Archive for March, 2009

One of the founders of the “social serigraphy” movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960’s, Malaquias Montoya has inspired generations of artists. He has dedicated his life to informing and educating those neglected and exploited peoples whose lives are at risk in milieus of racism, sexism and cultural oppression. Malaqulas was born into a farm labor family of seven children by parents who could not read or write either Spanish or English. His personal views on art and society were formed by being born into that silent and voiceless humanity.


Wearing his signature straw gaucho hat, we met Malaqulas, and his wife Leslie, just as he had recently retired from UC Davis as professor of Chicano Studies and Art. His studio sits behind his Victorian rural home surrounded by a butterfly garden. Malaqulas works are acrylic paintings, murals, washes, and drawings, but he is primarily known for his silkscreen prints, which have been exhibited internationally as well as nationally unique visual expression is an art of protest, depicting the resistance and strength of humanity in the face of injustice and the necessity to unite behind that struggle. As a Chicano artist he feels a responsibility that all his art should be a reflection of his political beliefs – an art of protest, injustice, empowerment and international struggle.



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For more than 35 years, Joyce Cutler-Shaw has created multimedia work that has enjoyed international exposure, from Balboa Park to Beijing. Her works are represented in both museum and library special collections internationally. Joyce is a very tiny woman with a very large laugh. Dressed in black, wearing a hollow messenger pigeon columba livia bone on a lace around her neck, it bespeaks her love of birds. Her Alphabet of Bones is an original calligraphy inspired by the hollow bones of birds. Its 26 double characters have been digitalized and can be translated into the English alphabet as well as a symbolic code. It is her own copyrighted font or typeface.


Joyce entertained and enlightened us with her subjects of human identity and the natural world. Her themes are evolution, survival and transformation: from reptile into bird, from mammal to human, and from human, perhaps, to humane. Her groundbreaking arrangement with UCSD School of Medicine as a visual artist-in-residence has resulted in a body of work known as “The Anatomy Lesson.”


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We met John Robertson, through his sweetheart, artist Lynn Hansen. Where The Mountains Meet the Sea, John works in a metal 50’s Mayflower house trailer overlooking the beach and the ocean, where sky and sea merge in the color wash of the same gradient blues and greens he uses in his paintings. The amazing thing about John’s work is what it is not…. it is Not fancy oils and acrylics on textured canvas. John paints with house paint on rolls of canvas you put on the floor when you’re painting a wall or fixing a ceiling. It started as a question of economics. Dropcloths and cans of paint are a lot cheaper than the supplies you buy in an art store. Now it is his media of choice. John is known for the faces of musicians, writers, politicians and sports figures he paints on 4 1/2-by 6-foot canvases in a techniques vaguely reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s. Faces glow through streaks and lines of color.


The LA Times says “John Robertson is a man who walked away from a workaday world without looking back. Who discovered a talent he never knew he had, entwined with the dream he never knew he was dreaming. He is a happy man” and we were happy to have met him.


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When curator Jane O’Cain met us in the morning to take us through The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, she was dressed in a Woodstock yellow business suit. Everything about Jane and the museum is sunny, yellow and very classy. We were about two blocks away from Schulz’s former studio and across the street from his Redwood Empire Ice Arena and Warm Puppy Cafe. Charles Schulz was an American cartoonist best known worldwide for his Peanuts comic strip. The strip became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. Charlie Brown, the principal character for Peanuts, was named after a co-worker. Peanuts ran for nearly 50 years without interruption and appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries.


Charles’ uncle nicknamed him “Sparky” after the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google comic strip. This is Sparky’s Studio, where he lived and worked for more than 30 years. It is a permanent installation, on the second floor of the Schulz Museum. It contains the drawing board he used almost from the beginning of his career and his desk. The shelves and walls in the exhibition include his personal books, gifts, photos, and memorabilia.


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As a Chicano art student in the mid-70s, Juan Fuentes was part of the wave of new students of color who had been recruited through the Economic Opportunity Program.  The struggle for ethnic studies, the Third World Student Strike, along with the anti-war and anti-imperialist movements, shaped his world outlook.  This ultimately influenced his approach to making art and living life.


Juan, his wife Michelle (a prof of Art History) and their daughter, live over his silkscreen studio, in a beautiful 1920’s uptop, on a hill in San Fransisco. Walking through the backyard garden filled with succulents, butterflies and wind chimes, following the reclaimed brick walkway to his printing studio- an orange building built by a grateful former student, I could see through a reclaimed eyebrow window, into a charming sunlite studio. Juan’s focus has continued to use the figure or portrait as a means to tell a story, elaborating on the human condition. The prints that he has produced in the last two years are of people carrying objects or in the process of work. This carrying of things has been a metaphor for the heavy load on one’s shoulders through experiences of living.


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Since the mid 1960s Bay Area artist Bruce Beasley has remained at the forefront of modern sculpture. While his early pieces were executed in cast aluminum, in the late 1960s, Bruce began experimenting with molded transparent acrylic. Since he was working with a relatively new material, Bruce began research on the substance, eventually discovering new techniques for working with the medium. He developed a casting technique that was eventually adopted by NASA in the development of the first acrylic undersea submersibles. Bruce now designs his sculptures on a computer, planning, rotating and moving sculptural elements until he finds the right composition. Beasley’s computer model is then reduced to a pattern with which to make accurate cuts into sheet metal.


There is a whole world behind the red door in Berkeley. Ernest Hemingway comes to mind. On the ruins of a 1962 factory and an auto wreck yard, Bruce Beasley has created a home, a studio and sculpture garden of beauty among the fuchsia and bougainvillea vines. His powerful sculpture is reflected in a black infinity pool. Fruit trees in concrete pots line the property while 2 very large dogs, Pebble and Lucy, lay in summer slumber under a covered patio afew steps from his home. The woman in this image is his wife, Laurence, who helps patina and who’s soft French accent only added to my Hemingway fantasy.

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Aaron Kramer creates sculpture from woven and constructed found objects. He also creates public art and architectural commissions. Aaron works primarily in recycled materials. Reclaimed hardwoods, coffee stirrers, strapping material, buttons or tin can lids are ripe for reinvention. Street sweeper bristles are acquired as scrap from a company that re-bristles used brooms. These are woven over armatures of thin wire that he welds into organic forms. He also takes found objects and improve upon them to create new and intriguing inventions.


Aaron’s studio is in a backroom of a red brick, 1930’s Coke-a-cola distributing warehouse, in Venice. Fuchsia and red bougainvillea covering high walls across the street and around the corner creating a charming effect to an otherwise industrial neighborhood.   Look through this image and see steel sweeper bristles golf club shafts, Love birds in a cage woven wire, Bob’s 4444 light bulbs, a marque from the old Egyptian theater and many, many mechanical toys.

Aaron’s motto; “Trash is the failure of imagination”


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