Thursday, December 22, 2011

I recently had a piece in a group show called "Woodland" at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. The deadline for the show fell right around finals for me at the Academy of Art, so for time's sake I decided to rework a piece I had just finished for one of my illustration classes. The requirements for the show was that the piece be 10x10 inches on a wood panel. Artists were encouraged to emphasize the wood grain pattern and to depict forest creatures, trees, or anything else woodland inspired. I felt that my illustration, with horse skeletons, a snake, a ram skull, foliage and flowers would fit that theme perfectly. 

the original illustration...
the piece for "Woodland"...

I'd like to thank the amazing artist Nathan Spoor for his help in coaching me through completing my first gallery piece. He's been an incredible resource during my shift onto the artistic path. 
other pieces from "Woodland"

The show was in conjunction with artist Laura Buss' solo show, "Bundles."Part artistic endeavor and part archaeological investigation, "Bundles" peels back layers of time and earth to discover the remains of humans and cultures that have come before. Artifacts lie alongside animals and bodies, mystery entwines with the stark reality of death, and beauty is delicately drawn from the harrowing effects of decay. I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura about her work for Hi-Fructose- here's an excerpt: 

Your work has an almost magical appeal to it, calling back to times where ritual, nature, cycles, and the rawness of life and death were all a much bigger part of the daily human experience. Do you feel like your work allows you access and intimacy with these components of life that are mostly lacking in our modern society?
I do feel that, in the same way that any great experience with a moving piece of artwork can allow you to feel a deeper penetration into the magic of an inner life we think we have lost. I think for everyone this is a slightly different magic, but for me nature is key, with death and decay crucial components. Anyone who has spent a lot of time in the wilderness--inspecting the forest floor and climbing on trees--is familiar with decay and the amazing regenerative richness it brings. Death is a huge part of that. It is an experience we will all universally share, but also a mystery which none of us can really know. And while dying itself can be tragic or sad, the shell we leave behind is just that; how human culture adorns and lays it to rest is another magic in and of itself.

Read the rest of the interview here

Friday, November 18, 2011

A beautiful morning climbing at Donner Summit

Since moving to California at the end of August, I've spent only a handful of days climbing outside. I knew that moving to the Bay Area would be a significant sacrifice in terms of access to quality climbing, but it's hard for any place to compete with the bounty of climbing that Colorado houses. There certainly are some incredible climbing areas here, but my days of driving 15 minutes to a local crag are over for now.

Hazy sunset climbing at Mickey's Beach

I've made a few forays to explore what the area has to offer, so far making it to Mickey's Beach, Jailhouse, and Donner Summit. I've also been spending a lot of time in the gym, working on my nearly non-existent bouldering skills. Most of the climbers I've met out here are primarily boulderers, and they've lauded the assets of (relatively) near-by bouldering areas such as Yosemite, Bishop, and Joshua Tree. The community here has been super welcoming, so I decided to stop resisting the bouldering pull. I've already noticed an increase in my strength and power- which should come in useful in a few days when I arrive in Kentucky to climb at the Red River Gorge for the first time...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

For those in San Francisco, this is your last week to view the merged images of painter Pakayla Biehn's solo exhibition at Gallery Hijinks. In this show, Biehn continues the double exposure theme of her previous work, revisiting the cognitive distinction between realism and abstraction. She utilizes the suggestive combination of critical and substantial realism with dream-like transfiguration of the natural world. She displays the unique potential to capture her subjects in inextricable moments that appear to straddle two worlds at once, that in which we exist and another slightly beyond our comprehension. I recently interviewed Pakayla for Hi-Fructose; below is a brief excerpt: 

To begin with, I'm curious about your process. How much does technology, such as photoshop, play into it? Your work seems like the marrying of old master techniques with a modern edge of image merging. How do you choose what images to use together? Are there certain criteria they have to share, or are you looking more for images with distinct differences? 
I'm a big supporter of the marriage of technology and arts. Visual artists have loads of helpful tools at their disposal and should be taking advantage of them, or at least testing the electrified waters. It's important to shake the stigma of that integration, embrace the inevitable, and live in symbiosis. Artists since the renaissance have been utilizing modern technology to further their careers and abilities, such as the camera lucida and camera obscura. Caravaggio, Vermeer, Ingres, so many more. I've been integrating technology into my practice for a while, from the use of photoshop to projection to prints on canvas, but I do have a preferred few. In the incubation stages I use photoshop, whether it be setting the actual composition of two images to make a double exposure or a simple crop and color correct. I also use photoshop's color picker to find the simplest mixture of color. This is my favorite tool because it makes my colors very clean, no muddiness and almost luminescent. 
My image selection process isn't very esoteric. The most prominent characteristics I search for are beauty and anonymity. I have a proclivity for the lucid and ethereal, but careful to avoid images that appear too gaudy. I try and match images that are diverse but still share a important quality. This formula varies with each painting, so I can't really pin point any prevalent visual theme.

I think it's fascinating and inspiring that you turned a physical ailment into something so beautiful. How related do you think your multiple exposure paintings are with the fact that you were diagnosed with strabismus as a baby? I'm sure you get asked questions like that a lot. Do you think that it's even relevant to your art at this point?

Thank you. Double vision, among other symptoms of Strabismus, have always been this source of self-consciousness and isolation through my adolescence. Adhering the double exposure effect to my work just sort of fell into place when I was work-shopping concepts that dealt with detachment. A bit of this conceptual decision can be attributed to reading about Chuck Close's disease, Prosopagnosia, or face blindness. In my opinion, he is one of the most prolific portrait artists and to create such a successful career while having a disease where he cannot remember even his closest friends faces was incredibly inspiring.

I try not to be overly precious or sentimental about my work and its relation to my eye condition. In its infancy the concept relied heavily on my vision problems, but as I grew up it began evolving it into something more than overcoming childhood embarrassment and morphed into a deeper symbolism of many things, other paramount dualities.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New York-based artist Sam Wolfe Connelly opened his first solo show “Semiprecious” at Spoke Art gallery on Saturday, October 8th in San Francisco. Populated by wistful, delicate women with pensive, faraway eyes, “Semiprecious” is based around the amorphous narrative of being left by someone. Inspired by grave robbing and underground mining, Connelly’s drawings evoke a sense of nostalgic sadness, or the soft struggle of trying to remember a beautiful dream once you’ve awoken.
The theme of the show is based on losing people and memories to the passing of time. When somebody leaves your life, when a relationship ends, they essentially become dead. You stop talking to them, they don’t exist anymore. All those memories that you had together, all the gems and the crystals of the relationship, get buried along with that person. Something so beautiful that you once had is now gone, in the ground, vanished, where nobody can appreciate it,” Connelly said. “What I’m doing with this show is digging it back up and bringing it to the surface, but it’s all sort of flawed and skewed. You’ve got all these facets, but you cant even tell if you actually felt that way or if it’s a false kind of beauty, a false sheen.

Read the rest of my article for Hi-Fructose Magazine here. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Since arriving in San Francisco a little over a month ago, I've had time to attend two art openings, at which I took some pictures and did a quick write up for Hi-Fructose Magazine.

 The first show, 'Sink or Swim,' was presented by PangeaSeed at Spoke Art gallery. PangeaSeed is a nonprofit based in Tokyo fighting against the problems of global shark finning. Though people have a generally negative stereotype of sharks as aggressive, dangerous animals, the chance of being killed by a shark is one in 300 million. The chance of being killed by airplane parts falling from the sky is one in 10 million. On average, less than ten people die annually due to shark related incidences and ironically, a person is more likely to die from falling coconuts, malfunctioning toaster ovens, or bee stings than shark attacks.

In great contrast, experts estimate that humans kill an average of 70-100 million sharks each year mainly for their fins to be used in shark fin soup. In the barbaric practice known as shark finning, a shark is caught then pulled on board a boat where fishermen cut the fins from the shark. Often still alive, the shark is thrown overboard and unable to swim and in agonizing pain, the shark sinks to the bottom of the ocean either to drown or be eaten alive.

Older than dinosaurs, for over 400 million years sharks have shaped and balanced the oceans. Just like on land, under the sea every living thing has a function. Sharks play a vital role in ways average fish do not since sharks are at the top of the food chain as an apex predator in virtually every part of the ocean. Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the ICUN Red List os Threatened Species; many shark species could possibly be extinct in the next 20 years. To see photos from the show, look here. 

The second show was Varnish Fine Art gallery's reopening, after the gallery was closed down in January of 2010 due to an Eminent Somain demolition involving the Transbay Joint Power's Authority. Check out  some photos and read more here.   

Saturday, October 1, 2011

This is me, a few years back. I'm high off the ground, at altitude, in the middle of a multi-pitch climb. Perfect time for an emotional breakdown. 

lookin good... feelin good.

More often than not, this is how climbing makes me feel. For some reason, I seem to like this place of collapse, where all my carefully maintained walls fall away, and I can no longer hide my hyper-sensitive inner five-year-old cry baby. Climbing is the only aspect of my life that produces such a result, and although painful, I really do find value in the honest look it forces me to take at the most childish recesses of my persona.

I got to fully explore this phenomenon during the month of July. Albeit only for a month, I left the comforts of suburban existence for the freedom of living out of a truck. At the end of the trip, we'd driven through at least six states, crossed the Canadian border twice, gotten robbed once, climbed at nearly all of Canada's best crags, and I'd cried probably twenty two or three times.





hiding from mosquitoes in the living room

The first leg of the trip brought us to a tiny town of 304 people called Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Our motivation for the visit was partly for climbing, but mostly to attend the annual 4th of July party that closes off the main road in town, filling the street with drunken cowboys and their ladies dancing to a country band performing on the back of a semi-truck trailer. It was a pretty priceless cultural experience, and I believe that the locals all enjoyed our attempts to emulate their dance-moves. 

After recovering from a heroic hangover, I had one of the best climbing days of my life, flashing two 12bs. I was feeling pretty psyched about this, and I started thinking, that maybe, just maybe, I was finally becoming a legitimate rock climber. I should've known better than to inflate my ego like that. 

Ten Sleep cliffs

flashing 'Great White Behemouth" 12b

My relationship with climbing has an uncanny way of smacking me down anytime that I start to think too highly of myself. For the rest of the trip, a full three and a half weeks, it seemed that every place we climbed at was personally engineered to challenge my greatest weaknesses, both physically and mentally.

It began at the Sweatlodge, a newish area that local climber BJ Tilden is developing near Lander, Wyoming. Overhanging, pumpy, and antithetical to my strengths, the alcove-shaped Sweatlodge quickly shut me down. Kicked so uncerimoneously off the high-horse I barely had time to sit on, I managed to keep from throwing what we climbers call a "wobbler" (i.e. highly embarassing temper tantrum).
Lindsay Gasch, not affected by the pumpy conditions

 Jonathan Siegrist, never affected by pumpy conditions

Next stop was Squamish, Canada. During a window of sun amidst the never-ending rain, we decided to climb the Grand Wall on the iconic Chief. The 11a route is 10 pitches with some exhilarating exposure and gorgeous views. I got absolutely schooled on the 10b pitch Split Pillar, reminding me that I have no idea how to crack climb and once again giving my ego a good spanking.

 me, below... struggling.

Next, we went to Vancouver Island to an area called Horne Lake. We took a ferry through the dismal grey ocean landscape of clouds and mist-- something we were getting used to in Canada. The weather managed to hold up for us so we could climb on the beautiful drip stone cave full of collenettes, tufas, and texture. Despite it's beauty, the climbing is incredibly steep, horizontal even, and I was not very happy about it. The first day was painful. My attitude soured, my fear took over, and my climbing suffered. During the rest of the week that we spent at Horne Lake, I persevered and managed to send my project, which I was proud of-- even if it was a grade that I usually consider easy. It was a circumstance where the arbitrary nature of grades made itself very clear. 

From Horne Lake we went to the Canadian Rockies in a town called Canmore. As someone who has grown up surrounded my mountain scenery, it takes a truly spectacular landscape to impress me. The view in Canmore never failed to inspire me with wonder and awe, though the same can't be said for the climbing. We visited various crags in Canmore, and all of them upheld with the theme of the trip-- they were incredibly difficult, mentally and physically, shutting me down. This internal struggle of mine is always exacerbated by the fact that I travel with one of the strongest sport climbers in America, and often find myself surrounded by similarly talented people while I struggle to climb the routes they all effortlessly warm-up on. If I sound like I'm complaining, I'm not. I feel incredibly grateful to climb around some of the best climbers in the world, but it really can be difficult sometimes to constantly be the worst. The amazing thing about the climbing community is that no matter what level you're at, other climbers are likely to support you and get just as excited about you trying hard and sending as they would be with someone who climbs three number grades harder. I always find that to be incredibly heartwarming, and it's aspects like that that make me love the sport in a way that goes beyond just the physical parts of it.

 Canmore beauty...

My two favorite area that we visited in Canmore was Planet X, a huge limestone crag that takes about an hour and a half (and about 20 river crossings) to reach. The little river that passes through the canyon is perhaps the most beautiful mountain river I have ever seen, with water so clear that it appears silver. I really didn't have any success there, but the landscape was well-worth the beating. 

strong climbers at Planet X... I'm napping somewhere

We ended the trip with a quick stop at Lake Louise, an area that finally suited my style, but we were only there for a few hours. So brief...

Reflecting on the month of July and my time spent living out of a truck, being dirty, not eating enough, being wet and cold, and having daily battles with climbing insecurity, it seems like a beautiful time. Though it was really rough while it was happening, it allowed me to be in a raw, tender state, which for me usually fosters growth. There's something really potent about 'failiure' and challenge, and though I resist and reject it while it's happening, I've come to see the beautiful benefit behind it. So I'll keep feeling gratitude towards the sport of climbing, no matter how often it makes me cry.


Monday, August 22, 2011

It saddens me to share the news that Robert Venosa, one of the foremost masters of the visionary art movement, died on Tuesday, Aug. 9, marking the end of an eight-year journey with cancer. He was 75.

His wife, artist Martina Hoffman, asked me to write a tribute to him. It was the first obituary I've ever written- quite an honor.

The path of Venosa's rich and varied life brought him into contact with legends of the creative world; his list of friends and acquaintances included such names as Alan Watts, H.R. Giger, Timothy Leary and Miles Davis. Read more about his incredible life here. And, if you're curious for more, read the article I wrote on him earlier this year here. I believe it was the last interview he gave. Again, a huge honor.