Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Richmond Art Center (RAC) will hold its annual Holiday Arts Festival on Sunday, December 2nd

Alexander James, Vampire Box 
(sure to be one of the highlights of the silent auction)

The Richmond Art Center (RAC) will hold its annual Holiday Arts Festival on Sunday, December 2nd from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

 First held in 1961, the festival has become one of the Bay Area’s favorite community art events; each year, artists and artisans donate and sell their work in support of the Richmond Art Center.

 Hilda Robinson. "Dressed for Sunday." oil pastels. 2011

“The Holiday Art Festival has been held for more than 50 years! Looking through our archives, the earliest mention of the event we found was from a 1961 newspaper article announcing the Center’s “Christmas Bazaar.” And that was it --we had the theme for this year’s festival; the “Holiday Arts Festival, Vintage Edition,” said Kristen Jones, Holiday Arts Festival Committee Member. “I hope you will join us at this year’s 1960s inspired celebration and fundraiser; dress up in 60's costume, sip hot chocolate, bid in the silent auction, and enjoy live music while shopping for holiday gifts from local artists and vintage vendors.”

Cheryl Wolf. "Dream." clay, mixed media. 2011

What’s Available: Prices of art, crafts, artisan and vintage goods range from $5 to $250, including a wide variety of ceramics, jewelry, textiles, prints, ornaments, custom-made chocolates and art by artists from around the East Bay and creations by artists from the Richmond Art Center’s Studio Program. The Richmond Art Center’s Ceramic Department will offer nearly 1,000 unique pieces.

The Holiday Arts Festival Silent Auction is now open online at

To place a bid on an auction item, please call Kristen Jones at (510) 620-6772. Auction winners can pick up their items between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm at the Holiday Arts Festival on December 2nd, or between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm on December 8th.

When: Sunday, December 2nd, 11:00am to 5:00pm. Admission is free

Where: The RAC is located at 2540 Barrett Avenue (at the corner of Barrett and 25th Street), Richmond, CA 94804, adjacent to Civic Center Plaza. Wheelchair accessible, free parking, BART accessible. 

All items courtesy of the Richmond Art Center

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nancy becomes a little famous

GO ME! I was interviewed by SFMOMA's staff for a piece in their Jan/Feb Newsletter. Now, if I wasn't on the Internet, nobody would know who I am or be bothered with my opinion. I used Anna Conti's lovely photo and they edited the sound bite so I sound intelligent (but you guys know the truth about that).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Remembering Harvey

After Harvey Milk became one of the first out gay people elected in 1977, he put up a sign in his store window that just said, "Thank You." Thirty-five years later, an out lesbian named Tammy Baldwin would be elected to the US Senate. Remembering Harvey Milk, killed on this day in 1978.

I heard that he had been shot when I was still at work. My friends and I left work and joined the candlelight parade going down Market Steet. It was a sorrowful, powerful moment of mourning.

God is in the Mountain by Ezra Jack Keats, Part II

Luckly I found a copy on Alibris for around $5 plus shipping.

I also sprang for a DVD with 6 of his stories on it and an absolutely gorgeous book that I found at the CJM, "Keats's Neighborhood."

Sura Wood who writes for the Bay Area Reporter has a lovely review of the show.

Then, there is my review which, frankly, is decent but not as good as her's.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

God is in the mountain by Ezra Jack Keats

I was so impressed by Keat's work at the show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum that I am now trying to collect some of it. I do collect some illustrated children's books because I think that's some of the best art work that you can see -- and afford.

Unfortunately a lot of Keat's work is of print and very expensive. One edition of "God is in the mountain"  is on sale at for $495.08! I assume that it's a first edition or signed by the author because that is an unbelievably high price for an author who is almost contemporary. The seller isn't giving any information as to the reason for the high price so I am only guessing.

I have been trying to buy Ezra Jack Keat's book "God is on the Mountain" all day from Allibris which has the most reasonable prices. 
However, they keep saying that they are "having difficulties." I just hope that when they stop having "difficulties," that the books haven't been sold out!!!!!
 I checked the public library to see if there was anything that I could check out. What's sad is that every book in the library by this author is either "library use only" or stolen, lost or missing. That's a very sobering comment on the ethics of those who use the library and steal what belongs to all of

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Creativity Explored's Annual Holiday Art Sale

Party People by Andrew Li © 2009 Creativity Explored. Digital print on paper, 5” x 7”.

My favorite event of the year for one of my favorite places is around the corner...the Annual Holiday Art Sale at Creativity Explored!

Like all Creativity Explored exhibitions, one-half of the proceeds from the sale of every artwork goes directly to the artist.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rachel Sager and the 'Translation of Matter'

 Hometown on Fire

San Francisco is a magnet for all kinds of talent and one of the delights of Open Studios is being able to discover that talent.

There are so many fine artists showing their work that it’s hard for one artist to stand out.

On Sunset

But even in this competitive milleau, Rachel Sager's landscape paintings are  outstanding. 

Stormy, moody, or tranquil, in each piece the landscape is dominated by huge expanses of sky and clouds. Her clouds are not just fluffy, innocuous, shapeless pillows, but layered shapes in the sky, sometimes outwardly tranquil but shot through with undertones of menace.

Seger sees her “clouds” as debris filled objects, based on different kinds of fires and inspired by images of clouds taken from airplane windows. Her focus is on color and form as opposed to overt narrative, but there is a story in each painting.

She wrote, “The turmoil, represented by the debris filled smoke, is juxtaposed by sun infused skies and cirrus clouds, projecting the duplicity that is unavoidable, overwhelming, and at times, awe-inspiring. “

On the Bay

As documented in the film, "Sketching the Silk Road," (2005) Segar and another San Francisco based artist, Tod Thompson traveled by camel, paraglider and on foot to explore Dunhuang’s mystical Echoing Dunes and Mogao Grottoes. They completed and exhibited a series of original paintings inspired by their travel experiences in 2005.

Rachel is the adventurous daughter of an adventurous single mother. Born in Pennsylvania, her parents divorced when she was three and her mother moved her and her sister to Kansas. Her mother became a truck driver for Frito Lay, getting up at 4 AM to be sure that all the stores were stocked. Eventually Rachel burned out on corn chips but not on being an artist.

Source is below.

Rachel got her BFA in from Tyler School of Art in Pennsylvania but before that she traveled to Italy and enrolled in the prestigious Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence, Italy.

Most American students didn't have the technical expertise to qualify for the school but Rachael passed her exams with ease. Even then, her skills were outstanding.

In Italy, she supported herself by doing portraits in the Plaza, work normally done by Albanians who had cornered the market on quick sketches. They were amazed, not only at her audacity but her skills. It was an incredible learning experience – not only to be in Italy but to learn how to capture a likeness in a 5-minute sketch  in a busy Italian plaza.

Three Sticks

After getting her MFA, Rachel set out on the road again – working in a ski resort, traveling to New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, Kino, Scotland – always moved by sky and space. Eventually she settled in San Francisco, studied with Paul Pratchenko and continued to refine her skills.

Like any genuine artist, she is always seeking for better ways to paint.

Rachel’s work is featured in the current on-line exhibit at Hang Gallery: “Translation of Matter.”

Her website:
 All works copyright Rachel Sager/images used with permission. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Links

 'The Snowy Day' and the art of Ezra Jack Keats

Linda Lee Alter Collection of Art by Women: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents "The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making their World," on view for the first time; an exhibition of over 200 works from the Linda Lee Alter Collection.

Alter wished to form a collection of art made by women that eschewed a single philosophy, style, or political viewpoint. She chose to collect works that were diverse and presented a a multiplicity of voices trying to make sense of their world.

Linda Connor at Haines Gallery

From Two Worlds, Linda Connor's sixth solo exhibition with Haines Gallery, pairs two seemingly divergent perspectives. The first is The Olson House portfolio, in which she photographs the Olson House, a 200-year-old farmhouse made iconic through the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. She infuses this well-known site that is rife with Americana with her unique approach to the mystic and sacred.

The second revisits Connor's well-known, pictures of spiritually charged sites, but these works are newly displayed as large-scale photographs, printed on silk bringing to bear a presentation that encourages an immersive reassessment of her content and intention.

Georges de La Tour (France, Vic-sur-Seille, 1593 - 1652). The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, circa 1638-1640
Caravaggio at LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is presenting Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy, an exhibition devoted to the legacy of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 – 1610), one of the most influential painters in European history. Caravaggio’s striking realism, violent contrasts of light and darkness, and ability to express powerful emotions were as surprising to his contemporaries as they are to us today. In this exhibition many of the innovations introduced by Caravaggio were adopted by painters from different countries, backgrounds, and influences.

Trimpin at the Berkeley

 Matrix 244 introduces a sculptural sound installation by the internationally acclaimed Seattle-based artist Trimpin, whose work is foremost about visualizing sound. A MacArthur Fellow (1997) recognized for his creative investigations of acoustic music in spatial contexts, Trimpin often uses salvaged and reconfigured instruments and technological equipment to extend the traditional boundaries of instruments and the sounds they produce.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The art of Ezra Jack Keats

 “Crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank into the snow,” is the ending of “The Snowy Day,” a beautifully illustrated story of a little boy (Peter) and his first experience with snow.

 Published in 1962, Peter from “The Snowy Day” was something most children in the United States had never seen before: an African American character who was the hero of his own book. The book was a runaway success, capturing the Caldecott Medal and selling more than two million copies.

The pioneering author-illustrator was Ezra Jack Keats, born Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz into a family of desperately poor Eastern European Jewish immigrants. His family did not want him to become an artist because that was synonymous with poverty but he persisted. A short stint in Paris under the GI bill was the only formal training that he received. He created his innovative techniques as he went along – from his use of fabric and newspapers for collage to his bold designs, remarkable for their vibrant colors and layered imagery.

Keats’s experience of anti-Semitism and poverty in his youth gave him a lifelong sympathy for others who suffered prejudice and want.

“If,” he once remarked, “we all could really see (‘see’ as perceive, understand, discover) each other exactly as the other is, this would be a different world.”

Keats, who grew up coping with poverty and anti-Semitism, converted his negative childhood experiences into empathy for the urban, often non-white poor.

 Peter stars in six more of Keats’s picture books He gets older, acquires a baby sister (Susie), a dog (Willie) and a gang of friends, who help him get in and out of trouble.But Keats went on to ultimately illustrate and author eighty children's books and co-author twenty more.

 All of Keats’ black, brown, beige, Spanish speaking children are human beings with foibles and quirks but whose loving hearts or even artistic talent help them to survive and ultimately triumph.

Despite glowing reviews and an admiring letter from Langston Hughes, “The Snowy Day” also drew sharp criticism. In “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” a 1965 essay in Saturday Review, Nancy Larrick described Peter’s mother as a stereotypical and said that Keats should have referred directly to Peter’s race.

Keats’s subsequent letter to the editor, on display, has an uncharacteristically biting response: “Might I suggest armbands?” a reference to the armbands that the Nazi’s forced the Jews to wear – a reference which was lost on Ms. Larrick.

But what he did by portraying non-Caucasian characters as human beings created a quiet revolution. The fact that today we think nothing of it shows how well he succeeded.

“ . . . weave for us a garment of brightness (American Indian, Tewa Pueblo)”
Final illustration for God Is in the Mountain, 1966. This evocative illustration accompanies verses excerpted by Keats from the Tewa poem “Song of the Sky Loom,” which envisions nature as a garment for humanity.

The show, which also comprises notebooks, sketches, correspondence, photographs and some of Keats’s research, includes a 1940 clipping from Life magazine showing a boy of about 3 or 4 being tested for malaria in Georgia. He became the model for Peter. “The child was black, but as far as Ezra was concerned, he was Ezra,” said Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

 Visitors will see more than 80 original Keats works, from early sketches to final paintings from his best-known books, including “Louie,” “The Trip,” “Apt. 3” and the Caldecott Award–winning “The Snowy Day,” all of which featured minorities as lead characters.

Like the other exhibit currently on view at the CJM, “The Radical Camera,” Keats' work shows that art made from the heart can provide open our eyes to social injustice. Art really can save lives by awakening an ethical and spiritual social conscience. If we let it open our hearts- and Keats' work did just that, it change the world.

 “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” through Feb. 24, 2013 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F. (415) 655-7800.

It's Friday already?

This has been a crazy, busy week with lots of things to do, including previewing the new show of 18th century French decorative art at the Legion and a wonderful show about Ezra Jack Keats, a children's book illustrator, at the CJM.

Next on my to-do list is an interview with Rachal Sager, a young artist that I met at Open Studio.

I see so much art that my eyes glaze over but I was immediately struck by Rachel's work, by the combination of lighteness and intensity in her paintings. I felt that her work is lyrical, spiritual even but underpinned by technical skill, knowledge of her materials and a thoughtful point of view.

But now, duty calls and I must obey. The kitchen pantry needs refilling, the floor needs sweeping and mail needs to be read. Then, I can sit back and think about how to properly write about all the inspiring art that I've seen this week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RIP Jack Gilbert

After Love | Jack Gilbert
1925 - 13 November 2012
RIP, Jack Gilbert.


After Love
Jack Gilbert

He is watching the music with his eyes closed.
Hearing the piano like a man moving
through the woods thinking by feeling.
The orchestra up in the trees, the heart below,
step by step. The music hurrying sometimes,
but always returning to quiet, like the man
remembering and hoping. It is a thing in us,
mostly unnoticed. There is somehow a pleasure
in the loss. In the yearning. The pain
going this way and that. Never again.
Never bodied again. Again the never.
Slowly. No undergrowth. Almost leaving.
A humming beauty in the silence.
The having been. Having had. And the man
knowing all of him would come to an end.,0,332360.story

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Royal Treasures from the Louvre; Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette

If you like French object d'art, this is the show for you. Decorative, Rococo, silk, satin, gold, jewels - it's the life style of an aristocracy and an haute bourgeoise who had taste and used their money to indulge it.

Frugality was not their métier.

Unfortunately, the last couple certainly were lacking in political savvy.

Marie-Antoinette was not cut out to be a queen and neither was her husband. They are both examples of what happens when the hereditary monarch is not suited to rule. 

Louis wasn't that dumb but he was very timid and shy, more interested in hunting and making clocks than governing. Marie was married at 14 to a husband who could not consummate the marriage for 7 years (possibly a too tight foreskin). 

Interesting page here about his possible phimosis:

She wasn't very smart about politics. It too years for her to have a child (which the French blamed her for). The French journalists totally trashed her reputation, accusing her of everything from being a lesbian to having an incestuous relationship with her own son (8 years old at the time). 

Neither of them was capable of handling France's financial problems, partially caused by a huge debt incurred through their support of the American revolution. BTW, we never paid them back.

Friday, November 9, 2012

North African Jewelry AND Isabel Allende

The Museum of the African Disapora is presenting quite a banquet next week. 

 From the author's website. 
On Thursday, November 15th, Isabel Allende will read from "Island Beneath the Sea" and discuss her work and its relationship to the African Diaspora in conversation with local author Carolina de Robertis.
 Plus the museum is showing a priceless colloection of antique jewelry and photographs from North Africa. 
 For 30 years, Xavier Guerrand-Hermes of the renowned Paris-based fashion empire collected both stunning North African jewelry and historic late 19th- and early 20th-century photographs by some of the region’s most prominent photographers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Yup, Obama is still president.

Photo courtesy of Anna Conti.

As "As Time Goes By" has some great commentary. Ronni Bennet is one of the best bloggers around but I can hardly wait to read what Margaret and Helen have to say:

"It was an amazing night. For all the Citizens United money, dark money, billionaire PACs, and the disgusting, undemocratic Republican attempts to limit voting to – well, their sort of people, they lost the presidency and, I believe, their legitimacy."

Addendum: I am glad to see that Prop 30 has won. Many of my friends are teachers and I have always known how valuable education is. Now we need to reform Prop 13 which has so many loopholes you can drive a batallion through it. It may have been meant to help the elderly but it also enabled large corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Just think about all those that were praying to God for a republican landslide. The evangelicals, tea partiers, and rightwingers, were praying and praying. And God heard their prayers. And he answered them.

And the answer was NO. (from Margaret and Helen)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Women. Wake UP!

You may be a sister, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, a cousin or a girlfriend. Maybe you're just someone that loves a woman. I don't care if you're young, old, just started a family or past menopause -- if you are any of these people, you should know that we are facing the greatest emergency we have in decades. Wake the f**k up right now, or you may wake up some time in 2013 and realize that you've made the gravest mistake of your life. If you have a vagina or know someone with a vagina, things are about to get real.

From the Blog, "At Time Goes By"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jay DeFeo at SFMOMA

Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66. Oil with wood and mica on canvas, 128 7/8 × 92 1/4 × 11 in. (327.3 × 234.3 × 27.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the Estate of Jay DeFeo and purchase with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Judith Rothschild Foundation  95.170

"I regard myself as an expressionist as well as a symbolist. If expressionism implies emotional impact, I can realize it only by restraint and ultimate refinement.” *

When Jay DeFeo died in 1989, at age sixty, she was at the height of her creative powers. Despite her iconic status as the creator of the monumental painting “The Rose,” DeFeo’s whole body of work has remained largely unknown.

SFMOMA’s major retrospective, coming years after her death in 1989 at the age of 60, remedies that lack.  In presenting the entire career, this retrospective will demonstrate the captivating sweep of DeFeo's heterogeneous work and illuminate her groundbreaking experimentation and extraordinary vision," explains Dana Miller, the curator of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum.

Comprising more than 130 works, “Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective" brings together the artist's paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, small sculptures, and jewelry designs—most of which have not been seen in decades or have never been exhibited before

She was almost a hometown girl, born in New Hampshire but moving here at the age of 3.  She found a mentor in her high school art teacher, and in 1946 enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. She resisted what she called 'the hierarchy of materials', using plaster and mixing media to experiment with effects, a thread one can see running through the art of that time, especially on the West Coast.

DeFeo had been exposed to North American native art in her Berkeley studies, thanks to Margaret Peterson O'Hagan; while in England she studied African and prehistoric art in London libraries. She spent a brief time working in Paris, traveling in Europe and North Africa, and for 6 months working in Florence, where she started to find her own kind of imagery.

The Crescent Bridge I, 1970-72. Synthetic Polymer and Mixed Media on plywood, 48 x 66 inches. Whitney Museum of Amrican Art, N.Y. Purchase. Two large paintings that form a diptych in which the images float like some kind of space ship moons against a dark (night) background on the right and a light (day) background on the left. Their powerful astral presence is possible because these images have their origin in something that is already a functional integer of life (DeFeo's life). The object becomes another object (the painting) which in turn reflects back on the original object the aura that has evolved.

 Upon her return, DeFeo settled in San Francisco and soon became a major force in the lively Beat scene. She and her husband and fellow-artist, Wally Hedrick, turned their large Victorian flat at 2322 Fillmore Street into one of the major hot spots for bohemian creativity in the City.

Hawk Moon, #1

"The Rose,"  the monumental work that the Whitney Museum helped save and now owns, consumed her life for almost 7 years.

At first it was called Deathrose ("Death Throes", as Lucy Lippard noticed, "Death Rows," or "Death Rays"), with a burst of rays focused off-center. The painting at that point had an asymmetrical focal point into which everything vanished. But gradually, as DeFeo chipped away at it and added to it, the painting took on life.

 In his brilliant essay  (Jay DeFeo and The Rose, Jane Green and Leah Levy, eds., University of California Press, 2003), Richard Cándida Smith writes, "She aimed for a revelation of the emergence of order, establishing its inescapable mystery by placing the source of the emergence in a physically impossible space on the other side of the canvas." The painting, in all its changes and thicknesses, is between two places, the universe outside the window and the one inside Jay DeFeo.

When completed “The Rose” was 11 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 8 inches thick.  It weighed twenty-three hundred pounds and went through various stages, including names, before DeFeo settled on the final version. Almost more sculpture than painting, it is a huge, crusted mandala in white and grey, with waves of volcanic paint radiating out from the center in sculptural folds.

''A marriage of painting and sculpture,'' she called the work, describing precisely what we see. She added that she had had in mind at the start only ''an idea that had a center to it.''

Thomas Hoving, the late director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, included “The Rose” in his book on the greatest works of art of Western Civilization. “The Rose” is certainly one of the most dense and massive paintings ever made yet it radiates a profound sense of spaciousness and light.   It is installed within an open alcove so as not to overwhelm the other pieces in the gallery yet it anchors and informs the rest of her oeuvre.

The Eyes, 1958. Graphite on paper, 48" x 96". Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gift of the Lannan Foundation.

Across from it is her equally iconic “The Eyes,” a huge drawing of her own eyes, both surrealistic and gothic. The eyes in question are laced with vertical lines that heighten its mystical intensity.

 For several years after she finished “The Rose” DeFeo was not able to work.  In 1971, just after returning to drawing, she took up photography, discovering a new medium for exploring her sensitive blend of abstraction and figuration.

All her work shows her attraction to and her struggle with opposites – light and dark, geometry and gesture, representation and abstraction. She could become obsessed with ordinary objects - a compass, a tape dispenser, a ruler, triangles - and work and rework these images, moving between the realistic to the mystical all largely within a modulated palate of black, grey and white.

 The circle, along with the triangle, the cross, the square, the spiral, and the oval, became the basis of her symbolism. 

Untitled Collage, 1973. Collage with cut silver gentian print, torn paper and paint.

 In the eighties, she combined gestural mark making with non-organic structure, gradually returning from the use of black, white, and gray to a full-color palette.

The Samurai series (1987) combines rigid, thrusting geometric forms against a riotous background of black-on-white gestural painting.

The series “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” made a few months before her death in 1989, began with a different source, a ceramic cup, a gift from the sculptor Ron Nagle.  DeFeo drew and photocopied the pink cup repeatedly.  The form evolved into a column, curved at the bottom, sharp at the top, floating in space. 

For much of her career DeFeo was haunted by a William Blake poem, which seems a fitting touchstone for viewers of this exhibition as well: "If you have formed a Circle to go into, go into it yourself & see how you would do." (quote from I Should Go to the Very Center by Dana Miller, Catalogue for the exhibition Jay DeFeo: No End : Works on Paper from the 1980s, Botanicals: Photographs from the 1970s, August-September 2006)

Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective. Opens Saturday, November 3 through February 2012