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Monday, March 31, 2008

Milk, spoon and table

Peace 3, 2007, 12"x12", acrylic on canvas

This morning. We are having breakfast in the kitchen. My children are eating cereals with milk. At some point, one of them spills a little bit of milk on the dark wooden table, looks at it and starts drawing with his spoon in the milk. He draws a round fish, then pulling the milk, he draws the pond around the fish and then a tree and the sun and some clouds. I am watching, interested to see where this is going. Soon the drawing covers a good portion of the table. His brother stopped eating and is staring at the drawing in process. He did not say anything but I can tell he wants to draw too. He spills a little bit of milk on the table with his spoon. And starts drawing too, his face illuminated. There is only the table and the milk, nothing else exists around him, he is making all sorts of lines and shapes, turning the spoon and trying different possibilities.

When they are done, they start talking a lot, at the same time, very excited. They ask me if we can keep the drawing on the table. They want to see it dry. I tell them that we can keep it until they come back from school. They are extremely happy. When they come back home, it is the first thing they check out. The drawing is now sticky and almost transparent. They agree we can wash it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Art of Compassion

Akshobhya (Tib: Mitrugpa)

Andy Weber, The Art of Compassion, San Diego Art Department.

Friday night. I am going to the San Diego Art Department in North Park, to listen to a lecture by Andy Weber and see the exhibition “Art of Compassion”. Andy Weber is an artist who creates images of visualization for Buddhist meditation.

I enter the gallery and bright paintings and prints welcome me. It’s like I already know these images but at the same time they are new to me. They are extremely detailed and the colors very vibrant.

A few minutes later the lecture starts. Andy Weber, with a soft voice, first talks about the actual situation in Tibet. Just a few words - very emotional. Then he starts a projection of images.

In Tibet, the images displayed in the exhibition are called “objects of support”. The images here are not only for decoration or a temporary experience. They are used for meditation, for initiation. They contain Buddhist principles. You start looking at them and you build a relationship with them. They are used on a daily basis. Weber says artists like him, who paint those pictures, paint them to teach, to help people in meditation, they are a port of spirituality. Everything in the painting has a symbolic meaning. It is a tool for self development. Each picture reminds you what the essence of life is.

We are looking at a Chu Len Ma image: image based on the reflection of the image of Buddha in the water.

To draw the picture of Buddha can take a long time and students train for years before actually painting the picture. At the bottom of the image you can see offerings. They are the “entrance fee” to see Buddha. They have deep meanings. One is the visual consciousness. The most beautiful thing in the world one can think about. The second is pure thought. You cannot hide, you cannot play, this is you. Then you see a lute, you offer the most beautiful sound. Then a piece of cloth: the tactile consciousness, the most beautiful touch. You see a flower, the consciousness of smell. And food offering: the most beautiful taste you ever had.

Before starting to pray, you offer all that. It sets your mind. You start your day positively.

Everything, all the information from the world comes through the five senses. So when you walk in the street it becomes a vivid experience.

The world does not change. But we can change. This is how Buddhism works. Changing us. All the Buddhism teaching points to one thing: be aware, look at your body, look at your feelings, observe. What are thoughts? Observe the process: how the thoughts come, stay and go away. Do not judge.

Above the stairs, the snow lions: they represent fearlessness. Fearlessness holds the next platform which is a symbol for spirituality: the lotus. The lotus which blooms on the muddy pond is like the spirituality above the muddy existence. The lotus represents renunciation, feeling unattached. Inside the lotus is the sun. The sun comes in the morning and lights up the day. He is the symbol of wisdom. Wisdom is to see the reality as it is and not as we think it is. Then the moon: the loving kindness.

At last the image of Buddha which represents the meditation experience.

Weber describes several other images, the Mandala of compassion, the wheel of existence. The colors are always bright; they are made that way to stimulate something in the consciousness. They are “positive” colors.

In conclusion Weber says the world peace can only come from inner peace. If we can love, that is the most beautiful gift we can give, that is the Buddhist philosophy. He loves doing his work, he loves the people he meets and works with.

I really loved listening to him, to his calm and soft voice. I did not know all the significance of those images. It is a good thing to share such knowledge. Although in my artistic practice I am trying to find a personal way and to set myself free from tradition, I understand that someone chooses to dedicate his life to a traditional form of art, especially one which is about finding and spreading peace.

San Diego Art Department
Andrea Chamberlin, Director

3830 Ray Street

San Diego, CA 92104

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Life without TV

Reading, painting, writing, having long dinners, working my images on the computer, going to see a movie or an exhibition, making a fire in the Mexican fireplace outside on the deck, watching a DVD, listening to music, talking, seeing friends, looking at a landscape... Sometimes I wonder when I would watch TV if I had one!
I feel like I am not sleeping during the day and it feels good.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Miya Hannan: Circularity

The end is the Beginning of the New, 2007
Mixed media on Japanese Paper and Cheese Cloth, each panel 12 x 2 x 2 feet
Shoots, 2007, Paper-mache, Cheese Cloth, Bone Ash, 5-60 x 8 x 8"
Axis, 2007, Bone ash, Porcelain, each pile 5 x 8 x 8"

Friday night. After a day of hiking I still want to go to La Jolla, to the opening of “Circularity” at R.B. Stevenson Gallery.

I always like to go to R.B. Stevenson’s openings; usually I have a good surprise there. I am very interested in discovering Miya Hannan’s work. I enter the gallery and I am immediately attracted by a large installation which takes up the whole opposite corner of the space. Long translucent pieces of paper -- painted and/or printed -- hang from the ceiling. At the bottom of each of them is what seems like the rolled part of the piece, very dark. On the white floor of the gallery, surrounded by the long pieces of paper are white structures and small piles of a white powder. The whole piece feels delicate and light, yet powerful. It is very white and translucent, yet dark. When I get closer I can see that the black parts at the bottom are wrapped in black, painted fabric. Each small pile is topped with what I identify as a vertebra. Then someone comes and explains to me that the little piles are made with bone ash and the whole piece talks about the cycle of life.

Now I look around to discover the other pieces, all of them on the walls, almost none of them framed. All of the pieces are beautifully crafted. It seems to be a mix of drawing, printmaking and painting. I like how the artist proceeds with layers, which works very well with the Japanese paper. The light plays nicely through the paper and everything seem to flow in these large compositions. It is so nice to see this work. Miya Hannan is here and I tell her how I am enjoying the moment and how much her work touches me. She is really nice and attentive. She explains to me how Frances McCormack, her former teacher, introduced her to R.B. Stevenson Gallery and how thrilled she is to have her work shown here. Also she tells me she was a radiologist in Japan - which may explain the references in her work to the inside of the body (drawings of organs, prints of vertebrae…).

Miya Hannan next to Evolutionary Momentum,
mixed media on japanese paper, bone ash, 110x120x12, 2007

I take a picture of Miya Hannan next to “Evolutionary Momentum”, one of my favorite pieces (but I like them all!). At the bottom of the piece there are four small piles of bone ash.

I understand that all of the pieces talk about the circle of life and death but there is nothing sad here. There is no fear. Life and death flow together in these complicated yet calm large pieces of work. There is a real pleasure to look at the work from a distance and then to come closer and discover the quality of each element.

Seeing the work of Miya Hannan tonight after hiking all day on the beach: what an amazing gift!

R.B. Stevenson Gallery
7661 Girard Avenue, Suite 201
La Jolla, California 92037

Hiking From Torrey Pines to Pacific Beach

The beach at Torrey Pines

Friday. Today we are hiking from Torrey Pines to Pacific Beach. A few weeks ago we did a portion of the hike, from La Jolla Shore to Torrey Pines.

When we start at 9:30, the tide is going down, it will be up again at 9:00 pm tonight. We have all day to hike on the beach. We estimated it is around 13 miles long. It is amazing to think that we are “in town” and yet we feel so far away from everything, especially before we arrive on La Jolla Shore Beach. The cliff follows the shore and separates us from the town and we feel completely alone. Birds are walking on the beach, digging with their beak in the sand as the waves go down. We see only a few people.

At the beginning of the hike the cliff draws a large shade on the beach and it quickly disappears as the sun comes up. The swell is rather big today and we see quite a few surfers when we arrive near Scripps Pier. We are stuck a few times, at the bottom of the cliff, waiting for the waves to go down and to let us go through. On La Jolla Shore beach, a lot of people are playing ball, sunbathing and surfing. The day is gorgeous, the air crisp and the wind brings some fresh air. We walk a little bit in town when we cannot do otherwise, we go on the little trail on top of the cliff and we are soon next to the beach in La Jolla where people come to see the seals dozing in the sun and playing in the water. We stay there for a while, watching the young playing with their moms.

Along the way, the landscape changes often, the beach is sometimes large and sandy, the sand white, tan, or almost black. We walk on big rocks or on pebbles, sometimes in squishy piles of warm seaweeds, or on large flat rocks covered with soft tiny plants. Sometimes we have to find a way to continue on the shore, and although we are technically in town, it is quite an adventure and we see very few people on some portions of the hike! There are amazing tide pools before to arrive on the beach at Pacific Beach and we see a lot of colonies of hermit crabs and light purple anemones.

Then we finally walk towards the Crystal Pier, in the calmness of the end of the afternoon. Children are playing, people are walking, kiteboarders are done for the day and all the colorful kiteboards are lying on the beach, points up, drying, looking like funny flying saucers. Garnet Avenue is the end of our journey, we take the bus to go back home.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is today a sad day?

Freedom #1, 2008, digital print, 24"x24" [50x50cm]

Today is the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
Today violence continued to erupt in Tibet.
Is today a sad day? If I say yes then every day is a sad day, because violence in the world never stops. At the same time I continue to live my life, to create my images, to paint. I understand that my work does not have to be dark because the world is dark. My work can bring some light. It does not mean I don’t care, it means I can do some good through some positive attitude. Being attentive to the flowers blooming in the canyon where I Iive does not mean I do not care for the world.
War and conflicts make me want to be a better person.

Here and Now

A time to heal #2, 2008, digital print, 24"x24" [50x50cm]

It is very important to me when I work on my images (I guess not only when I work on my images!), to be into what I am doing and not elsewhere, living the moment, being very attentive, trying to really see what is going on with the colors, the layers, the transparencies, the light. But sometimes I start asking myself a lot of questions and it is the end of serenity!

Monday, March 17, 2008


Landscape 17, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 24"x48", [60x120cm]

I started incorporating my family in my work when I realized that one of the most important things happening in my life was happening right next to me. Watching my children grow makes me see the world differently. Interesting stories are unfolding every day. I am trying to listen to them, to really listen to them, which is very difficult. I am trying to shut down my thoughts about “the things I have to do” when they are around, when they want to explain to me something. They are totally in the present. I can see they do not anticipate much what they will do in the future, except of course all the dates we put their heads, like Christmas, Easter or their birthday. When we are doing something together, I really do my best not to talk about something else, or about something we will do in the future. I watch them doing things and they inspire me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reclining Figure: Arch Leg

Today in Balboa Park

The other day I was reading an article about "Louise Bourgeois: a Retrospective", actually at the Centre George Pompidou, Paris. I was thinking that a few years ago I would not have missed it – I guess I saw each exhibition of her work in France when I was living in Paris. As the years go passing by, it seems to me that I need more peace, and her work, which in the past attracted me so much – and still shocks me for its violence and its disturbing message - interests me with a different intensity.

Today, as I walked in Balboa Park with some friends and children, in a sunny and bright afternoon resembling a summer day, I stopped in the garden next to the Walters Cafe of the San Diego Museum of Art. There, “Reclining Figure: Arch leg” by Henri Moore was laying in all its roundness and giving attitude and I felt lighter.

I sent the article about Louise Bourgeois to Ivan Sigg to see what he would say about it. He talked about her and her work and also about Henri Moore. Amongst other things, he wrote: “There is a true love for life in his work”. That is may be what I am looking for right now.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A snowy landscape in the mail

Ivan Sigg, ink on paper

Today I had the really nice surprise to receive an ink on paper sent by my dear friend Ivan Sigg from France! The mailman put our mail on a chair, on the porch outside of the house and he put Ivan’s folded drawing on the top. So when I picked up the mail that is the first thing I saw, I was thrilled! I delicately opened and unfolded the drawing and here it was: a beautiful snowy landscape from the mountains where Ivan and his family spent some time recently! And there is also a little story around the stamp !
Ivan’s work, thoughts and energy inspire me. Thank you Ivan!

Merci Ivan de cette belle surprise qui a traverse un ocean plus un continent pour arriver dans notre maison de San Diego. Un rectangle de bonheur! Ton energie et ton travail m’impressionnent!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Three Legged Horse

Maura McHugh, Three legged horse #3, work in progress - video

Tonight I went to the art gallery in USD (University of San Diego) for the closing reception of Maura McHugh’s thesis.

Maura McHugh presented three large paintings, two she made earlier this year, and one she painted on the spot in three sessions of three hours or so. What struck me when I entered the gallery was the strong presence of “Abstract Expressionism forces”. In her thesis titled: “Effortlessness and the Unintended”, she discusses about her influences and there is no surprise to find Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline within the group of artists who influenced her work. She has a fascination for horses and although she starts working in a complete abstract way, at a certain point she looks for forms to emerge, and those forms are very likely to be horses. She does not yet know the exact titles of the three paintings she presents here, but she is thinking of using “Three legged horse #1”, “Three legged horse #2” and “Three legged horse #3”. The three paintings have a good energy, they are strong and generous. In the middle of the single room, she made a sculpture (looking like a horse) with the material she used to paint and to protect the floor and the walls of the Gallery when she was working on “Three Legged horse #3”. In the exhibition there is also a video showing “Three legged horse #3” in progress and this is very interesting to watch.

I saw some good friends and we had a good time together!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Pacific Ocean

Pacific Beach this morning - from the pier

This morning I went to Pacific Beach. I wanted to see the ocean. I do that sometimes. It’s only a few minutes drive from the house. I was there around 11:00. I walked from Garnet Avenue to the Crystal Pier. There were not many people: two fishermen, a couple of lovers. A few pigeons were walking along the fence. The pier was gently rocking because of the swell. The sky was very clear. On the right of the pier some surfers were calmly waiting for good waves, sitting on their boards. I stayed there, looking around and then looking west. There is no land for thousands of miles in that direction…

Then I walked to the beach. The noise of the waves was loud, covering even the screams of the birds. The wind, coming from the South, was chilly. The tide was going down, leaving on the beach long and thin streams of white foam, and piles of dark and amber seaweeds. The wet sand was reflecting the light and the whole landscape was bright, almost white. A few people were walking on the beach. The wind, the light, the waves and the mind blowing scale of the landscape were powerful and impressive. And I was completely at peace.

The Ogre

Last night my youngest son declared he wanted to be Mulgarath (the ogre in The Spiderwick Chronicles). Mulgarath is pretty spiky and looks like an old tree. My son immediately started taping Lego elements on his pajamas. He chose a lot of pointy pieces and he was done in no time. After that he said he was ready to hear the story of Spiderwick, sat on the couch and waited for my husband to come and read the story to him and his brother. He kept his costume for dinner. Then I proposed to him to change his pajamas to go to bed and we kept the other pajamas with all the Lego pieces taped on them.

This morning he was playing with his Lego before to go to school. When I said it was time to go, he came and asked me to tape “claws” on his fingers. He found - on a big Lobster Lego he has - claw-like pieces, dark red, two inches long each. And here I was, at 8:20, trying not to think about the clock, taping the claws, one by one on his little fingers. When we were done, he was ready to go, with a huge smile on his face. At school, the claws were removed promptly after I left but he asked me to re-tape them immediately after school. Which I did.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In the morning

in the backyard

The canyon bloom is increasing, day after day. Right now there are a lot of yellow flowers. Four hummingbirds came this morning in the backyard hovering above the bright orange paradise flowers. In the quietude of the house, I worked on some new images on the computer, looking for some interesting encounters between plants, faces, landscapes, trying a lot of combinations. I am wondering about the amount of images I work on which will never be either printed or painted...

Monday, March 10, 2008

I am getting there

Ingrid Betancourt, 36"x48", 2008 (detail)

In about three months it is the opening of my solo exhibition at the San Diego Art Institute.

All the work is pretty much ready. I still have to decide between some pieces. The space will not be huge and I don’t want the walls to look full. I looked at all the pieces together, paintings and prints, and it works. But although the work is very recent, it has different moods: some pieces have more layers than others, some are more transparent than others some have text and some have not. There are people but also a big empty landscape. My family and some friends are there and so is Ingrid Betancourt, the woman kidnapped by the FARC, who is still a captive somewhere in the Colombian forest. Some people are recognizable, some are silhouettes…

I am very excited to see all those pieces together in a show!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Matt Wedel: Polar bears, cat and landscape

Entrance of the gallery

Matt Wedel: polar bears, cat and landscape
Spacecraft studio, North Park, San Diego.

Last night I went to Spacecraft in North Park. I am always very interested by what I see there. They only present a few pieces. And the space, although not huge and divided in two rooms, feels always good.

I am greeted at the entrance by a gentle silvery monster: “Lion”, a big ceramic piece with six heads, and the cheerful and strange song by Ringo Star “Octopus’s Garden” which immediately makes me feel great!

Flower tree (detail)

Then I discover the other works, all ceramics, and two gouaches on paper. First a big colorful flower tree and then a much smaller tree. They make me think about cacti and succulents but they are something else too because no cacti or succulent look like that.

Matt Wedel with "Polar bears"

In the other room I am immediately attracted by “Polar bears”, a very sweet piece, with two polar bears almost hugging each other, obviously they are not fighting. The white of their fur is very milky and soft. Their feet are on a piece of blue iceberg.

Another little tree is in this room too, and two little gouaches on paper pinned on the wall. I am very excited to see this work, I feel like a child, it makes me happy and warms my heart. I think that work is very true and very personal. It feels fresh and generous and at the same time very strong. I want to come back with my children, they have to see it. I talk to Christopher Puzio; he is very enthusiastic about Matt Wedel’s work, his eyes sparkle when he talks, Matt is lucky to have someone who believes so much in his work. I can feel a strong relationship and I love that. He introduces me to Matt Wedel. His attitude is relaxed with no ostentation, I can see his determination, he is soft spoken and attentive. I say I like the picture on the invitation but the piece is not here and he says he chose the image because he likes that piece, even if it is not in the show. He talks about the inspiration he finds in landscapes, cacti and succulents, how he transforms all that to go somewhere else.

I do not wish to compare to other artists, to find the influences, I am just there, enjoying what I am seeing, the gallery is full with good vibes and that’s all that counts.

Thank you Matt Wedel!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Seeing Language @ UCSD art gallery

In the gallery, before the talk

Art Gallery, Mandeville Center, UCSD (University of California San Diego). Exhibition “In the Beginning”.
With Liz Kotz, art historian; Kim McConnel, painter, teacher at UCSD, and Stephen Hepworth, curator of the exhibition.

This talk examines how language as a visual medium has been and continues to be interpreted within the gallery space as reflected in the current exhibition at the University Art Gallery.

I could see the exhibition one more time before the talk started. There were around thirty people there, mostly students. We walked around and stopped in front of certain pieces during the talk.

In introduction, Stephen Hepworth said he wanted a very generous show, a visual show. He talked about “Another World is Possible”, the piece by Mark Titchner. “Another world is possible” is a slogan from World Social Forum. This is the slogan of the year. Titchner is very interested in slogans. He reworks them on the computer. His vision is futuristic and retro at the same time. Liz Kotz talks about the 60s and the 70s: in the conceptual work there was a text-image practice. The words came in from the world of music. John Cage started to use language by the late 50s. At the time lots of artists were using text in their works.

In the 60s, artists had no rules; they were intensely collaborating with each other: movie makers, writers, painters…

Stephen Hepworth talks about the comeback of a very visual art. Artists work with their computer a lot but end to paint on canvas. They come to that culture of media as much as they come to art history. They are moving away from technology and coming back to something more handmade.

I completely relay to that because I use the computer all the time when I am transforming my photos and then framing the images, layering them, trying colors. But there is a pleasure to transfer the image from the computer to the canvas. And even if I work in parallel images which are meant to be printed, I really like to think an image as more than a print.

Stephen Hepworth talks about Peter Davis's work: it encourages you to read, you try to find a way but ultimately you cannot follow what you are reading because your eyes are bouncing. The work is interesting because when you see it you know that it took a huge amount of time to make. On the opposite wall, the work by Bob and Roberta Smith (Bob and Roberta Smith is the pseudonym of British artist Patrick Brill), on the contrary, is done quickly. Smith who has crafted a very eccentric persona, refers to Agitprop in his practice. He finds the timber in dumpsters; he uses a very cheap paint. His work contrasts also nicely with Monique Prieto’s, in the same room.

Stephen Hepworth talking about Fiona Banner's work

About Fiona Banner’s work, Liz Kotz says she does not understand the frame – why is it so massive? Kim McConnel finds that the drawing of the figure would be actually much more economical. The piece is the description of a figure but there is no image per se. There is a background text which takes the whole space and a foreground sentence on top of it, with much bigger letters. Liz Kotz says she is not sure she is interested by the foreground as much as she is interested by the background. And Kim McConnel agrees that the piece is overstated and shows on the opposite wall a piece which he likes because it is understated. It has his roots in Baldessari’s work but has its own personality.

They talk about more works, especially in the last - and small - room where they considered three works at the same time: Dominic McGill’s pencil drawing “Pick up the gun”, Tamari Demaree’s little suspended flags “I felt your lips” and Fernando Pintado’s Conte and watercolor on paper pinned on the wall. They talk about their obsessive engagement. They see a direct reference to Ellsworth Kelly in Tamari’s work and multiple references to the 60s in the three works.

It was really dark when I went outside and I was very absorbed by the talk. I did not remember exactly where my car was parked and I got lost… I walked around. At a certain point there was a kind of a small flea market. Also some students were selling hot food they had prepared, each of them sitting behind a little folding table with a camping stove, a cooking pot and some foam bowls and plastic spoons. I finally asked for some help because I could remember the name of a building close to where I parked… Finally, after I walked through darks woods and barely lighted paths, I found my car.

UCSD is a huge campus and parking there is a nightmare but I am very happy about the evening!


The other day we went to the tidepools in Point Loma. The tide was going down, leaving all sorts of animals and plants for a few hours in holes full of water. It is quite magic to walk on the rocks and to look for “things” to observe. It was not hot so the water stayed cool and the animals were not too fast to hide under the rocks and the seaweeds. We saw a lot of mollusks, anemones, and hermit crabs. We walked slowly and were very attentive. We saw an octopus but it quickly disappeared.

Then we spotted a quite striking starfish. I never saw one like that before. It was larger than my hand, laying on a rock, in a few inches of water. My son was fascinated and so was I: the starfish had little blue bumps with a pink center all over its back! We gently touched it, it was soft. We saw its hundreds of white tube feet moving slowly, as if it was ready to leave but it stayed there, and we stared at its beautiful colors for a long moment.

When we go to the tidepools, we never know what we will find but we always have beautiful surprises.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Namesake

In the studio, work in progress

Yesterday my husband Kyle and I spent the evening in the garage which I use as my studio. A few days ago he started reading for us “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri - who wrote “Interpreter of maladies” which Kyle offered me when it came out and which I adored. The nights are warmer and it is the time of the year when it is nice again to spend time in the evening in the studio. We stayed there together, him reading and me painting.

I listened to that arrowing story about exile, being away from the family and trying to adapt to another culture. Ashima and Ahoke, a couple from Calcutta who comes to the U.S. have a child and they name him Gogol after one of Ashoke’s favorite Russian authors. “Read all the Russians, and then reread them,” his grandfather had said. “They will never fail you”.

Jhumpa Lahiri has a very touching way to describe everyday life situations. The words are delicate although the story which is unfolding is heartbreaking. While listening I was working on a portrait of Kyle and I. It is still the background and because I proceed by layers, there is nobody on the canvas yet. But it is moving to listen to the story of that couple, to listen to Kyle who reads a story to us and to paint something related to our story together.

And I really like to listen to Kyle’s voice! I cannot wait to hear the next chapter…

Monday, March 3, 2008

Innocence is Questionable

Innocence is Questionable – California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum. Exhibition of the six emerging artists recipients of the San Diego Art Prize in 2008:
Yvonne Venegas

Ernest Silva
Jean Lowe

Iana Quesnell
Raul Guerrero

May-Ling Martinez

Saturday night I went to the opening of “Innocence is Questionable” in Escondido. First of all, I want to say how much I like the place. I feel good in that space and although it is very big, the way it is divided is inviting for a nice walk. I really wanted to go to see the exhibition because I did not see all the exhibitions at L Street Fine Art in 2007, where all the artists in this exhibition had a show.

I start to walk through the biggest space, and I am very attracted by four really big paintings by Jean Lowe. The titles are: Landscape (discount store), Landscape (corridor), Landscape (bus station), landscape (casino). Very colorful and powerful! These paintings of “popular venues of suburban America” are surprisingly enjoyable. I continue to the adjacent room which is completely occupied by a “mixed media installation empire style” by the same artist: “Consumer Landscape”. We are in a room with paintings on the wall (view of parking lots, places of consumption), furniture “empire Style” on the sides, a carpet on the center. A guard is present to tell each viewer not to walk on the carpet - which looks real - and of course, it happens: some people walk on it. I saw a previous installation by Lowe at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla in the exhibition “Southern Exposure” (September 2005 – September 2006) and I had the same feeling of joy because the settings were generous, oversized, colorful and at the same time a feeling of not being at ease: don’t touch or you will be in pain, like with a Cholla cactus - they look so pretty but they are dangerous if you get too close.

Back in the largest space, I discover the work by Ernest Silva. A circular look tells me that I will need some time to understand what is going on here. The recurrent themes of the vulnerable deer, the forest, the water and (what it seems to me) the helpless actors in the landscapes are so strange that I would like to know more. The colors are kind of washed, the impression of the ensemble is quite pale for me (but everything else around is very colorful) and the tension comes more from the themes than from the construction of the spaces. One of the large paintings “Wooden Man, Wooden World” has its large frame painted directly on the wall and the contrast between the canvas and the flat large frame around it is very interesting. There is also, on the same themes, a series of small acrylic on paper. As the text which presents Ernest Silva puts it: Ultimately, Silva asks: “What creates narrative or story?”

Then I go around the wall which separates the large space in two, looking again at the huge wall covered with the four paintings by Jean Lowe, I turn and embrace the space occupied by the work of Raul Guerrero. I saw the exhibition of his work at L Street Gallery. There is a pleasure in coming to a museum and seeing large, generous pieces like this endless oil on linen painting on three panels: “The desert: A cultural Primer for Undocumented workers” (2008). A desert view, whitish, painted on top of a background made of advertisings cut from magazines. On top of the landscape: three strong references-statements from three “masterpieces”. On the left, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” from Picasso, in the center: “L’urinoir” from Marcel Duchamp, and on the right: “Saturn Devouring One of His Children” by Goya.

On the right wall, a series of 12 ink and gouache on paper: “Petty Criminals: Mexico City”.

On the left wall, two large paintings of 2006: “Mexican and American food chorizo combination: La Posta” and “Mexican and American food hotdog: Wienerschnitzel”, representing oversized food in bright colors. I read in the presentation panel: “Raul Guerrero’s work explores the notion that a sense of history is of utmost importance. With an insatiable appetite for knowledge he continually investigates the culture clashes that have shaped the history of the Americas.”

Then I go to the room on the left of the entrance. First artist: May-Ling Martinez, who proposes different pieces, installation-like, a quite intriguing space. I then enter Iana Quesnell’s space. I have seen her work before, in the “Circa Series”, at the Museum of Contemporary art in La Jolla. That was the first time I saw her work and I could not leave the exhibition. She was there talking and I was listening to her. The main work was a huge drawing which literally covered an entire wall: the mapping between two spaces, the one she was living in at the time (in San Diego) and the one she was working in (in Tijuana). Of course it was stunning to imagine her with a pencil, realizing that gigantic image, with the patience of a monk. And that was not the only drawing. Others were displayed in the space. Here, in “Innocence is questionable”, I walk directly to “La Casa Segura”, a wall length drawing of a house viewed from above – without the roof – with all the details, especially the fabric on the different beds, the tiles, the palms of the palm tree on the patio. Everything is there except herself. On the left wall: “Sofa, floral, Tijuana”, it is a sofa, from above, real size, with all the details. I recognize the couch, it is in the Casa Segura. Then on the opposite wall: “My Tijuana”, a long urban landscape, probably a view from the top of the Casa Segura. This time it is not a view from above. Still made with a pencil with all the details of the TV antennas, the cracks in the concrete, the houses on the hill in the distance. Finally “Grab life by the horns”, a vertical drawing, with different technical views of a car – it could be a house. From above, from the top, from the sides… Still nobody.

I am definitely attracted to this artist’s work, she is consistent and I can see her impressive determination. At the same time I don’t know where she is – she is nowhere to be seen in all the spaces she is supposed to occupy and that she depicts. It is a very intimate work yet very distanced. I learn that she is a self proclaimed nomad and that she moved over 60 times. I like that! And I really enjoy the quote at the top of the presentation panel of her work: “A house constitutes a body of images that gives mankind proofs or illusions of stability” (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space). “Quesnell’s work serves to complicate and confuse our notions of space and conceptions of ownership, posing the question: “where does our personal space begin and end?””

After staying for a while in the room, I go to the last space I had not yet seen, the long wall which faces an equally long window looking to the patio of the museum. On the wall, a series of large c-prints by Yvonne Venegas. I am instantly hooked with “Nirvana”, a little girl in a white dress at a wedding party gently dozing, her head leaning upon the table covered with gold tableware. Then “Senoras”, a group of woman at a party, and “Caballo”, a white horse from behind, lifting his head high. “Despedida” shows a woman, certainly the owner, alone with two waiters working in a house we can imagine very big. “Dr Campos” represents a man with only one eye (the other one covered by a black-eye patch) holding a tiger cub. And others - all very mysterious. The colors are rich, the contrasts strong. The woman are extremely beautiful and some sadness transpires the photos. I understand that Venegas entered the special world of a very wealthy family from Tijuana and took the photos she wanted. The result is gripping, fascinating.

I think it is an excellent idea to have all the recipients of the San Diego prize together in the show. Ann Berthold, the director of L Street Fine Art is really dedicated to making the visual arts bloom in San Diego. Next September she organizes a fair: Beyond the Border Contemporary Art Fair. It should be interesting!

I enjoyed the space and the art, had an excellent Cosmo while listening to live music, and got a nice “Innocence is Questionable” tote bag!

I am very proud to have participated in a group exhibition here in 2007: “Cultural Fusion: Exploring the Multi-Cultural Influences on the Arts of this Region”. The theme was exciting and three of my digital works from the Undocumented series were exhibited, along with the works of eight other artists of Southern California.

Life is good!