, softly reveals. A man is being swallowed quietly by some outsized frog-beast. Head first. Both mouths here are disabled. End, whether he knows it or not, poor thing. The heavily outlined drawing stays just outside comment; resembles a high-bleed cheap comic book rendition of something that you wanted to buy, at least as a kid. The pulpy reproduction aesthetic, retreats toward the over-simplified, though stays with us. Gloomy slapstick as pre-goth proto-emo, in the dim hallways of forgotten galleries.