Archive for May, 2007


Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

High School.
It’s the last two weeks of the SFUSD semester, another batch of semi-embittered Leadership High School seniors are getting ready to graduate. I’m substitute-teaching there tomorrow for the art teacher whose job used to be mine. She’s a great teacher, and it’s fun knowing that she’s there, doing her thing so well. It’s fun for me to go in there every once in a while (I’ve subbed for a variety of classes), and see all of the great projects her students are doing. Art in schools is essential. Duh.

It will be interesting tomorrow to see what the energy’s like among students, so close to the finish-line. Less than two weeks left. I used to keep a big calendar at the front of my classroom around this time so that students could mark each day of the final count-down off, with a mixture of anxiety and relief. On the last minute of the last day of class, we’d have a sixty-second countdown out-loud, as a class. It got nutty. Lots of hollering, some tears, even.

I worked at Leadership from 1999 to 2002, then again from 2003-2004, and substitute-taught there in-between, and ever since. It’s such a funny, quirky school, and despite all of the stress and drama and mayhem of the place, it’s all heart, and I can never quite close the door on my relationship to the place.

One of my former students (who was a freshman when I last officially taught there) is now a graduating senior, and since we’ve stayed close, it brings back all of these memories of all of the amazing seniors I worked with there. (Which, come to think of it, wasn’t that many, actually. Not because of attrition, I mean, though there was that, too: because it was just a small school, where personalities had space to get bigger. )

I had the funniest deja-vu before my own graduation last week, where hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” triggered nothing for me in terms of my own ceremony, but absolutely plugged me right back into the graduations of LHS classes 2001-2004 (minus the singing lady shaman in the unitard with the bald eagle statue, hand-puppet, and the bone strapped to her head, I mean. Among other things. There was also a juggler and some sort of vinyl get-up, once, too. You had to be there. I’m not making this up.)


Graduation’s a funny time, singing shamans or no. Graduation makes me get all sentimental in all of the ways that weddings and holidays don’t. It’s such a neat ritual: sort of boring at times, but so much about marking personal achievement, simple survival, and a collective experience, in a manner that I personally really love.

Anyway, while there’s a number of former LHS-ers, both students and faculty, with whom I’ve stayed in touch, there were a number who sort of drifted away to sea. Sometimes I run into them unexpectedly (anywhere within 500 meters of the Metreon increases the likelihood of this tenfold), but today, I got a really great email from one of my former advisees, who found out about wofflehouse. Last week, I talked on the phone forever with another former student who’s getting ready to move on to grad school, herself. Another one’s happy, married, finishing school, pregnant with her first child. Later this summer, I’m going to the wedding of one former student, and then meeting up with a couple more in Manila. It makes me so, so happy to get these messages, to see how their lives are evolving and changing, and how these relationships keep going. Kinda makes me feel old, but that’s OK. I’m not.

If you’re another LHS escapee, consider this a big fat hint to send me an email, telling me how you are.

Kara Hearn

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

For viewers who go to see Fermata, there are brochures (more like mini-books) that offer a sample image and brief statement about the work from each artist in the exhibition. I thought folks who can’t make it to the show/didn’t get a brochure might appreciate access to the info here.

Below is Kara Hearn‘s text and original image: I love the image that’s in the brochure, but this one was used in some of BAM’s advertising, instead. It hasn’t been seen to the extent I think it deserves, so I stuck it in here:

I have never written a fan letter before. My mom calls you an unlikely star. To me you are tragedy and awkwardness metabolized in solitude. Somehow that comes out funny. I like absurd heroes. I have a dream life with you. I make work about the way tragedies reside in the head; the way heroisms play out in the mind’s eye, the inside place where stories get conjured, dreamed, remembered. I work completely alone. Somehow it comes out funny. I keep thinking about this thing I read. To live is to feel oneself lost. That feels right to me. If I ran into you I would probably be too nervous to talk to you. Maybe I would say, You’re really great. How do you do it? I make movies too. I end up degrading mainstream cinema by being too sincere, too simple, telling too many stories, with very little stuff. I like the idea of killing it in a way that makes something more. I love movies. I can’t seem to get enough to eat today, Steve. Do you ever feel that way? If I ran into you I would want you to do the talking. I haven’t had any dreams about you, but I’d like to. I have never felt the need to write a fan letter before.

p.s.- I have enclosed a drawing of Darth Vader crying that I thought you might like.

-kara hearn

Joe McKay

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

For viewers who go to see Fermata, there are brochures (more like mini-books) that offer a sample image and brief statement about the work from each artist in the exhibition. I thought folks who can’t make it to the show/didn’t get a brochure might appreciate access to the info here. I personally loved the way the brochures turned out, and I think my peers have made such amazing work these past two years, I just want to make information about them as accessible as possible.

Below is Joe McKay‘s image and text:


Found Sci-Fi

If you see a UFO, act normal. Go about your day-to-day. Try not to stare
too long. The UFOs are always there. UFO #3, for example, is in the parking lot
of the Home Depot in Emeryville. Say hello for me next time you’re there.

Postcards of the UFOs are for sale in the museum shop. You can use these
images as a field guide for finding your own, or you can send them to your
friends and family. Spread the word.

Like the UFOs, the vacant landscape in “Platformer” is always there. It’s more common than you’d think; it’s the backside of a landscape you see everyday. If you want to go there yourself, and you are driving, please find a safe place to pull over. I recommend using a bike instead; you are less likely to miss it.

-joe mckay

wham BAM thank you ma’am

Monday, May 21st, 2007

So. On to reflections on Fermata, and all attendant BAM (Berkeley Art Museum) hijinks. Don’t worry. I’ll stop soon. There is much else to move on to. Bear with me.

Last week is already sort of a blur: this time one week ago I was finishing up the last few paintings for Point of Departure, and pretty much running on adrenaline, caffeine, and general slap-happy delirium. I don’t recommend it as a sustained practice, but as far as bringing things to a dramatic close, it does do the trick…

Tuesday, Christine Wong Yap, indefatigable art goddess, came to BAM with me, and helped finish framing and laying out the paintings. I can’t thank her enough for being so generous with her time and talent.


We blocked the composition out on the floor, then gridded out the wall correspondingly.


We got all forty (!) paintings up on the wall by Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday, I was back on my own, doing the easy, if interminable, work of leveling each individual frame then affixing it with museum wax. Took hours, but it brought the work to its final state:


Point of Departure: all 40 paintings, and 26 feet x 7 feet of it…

The close-ups below don’t help a whole lot, but they give you a little bit more of the gist of it.
Starting from the left, this is Point of Departure 1 through 16:


With a little overlap, Points of Departure 9 through 29:


And then Points of Departure 23 through 40:


The piece is both massive and tiny, so these jpegs aren’t probably explaining a whole lot.

Max and I are building a web-specific version of this project, which I think I mentioned before. There’s just a simple place-holder of sorts there right now, but you’re welcome to preview it at It will be up and running in full sometime in June, but I’m pretty thrilled by the simple flash movies that are temporarily in place on the site right now.

The show officially opened Friday evening after graduation to much fanfare. Or finger food. Or fahrvergnugen. I forget. Anyway, Bobbi Wiltsek (the patron saint of Berkeley’s MFA exhibition) gave each of us a vase of flowers, Chancellor Robert Birgenau gave a speech, people munched yummies from Liaison and guzzled wine politely, Matthew Africa did his fabulous Matthew Africa thing, and all of us MFAs pretty much spent the next few hours chopping it up with friends, family, artsy people, as well a whole host of cool folks from the UCIRA conference that was being held at BAM.


I’ve been at BAM every day for the past week, from drop-off to installation to this weekend’s events. Saturday, Renee Delores and her partner in crime Michael hosted a reincarnation of their Famous Room Battle of Monsters on BAM’s outdoor upper deck, so I dropped in on the tail end of that and then caught an hour or two of the UCIRA conference. Sunday, all 7 graduates were back: we gave our artist talks in the afternoon, which was really well-attended. Hello, before I forget: big-ups to Miki Yoshimoto, Karen Bennett and Liz Thomas of BAM for all of their patience and support. Lucky you if you get a chance to work with them in the future.

OK. I think that’s more than enough for now. Onward. Dinner calls.

fait accompli

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Well, it’s official: I will no longer have to write about events and drama leading up to graduation. Done: Alicia, Bill, Lindsay, Kara, Joe, Ali and I are graduated!



The commencement ceremony was sweet: Joe gave the MFA speech, which was a hands-down hit. Will Rogan and Jonn Herschend, who graduated from the program last year, received special Founders Awards, and so experienced a sort of encore graduation. Will and Jonn were on stage, right in front of me and Joe, and so my camera somehow ended up in Will’s hands:


McKay and Wofford: a Will Rogan moment ™


Herschend and hand of Radley: a Will Rogan moment ™

I’m still sorting out some pics and thoughts about the MFA Exhibition, but for now, I’m just so relieved and happy to be done. I concluded my Berkeley experience far more gracefully than I could have imagined a year ago when I was still wailing and flailing, so I’m just grateful to have this all wind down on a high note. So, without further ado, whew! And yahoo!

whoop: there it is

Monday, May 14th, 2007

fer·ma·ta: The 37th Annual University of California, Berkeley Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition

May 18, 2007 – June 10, 2007

Each spring, the Berkeley Art Museum collaborates with the Department of Art Practice at UC Berkeley, mounting an exhibition of works by some of the most promising new artists in the Bay Area. This year’s M.F.A. graduates are Lindsay Benedict, Ali Dadgar, Kara Hearn, Bill Jenkins, Alicia McCarthy, Joe McKay, and Jenifer K. Wofford. Fer·ma·ta, which takes its title from a musical pause of unspecified length, reminds us to slow down, take a deep breath, and devote our time to the act of looking. With diverse backgrounds and varied artistic training, the artists in the exhibition illustrate this practice using strategies of intervention, performance, and introspection.

Video artist and multimedia performer Kara Hearn creates fictional vignettes that exploit the conventions of blockbuster films, extracting the pathos inherent in the medium. Featuring the artist in multiple roles that telegraph anxiety and fear, these playful psychological thrillers pull emotional strings that vacillate between humor and tragedy.
Aiming her camera and microphone toward the unheard voice, Lindsay Benedict collects moments of silence to build personal narratives using the media of performance, film, and photographic essay. Combining text and evocative image, these silent conversations spill out extremes of emotion that expose at once human vulnerability and the resilience of human relationships.

Hermetic and deeply personal, Bill Jenkins’s objects straddle the zone between sculpture and drawing, resembling relics unearthed from a forgotten landscape. Often restricting himself to a set of parameters, Jenkins finds limitations far more rewarding than being faced with too many choices.


Jenifer K. Wofford’s artistic persona encompasses the roles of activist, educator, performer, and community leader. Her work has long been rooted in her Filipina American heritage, spotlighting experiences of underrepresented voices in the visual arts. Currently focusing on the effects of institutional spaces, Wofford’s drawings borrow from the serial format of comics and graphic novels to recount the story of the universal immigrant trapped in the sterile confines of public spaces.

Drawing from outsider and folk art traditions, Alicia McCarthy paints recurring motifs on found wood or panel, often weaving paint line over line to embody the interconnected moments of human interaction that together make up her identity. Rejecting consumer goods, McCarthy’s work unearths and reworks discarded, found objects, each of which carries its own history and tells the story of a particular place and time.


Joe McKay’s photographs and video works are products of his digital interventions in the urban landscape that reveal incidental aesthetic parallels with the visual language of science-fiction adventures. McKay creates unexpected moments verging on the sublime while recontextualizing our view of the world through a utopian or dystopian lens.

Combining his background in performance with his formal training in the visual arts, Ali Dadgar creates large-scale mixed media collages transforming ordinary reference texts into an autobiographical tapestry. He embeds personal meaning among the universal definitions, while playing with notions of self and other, inclusion and exclusion in light of his Iranian background and the current political climate.

Overwhelmed as we might be by the current environment of technological urgency and visual velocity, fer·ma·ta compels us to pause and engage with the work of these seven artists as they embark upon their careers.

Miki Yoshimoto
Curatorial Assistant

The annual M.F.A. exhibition at BAMPFA is made possible by the Barbara Berelson Wiltsek Endowment.

4:00 am in the studio

Monday, May 14th, 2007


Remind me to thank the invisible neighbor who left this under my windshield wiper this weekend.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Smith no wait Robert Urich no wait Robert Redford no wait Robert Downey Jr no wait Robert Dole no wait Robert Frost.

Stretch, caffeinate, continue.

Down to the wire

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

I was telling someone last night that while I have rather happily grown out of my youthful flakiness that was my ur-version of procrastination, I have had to come to terms with, in my adulthood, that no matter how much time I have to do something, it still has to come together at the last-minute. Work expands to fill the time allotted. I’m not sure if this is simply a professionalized way to justify my procrastination, but I have accepted that the closer to deadline I get, the better I work: there’s no time to be wishy-washy, decisions have to be made, stuff just needs to be done.

In any case, however, while I fully expect to work into the wee hours for the next couple of days, I will be done with installation by Wednesday afternoon, 4 pm. There are other things to take care of after that, but the primary thing, the exhibition installation, will be done. Whew.

I sent several different postcards to press last week, will pick up and send them out this week. Below is the big one: I printed this double-image one at 6 x 9 inches. The majority of them are destined for the museum as free offerings (you know, like Felix Gonzalez-Torres, except way less of ‘em, way smaller, and I’m not dead yet), but if you want me to mail you one, let me know. Email me your address. If you don’t know my email, it’s on the wofflehouse main page.


The postcards are also being used to send folks to yet another website that I’m putting together with Max, based on the images from Point Of Departure, my MFA Thesis project: more on that once it’s actually functioning, but basically, it will be a site where all of the paintings I’ve made can be rearranged in relation to one another to create new narratives. It should be up and running in June.

OK! Back to the studio.

Sufferation at Thirtynine Hotel

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

It’s beyond ridiculous how busy it is right now. No real surprise, but still.

In the midst of this past week’s Wofford nuttiness, I totally forgot that Sufferation, another group show that I’m in, opened yesterday in Hawaii. My friend Theo texted me from the opening to say congrats, at which point, duh-er, I remembered.


I guess that after the drama with the lost nurse drawings, and then the scramble to re-execute and re-send new ones, on top of finishing Woffords, Paint, on top of my MFA Final Review, on top of having to write an emergency last-minute syllabus proposal for a class that I might teach, on top of trying to finish more work for the MFA Thesis Show, on top of still trying to stay involved with a Berkeley Working Group, teach Worlds In Collision, keep up with readings for another class, host another big Galleon Trade meeting, and now prepare for a job interview (!!) for a another prof job, I, uh, decided to pack the nurses off mentally as well as physically once FedEx took charge of them. Whew.

So. Below are the nurses now kicking it in a Honolulu gallery.
Would that I were there with them, myself…


Sinking Nurse, 2006

Waiting Nurse II, 2007


Toreador Nurse II, 2007

Sufferation: Notes on Compassion and Suffering
curated by Trisha Lagaso Goldberg
May 4- June 16, 2007
thirtynine hotel
39 N. Hotel Street
Honolulu, HI

Post I.D. post-opening

Friday, May 4th, 2007

So the Post I.D. opening was super-fun: I’ve been feeling a little like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, since that now makes three events in a row for me in the same gallery (Overmapped, SoEx Marks The Spot). That’s never happened before! I’m gonna work with that whole “three’s a charm” thing, though.

The show looks good, y’all: try to catch it this month, not for the Woffordly shenanigans I’ve been droning on about, but for the overall hella-fresh-ness of ALL the work in the show! Sita Bhaumik, Mark Baugh-Sasaki, Nancy Mizuno Elliott, and Rick Godinez put us to shame, their work is so frickin’ hot. Go see. Go see!

Nevertheless, here are more photos of Woffords in their unnatural habitat:


We decided against wearing our hoodies, but attempted to coordinate, anyway.


Dramatic reenactment: can installation


Woffords doing their Penn and Teller routine for ABS-CBN, The Filipino Channel
(I yapped it up, Camille nodded yes and no). Watch for us Monday night!


Sean, Woffords, Alberto

Post I.D. is just one part of the 10th annual United States of Asian America Festival, which runs for seven weeks. There’s a whole range of events, exhibitions, performances and screenings associated with the Festival, all of which are posted here. A number of the events look fantastic, but I’m gonna put a totally biased shout-out to SambAsia, since they’re totally amazing (and two members, Felix and Celia Magtoto, are the utterly phenomenal parents of my former students Niki and Monica)…and as long as we’re on the subject of phenomenal LHS parents, I have to put in a long-overdue shout-out to Bob Hsiang and Nancy Hom, who are Kearny Street Workshop’s godparents (and Nicole’s parents). It’s so nice to feel connected to all these folks again, through a different source!

Post I.D.
organized by Kearny Street Workshop
for APICC’s
United States of Asian American Festival 2007

SomArts Cultural Center
934 Brannan Street, SF