Saturday, October 31, 2009

At the Asian and the De Young: Ghoulies and beasties and things that go bump in the night

The Buddhist protector deity Penden Lhamo (detail), approx. 1700-1800. Tibet. Thangka; colors on wood. The Avery Brundage Collection, B62D32.

More great "scary" images vis this thread at the Asian Art Museum blog:
Of course, what's scary to us is not scary in other cultures. The demons and frightening images in so much Asian art represent protective deities whose ferocious aspect is not to threaten us but to drive off evil demons and destructive thoughts that prevent enlightenment.

L: Anthropoid coffin of Irethorrou. R: Visualization of Irethorrou showing two amulets on his forehead by Sarah Hegmann of eHuman, Inc. using Osirix software. (FAMSF)

Mummies are another object from an ancient culture that has come to represent the complete opposite of their original purpose. From Herodotus to Hollywood, mummies have fascinated us. Medieval doctors used mummy wrappings in their medicine (along with other, even more obscure and ineffective ingredients). When Napoleon invaded Egypt in the 18th century, he brought with him a host of scientists who were determined to unlock the secrets of Ancient Egypt, including how mummies were manufactured. Nineteenth century travelers didn't feel that their journey was complete unless they could bring back a mummy (or two or three) for the family castle. In the 1920’s the curse of Tutankhamen became a media sensation. Art from Egypt has influenced artists from Ancient Greece onward and Karloff's love for his princess has become the favorite cheesy movie for Halloween night viewing. 

The dry air and desert sand of Egypt probably preserved the first mummies, but as Egyptian civilization became more sophisticated, so did their methods of preserving the dead. Here, as in so many areas, the Greeks Herodotus and Diodorus, understood the process centuries before the Europeans did. There are three different methods, from the cheapest to the most expensive. In the low-cost version (the Wal-Mart of Mummification, if you will), the intestines were cleaned and the body was placed in natron, a natural salt drying agent. In the second type, the corpse was injected with oil of cedar before it was placed in the bath, although modern authorities question the word “cedar” indicating that there is some doubt as to how this “oil” was employed.

The third type, the most elaborate and the most expensive as used during the New Kingdom – the time of the heretic king Akhenaton and the boy king Tutankhamen. All of the internal organs, except for the heart and kidneys, were removed. The brain was drawn out through the nostrils and the viscera were removed and all these organs were put in canopic jars, The empty body cavity was cleaned and anointed and natron was applied as in the other two methods. Eventually, the body was cleaned, and wrapped in fine linen, torn into strips and wound around limbs and body. For kings, queens and the upper class, jewelry was placed into the body cavity and the whole edifice was then placed within the mummy case(s), painted, gilded and launched into eternity.

What is it about Egypt that fascinates us so? Is it because we see ourselves in them? This was a society so in love with life that they wanted to continue its pleasures after death. Their art still has the power to fascinate and charm us. Or is it the tantalizing mysteries of mummies, which, now due to the power of modern technology, can teach us more about them and enable us to somehow, touch a part of our collective heritage?

At the De Young, the exhibition Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine (Opening on Halloween!) explores the modern scientific examination of mummies. Among the artifacts on view will be a very-well-preserved, 2,500-year-old ancient Egyptian mummy, known as Irethorrou. CT scans done by scientists at Stanford Medical School shed light on Irethorrou's physical attributes and the cause of his death. The scans provide depth and scientific background to the exhibition and contribute to a three-dimensional "fly-through" of the mummy as well as a forensic reconstruction of his head. The exhibition also includes a variety of ancient artifacts that date from 1450 B.C. to A.D. 150.
More reading: Barbara Mertz: Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs. A popular history of Ancient Egypt.
Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Art (to give the blog a less regional focus):

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Burma and Thailand

More background information from the blog: Right Reading, written by Tom Christensen:

Burma and Siam: a bit of history

The current exhibit up at the Asian is different in many ways from the preceding exhibit - different countries naturally, different histories (especially during the crucial 19th century) and a completely different artistic aesthetic. But here's a bit of historical background from the museum's website which makes the show even more interesting. Unlike Japan, which modernized rapidly and was conducting its own wars of expansion against China and Russia, both Burma and Siam had to fight off European colonial designs on their territory. Siam (or Thailand) was successful but Burma was not.

King Mongkut or Rama IV (1804-1868)

Most people know about Siam from the movie "The King and I. " While Anna Leonowens was an imaginative writer, her portrayal of King Mongkut was colored by her Victorian prejudices. She and the king most assuredly did not fall in love and the people of Siam still resent the way he was portrayed in her book, the play and the ensuing Hollywood movies.

"King Mongkut or Rama IV (1804-1868) was a Buddhist monk for many years before succeeding to the throne in 1851. As a monk, Mongkut studied widely, even learning English. He traveled around the country, becoming acquainted with ordinary people in a way most princes never could have. Eventually, he undertook a reform of Thai Buddhist doctrine and practice. As king, he modernized many aspects of his kingdom’s life while fending off threats from the British and other European colonialists."

King Mindon (1853-1878) of Burma
Burma is another country that has only made the news when there's yet another tragedy connected with the current regime. What makes this even more tragic is how hard the Burmese fought to gain their independence from the British, who annexed the country in the 19th century and turned it into a province of the Raj.

1824-1826, however, the Burmese lost the first of three wars to the British, and had to give up their recent conquests. The kingdom and its leaders were stunned. After being defeated a second time in 1852, and being forced to cede the vital port city of Rangoon and the entire southern section of their realm, they rallied and set out on a program of modernization, introducing Western knowledge and technology."

"As part of the effort to turn over a new leaf, King Mindon (1853-1878) founded a new capital, formally extolled as “City of Gems” and “Land of Victory,” but known to outsiders as Mandalay. The building of a new capital was a bonanza for artists and artisans, and a number of the art objects displayed here must have been made for Mandalay."

"All of the efforts of King Mindon and his court fell short. The next king floundered, and in 1885 the Burmese lost a final war with the British. The king was exiled, and Burma reduced to a colony—just one part of British India. While Buddhist ritual objects were of course still needed, the demand for adornments for courtiers and palaces disappeared overnight. Patronage was disrupted, but artists found new customers among rich merchants and foreigners."
Kipling could write of the British soldier, looking wistfully toward Mandalay, assuming that the Burmese wanted the soldier to return:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

But the Burmese nationalists most certainly did not want the British there. British rule imposed a ruling class and an economic policy which further oppressed the common people. In fact, they were so hated that some in the Burmese nationalistic movement wanted to ally with the Japanese in WW II, assuming that if the Japanese won that war they would gain their independence. In any case, Burma did gain its independence after WW II but the ensuing decades have been difficult ones, both politically and economically.
Emerald Cities at the Asian: The arts of Siam and Burma-through January 2010

Friday, October 23, 2009

Asian Art Museum: Emerald Cities -Arts of Thailand and Burma

"In the 19th-century Siam and Burma—two neighboring kingdoms in Southeast Asia—were renowned for their golden-roofed temples, lush gardens, and handsomely adorned palaces. Emerald Cities is the first major exhibition in the West to explore the rich but little known arts of Siam and Burma from this period. Many of the 140 stunning artworks—including gilded ritual vessels, mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture, colorful paintings, manuscripts, exquisite textiles, delicate ceramics, and more—were recently acquired by the museum from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and are on display for the first time."

The Asian has provided a wealth of information on their website, They even have put free lectures on iTunes that you can download for your iPod. The museum's mission, as stated by director Jay Xu, to enlighten, educate and entertain is something they take seriously. I will be reviewing the show in greater depth as soon as I recover from Open Studios (Reception tonight - ekkkk). But I can tell you, dear reader, that it's another beautifully organized, elegantly presented exhibit with a catalogue that's a "must buy." The museum's blog has some wonderful videos about the labor-intensive process of conservation which took five years (7500 hours) to restore and repair the neglect of decades of weather, fragile materials and war. Burma, alas, was the victim of another one of Britain's 19th century imperialist "little wars" which is the subject of one of the insightful essays in the catalogue.

The Asian Art Museum Blog is another resource with current entries on Burmese puppets, a tribute to Doris Duke, links to films on the current government of Myamar (Burma) and videos on conservation.

Tom Christensen, the publications designer for the Asian has an insightful post on designing a book dealing with the arts of this region. It's interesting that he chose Perpetua for the typeface which was designed by Eric Gill, the subject of a current post here.
"A challenge in this book was to come up with a design that is compatible with the decorative, sensual, spiritual, and ornate character of the art, without resorting to a proliferation of dingbats and flourishes—without creating too busy a page, full of gratuitous distractions"
Asian Art Museum: October 23 - Jan 10th, 2010

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dia De Los Muertos at Bakersfield Museum of Art

Figurative Paintings by Gage Opdenbrouw 
Skulls and Marigolds, Old Photos and Flames,

The Day of the Dead or El Dia De Los Muertos is one that is celebrated in many cultures. Usually held in early November, the holiday is for friends and family to remember those who have died, not only by praying but also by feasting and partying, often at the grave site. The Mexican and South American traditions add a macabre twist with skeletons, skulls and masks, in a tradition that harkens back to the Aztec goddess, Mictecacihuat, the Queen of the Underworld. That tradition is visually rich but it’s not alone in an unafraid and honest look at death. The "dear departed" aren't spoken of in hushed tones but are honored and remembered, not shunted away in unvisited graveyards. The Dutch and Flemish painters of the Middle Ages had the same surrealistic take on momento morti with its skulls, skeletons and poignant, unflinching acknowledgment of love and loss.

Gage Opdenbrouw comes right out of that tradition. It’s in the genes, as it were. Opdenbrouw, of Dutch descent (his family was originally from Holland), says that he is influenced by Goya but I also see hints of Ensor and Bosch. I remember seeing his work at the old Campbell Gallery in North Beach and when I accidentally ran into him last month, I took the opportunity to talk to him about his work.

 Born and raised in San Jose, like a lot of artists he loved to draw and paint from an early age. As the oldest boy in the family, his family could have pressured him to “study something more practical,” but they have always been supportive. In a recent interview, he told me, “I’ve always been fascinated with painting and sculpture, but it wasn't until I was about 19 that I made a commitment to study art, to earn a BFA. I went to the Academy of Art because I wanted to focus on traditional skills, to develop a fluency in those skills, which aren’t unfortunately taught in a lot of art schools. I loved drawing and studied illustration for a couple of years. But I realized that it didn’t interest me and that’s when I threw myself into painting. I've had a lot of crappy jobs in my life and will probably have even more, but it's always about the painting." For Gage, it's the journey that matters.

“For 8 years, my studio was at Compound 21, at 21st St & Harrison in the Mission District. The annual parade passes just a few blocks away every year, and myself and a number of the other artists there, including Andy Diaz Hope, Laurel Roth, Hugh D'Andrade, and Mati McDonough would often join in the procession, and would often paint our faces as skulls and dress up in a manner inspired by traditional Dia de los Muertos imagery. I always have found the atmosphere that night to be unique: simultaneously somber and mournful, and also joyous and raucous. In the fall of 2005, I found the celebration especially moving personally, as my grandfather, to whom I was very close, and who was a huge role model to me, had just passed away in late September. So for me, the evening was a very poignant one, as I was surrounded by close friends, loved ones who were still with me, and I was mourning those who have gone on. In reviewing photos I took that night, I found that many of the images could be painted in a way that included all those feelings and more. So to me, the paintings are a personal meditation on universal themes of life and death, love and loss, friendship and family.”

Bakersfield Museum of Art: - the show will be up through mid-November.

Other participating artists include: Jose Guadalupe Posada, Miguel Linares, Paul McMillan, Mark Vallen, Dirk Hagner, Gage Opdenbrouw, Gregg Stone, Frederick Chiriboga, Sam Coronado, Nicholas de Jesus.
Artist's website: 
All images from the artist's website; used with permission
Gage's work is also carried by ArtZone 461 in San Francisco:
Article on Day of the Dead at SF Gate:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nancy Spero: RIP: 1926 - 2009

Ms. Spero herself, who experienced both being dismissed and celebrated, said simply of her work, “I am speaking of equality, and about a certain kind of power of movement in the world, and yet I am not offering any systematic solutions.”

 Nancy Spero: The Goddess Nut II, 1990
Handprinted and Paper collage on paper/5 Panels: Each Panel 84 x 21.6 inches
Overall: 84 x 108 inches
Literature: Nancy Spero, Phaidon Press, New York; First Published 1996, Reprinted 2001, Reproduced in Color Pages 136-137.
NY Times Obit:
and another moving tribute here:

Eric Gill at USF

Eric Gill: Iconongrapher: Engravings from the Albert Sperisen Collection

Drawn from USF’s Albert Sperisen Collection, the over 100 works in “Eric Gill Iconographer” primarily represent wood engravings completed between 1910 to 1940. These were commonly completed on boxwood using carving tools and were printed in limited editions using letterpress technology. Original engraving blocks and publications are also on display.        

Eric Gill was one of the most colorful and eccentric figures in early 20th century art. Sculptor, typographer, and writer, it was his powerful but elegant line combined with his dramatic graphic sense that makes his works so prized.

"Letters are things, not pictures of things."

"Lettering is a precise art and strictly subject to tradition. The New Art notion that you can make letters whatever shapes you like, is as foolish as the notion, if anyone has such a notion, that you can make houses any shapes you like. You can't, unless you live all by yourself on a desert island".

As we learn more and more about Gill, it becomes more and more difficult to separate opinions about his work from his life. His out-of-control sexuality which he justified with his own version of Catholicism, his flouting of societal norms regarding incest taboos make huge demands on those who admire his art. Yet, his artistic work has held up. His sculpture is still packs a powerful punch, his woodcuts and engravings are both delicate and engaging, his lettering and type fonts remain influential in the fields of calligraphy and typography. His religious carvings and sculptures still have a wonderful contemporary resonance.

But the more we understand of the prevalence of child abuse, the more reprehensible Gill's personal morality becomes. Although a current biography of Gill claims that his daughters weren't bothered by their abuse and lead happy and productive lives, that knowledge alone can't help but taint our viewing of any of his works dealing with children. His son, apparently, didn't fare so well. His life was a tragedy and one can't help but wonder what effect the sexual hi-jinks in the Gill household had on him and on other beings who came into Gill's orbit. Just what do we do with Eric Gill? Should we, CAN WE, just look with appreciation and delight? Separating the work of an artist from his or her life can sometimes be a conundrum; it's all the more difficult with Eric Gill.

November 5-December 20, 2009
Donohue Rare Book Room, 3rd Floor Gleeson Library
October 11-December 20, 2009
Thacher Gallery at USF

Contemporary Jewish Museum: As It Is Written: Project 304,805

As It Is Written: Project 304,805

“In (a) beginning filled God the heavens and the earth.”

These are the beginning lines of the Torah, written in a script over 3000 years old that is still used today. The Torah is the foundational document of the Jewish people, integrating the formative history of Jews with laws that define their fundamental values. The Torah scroll, known as a Sefer Torah, is a handwritten copy of the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). There are many rules and requirements for writing a Sefer Torah, and for how it is used and stored. A Sefer Torah is kept in a Holy Ark in a synagogue and is used in the ritual of Torah reading during weekly services. The text of the Torah is also printed in book form and is known as the Chumash. While the content has tremendous importance also in Christianity and Islam, the Torah scroll is a uniquely Jewish construction at the core of Jewish identity. While other religions adapted their religious texts into book form, Jews held fast to the scroll as a ritual object.

At the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Julie Seltzer, a professional scribe (soferet), will be writing the entire text. Using traditional materials like parchment, ink, a hand-sharpened feather quill, she will write out – in public- the Torah. One year, 62 sheets, 248 columns, 10,416 lines, and finally 304,805 letters later, it  will be written. Thirty-four-year-old Julie Seltzer has gone through an extensive training process to become a soferet. Becoming a professional scribe was the outcome of an enduring curiosity about Judaism and a passion for the Hebrew language after a stay on an agricultural development, or kibbutz, in Israel. “I was so intrigued by Hebrew letters and their mystical meaning,” she says. “I just started teaching myself from the Internet – sites that explained letter formation and how to hold a calligraphy pen - and then I finally found teachers.”

As she works within the gallery, she will actively engage in dialogue during a scheduled time each day, answer questions, and share the mysteries and tools of her trade. In this groundbreaking, living exhibition, the Museum will be the first public institution to reveal this traditionally private process unchanged by time for thousands of years. To be a woman and a scribe is one break with tradition; to do this in public is another break with ancient tradition. The exhibit contains a display of the Torah as a historical artifact, religious book and contemporary artistic inspiration.

“People are really curious about my profession,” she says. “They always have a lot of questions so the educational aspect of this is really interesting to me. It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to share this with people.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the scribal process and participate in a lively dialogue with Julie Seltzer, our soferet in residence. Julie will be engaging in 15 minutes conversations twice a day as follows:

Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday: 12:30 PM and 3:00 PM
Friday: 12:30 PM
Thursday: 2:30 PM and 5:45 PM
Origins of the Torah:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shepard Fairey -

Yes, he’s a plagiarist and unfortunately for more honest (and less wealthy) artists, his unapologetic theft of an image is going to really muddy the waters of fair use for some time. He's copied more than that AP photo; he's stolen work from revolutionary Chinese and Cuban artists as well as many 60's poster artists with nary a word of acknowledgment much less sharing of the wealth.
The New York Times: "Lawyers for the visual artist who created the famous 'Hope' poster of Barack Obama have acknowledged that he lied about which photograph he based the poster on and that he fabricated evidence in an effort to bolster his lawsuit against The Associated Press, according to a statement released by The A.P. on Friday night" (emphasis added).
Discussion at the Art Law Blog :

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today - Shake, rattle and roll.

I was sitting at my desk at UC when the whole building started to shake. I went and stood under a doorway, feeling like a fool and being mocked by my co-workers. Then, the whole building almost jumped off the ground, the lights went out and they stopped laughing. I looked out the window and saw that people were leaving the building in droves, yet my supervisor wouldn't give me permission to go. Finally, even he realized that the electricity wasn't going to come back on and dismissed me with a snarl. Naturally the buses weren't working so I walked home. When I came over the hill at 17th Street, I saw the plume of smoke over at the Marina. People were out in the street, discussing the quake and some stores were selling candles and batteries. I stocked up just to be sure of having enough. When I got home, I was relieved to find that my old apartment house was still standing. When I turned on my battery operated radio, I heard that we'd just missed the "Big One" by a fraction. A friend of mine who lived in the Marina came to stay with me. The Marina, being built on landfill, was badly hit. She kept her radio on, constantly stoking her fear and panic but I went up to my local church and helped out those who were taking refuge there. I remember the quiet nights and the warm and sunny days with people out during the day light hours. In some ways, my neighborhood, on the edge of the Castro, felt like a holiday. I remember it as a time when San Francisco pulled together. We knew that we'd dogged the bullet and that the next time, the whole city could shake, rattle and roll into the bay. For a time, it made some of us grateful for what we had. The doctors at work thrust out their chests and played macho man; they hadn't been frightened or concerned even though one of the members of the division had been killed and several others injured injured in the Cypress Free collapse.

Another memory of the day here:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Open Studios: October 17th and 18th

Liz Hager at Atelier 781: October 17 & 18, 2009 from11:00am - 6:00pm
Saturday & Sunday, 781 6th Avenue @ Fulton
Liz Hager's statement:

Driven by the storytelling impulse, I create visual montages that describe the lives of real and imagined people, places, and events. Through the juxtaposition of disparate elements—my own photographs, text, additional visual and decorative details—I strive to uncover universally-shared experiences and emotions.

I print directly on non-traditional substrates, including metal, wood, and fabric, using my Epson printer. Often pieces include non-printed materials, such as painting and stitching.

I've seen Liz's work - it's evocative and poignant, like a voice from another century.

William Ulrich and Jessica Allee: 202 Page Street (Laguna between Page and Haight) 
Plus a great post by Kloe Among the Turks on a theme: Support art and artists:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Open Studios, Weekend Two

Sat, Oct 17th  & Sun, Oct 18th 11am – 6pm:
Over 150 artists opening their studios in Buena Vista, Diamond Heights, Fort Mason, Haight, Hayes Valley, Marina, Mount Davidson, Pacific Heights, Richmond, Sunset, Ocean Beach, Twin Peaks & West Portal neighborhoods

"As the recession drags on and storefronts across New York remain empty, commercial landlords are turning to an unlikely new class of tenants: artists, who in flusher times tend to get pushed out rather than lured in. And the price of entry is not deep pockets, but vivid imaginations and splashy exhibits — anything to lend their darkened buildings a sense of life..."

But that's in New York, not in San Francisco, Rents, even in commercial spaces are as high as ever. Even crappy spaces are still asking for high rent. There's a place on Market St. across from Safeway that I pass almost every day. It's an arrow-shaped building which gets traffic on both sides and the "for rent" sign has been up for over a year. The price is $1750 and the landlord hasn't come down a penny. Rents on 24th Street seem to be in the $2400 range and it's probably just as high around the city. Studio space is equally difficult to find and often, just as expensive.

Well known encaustic artist Joanne Mattera has been writing a series of articles on marketing for artists. This Monday, her blog article is on how art dealers are considering artists. The long and short of is is that they aren't taking on any new artists and that the times are as bad as they have ever been.

"While the Dow has begun to edge up and there seem to be a few more red dots in the galleries, the art world is still reeling from the recession that began 13 months ago. Gallery closings and relocations continue, and many artists who once had representation now do not."

Anna has an article up about another wonderful artist, Kirstine Reiner, at BAAQ. She writes, "Reiner has also recently found a place to live, after spending more than a year sleeping on the couch of a good friend. One needs very good friends indeed in San Francisco, where, despite the collapse of the housing market and the ensuing economic bloodletting, rents are still astronomically high. Bankers on unemployment still have much more money than my friends are likely to have during their entire lifetimes..."

So, when you are making your rounds of the studios next weekend, spare a thought for digging in your pocket and buying something, even if it's a little something. Skip that next happy meal and put a little something into the artist's pocket. Support your local artist and your Karma will be good for ..well, for some time afterward.

Takeshi Nakayoshi
 1933 17th Avenue

Madeline Behrens-Brigham
568 Hayes Street

More picks at:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Open Studios- First Weekend

When I picked up the Art Span catalogue, I went looking for the listings for Belcher Street, one of my favorite places to visit, only to find that the building has been sold and the artists booted out. Here's a loud boo to the "new owners" who evicted a thriving art colony and a hope that they find new spaces and appreciative customers. It's a sad sign of the times that so many art spaces in this neighborhood have closed in the last year - Reeves Gallery and Bucheon to name two. They are still doing business on line but it's not the same as having a physical space. I know that these are signs of the times; all across the country, artists and art spaces and places have been hit hard. We seem to be the first to feel the pain and the last to receive even a penny when the economy recovers. I chant my mantra, Ars Longa, Vita Brevis, and hope for better times. In the meantime, get out there and support your local artists. These artists are all in new spaces and the Art Span website has listings for dozens more artists who are showing this first weekend in October:

Tracy Grubbs: Landscape
Carlo Abruzzese:
Julie Alland:
Peikwen Cheng:
Paul Ferney:
Tracy Taylor Grubbs:
Paul O'Valle:
William Salit:
Rebecca Szeto:
Chris Wiedman:

Liz at Venetian Red also has a great list of first weekend picks:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Upcoming at the Asian: Emerald Cities: Opening October 23, 2009

The Asian Museum is working hard to put together their next show titled “Emerald Cities.” and it looks to be (as always) a gorgeous exhibit. The pieces are part of a collection amassed by the former tobacco heiress, Doris Duke. During a honeymoon tour to Southeast Asia in 1935, she became fascinated with the regions’ culture. In later life, she gathered countless antiques and artworks on her worldwide excursions and assembled notable collections of Islamic and Southeast Asian art.

Head of a Buddha image. Approx. 1800. Thailand; Wat Phra Chettuphon, Bangkok. Stucco. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S84+Courtesy Asian Art Museum

Largely housed at Duke Farms in a converted coach barn, her collection eventually comprised more than 2000 artworks and other objects including woodcarvings, furniture, traditional costumes, weapons, theatrical masks, and musical instruments as well as utilitarian household utensils and pottery. Other items were stored in an indoor tennis court and an indoor shooting gallery. When I attended the press preview of upcoming exhibits at the Asian, the gentleman presenting the slide show remembered his excitement and wonder when he first opened the door to the “Barn” and saw the building filled, floor to ceiling with exquisite works, rare, unseen by the public in a decade and utterly priceless.

 King Nimi is carried through the heavens on a divine chariot, a scene from the Nimi Jataka. Approx. 1875–1925. Thailand. Paint on cloth. Gift of Dr. Sarah Bekker, 2008.78

After Doris Duke’s death in 1993, her Southeast Asian art collection became the responsibility of the trustees of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. After careful consideration, the trustees decided that Doris Duke would have wanted the objects to be shared with the public, and approved a plan to donate the collection to appropriate museums. The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore received the largest donations. In total, the foundation donated nearly 700 objects to some twenty museums across the US and abroad.

 Lidded offering container. 1800–1925. Thailand. Lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.105.A–B

Before donating the collection, the foundation commissioned a book by Dr. Nancy Tingley, formerly a curator at the Asian Art Museum, to document the history and significance of the collection. The book, Doris Duke: The Southeast Asian Art Collection, is available in the museum store and can be downloaded free of charge from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s web site.

Via their blog and links to their uploaded lectures on iTunes, the Aisan Art Museum is also educating people about Burmese history.There is a wealth of information available at the Asian web site, including pieces on two reformer kings of Thailand and Burma, maps, architecture and art work and of course, opening dates and ticket prices.
All images courtesy of the Asian Art Museum

Friday, October 2, 2009

My 500th post - Open Studios Coming up

The magical 500. WOW! This is amazing. I didn't realize that I'd reached the magical 500 number until I looked at my stats today. It's been an interesting journey, from a rambling, unfocused blog to one that is focused on art, art reviews and news. It's opened doors for me for which I am extremely grateful. I've met a lot of interesting people and hope to meet even more. However, I do find it extremely ironic that my journey as an artist has taken this turn. When I retired, I thought that the community that would open up for me would be one of fellow painters and calligraphers. I never expected to find the open door to community via arts journalism. Here's a toast to the next 500 posts and maybe, even, 500 more after that.

I'm taking this opportunity to plug my own Open Studios event. My studio, (#27) at 689 Bryant Street, will be open October 23, 24 and 25. The opening reception on Friday, October 23rd (from 6-9) will be a benefit auction for RAMS. I will be open on Saturday on Sunday from 11-5 and I am praying that this time the studio won't be as uncomfortably hot as it was last spring.

Who is RAMS?
RAMS epitomizes San Francisco's cultural diversity, providing mental health services to over 10,000 underserved adults, families and children in 30 different languages & dialects throughout San Francisco. It is one of the largest mental health nonprofits in San Francisco, with a large presence in SOMA, the Tenderloin, and Potrero. Among the many served by RAMS are our neighbors at the St. Vincent DePaul Shelter.

SOMA Artist Studios
689 Bryant St. at 5th
San Francisco, CA

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Julie Mitchell: I live here

My friend Julie, who writes the delightful blog “TangoBaby” has an interview in the SF Chronicle! It's is about her photography and bloggling project, “I live here: SF." She's delightful as well as talented and I hope that this bit of PR will bring her more well-deserved acclaim (and business).

"It really is all about (the subject)," Michelle says. "They write their story, they edit their photo set, they pick their location. ... That's all a part of their story."

Image from her website