Rockstars on Wednesday Night - Dominican University

I love it when a legend pops up in my own backyard.

Tucked away in the tree-lined campus of Dominican University in San Rafael is a little hidden treasure chest of a hall called Angelico. From time to time a motley array of left-of-center celebrities, artists, entertainers and cultural icons make a brief appearance, gracing our little corner of the world with some fairy dust.

Krishna Das, with his Cosmic Kirtan Choir was just here, as was Diane Keaton, Michael Pollan and others and then,…BOOM!!,…outta nowhere!

PATTI SMITH!......

Among a younger generation that falls flatter and wetter than a deflated party balloon in the rain. ……..Who?

And yet, she is an icon, a legend this generation really ought to bother with. Anarchy is her touchstone and the flavor of Peter Pan is never far from her words. Go Google her kids! Her album Horses was not only seminal to your beloved grunge/punk rock movement it is also rated among the ten most important ever recorded.She knew and worked with practically everybody worth knowing in the 70’s and 80’s.

And beside all that she is a wonderful, powerful presence,…still.

Hearing her sing ”People have the Power” to the backing of a single guitar can still make the hair on the back of your neck rise.

It turns out that she is also a writer of some literary heft. She began her artistic career wanting to be a poet, her loyalties aligning to a milieu of french poets of the last Century, Genet, Verlaine, Rimbaud all of whom were the forebears of our own Beats of the 60's and 70's. Writers who were done with Society at large but displayed a sensitivity and soulfulness to "life" in general. She walks that same borderline between extreme delicacy and crassness and it can at times be jarring, but you cant look away. It's the same voice that drove her music. There are a handful of women with voices like this. Cassandra's on the City Walls. You may not like them, but you cannot ignore them either. Janis Joplin, Maria Callas, Lisa Gerrard, the kinds of voices one imagines the oracles and Shamans of ancient times to have had. Hypnotic, entrancing, compelling. Patti has never been an easy listen but always a worthwhile one. 

Yes, people do have the power, remember that when you are confronted with all the negative, hate-filled backlash bullshit out there, and Thank You, Patti.  

Go pick up her books Just Kids and M Train, to name a few....

http://www.pattismith.net/intro.html


Finding Myself at Napa Valley Film Festival

My mother told me this moment would come and I didn’t believe her at the time. But here we are. Having just turned 30 and wobbling a bit on my axis from learning how to balance working a day job in San Francisco with running a creative life alongside it, I find myself groaning and rolling my eyes when faced with “another bloody party.”

Let me explain further.

I have found, over the past few months of having to match my daily rhythms to the rave-party beat of a city in the throes of being taken over by the ultimate cool of the tech billionaire start-up kids’ dreams and the lockstep of the commuter herds, that I am suffering from a strange form of social schizophrenia. It appears most strongly when having to step over the homeless people thronging the sidewalks to get myself that 6$ coffee, which may be the only thing standing between me and a felony-assault event whilst fighting to either get to my desk, or remain at my desk for the required length of a Workday.

Make no mistake, San Fransisco is a city under ideological siege. The frail and nebulous ghosts of the Summer of Love are being driven out by skinny jeans, designer drinks and the power of money. A bar that the Beat Poets once frequented, pouring deep zen thoughts into their beer, is now a destination bar for techsters (hipsters with a tech background).  Let me say I have no issue with this....I just don't know how/where to place myself alongside it. 

I find myself constantly leaping back and forth over the chasm that is opening between my empathy for my fellow man and my fear for my own survival. At any given moment San Francisco can be Utopia/Dystopia all at the same time.

I think every generation goes through this as it leaves the comfort and warmth of assumed values and bumps up against the cold, hard cliff-face of reality. But I think this has become bigger, darker and scarier than ever before. We are living the Third Industrial Revolution, disruptive technologies will turn our worlds inside out. Climate Change is real and accelerating. Social unrest and war have become immediate and available to whomever wishes to jump in and shape it. The world is both smaller and larger than we remember it to be. It's a Small World is not just a children's amusement park ride anymore. 

All that being said ( and of that, more later.) You may begin to understand the thought that wandered through my mind as I picked up my camera and notebook and sped off to Napa Valley for the 2015 Film Festival ,…… “OMG, another bloody Film Festival!!” why are we doing this?

And I spent the rest of that weekend, ( which included the tragic events of Friday 13th in Paris) answering that question for myself.

What is a Film Festival?

In essence, it sounds like the recipe for a damned good party.

You take a lot of people who love Movies, along with the people who make the Movies, (for various reasons, more of that later) and you place them together in a venue of either scenic or cultural significance, add a liberal dusting of sponsors and media, garnish with as many celebrities as you can gather, and hey Presto! You have yourself a Festival.

If only it were that simple.

A lot of people poured their time, energy and passion into making NVFF not only shiny and sparkly on the outside, but also giving it the ballast of a social conscience, intellectual veracity and some genuine effort and attention at showcasing original voices and emerging creativity. In short, there was some gravitas among the party favors. At its best a Film Festival tries to identify the stories we are telling ourselves about our future and promotes those who tell it best.

Along with all the Red Carpet hoopla and there was plenty with A-listers like John Travolta promoting his movie Life on the Line, a film that looked at the real life struggles of the gentlemen who keep our power on come any weather. John is posing below with a bevy of the real deal.

We had the opportunity to interview the four finalists of the Lexus/Weinstein Company collaborative short film event. It was a brief, but lovely interaction with three of the four, (the fourth was still en route having left his hometown of Paris on that fateful Friday, our hearts go out to him) and indicative of the world class quality of what was on offer.

And speaking of parties, the Friday evening After Party, held at Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena was a jaw-dropping blowout of epic proportions

I managed to take in showings of two short documentaries, initially I found the juxtaposition rather odd, but on reflection, couldn’t have been better. The first, “Nefertiti’s Daughters” focused on the brave female street artists responding to the uprising in Cairo of 2011.

Trailer for Nefertiti's Daughters

The second, ”Teen Press” followed a group of aspiring journalists at Santa Barbara Middle School in Sunny California

Trailer for Teen Press

The ensuing Q&A and interaction with the audience was an inspiring example of exactly what a good Film Festival is about. The opportunity to bring unlikely imagery, people and conversations together. Watching  as the young people from SBMS spoke about their experiences learning the tricky art of communications and interpretation, and listening to their questions to the filmmakers of Nefertiti's Daughters, I realized that this, like cheese and wine, was a perfect pairing. The very old speaking across time and culture to the very new, This is the world our children will inherit no matter where they are born, and sometimes they will have to reach down very deep, to the roots of their cultural inheritance to re-invent a future that is livable for everyone.

So, did any of this help with my social-schizophrenia dysfunction ? I’m not sure. I still had to get up Monday morning and put my working girls’ pants on one leg at a time…….but…..I can say that beauty, along with a little truth and goodness goes a long way toward creating a quiet, still space to rest a bruised and battered soul. We all know the healing power of a timely story, how it can touch places deeper and more profound than surface contacts. How you feel after a good conversation when you know that you were both heard and seen. How all of this can stop pain and anger and catastrophe, both great and small, in its tracks.

I think I saw a lot of that at NVFF, so was it just another bloody party? Yes, and No. As parties go it was a really good one , but it was also more than that.

Pictures in a gallery - San Francisco CA

Pictures in a gallery:

An Artists conversation with some commentary on the de Young Museum’s exhibit of the Scottish national galleries treasures – Botticelli to Braque

We’ve been having fun this week conversing with our creative and artistic community. This is a conversation about an image, which seems to have gone around the world twice already, but we decided to weigh in to see what our local people had to say.

kids celln phone fine art.jpg

               A friend of a friend (both visual artists) sent this image to us via e-mail, which started the old wheels turning. I think it worth mentioning from the beginning that this image came from the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam (To see where this image came from check out the Rijks Museum Multimedia Tour) and the furor it caused happened in April of this year on Facebook (original Facebook Comment Thread that started the whole conversation) but we didn’t know that to begin with. Let’s just say this image hits a nerve, and it’s a big one and it seems to be a pretty universal reaction. We tracked it back to its original posting and found some really interesting threads:

1.      Everyone one gets uncomfortable and opinionated around this image.

2.      Many of the comments from the original posting were almost verbatim what we got.

3.      The Rijks Museum of Amsterdam audio/visual tour seems to have hit the motherlode.

Which raises some interesting questions, such as; is this what is required to engage kids? And what exactly does relevance/reverence mean when it comes to culturally significant images, who decides what is a culturally relevant image?

We decided to poll some opinions on Facebook and started a veritable firestorm. Here is the link to look at our Facebook Thread with 50 plus comments (and still going) if you would like to see the whole conversation. People were very passionate about what they saw and an example of  person taking that feeling to the Meme Level can be seen below.

One of the comments on the original thread....the reader felt strongly about the subject! Photo: OI59.tinypic.com

One of the comments on the original thread....the reader felt strongly about the subject! Photo: OI59.tinypic.com

               This conversation has caused the mathematicians amongst us to wax lyrical about mean averages and testing for normal, and the social philosophers amongst us to mutter darkly in corners about where we are going and recurrent resemblances to hand basketry and a large proportion of artists, some of whom use the language of visual imagery on a daily basis, to express surprisingly polar opinions. (Coming back to the statisticians, there’s a graph in there somewhere) Most interesting, because of their rationality and lucidity were the educators, from whom one would have expected more knee-jerk, but their measured response was the voice of sanity itself. Below are some comments from some of the people who joined the conversation.

                Dax (Check out her brilliant graphic Novel at Failingsky.com) - This may be too curmudgeonly, but when was the last time this painting was actually functional in a real way? All our parents ever did was use it as a conversation piece to impress their dates with, which has been its de facto function for hundreds of years now. Even in its original context it was just high-priced self-congratulatory propaganda to be used as social currency among bros. Its only real function now is for academic study (history and art students), so i don't think it's reasonable to force kids to look at it just so we can feel like we properly exposed the next generation to important culture.
                Rachael - Also Dax can you speak to how this work impacted your education in the fine arts? When you went on field trips to museums....what kind of work did you seek out? And do you think it improved your abilities or was a huge distraction from what you wanted/needed to be learning and pursuing to find your voice?
                Dax - I have way too much to say about this...You're good to ask. I went to old-art museums to do studies and things, but overall it wasn't a good use of my time. The skills you can learn by copying masters are such an insignificant part of what you need to be a painter (unless you're trying to specifically recreate these period painting styles, which is plebian iMO, or studying history or mainstream curation). Even so, if you want to study Rembrandt originals, it's much better to study the sketches, which museums make it so hard to get your hands on because they don't make money.

On the other hand, I do learn a lot at curated shows that happen to pertain to my specific practice (I'd kill for solo Bill Watterson or Arthur Ganson exhibits) — but for the most part I have to seek out that kind of artwork on my own, because it's not valuable so it's not celebrated. (I remember in the 90's all any artist ever talked about was Egon Schiele, but no one would put a show together because he wasn't worth much, probably because Gardner wrote him out of the canon in order to increase the value of American painters )

So I suppose what I'm saying is that museum exhibits and gallery shows are important to artistic study, if you can sort through the mainstream shows to get at what you need. I just disagree with the assumption that commissioned Rembrandt masterpieces are what we should be pushing on our kids.
Also, i hope you take this with a grain of salt. i know Alex would have a much different opinion of old masters
                Rachael - So then tell me....what needs to happen to make it possible for museums to show the work that you would go to see for pleasure/technique/interest? I heard the cartoon museum is closing in the city...but why is it not sustainable to the public?
How do we separate art from politics? Is that even possible....do we want to?
So how do we change to assumptions of what kids need to study artistically for the future?
How would you feel about a Rembrandt if you felt a connection to the artist in some way. For example....I've always felt really connected to Frida Kahlo. But I read her bio, understood her story, had a moment about her personal narrative and then fell helplessly in love with her work. Do we need a way of bringing context and personal narrative into the room?

Why are certain hubs more successful at curated shows than others? I wasn't a big fan of living in LA but I saw a few shit hot shows....and a few that I hated but learned so much from. I do not really get installation art most of the time but they were everywhere in 2005. I had to try to figure out the stories that people were set on telling even if I had no connection with them.
So does that mean that sometimes we go to these shows to follow a thread, a social conversation? And are we at a point where the men in pointy white hats and clogs have less of a story to tell....or possibly more depending on your demographic?
Please say everything you think....I know you have a thesis statement in there about these topics wink emoticon.
                Dax - I don't know if I can answer many of those questions wink emoticon

I do appreciate that curators often want to show the us something special that we wouldn't have seen otherwise, but I first have to have a lot of trust in that curator or venue, or else I'd totally be like these kids on their phones being all "this Rembrandt has no relevance to my life, and any relevance this arrogant curator is trying to shove down my throat is contrived."

Separate from that, I do recall being enamored with the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in SJ, even though weird cement recreations even less relevant, just because no adults were pushing it on me. I'm positive that if I had an opportunity to fall in love with dutch oil paintings before being told that I should, I would have been all about them. Maybe.

Honestly, though, I think the best art being exhibited today is happening on the internet, and it doesn't look at all like oil paintings of dudes, and the kids in this picture subconsciously know that. We can also trust that if Rembrandt is still relevant to the next generation's lives, they will seek him out on their own because you can't keep good art buried.
                Rachael - So is the future of curated shows the online gallery's of images on Flickr, deviant art, instagram, personal websites, fb and so on?!
To be honest it stresses me out a bit...it's to insular....experience Is internal and personal yes, but it's so much richer when it's shared, especially in space. I'm not sure how but I feel that we are responsible for finding the next wave of museum and gallery viewing. I perceive that there will need to be a bridge between how we view art now and how we will view art in the future.

I'm not sure I agree that good/important art can always survive. Witness the Taliban and the destroyed Bamiyan Buddha's.
So is there a chance that we are not able to preserve the past in order to understand the future? Remember that old phrase about those who do not understand the past are doomed to repeat it....is that a point that we need to address?
Do we understand the value of what we are losing before we lose it?
We are hell bent on conserving water ie only flushing every few times per day. We are all on board with saving penguins and polar bears but are they anymore important than the Rembrandt?

We could wrap up the whole conversation about this picture with a quote from our friend Tim:

"My first reaction is you simply have two powerful frames of reference in the same image."

 

What seeded this entire conversation was a shared experience between a diverse group of people who went off to the Botticelli to Braque exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

It was a little bit of everything, like a sample taster of the history of western European and Euro-centric art since the renaissance. Possible a stretch for the uninitiated as to why we would be looking at these works aside from the fact that there were some heavy hitters amongst the names of those shown. The reactions were as diverse as the people and everyone had something to add to the conversation.

But it made us think about what we are doing when we ascribe significance to imagery. How subjective/objective is that? What about cultural memory and identity? The argument about post-modernism is already over, so let’s not drag that tired old skeleton out of the closet, but where are we going with imagery as a visual language in a technologically driven world and what will that look like to future generations? Anne Hathaway anyone?

Or how about the 21st century Hero of the Sky, Sir Richard Branson?

It is worth considering that to an Ancient Egyptian the act of reading and writing, making pictograms and interpreting them, was a sacred act. There were not many who could do it, and those who did trained all of their lives and were considered an elite. Now we expect our children to get there before six.

emoji-egyptian-heiroglyph.jpg

Consider also before the advent of mass media, photographic printing etc. the world of imagery was the exclusive domain of those who could afford to pay for its painstaking process. If the average person in the street was exposed to two or three images per year that was a lot, and it usually came in the form of religious propaganda. Secular art was exclusive to the stratospherically wealthy. As such, your average walking around citizen was a visual innocent.

Compare that to the constant barrage of imagery that we live with on a daily basis. Consider also that we daily touch objects created by brilliant technologists and designers, your phone is one of those. The technological democratization of available imagery has not only flattened that particular playing field, it has invented a whole new one. Now anyone and everyone can get creative with visual imagery, and they do. Check out re-imagined masterworks by Liz Nelson below.

Which is why we ended up putting a slightly different spin on one of the masterworks featured in the show. At some point during the rounds of "ah yes what a lovely painting yes" there was a niggling need to send a Snapchat to a friend who was missing the exhibit. In that moment of inspiration, googly eyes and a sense of needle point gossip and outrage about life came to mind.

The googly eyed French Ladies of a certain age elicited the following conversation on Facebook:

Taurin - You know maybe these paintings are just too antiquated. I mean this painting doesn't do it for me and I love art. The googly eyes are a nice touch though

Rachael - I'm glad you liked the googly eyes...why do you think it leaves you cold as a painting?

Taurin - The colors are dull the hair looks like a croissant someone left in a spider web and what are they knitting? What millennial is doing anything close to what's portrayed here. There's no emotional content no conflict it's just three women sitting together. They're not even looking at each other. Ironically this is sort of a perfect painting to symbolize this issue of isolation.

On that note it's not like people in this time were any better off. I think there's an over-romantization of this period in history. There is no diversity of subject. We're looking at rich white woman engaging in leisure that a working class person would never have the opportunity of. If anything I'm happy the youth aren't connecting to this. There is something truly interesting happening all around them and the present moment has grabbed them.

Rachael - So you mentioned rich white woman that most people cannot relate to. But I ask you this...If I put this image next to the googly eyed french ladies....what happens then? Is there a bit more context? I know a lot of people follow the Kardashian sisters. Are they culturally relevant?

Which brings us to another conversation about defacement and vandalism and street art..and the likes of Bansky and Basquiat and and and...But that is a conversation for another blog. All you artists should weigh in on that one.

Beach Getaway + Mendocino Film Festival - Mendocino CA

The ribbon of highway that winds along the California Coast has become legendary, it has seen enough literary reference, visual imaging, media coverage and film footage to be firmly cemented into the collective consciousness as its own archetypal thing. We decided to try our hand at a short film that brings all of those images to life.

Exposure, and surely over-exposure, is a double-edged sword. It brings its own troubles, and yet there are still places along that road that have sidestepped the issue, kept their secrets hidden in plain sight and continued to be what they have always been from the beginning, a little corner of paradise, a beautiful place to live, a slice of heaven.

The little town of Mendocino in Mendocino County a few hours North of San Francisco is one of those.

The town itself is California's version of Cape Cod. Its landscape of rolling hills and wind carved cliffs, its light either bouncing off sparkling blue Pacific waters or filtered through silvery pearl grey fog, is an Andrew Wyeth painting West Coast Style.

Mendocino is a small town idyll. The antidote to the rising pressure of life in the Bay Area. The secret go-to getaway for Silicone Valley burnout. Just enough wild to feel remote but enough civilization to find a pretty good meal, some stellar local vintage or brew and a really comfy bed.

Mendocino loves a camera from any angle, as we discovered one more time while visiting two weekends ago to take in the 10th Annual Mendocino Film Festival.

Any town this pretty was always going to end up on some location scouts hit list and it has seen its share of movie makers and stars for its own sake, though it seems to be constantly subbing for somewhere else. Its most familiar incarnation is probably as Cabot Cove, Maine, in the the “Murder she wrote,” series with Angela Lansbury. James Dean wandered these streets in scenes from “East of Eden." It has done stand-in duty for Monterrey amongst others. It has an iconic cinematic history like its near neighbor Bodega Bay.

Certainly its inhabitants may be star struck, but for such a small, out of the way town to maintain such a vibrant and growing Film Festival for ten years bespeaks a community of unusual commitment and creative vigor, and community involvement is what makes this Festival different from all the others. It feels like a gathering of family and friends both behind and in front of the screen. There are, of course, the usual assortment of out of towners and international attendees, movie makers, industry insiders and audience, but the turnout from the local populace was enthusiastic with sold out screenings and the number of local offerings with community ties was high and the quality outstanding.  Everyone seemed totally into hanging out together and living the films as a shared  experience whether it was an actual movie house, a tent temporarily pitched, or a high school classroom. The town put its party hat on and got festive.

Over fifty films screened across ten venues, the Festival has spilled over into neighboring towns and followed several theme-arcs appropriate to the different locations. To hear a brief roundup of how, what, and why have a listen to this brief clip from the Festival's Marketing and PR Director, local girl Kira Wojack.

The overarching message, the thread that wove through the selection of all these movies seemed to be an outpouring of that aspirational phrase, Think globally, act locally.” There was a little bit of something for everyone.

Some political commentary, Compared to What, the improbable journey of Barney Frank,” some international  LGBT A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, an Iranian Feminist Vampire Western. Some social commentary with audience favorite, Alive Inside about the impact of music therapy on dementia patients.

And speaking of Music, Martin Shore and William bell brought their movie, “Take me to the River"  a journey through the inter-generational, interracial musical community of Memphis.

Photos from Q & A and after party at Flow with Director Martin Shore and Legend William Bell

There were International Academy Award Nominees, the gorgeously animated, ”Song of the Sea.” from the artists who produced the equally lovely, The Secret of Kells which was preceded by a fifteen minute short "Heads or Tails" from local animator Kate Isenberg.

There was Best foreign film academy Award Winner, “Ida.” A masterpiece of this century, the film uses imagery and minimal realism to leaving you feeling in awe and visually satisfied.

Most notable amongst the domestic and local offerings were, “ Occupy the Farm,” about a contentious patch of land in the Berkley hills, and “F R E E ” a feel-good story about the power of dance with at-risk youth in Oakland.

They premiered a sneak peak of the unfinished film, “Of the Sea” which seemed to be staffed and produced entirely by locals. A labor of love two years deep and still going. It signaled the strength of the Festivals‘ commitment to promoting local projects. In March festival staff partnered with John Dixon to hold a fundraising dinner to help finish the film. The film took us on a journey of commercial fishing along the coast of California. It gave a beautiful portrait of the challenges facing our fisherman and fisheries and the joy that they take from being stewards of the Ocean.

Then there were the equestrian offerings supported by the local veterinary community ”Harry and Snowman”  and others under the umbrella of the Seabiscuit Legacy Film Series. This is a farming community, beasts are important.

There were Dinners and parties and after parties. Benefits for sponsors and exhibits and art projects. Everyone seemed to be in on the act.

Like all great parties, it took a lot of organizing, so a shout out to Kira Wojack and Michael Fox and their staff and volunteers.

It was a worthy Centennial and we wish the best for the next Festival. As Martin Shore said, ”Y’all do such an amazing job.”

It all finished up on Sunday evening with Reel Mendocino. The dessert after a sumptuous meal. A selection of short films made entirely by local filmmakers. There was a well deserved standing ovation for Justin Lewis’ 5 minute offering “Dust” in which we came to understand that while Justin is a phenomenal still photographer, he may just be finding his feet as an even better cinematographer. Check out his short film below, and check out his other work at Justin's Website.

Everyone loves a “local boy makes good“ story and comparisons to the likes of Philip Bloom and the legendary Nestor Almendros swirled through our conversation as we discussed his take on Death Valley. He seems to specialize in the supremely inhospitable but visually stunning, otherworldly environments that are fueling the current craze for extreme sports....if your curious about what we mean, check out the below video.

Though Justin's point of view seems to be much more about appreciating nature. “The direction of my work came from my upbringing here in Mendocino and my exposure to Nature. I want to share that with people who don’t have that opportunity." That seems to sum up the whole impetus of the Festival and those of us who do not live in this little slice of heaven were extremely grateful to share in the experience.

As we packed up to go home, conversations and impressions were ongoing. We rolled back onto that fabled highway, fat and happy, well sated from a veritable sensory feast.

Thank You Mendocino. It was lovely, it was enlightening, it was Reel.

High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - Legion of Honor


Is it an ism or is it Art?
 
The Legion of Honors’ High Style exhibit is our first experience of a new breed of costume/fashion/apparel  collections curated from the hallowed houses of great couture over the past century. It is part Historical record, part social commentary, part visual theater, part nostalgic fantasy. This particular snowball began its descent downhill when American Vogues legendary editor, Diana Vreeland took over the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum. Having practically invented the way we look at fashion, her collaborations with the great photographers of her time came to define the “look” of what we considered "beautiful" in fashion. And from there, what we went out and bought to put on our bodies in order to feel attuned to the context of our times.
With her trademark energy and focus and "tell it to someone who cares" attitude to criticism, she set about re-defining how we look at the output, the 'oeuvre‘ of the stellar few who do elevate the industry of putting clothing on our backs, to an art form.

But is it Art?

It is certainly a crowd-puller, as can be witnessed by the resounding successes of the various Met Galas and the amount of celeb press coverage these events garner. Our present Vogue editor, the ubiquitous, omnipotent Anna Wintour has taken on her predecessors’ mission and run with it to great effect. My guess is that New York provides enough of an “in crowd” to sustain an intelligent contextual discourse and sufficient audience to the glitz and glamour of celeb culture to continue to fuel the fascination. Have a look below at this years Costume Institute Benefit and the Art pieces that were created for the Red Carpet.

Met 2015 Costume Institute Benefit Red Carpet:

We bring this up because we would like to set the stage for comments from you, our readers. But also because this Blogging JackRabbit, having spent years in the fashion industry, found that wandering the hushed and softly lit rooms at the Legion of Honor, amongst whispering crowds staring at ghostly stilled mannequins, to be a decidedly weird experience.


I came out of it humming to myself a song from the 80’s that I had not thought of, probably since its brief appearance on the very obscure South African Punk scene in 1984. Check out this culturaly significant album that raised the question:

Is it an ism or is it Art?
Well? Is it?

Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com


Which brings me to the very articulate and succinct  Jennifer Homans, whose article, written for the New Republic, discusses just such issues and goes into the topic with great depth. She also turned me on to the late great Anne Hollander ‘s book "Seeing through Clothes." Aptly described as “magisterial” it’s a must read for anyone who takes their fashion seriously.
 
All that being said, High Style, is a great time capsule. The exhibit spans a time period from the crumbling of the Old World through two World Wars  and the messy, hopeful birth of the New. The arc of change to women's attire from the muted refinement of the Belle Epoque to the siren clang of the movie star 50’s is a wonder to behold. Nowhere is the social and sexual revolution that women have experienced over the last century more obvious than in the wild pendulum swings of fashion. ‘We’ve come a long way, baby,” and it shows.

 
Another thing that struck me whilst walking those rooms past name tags and dates was the wealth of personal history and the sometimes bitter and self-destructive struggle for creative expression that went on behind the closed doors of these great Couture Houses . There have been a slew of Movies made recently about the troubled lives and struggles of a few of the better known, Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel, Valentino and Dior.


In the exhibit, the great Elsa Schiaparelli, whose biographer described her as “never truly happy“ A workaholic  who had to close her House down after the War because the scandal of her supposed collaboration with the hated Vichy government and the Nazis clung like a cloud of gloom. Yet she was more popular than her rival Coco Chanel in her heyday and went further and was more daring than any of her peers in innovation and originality.
Chanel herself, famous for her driving work ethic and emotional coldness.
And then, in the last few rooms the "enfant terrible" to cap them all, Charles James.

Like many of these designers who helped define what it meant to be “modern” he grew up firmly rooted in the aesthetics of the old world. A child of privilege, James grew up in a generation shattered by war. A contemporary of Evelyn Waugh and Cecil Beaton, both of whose works also evoke that sense of loss and longing for what was lost, James is that strange thing. He is an artist whose work bridges time zones but manages to say something about a vision completely his own. 
He is not a well known name. At his most popular his clients were the stratospheric-ally wealthy elite, yet his influence was vast and continuing.
He is a designers designer.
For Cristobal Balenciaga, he was “the only dressmaker who has raised fashion from an applied art to a pure art form.” James Galanos said, “a single James creation is worth the whole output of a 7th Avenues years work.” And, for Christian Dior, James was simply, “the greatest talent of my generation.”
Heady stuff.
He is described as technically brilliant, spending days over the placement of a single seam, he stated, "cut, in dressmaking is like grammar in a language."
He has been described as architectural. He in fact named what he was doing the calculus of fashion. He wished to teach others to become fashion engineers, and indeed, looking at his pieces is like looking at small scale Frank Gehry constructions, and never more so than when watching the computerized construction and de-construction clips that were included within the show. 


Each garment exists “on its own” to quote Jennifer Homans, the necessity for a body to inhabit it seems merely incidental. And this indeed was his undertaking. To him, the female body was “intrinsically wrong,” and his task was to re-shape it by engineering a garment that was more like the carapace of an insect than something that we would recognize as clothing. The clover leaf ballgown weighs ten pounds and makes its wearer literally unapproachable. But such was his technical expertise that these massively draped and manipulated gowns barely touched their wearers’ skin. A cushion of air sat between them and the garment itself.
This is Grand Theater in the same way that the Sun Kings’ curled wigs, satin and laces were intended. A deliberate and deliberated statement about power, status and physical presence. A rather strange, distant and cold form of eroticism too, all these perfectly sculpted gowns, like so many small planets orbiting the sun of their creators central idea.


We should close with a look at the quintessential photo of Charles James’ work, shot by Cecil Beaton.
We are in a fantasy of Versailles. It is a strangely painterly setting of a refined and remote bygone era. The gowns are both of the future and the past at the same time and yet have very little to say to the present they inhabited. Charles James was a paradox. One can certainly admire his technical genius but I'm not sure one would want to inhabit his universe.

Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast

The whole experience left me feeling profoundly grateful for the likes of Scott Schuman and Garance Dore who have democratized and humanized both high and low fashion and placed the wearing of clothes firmly where we see it and experience it. On others, as we go about our daily business, as a form of communication, self expression, fun and joy between equals.
Will we continue to see these exhibits. Absolutely. They are thought provoking and informative.
But the question remains: Are they an ism or are they Art

You tell us. 

 

Desert Arts Preview - Fort Mason San Francisco

Nothing says, “summer is coming, “ in the Bay Area, quite like the anticipatory buzz around Burning Man....

Our very own, homegrown community arts and social creativity project that began life as a small event on Bakers Beach and over time has exploded into an eight day long incandescent flowering of human ingenuity and social pioneering out in the desert. The city on the Playa has become the Northern Hemisphere and the modern worlds’ answer to India's ancient and venerable Khumb Mela and is now looking set to go global with International Participants and Offshoots. Here is a photo of an Art Installation in 2012 from Afrikaburn in Tankwa, South Africa.

AfrikaBurn 2012 Mirage. Images © Jonx Pillemer

To really appreciate Burning Man you need to see the Art Installations over time. Have a look at this collection of the top 50 Artworks to date.

Aside from all the brouhaha about getting in, the raffles, the tickets, the gear, the planning, the rides, the tribes......all of the Burners, the Makers and the Gifters are brushing off their best ideas. From “what am I going to wear,” to “OMG, how do we build that...” The Amsteel Warehouses are open, the Flux Foundation has put out a call for volunteers.......the clock is ticking till August. The game is on...

On a chilly evening down at Fort Mason, earlier this month, the Desert Arts Preview gave us a sneak peek at some of the projects about to get underway.

The projects, as usual, spanned a whole range of visual and emotional reactions, from fun/fantasy/fuzzy/silly to profound and deeply moving and some all in the same package, which seems to be becoming a hallmark of the work of Burning Man. Below is the footage of the presentations in case you didn't have a chance to make it out to the event.

The individuals and teams shared their efforts with great confidence and professionalism. Not sure to whom the biggest shout out should go, but a big welcome to the team from Taiwan carrying the flag for the Asian/Pacific contribution.

If you would like to have a look at the individual artists projects here are a few teasers!

 

After the presentation and questions from the audience everyone gathered in the lobby for drinks, eats and socializing. Fun and festivities ensued!

Here at JackRabbit, the Burning Man philosophy of free creative gifting and making has become one of out favorite things and we intend to follow along as the train gathers steam for this years blowout at Black Rock City.

Black Rock City 2010 Satellite Image

Whenever we are feeling that all the fun has been sucked out of the world, that greed, intolerance and plain old human stupidity is going to drown us and rob us of a future.........

            we simply remember our favorite things,

            and then we don’t feel so bad!

In a million years we would never have imagined Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music playbook in the same room, but when we think about it...........it works!

Photo Credit Jessica Devnani from pinkplankton.com


Art Opening at Seager/Gray Gallery: Fresh Paint -Leslie Allen

Leslie Allen: Fresh Paint

March 3 - March 29, 2015

Reception for the artist: Friday, March 13, 6 to 8 pm   

The Seager/Gray Gallery has become something of an institution amongst the Art lovers of The North Bay Area and even beyond. You know what you are getting.... pretty much the best on offer in the area. An invitation to view an opening of new work is an invitation to a treat.

The Gallery has relocated to a new Space on Throckmorton Ave in Downtown Mill Valley and on what turned out to be an unseasonably warm and almost Summery evening, Leslie Allen showed her new work in an exhibition entitled “Fresh Paint."

Featured artist: Leslie Allen, middle

Featured artist: Leslie Allen, middle

The unexpected balminess of the evening turned out to be fortuitous as it accommodated overspill onto the pavement  of the animated and enthusiastic crowd of all ages and persuasions  that turned up to enjoy the Art, the wine, the space and chatting with each other. The new space is open and light and has great social flow, the fact that it is located  smack-dab in the center of old town Mill Valley on one of its busiest intersections doesn’t hurt either. Perhaps it was the evening, but it had that very Californian flavour of outdoors and indoors being equal partners. People moved in and out comfortably as their tolerance for light, noise and the press of the crowd ebbed and flowed.

Leslie Allen's work seems to fit right into that specifically Californian Bay Area school of painting of which Richard Diebenkorn seems to be the honorary Grandaddy. Full of light and air and the feel of the sea and fog, the colours and contours seem to be filtered through sun and coastal haze. It’s a spacious and optimistic kind of work with a definite sense of fun in its cut-outs and speech bubbles. All of which belies the obvious mastery of the lightness of her touch.

The crowd was picking up on the festive mood of the Art, having fun. There were smiles and laughter with old friends and new acquaintances. There were those who had planned to come and those who wandered in with their kids after dinner on the town square. Old and distinguished looking gentlemen with canes and berets in earnest conversation with equally serious and engaged teenagers. The young and carelessly beautiful, the well heeled and impeccably dressed, the interesting and arresting with the imprint of a life well lived showing plainly in their faces. In short, life as it is lived on a lovely Spring evening in Mill Valley. 

DZINE Gallery Inauguration

Environments are tricky things. They provide us with a sense of place and of security. They are an open dialog box running at the back of our minds. If you live in the bay area you may be aware that this part of the world can take the concept of space to another level. The integration of all things useful and beautiful acted as a theme radiating from the center of all the rooms on display.

I found many conversations alongside the beautiful furniture, objects, and artwork.

Sipping wine in thoughtful contemplation

Having perused through my share of Gallery Openings I can say that this one - was unique. Integration of beauty and context are not always the focus of a show. But this opening was wonderfully refreshing. Walking through the doorway was stepping into a fully realized and beautifully executed curation of imagery and space. Each room was a thought - a vignette unto itself. The detail was simply immaculate.

 

The bathrooms were an absolute treat. Clean lines and a lack of visual clutter all opening up and relaxing the mind. But I have to admit to falling in love with a bathroom model that was tucked away at the back of the gallery. An LED projector was mounted behind the bathtub and rotated through several designed that were projected into the tub itself. The light show was spectacular, cycling through various patterns that included moving or running water.

The images highlighted the feeling of being in-between, yet they were part of a fixed show. They asked you to be aware of the paradox that all human beings face today - the need for stability alongside flexibility. That paradox has an effect on our spaces - images- and interactions with one another.  Several of the photographs asked you to re-imagine places that are perceived to be familiar around the bay area. In the photograph below you will see a brightly lit and quiet Ikea parking lot. That is a paradox if you have ever had the pleasure of shopping at Ikea. The artist Johnna Arnold pulls at the corners of ones mouth with a sense of the extraordinary in our backyard.

 

The showroom that DZINE presented was dynamic yet held a sense of pliability that is a requirement for the modern 21st century living space. The gallery show is running through summer, ending in August of 2015. I strongly recommend taking a walk through this space and pausing for a moment to embrace the change that is sweeping through our lives at both a local and global level. 

There were so many moments of connection and relaxation among old and newly found friends.

A selection of our photos can be found below and please click on the button to learn more about DZINE.


Artists Reception at Desta Art & Tea Gallery

Last Friday evening the Rabbit Team headed over to San Anselmo to check out an art opening that was happening at Desta Art and Tea Gallery. It was a beautifully executed event complete with a delicious spread, tea infused cocktails, and animated conversation. People were impressed with the new gallery and the work that was on display. While swirling drinks I listened in on several people as they discussed the qualities of several of the sculptures and an interest in taking one home with them that evening. Overall there was a wonderful balance of mediums and genera including sculpture, pottery, mixed media, paintings, and hand crafted jewelry.

After a significant amount of time mingling and stealth photography I took a tour through the expansive hallway where most of the guests were mingling. In a room near the back, I was treated to drink table with several options. I settled on a Jasmine Green Tea Vodka Infused Cocktail. It was absolutely delightful. I found that the drink perfectly balanced the flavor of the flowery green tea and the smooth tickle of vodka. Thankfully I was not alone at the event and was able to hand off my drink to a fellow Rabbit while photographing the festivities. I am pretty good at one handed photography but it can be a little bit challenging. I took turns sipping, shooting, chatting, and nibbling for the rest of the evening. I found myself connecting with several of the guests, sharing our creative lives, and love of tea. I felt that the gallery fostered an atmosphere that made it possible to open up to others in the space and to share a love of the work on display.

In all honesty I have to say that I don't know if there is a better combination than Tea and Art. The owner of the tea shop and gallery is a woman named Emebet. She has created a place that I believe will mingle members of the community over a shared love of exquisite and unique teas paired with local artists and designers in the area.

 A quote from their website states that

           "Our mission is to connect communities, artists and collectors in an atmosphere that arouse creativity and 

           stimulate the senses and intellect."

I think that Desta was perfectly successful in that endeavor at the event we attended. We look forward to future tea and art events, art workshops, and private tea tastings at this new jewel of a gallery in the heart of Marin. We hope to see you there!

Please take a moment to have a look at Desta's website by clicking on the button below.