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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A late afternoon walk at Mission Bay

I cannot believe how beautiful the town where I live is and I cannot get used to this beauty. It still surprises me. And it is different every day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wood, wire, pine cone, shell and masking tape

My youngest son did this, on the porch, very quietly.
It is in the middle of the walkway.
One cannot miss it.
I hope it will stay for a long time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Coyote

This morning I saw a coyote in the canyon behind our house. He was walking slowly. I could see his pointy nose and his bushy tail shimmering in the sun. I guess he was hunting – some birds flew away just in front of him. I like living here because I can see things like this despite living in town.

I spent almost 20 years in Paris. I love Paris, and I had a great time there. But I remember, sometimes, early in the morning, before the traffic jam became intense, I would leave the studio and drive two hours to go see the ocean -- to see an open horizon, an unobstructed view. Then I would return to Paris and enjoy the “big city” life.

Here, I am somehow always connected with nature, and that gives me more peace.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spacecraft Gallery: New installation by Craig Kane

Thursday night. Tonight is the opening of Craig Kane’s exhibition at Spacecraft Gallery and I don’t want to miss it, especially after listening to KPBS radio this morning: they talked about the exhibition and were very enthusiastic about it.

Little scenes are displayed on the wall. Tiny elements put together tell us stories. In the first room, the larger one, the scenes are overall rather small. In the smaller room the scenes are larger, but none really larger than approximately 25”. There is no title for the exhibition. There are no labels, no lists -- not even a pile of postcards. It feels light!

Small Wonders

A tiny bed with a green blanket/ the word “FUN”/ a tiny tire/ a photo of a town.
Lots of tiny overflowing boxes.
Bits, debris, pieces of things…
The word “THIS”/ a tree made of a small branch/ a picture of the sky.
A small branch makes a tree/a swing/ the word “SO”.
Tiny piles/ tiny paintings…
A blue star, a red frame, a man who looks at me…
A tiny yellow dog toy barking on a red carpet (or is it a stain of blood?)/ A pin on its back/ the word “LOVE”.

Everything is so small here and so delicate. I have to get very close to read the words, to see the elements. Discrete but powerful, small but strong. And there is a lot of humor too. This tiny ball of hair and the word “HUH” on top of it…

Publish Post

There is a larger piece: a potato-shape cardboard is hanging on the wall with lots of tiny lights blinking: it could be the map of the US, maybe the whole world… a word for each light: WE/NOT/HERE/$/?/WHY/NO/US... Each place on the map tries to catch our attention, each of them as important as any other one. At least that is what I see…

The words: “The last paintings” and under it a tiny pile of multicolored dust…

I am looking for the artist, I ask a cheerful-looking woman, and she tells me she is his wife! And she speaks French! So we talk for a while. I say I feel connected to the work, and ask her if the pictures -which are present in almost each little scene- were found somewhere. She says Craig took those pictures, all of them. “It’s us everywhere. Our images, our life.” She points to a patchwork of images (all about New York), and she says: “lots of those images were taken from the apartment we had for years in Brooklyn. Lots of memories here.”

It makes the work even more interesting. She is very sweet and introduced me to Craig. He is very nice, down-to-earth it seems to me, definitely there.

I say I missed the show last year (they talked about it on the radio this morning). Craig says that this year, there is a much stronger relationship between the elements, like between these words (he points to a piece next to him): "NO/US/TRUE…" The elements talk to each other more. And each piece has more elements too. I tell him that his work touches me; I like the poetry of it. It also feels very fresh.

I take some more time to look closely at some pieces.

ME/THERE/STATE/WHY/YOU… Things, photos, drawings, paintings, branches, pieces of a dollar bill…
Pixie dust/ NY pictures/tiny pieces of pink paper/plaster debris/a nail/an image of a double-deck bus…

The work has a political side, yet not overly proselytizing, perhaps because the work is so small: nothing can shout. You have to be so close to see what is going on. If you read the word “war”, it is like a silent scream.

It makes me think about my own work that suddenly seems SO heavy! My Large and heavy paintings! And also something occurred to me: except for the big map, Craig can travel with his exhibition in a suitcase!” That is so great!

And last but not least: the carbon footprint of the whole installation is close to zero!

When I go back home, I spend some time on Craig Kane’s websites (the new one and the old one), the new one opens on a long page about his trip to China, very interesting photos and notes

Tonight at the gallery there was also a nice surprise: the Flower Tree, a large ceramic piece by Matt Wedel was on the patio, magnificent! (see the post about Matt Wedel's exhibition at Spacecraft in this blog).

Spacecraft Gallery
2865 North Park Way
San Diego, Ca 92104
by appointment

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Life at the Border"

“Life at the Border”, 2008, 36 x 48", acrylic on canvas

“Life at the Border” is a new painting and will be part of my solo show at the San Diego Institute in June. My show is entitled “Here it’s Peace”, but that does not mean that everything is fine and easy here under the sun. I wanted to paint something about what is happening a few miles from here, at the border. The reality is that, while I live my daily life, other people are trying to illegally cross the border, and some of them die.

I incorporated several important symbols into the painting. The image of Gandhi symbolizes peace, which is simultaneously both very important and yet the most difficult thing to achieve. There is a self-portrait and the face of a child, staring. The “infamous trio” we often see around here on road signs: an illegal couple running with a child on their heels. The text in the background is about one of my children playing and living his daily life. I wanted to pull these elements together into one, flowing piece.

Solo Show: Here it's Peace / San Diego Art Institute
June 5 - July 13, 2008
reception: Friday, June 13, 2008 from 6 to 8 pm
lecture: Tuesday, July 8, 2008, at 6:pm

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Essay for Michele on the Occasion of Her Solo Show

"Landscape (here)", 2008, 36x36", acrylic on canvas

Essay for Michele on the Occasion of Her Solo Show
By Jane La Motte, set designer for San Diego Opera Ensemble

I met Michele at her son’s 4th birthday party, three years ago. We are kindred spirits, sharing insight into the world of mothering young boys. But my affection for her is even more personal. When I found out that she was a painter, I told her that I was a set designer. We knew we must have common ground somewhere, and we’ve had a lot of fun trying to locate where it lies. I never dreamed that it would reveal itself in a conversation about our creative processes—I mean, the collaborative effort of the designer versus the solitary journey of the painter? Come on! —But here we are. I learned only recently that she spent 10 years as a graphic designer before opting to paint full time. That fact explained so much to me—she had been living on that common ground of designer and painter within her own soul for years.

"Landscape (there)", 2008, 36x36", acrylic on canvas

The journey from concept to finished piece is a multi-stepped process, but for Michele, each step can be a work of art in itself. Michele often uses her own photography as a starting point, and occasionally she uses iconic photos of public figures that she finds on the Internet. Through a series of sessions at the computer, Michele manipulates the contrast and edits the composition of her photos. The result can be much like an image that has been photocopied and then the copies copied over and over until the original’s details are lost. These images then become the building blocks of her work, and if they do not become digital prints, finished pieces in their own right, they go on to become the layers of a painting.

At this point, Michele’s work takes on what strikes me as a very theatrical quality: the artwork in one scale becomes the blueprint for the final work in a much larger scale. Each digital layer becomes a projection, the basis of a fully realized painted layer. Each layer, no matter how detailed—many of Michele’s paintings include expanses of hand-lettered text—is painted in its entirety before the next layer is applied. Michele says that she loves painting this way, that this twist in the process allows her to love the act of painting.

Becoming a mother has given Michele the opportunity to see things through the eyes of her children and to learn from their willingness to jump into new experiences with minds completely open. Michele’s most recent work conveys a kind of flowing peace that is both confident and ill at ease at the same time, very much like the life of a young mother.

In his “Series of Unfortunate Events,” children’s author Lemony Snicket has his protagonists frequently encountering the phrase ‘the world is quiet here,’ a mysterious caption to the picture he paints of their world, which is anything but quiet. In this room filled with Michele’s paintings and prints, for those of us lucky enough to be here, and for those of us who are more likely to have our lives marked by harmony than disruption—here, it’s peace. Peace: we only know how to appreciate it in the knowledge of its opposite. Somewhere, that opposite is someone’s daily reality. There, it’s war.

-San Diego, California, March 2008

Solo Show: Here it's Peace / San Diego Art Institute
June 5 - July 13, 2008
reception: Friday, June 13, 2008 from 6 to 8 pm
lecture: Tuesday, July 8, 2008, at 6:pm

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Tuesday. Entering another world for a few hours.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
UC San Diego
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, CA 92037

Monday, April 14, 2008

MCASD – Family Day

Family Happening
Soundwaves: The Art of Sampling
Sunday, April 13 > 2-5 PM
MCASD La Jolla

I love to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art. And I enjoy being a member. I try not to miss a single family day, which occurs on an irregular basis. It is always interesting and stimulating for the children. The settings are great: lots of space, and sometimes, like today, things are going on in different parts of the museum. Today we enjoy live music by the Modlins in the main gallery while we are doing a hands-on project. There is a lot of material on the table: magazines, cotton balls, buttons, glue, scissors, wire, small PVC plumbing pieces, transparent pieces of plastic, small sheets of shiny paper, sequins, etc. The idea is to fill a jar with things, to shake it and to listen to the result. We can keep the jars.

Then we go to listen to a story teller, which tells us two stories about sounds. Very funny!

The nice thing is that we can visit the ongoing exhibition in the museum.

We see “Matrix II”. A very impressive piece, the kids don’t want to leave! Thousands and thousands (1150 we counted) of super small green lights which look suspended in the dark. The space is completely and mathematically divided. We can walk in it, but we have to be careful.

Erwin Redl: MATRIX II is the premiere showing of the artist’s theatrical scale light-emitting diode (or LED) artwork since it was acquired by MCASD in 2007. This room-size work offers viewers a space that seems to recede in all directions, as if the walls were mirrored. Floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall, the room is filled with grids of phosphor green LEDs, creating an immersive web of light.”

From the oceanfront Miles Terrace

After Matrix II we go to the oceanfront Miles Terrace, where tables are filled with hangers and beads, colored masking tape, CDs, clips, glue. The idea is to make a sculpture with all of these things. Everybody enjoys it, the time goes super fast and soon it is 5:00 and the museum closes! The kids had a great time, and the adults too! We leave with hands full of jars and sculptures.

I am very happy that my friend and his son loved it, we have new aficionados for the Family day at the Museum!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Day in Pompeii

Roman soldier at the entrance of the exhibition

A Day in Pompeii
San Diego Natural History Museum
February 15–June 15, 2008

Saturday morning. I take my kids to see “A Day in Pompeii”. I meet a friend and her son there. I wonder if the exhibition is interesting for young children. We are greeted by Roman soldiers in full Roman gear, scary lances, heavy shields; fake mean looks: an excellent beginning!

Then we enter the exhibition, and that is another story. Dim light, beautiful and rare objects in glass cases, maps and texts are the main attraction here.

“Buried - and frozen in time – after the fateful eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 CE, Pompeii lay forgotten until 1748 when archeologists began to excavate the site. Piece by piece they discovered exquisitely preserved objects that offer a glimpse into what the day –to-day life of this ancient city may have been.” (extract of the presentation of the exhibition)

We watch a wonderful, computer generated animation where we can see the beautiful villas emerging from the ruins to recreate their original designs with amazing paintings on the walls and large rooms decorated with graceful objects. We can imagine the very refined life style of the rich Romans at the time. They seem to have spent most of their time receiving friends, eating delicate meals and drinking fine wines, spending time in their gardens or at the public baths, playing ball and chatting around steaming pools…

The objects are beautiful, the jewelry exquisite, like the gold bracelet and earrings from “Oplontis, Villa B”. It is always strange to look at an object in a museum and to think that it belonged to someone one day. It was in a house, on a table, may be in a special box, maybe the person died wearing it.

The audio system is well done, simple to use for the kids. There are numbered explanations for adults and separate numbered explanations for kids. The kids get a simpler talk, and they can hear the Romans talking about the objects the kids see: for example a sales woman on the market place talks about how she weighs the food for the clients. But soon, I cannot help thinking that all the people I actually hear are about to die, because this part of the exhibition describes the life in Pompeii just before the Volcano erupted. I hear children joking and laughing with their parents while looking at the dining room... I imagine the people walking in the garden… And I know what is coming.

With no transition, we enter a darker room. We are in the part where the “famous” bodies are laying down in different position. At first I find it peaceful but then I can see that the people struggled and that is the terrible part of it. They suffered before dying.

“Although only fragmentary skeletal remains were found there, hollow spaces within the hardened volcanic debris revealed the forms of many deceased Romans. Suffocated by volcanic gasses and covered in ash and debris, their bodies eventually decayed inside the hardening matter. This air space essentially formed a mold, since the ash that had surrounded the person retained an imprint of the body. Excavators realized this and filled the air pockets with plaster. The resulting "plaster mummies" poignantly capture the human tragedy of Pompeii.”

Here are some labels I read:

Cast of a man - This man sought shelter in a gymnasium sitting with his back to a wall and knees drawn up.

Cast of a man - This man fell holding a handkerchief or cloth to his mouth.

Cast of a woman – this woman suffocated from fumes and falling ash. She may have vainly tried to keep her nose and mouth clear by pulling her tunic over her face. You can see the imprint of her clothes preserved on her upper back, hips, stomach, and left arm. She was found on the Via Stabiae possibly trying to make her way to the harbor and escape by boat.

Cast of a man and a woman - Found together in a home The man reaches out to the woman, perhaps trying to protect her.

It is the end of the exhibition. The children want to go to see the dinosaurs in the museum before to go. I think they were interested by the exhibition but it is not easy to understand and it is not especially designed for kids. But they saw a lot of unique objects, and they saw the mummies which is a way to have a contact with the very abstract notion of what is death.

Outside the light is blinding and the heat strikes us. I am coming back to the present, the journey was definitely worth it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"March 17, 2008"

“March 17, 2008”, 2008, 36”x36”, acrylic on canvas

March 17, 2008, is a “normal” day. I chose it randomly. Nothing special – except that, like every day, a lot of things happened that day in the world. I copied all the headlines from CNN online and stamped them in the background of the painting.

“March 17, 2008”, detail

On top of the portraits, I stamped again some of the words. But despite the litany of the words we all hear every day when we listen to the radio or when we watch the news, we are living our daily lives.

Beginning of the text in the background: "Updated 7:03 p.m. EDT, Mon March 17, 2008 - Latest News - Poll: Three-quarters think U.S. in recession - Ticker: Obama confronts racial rhetoric head on -Seventh body pulled from crane collapse site - American film crew kept from China protests - Olympic boycott possible? - Stakes are enormous in Iraq for McCain - Iraq war and your family - Ex-Beatle to pay $50M in divorce settlement 39 min - Up to 14 tornadoes hit Atlanta - Foreclosure family forced to live in camper8 women win $276M lottery - Pilots investigated for falling asleep - Gas spikes to $5.20 a gallon at one pump - Online campus gossips won't show faces - Naked man runs amok in grocery store - Majority of Democrats prefer Obama - New York crane collapse caught on camera - High-speed chase - No new primary for Florida Democrats… etc..."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


In the neighborhood. Passing by the bushes where the workers from the carwash put their washcloths out to dry.

Monday, April 7, 2008

An Art Project with Children

Work in progress

I am working on a project with the children of my youngest son’s class for the school’s carnival. Although the theme was chosen by the school (Under the Sea), I am really trying to let them do what they feel like. I like to watch them while they paint. They usually are very calm, very into what they are doing, taking time to choose the colors they use. They usually don’t talk too much. One thing strikes me: they rarely hesitate. When they are done, they say they are done and that’s it. They have no problem sharing the same surface, they do not judge what another child did or is doing, and they seem happy to participate. The project takes several sessions because there are about 20 children and I want each of them to take the time he or she needs.

I could be in my studio working on my images and paintings, but it is my choice to come to the school and do the project with them. It is the second project with this class for the upcoming carnival. Next year my child will be in kindergarten and I know that, unfortunately, he will not have a lot of time to paint just for the pleasure of painting.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes

Maya Lin, "Blue Lake Pass"

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) - Downtown location.
Friday night. Family trip to the opening of “Systematic Landscapes” by artist Maya Lin. I don’t think I have ever seen such a long line of people waiting outside! A lot of people are interested in contemporary art, and that’s great!

We finally enter the Museum, and there we can see the first piece, which appears to be a topography of some sort. People are going through, in small paths. We get closer, the kids love it, they almost disappear between the “cubes”, the guards are a little bit nervous. Each cube is made of vertical particle board “with the top edges cut to match a topographic line”. It is very pleasant to see; the edges catch the light and make the piece almost moving like the surface of the ocean. The name of the piece is Blue Lake Pass.

In the next room we find ourselves under a simple structure made entirely of wire, which takes up the whole room. Water Line is the title of the piece. So we are underwater! It is about the invisible geography of the oceans, a huge world we even do not think about. I find the piece very poetic. I like to walk under it: it is really unusual.

In the next room, three structures, flat on the top and made of layers of plywood. We can walk around, the scale is much smaller than the previous pieces, they look delicate (which they are certainly not) and some very attentive guards are extremely careful that nobody touches them, which makes the situation complicated with young children! The three pieces are the representation of three bodies of water: the Caspian, Black and Red Seas.

Coming out, we have to be careful not to walk on the line carved into the floor and filled with a metallic material. It looks like a long, thin, white crack in the concrete.

Maya Lin, "2x4 Landscape"

Then we enter the vast room where “2x4 Landscape” stands. Here it is, a huge wave or may be a hill or a monster coming from underneath the ground. The piece takes almost the entire room, one can only walk around. The edge is straight, and one can see the piece is made of thousands of small pieces of wood. Very impressive. The room is crowded and a few minutes later Richard Andrews gives a talk, followed by Maya Lin herself. Richard Andrews, Director and exhibition Curator, is visibly excited about the exhibition. “Systematic Landscapes are mostly three large scale commissioned works. First and foremost it shows an artist obsessive about our relationship with nature. She is asking us to reflect on our personal relationship with nature and she intentionally brings nature into architecture. She begins with a sketch, then she makes a model in her studio in New York, approximately 3 x 4 feet, until it is perfect. This particular work appears from a distance like a digital model but we know that the form is from the natural world. This piece, made of thousands of pieces of wood, looks like a frozen computer map but strikes us in the heart.”

Maya Lin: “I am used to working outdoors on huge pieces, usually thousands of square feet. I rarely create pieces for the inside of a museum. I just finished a piece about the Grand Canyon which covers eleven acres. The works for the inside like these ones are much more hands-on compared to the works outside which require bulldozers.”

So for her these works are small, that’s interesting!

What a change with the last exhibition about the work by Robert Irwin. Both exhibitions radically different, both magical. We cannot stay for very long with the children, I promise we will come back. I am very happy to have seen the exhibition with them. I don’t know how and where, but it opens doors.

Seeing, Seeing, Seeing…

Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes
MCASD downtown
March 30 – June 30, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt – Humanitarian Mission

Ingrid Betancourt (detail), 2008, 36"x48", acrylic on canvas

A humanitarian mission sent by the French government arrived today in Colombia. Its goal is to meet with the FARCs and obtain contact with Ingrid Betancourt. Ingrid Betancourt has been the hostage of the FARCs for over 6 years now. She is in critical condition: she refuses to eat and does not want any medication.

The portrait I painted of Ingrid Betancourt will be in my exhibition “Here it’s Peace”. I made this portrait because I feel close to her, as a woman, as a mother. She is a symbol now because the media talk about her and she is "the best-known of the 4.200 Colombian hostages".

Recently I have painted a portrait of Jill Carroll, the journalist abducted (and released) in Iraq in 2006, two portraits of ex Prisoners of War in Iraq, Shoshana Johnson and Edgar Hernandez, and a portrait of a wounded soldier, Marine Jesus Vidana. It is my way to pay a tribute to them, and all of the other people like them who are working in absurd and unsolvable political situations.

For Ingrid, site in Spanish, English and Canadian.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Freedom From The Known

A Time to Heal #9, 2008, 24"x24" [50cmx50cm], digital print

I feel terrible to live in a world so upside down, knowing that people are dying in wars, from diseases, that a lot of them don’t have enough to eat. My personal exhibition in June, “Here it’s Peace” will reflect on my conflicted thoughts about being able to live a happy life in an ugly world.

I am reading Krishnamurti’s book “Freedom from the known”. Each page is extremely interesting. One thing Krishnamurti says is that we are all responsible. If you look around you, wars are everywhere. “Do observe what is actually taking place within yourself and outside yourself in the competitive culture in which you live with its desires for power, position, prestige, name, success and all the rest of it – observe the achievements of which you are so proud, this whole field you call living in which there is conflict in every form of relationship, breeding hatred, antagonism, brutality and endless wars.”

To know that I am contributing to the existing chaos is terrible but it makes totally sense, because the world is whole and I am not isolated. There are wars I can definitely work on, even prevent or stop: the ones in my daily life. I am seeing them and I am definitely trying to change.

There is more to come about this book.

Thank you Ivan for making me discover Krishnamurti!