Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hidden Snakes

I rented the movie Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, the story of a down-n-out nanny who becomes social secretary to a young starlet with three lovers on the eve of WWII. Although I knew the thing was fantasy, I was surprised at the retrograde tone of the film. The young actors are allowed to cavort naked, but the “mature” couple, Frances McDormand and Ciaran Hinds (both handsome, sexy people), is not even allowed a kiss.
Even more infuriating is the typical story of the starlet’s choice (when she should have stuck with Frances): the young, rich producer who will make her a star, the middle-aged businessman who keeps her in luxury, or the penniless musician who truly loves her (but also treats her roughly)? You get the picture. The notion that success as an artist is less important than settling down to make babies is pounded home again (believe me, that this is a “period” piece makes no difference—it’s for the contemporary female audience).
Last week I showed my class a video about Sally Mann, a photographer who achieved notoriety partially for shots of her children, sometimes nude. These kids, now older, have talked about growing up on camera, and are ambivalent about the experience. Like children of celebrities, they have benefited by their parent’s financial success, and are now famous themselves. My students were very harsh with Mann, saying she should have been “more of a mother.” When I asked them about the double standard, if the father had been a busy lawyer who rarely saw his kids, or a novelist who drew upon his family life, they looked at me blankly.
Sally Mann’s explanation was just that “the kids were there. I shoot what’s around me. I love my kids. Now let me work.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Conflicting Platitudes

To take on the responsibility of some else’s mistake is common in my household.
Letting go is difficult for me.
Simplicity is humility.
We’re most honest when we are in love or when we are in danger.
Possibilities exist when you pray.
Humor is a form of treatment.
Faith has taught me integrity.
We’re most honest when it’s too late.
I feel vulnerable more often than I should.
(artwork by Marcos Ramirez ERRE, OC Museum)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Look at these beauties… my idea of a house, my idea of a painting (by Dave Fobes). And guess what they’re made of… duct tape.
Much better than getting a mad dog set on you when all you’re trying to do is see the view, no? After teaching 7 hours straight?
It was a long day.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I attended a lecture by French conceptual artist Sophie Calle. She and her work (you can’t separate the two) are amazing. She became famous for spying on strangers, but her photos and text are much richer and funnier than just that. She illuminates her life with terribly intimacy, yet at a distance.
Calle calls herself an intuitive artist, and packages her work into one long narrative. She plays with her fears and takes lots of risks, as do many artists. She looks for “natural endings” to each piece, such as ending a relationship, or trip, or life (for example, the exact moment of her mother’s death). She’s very feminine (wore boots and a chic dress to speak), and her themes include beds, sleeping, love and sex. She presents herself as vulnerable. Whether that’s the truth or not is of no consequence.
All this hits home for me very hard, as I’m being accused of using my life in my artworks in a way that is endangering my loved ones. I may have to take down parts of this blog. As a semi public figure, I find it hard to accept a blog is more dangerous than lecturing in front of hundreds of students at four different institutions, where people know my name, see me in person several times a week, can follow me to my car, have my email, etc.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Post Holiday Gripes

How many trips to the gym does it take for the chicken to stop waddling across the road?

Saturday, January 24, 2009


In my “youth” I drove out to the desert to paint often. Here’s a little plein aire watercolor from that time. I snuck on someone’s property and was too scared to explore the abandoned shack. The painting hung in my grandparent’s house for years. It also faded pretty badly.
So I took it out of the frame and doctored it up with gouache. I’m going give it to a relative I know will appreciate it.
It feels a bit dishonest to paint on an old painting. I never do this type of work now. But as it was I’d have thrown it away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Works in Progress

I’m still in my downstairs cavern, painting amidst construction dust and noise. My studio may not be ready until March, frustrating but bearable.
I’m going to write an occasional series of posts showing works in progress. Here’s the first.
I thought this Nike painting was done, but, after hanging it with the others in the Greek series, it made me feel uncomfortable. It was unfinished and bottom heavy. Classical sculpture is nothing if not balanced. So today I added a head (of a model friend). I may soften it. But I like the way her down-turned face contrasts with the victorious stance. And that she’s a woman without arms, pretty symbolic.
What do you think?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Floppy Curtain

This installation by Richard Gleaves at Art Produce is really surprising because the postcard image looks like some kind of Japanese-inspired textile. The layers of meaning—dead information, digital waste, weaving knowledge together—beg the question: wouldn’t this look cool stretched in some modernist house or boutique hotel? If anyone were buying art.
Like, right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Monday, January 19, 2009

Cult of the Stupid

I went to public schools: elementary, junior high, and my sophomore year of high school. It got progressively worse for me. Finally, my siblings and I were pulled out.
What was the turning point that made my mom, a single schoolteacher with little money, send us to an exclusive private school (on scholarship)? I came home one day from 10th grade saying all my friends advised me to act stupid in high school because I was an unpopular “smack.” I remember that in honors English I was the only one in the entire class to turn in a paper on time, and I was laughed at, even by the teacher.
I am praying that times have changed. We’ve had eight years of a president who was elected because he was the type of guy with whom the voter would like to “have a beer.” The danger of an unintelligent, uninvolved president was that his vice president took such awful power.
I’m waiting for a return to intelligence valued.
Oh yeah, and I was completely prepared for college by my prep school, and if I’d been only a few years older, might have been Barack Obama’s friend…
Paintings by Gerrit Greve

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Two Spaces for Art

Visited two regional museums on the same day, resulting in an interesting comparison.
The Orange County Museum has a great website. I’d been to its digital annex, in an upscale shopping center (so OC), but never to the main museum. It was a letdown: dingy and mazelike, not really worth the $10 entry fee. It’s sandwiched between a mall and several freeways.
The exhibition, “2008 California Biennial” (artists I’d mostly not heard of), was minimal, dark, trash-like, and obscure. Not really how I think of California artists, which is light, colorful, funny or sardonic, slick, and pop influenced. The only piece that really captivated me was Kara Tanaka’s spinning silk skirt (you can see here), referencing Marilyn Monroe’s famous cool-down.
The Oceanside Museum, on the other hand, is a wonderful space—light and easy to navigate. It combines two buildings, an older one by Irving Gill and a more contemporary one by Frederick Fisher. The expansion is very successful. The exhibition was quilts, not really my thing, but well hung. I’m looking forward to returning again to this space.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Olive Oil Cake

I’ve been seeing lots of art and will write about it soon, but for now here’s a recipe for all of you stuck at home in freezing weather (here it’s sunny and warm, crazy).
I learned to make this cake one summer when living with friends in Marbella, Spain:

Torta de Aceite
1 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 ½ cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 spoon anise seed
dash salt
Mix ingredients well. Bake in a 8x8 inch pan, greased and floured, medium oven, 30-40 minutes. Let the edges get slightly crispy.
Delicious with red wine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Silk Stockings

Style-wise I was born too late. My era is the 1940s, maybe early 50s. I love the silhouette of the figure, the make-up and the hair. The clothes were so well made. Even my features are a bit old-fashioned.
However, I would have ended up in the loony bin playing the role of “woman” then. I’m probably not even brave enough to stand against most norms now. Sad.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tapout Response Response

See original post and comments here.
Kevin Freitas:
… the goal of the Tapout was to bring into the public domain, that "dialogue" you perform professionally with your students. Some of the other underlying issues are the notion of "authority" and role playing that every one of us is locked into as either artist, critic, gallery, collector, teacher, etc. - who decides?, who's right?, who declares that what they make or see is art? The goal in part, was to open up the domain of the art world and to shed a little modest light onto its functioning. Specifically, I've found … that any dialogue or support of one's peers is sorely lacking and exists if you're lucky, in secular university settings.

I totally agree with you. I often tell my students that once they finish school it will be difficult to find anyone interested in talking about their work. Even “tough” crits are better than none at all.
There’s hope, however, because of that strange new television entertainment: scathing celebrity critiques of singers, fashion designers, cooks, dancers, etc. Not much precedence for it, except maybe in the literary world. Will it become fashionable to have cultural opinions?

Once out of this environment, that insular bubble is replaced by another bubble which is the gallery and museum. The public is once again left out and required to "appreciate" viewing an object that someone else has declared "art". School critiques are for the most part obselete, what we need is to have those critiques exist outside of the university and in the public domain. This is ideally, what critics should do, but if you read say for example Critical Mess: Art Critics on the State of their Practice by Raphael Rubenstein, you'll discover that even a critic's "taste" has been circumvented by huge auction houses and big name galleries who are preaching entirely to the money choir - the interest is no longer in the art or its meaning/interpretation.
The problem with galleries and museums is that they are not going to critique necessarily an artist they are going to exhibit, make a selection yes, critique no - there's too much of a mutual vested interest, and besides, the artist has gained the temporary status of "accepted" and is beyond any further critique.
You should hear Hugh Davies on Damien Hirst…

Art Tapout is a start Kloe, having only been the second time performed, there is obviously a huge potential for growth and a larger inclusivity. Given the 20 min. round to each critique, it is not possible to bring up every facet of an artist's work nor elaborate on the response. I don't believe any topics were off topic, but once again, in a limited time format, you have to pick an angle and keep on topic knowing that there are other avenues to pursue.
I think you could tweak your format, since you’ve tried it twice… what about having two critics playing devil’s advocate to one another? What about making the rounds only 15 minutes, upping the pace a bit? What if the artist has an advocate in the audience for back-up, as it’s nerve wracking to be in front of so many people AND be critiqued?

Why young? Why all white? curious set of questions. David White made the selection of the artists, I didn't want to for fear of being too biased. His selection makes perfect sense if you think about it and recall his response to the Movers and Shakers exhibit in which he lamented the fact that there was no younger artists with innovative works beyond the medium of painting. The token woman? I think Kloe, you're reading way more into the selection than there actually is, the potential inference to a "boys club" or any gender bias is unfounded. On the flip side of this is the question of choice, and is what I feel is the most misunderstood aspect of the art world. Simply, fewer exhibition spaces mean less choices, couple this with each gallery or museum director's subjective and personal - this is what I like - selection process, and someone will always be excluded.
I do think there is a boys’ club here. I felt it in grad school and I feel it in the selection of who shows in local galleries. I see it when certain media and content are labeled chick-ish, until appropriated by male artists, when it’s “fresh.” Curators and gallerists create their program/stable partially based on their social circle, who they drink beer and throw darts with.
Sorry, you’ve hit a nerve in my pretty plastic body…

Finally, I don't do all this to entertain other people, I do it because I'm concerned about how franchised the art world is and how disconnected from the public it has become. A little honest, direct dialogue amongst everyone, especially here, support of one's peers, the willingness for artists to take control of their destiny, and the the total rework of the art world system, would greatly improve the understanding of art and its rightful place in society. It's a bitch because no one wants to take the lead.
Here I disagree with you. Everything is entertainment. I must entertain when I teach, or I bore. I must entertain with my art, or no one will look at it. You adopt a certain style to attract attention, you speak and write hoping people will listen (and they do!)
You’re taking a lead, and we appreciate it. I take a lead when I suggest to my students gallery hopping as a fantastic (and cheap) date...
And I’m not your nemesis, baby. I’m your ally and fan.

Richard Gleaves:
One person's problematic is another's catnip - I find the tapout happenings to be compelling precisely because of how they blur the categories of theatrical performance and crit review.

I've talked with Kevin about how the two tapout events have gone, and one of the things we concluded is that all participants need to be made aware of this blur ahead of time, since the nature and degree of aggressiveness appropriate for an art crit differs significantly from that of a cage match.

The worst-case scenario here is where the ref is thinking wrestling while the artist is thinking crit review. The best is where the artist grabs the metaphor by both horns and releases their inner performer.

YES! And love your floppy curtain. Will take photos soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hard Times

I now know about a dozen people who are not working, even part time. Some in construction, an architect, a teacher, a butcher, a financial planner, a flight attendant, a gardener.
The other day I stopped by my infamous mechanic’s shop. A history scholar who couldn’t take the academic system, he’s a fount of knowledge and political opinion. He never fixes more than absolutely necessary to keep my car running, while insuring safety.
But he was gone, along with the piles of old parts and half rusted cars that I’ve known for decades. I asked the business next door, and was told the landlord raised his rent, and that was it.
I’m now officially going to stop complaining about my teaching jobs.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Painting Again

My temporary space is working out wonderfully. I love the neighborhood—vibrant and gritty. The thrift store across the street was buzzing (as you’d guess). Coffee shops, bars, tattoo and piercing parlors, pawn shops, used book stores, all the high end stuff. There’s even a little art store that is eager to please and will carry whatever I suggest.
If you’re out tonight at Ray, you can see my paintings at the corner of University and Grim.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Went out on the water today in my kayak to calm my nerves. Saw amazing wildlife: fat pelicans dive-bombing, white egrets playing on the shore, a falcon circling overhead with a fish, entrails hanging like kite string, in its claws.
Have been having our own small wildlife crisis at home. Two days ago a child, who shall remain unnamed, left the cage door open, and our beloved Biscuit jumped ship, a fact that went undiscovered until she was long gone. I assured crying offspring that she would be found, and preceded to lace the house with carrots, which went untouched. I also set my alarm last night to get up at 2am and 4am, scouring the house for night crawlers. Nothing.
All closets and cabinets were emptied and searched. Hope was fading. No music or tv was allowed so I could hear all sounds. And then today I heard “crack, crack, crack,” the sounds of hamster snacking. From the kitchen. From the oven. Yes, she was in the oven, safe. Making a nest. And I had almost baked some comfort cake this morning.
Pitiful, how prayers go up for a pet, no?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


2009 is already perking along nicely, although I spent the entire day in meetings in which “educational experts” told us how to be better teachers in a most mind-numbing way.
Someone else didn’t like the red penis, either.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Temporary Space

It was “the worst day of my life,” according to Kid.01, who had to return to his BORING school (I wonder where he got the melodramatic streak?). Never, fear, he was cheered by fajitas with avocado and a cuddle with Biscuit.
But for me it was a GREAT day, cause I picked up the keys to an empty retail space below my still-under-construction studio. I can paint here til the drywall upstairs is finished. It’s been raining in SoCal, and way too cold to paint outside in my patio or garage.
I’ve got several projects in the works, but have had no place to organize them. Am planning a big exhibition for next fall, with hundreds of artists from several countries—I’ll be writing about it soon.
For now, I’m just grateful that my new landlady is being so generous (she's letting me use the space for free). Anyway, it’s good PR for her to have someone in this empty space, maybe it will generate a tenant.
Am I excited? YES!

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Did you see my team tonight? Good things come in small packages!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Art Tapout

Attended a unique performance recently, a public “critic vs. artist” styled as a boxing match. Kevin Frietas critiqued the work of four artists, inviting input from the gallery audience. The artists defended themselves and their work.
No actual punches thrown.
I have to say it was strange, a performance of something I do for a living. Kevin was not unkind, but I think he’s a rather nice type of guy anyway. I’ve witnessed scathing crits, where the work is embarrassing, and the critic/teacher has called the artist/student on the b-s.
The format was/is problematic. Was it performance? Should it be dramatic somehow, ie yelling and cussing? Is this academic exercise worth showing to the real world? One artist muttered he hadn’t participated such discussion since he’d left school.
At least one guy was still in grad school, and it showed; he could really talk the talk. He seemed almost bored, explaining it all again. Some topics seemed off limits, like why were all the artists young? Why all white? Why avoid talk about the straight guy stuff (mad-scientist, skate culture), the soft-spoken guy appropriating traditionally female craft (crocheting), the token woman?
But that said, I admire all those who participated. Kevin could be a bit harsher next time, which would entertain us more, and also feel more like the real art world. Life’s a bitch for us--on with the show.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Bratzy New Year’s Resolutions

1. Treat my sister Barbie with less bitchiness. After all she’s so plain and boring, I should feel sorry for her.
2. Eat more junk food and feel no guilt about it.
3. Make InStyle my bible.
4. Keep up my beauty regime (spare no expense).
5. Do my part to improve the economy by BUYING, SPENDING, CONSUMING!
6. My continued mantra: exercise = sexy.
7. Promote myself unceasingly (you think I’m joking?)
8. Love my readers!
One-one-oh-nine, I like the sound of that…
"La Pescadita"