Archive for January, 2008

comment faire des “comments”?

Friday, January 18th, 2008

OK, all you lurkers. I’m getting the sense that there’s more than just three of you out there, after all. It’s been great just solo-motormouthing from my bully pulpit here, but it would be nice to hear some responses from vous every once in a while (kt, tofusilog, xtine, marco: y’alls are fine). And Max just tweaked the “comments” setting on the blog to make it easier for you to post.

There was some sort of cryptic “math” setting where the division and plus symbols were hard to tell apart which may have complicated matters, but this has been banished. Lo and behold! Post a comment. Il n’y a pas de problème. Tu vois?

Anyway, no pressure: I don’t want this to be like a KQED pledge drive. Plus I can’t offer you a tote bag or a magazine subscription for your membership contribution. Just letting you know that it should be easier to post comments now, and since I’m mostly just rambling on my own here, it would be a helluva lot more fun if you wanted to participate, too…




Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

On to other non-metal detector-centric matters! Thank gawd!

My girl Kelsey Nicholson has a show opening at Traywick Gallery in Berkeley this Sunday afternoon. I know and like Lena Wolff and her work, so that just adds to the fun, and I’m very curious about Diana Guerrero-Maciá, as well, so I’m expecting this to be good times.

From ye olde presse release:

Traywick Contemporary is pleased to present 3, an exhibition featuring three artists whose work intersects with their interest in appropriating and recontextualizing recognizable imagery and text as weel as traditional and unexpected materials.
Diana Guerrero-Maciá is a Chicago-based artist best known for her hand-sewn pieces that incorporate text and quotes sampled from popular cultural sources such as album titles, song lyrics, newspaper headlines, movies and novels. Her playful and paradoxical approach to language resonates through her materials of choice: wool, vinyl, cotton, and leather. Guerrero-Maciá received a BFA from Villanova University (1988) and an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art (1992). She has exhibited her work in numerous exhibitions including Bodybuilder and Sportsman Gallery, Chicago; Artpace, San Antonio; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Louis.

Bay area artist Kelsey Nicholson‘s large-scale installations re-create the natural world by incorporating materials meant to “improve” upon Nature, including realistic wood veneers and wall paper murals depicting the idyllic outdoors. Nicholson’s synthetic landscapes mediate our experience of nature by using a combination of static materials and an ever-expanding sense of place. Since receiving her MFA from UC Davis in 1996, she has received notable attention for her installations at various venues including New Langton Arts (the 1998 Bay Area Awards Show), Southern Exposure, the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts and the Richmond Art Center.
Lena Wolff‘s quilt-like collages start with paper whose surfaces have been coated in layers of graphite and acrylic, and are then punctured with pin pricks and layered with her own cut-up drawings. The resulting work inspires a folk-art state of being both fantastical and precarious. Lena Wolff earned an MFA in Printmaking from San Francisco State University (2003) and a BA in Creative Writing from Mills College (1995). Wolff has exhibited at The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, The Legion of Honor Museum, Southern Exposure, Headlands Center for the Arts, Needles and Pens, and in Philadelphia at Space 1026.

3:Diana Guerrero-Maciá, Kelsey Nicholson, Lena Wolff
Traywick Contemporary
895 Colusa Ave
Berkeley, CA 94707
January 20 – March 29, 2008
opening reception Sunday, January 20, 3-5 pm
Thursday – Saturday, 10 – 4, by appointment
Call 510-527-1214

installation overview

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Below are a few snaps of ”˜Unseen Forces’, my installation at Southern Exposure. I’ll be going back and documenting the show properly, since these aren’t the best-quality images. Need to bring the tripod, need to bring a fancier camera, yada yada. Installations can be notoriously difficult to document, but these pics should still provide at least some sense of what the work looks like.

So what’s it all about, you may ask? I’ve got some thoughts below, but really, what’s much more interesting is how other people interpret my work. My read doesn’t have to be anyone else’s read, so feel free to ignore my version.

I can’t even begin to count how many walk-thru metal detectors I had to pass through this past year: airports, government buildings, malls, high schools, you name it. They’ve been there. There’s something so simultaneously wonderful and awful about these clunky devices: they’re situated in such highly fraught but also totally mundane environments, in situations where masses of people must be processed and moved on quickly, efficiently and undramatically.
It’s the dulling of our anxieties that gets me: how bland we allow these processes to pretend to be. The falsely-neutralized abbreviated detention, the anticlimactic moment of passing through, a certain degree of uneasy relief at being done with the process. Passing some sort of mysterious test, and being prodded on and away. As far as I’m concerned, metal detectors become much more interesting in their aspect as portals/thresholds.

The images on each of the gallery walls have specific points of reference, with two metal detectors being the objects that tie everything together.When you walk into SoEx’s rear gallery, you pass through this metal detector:
The wall directly to its left is a highly stripped-down reference to high school: lockers and classroom doors. While the school I used to work at didn’t have a detector, I’ve been at many that did, and I’ve always found that a pretty messed-up thing to contend with in an educational environment.
I had initially intended the lockers/doors to be very obvious, with clear illustrative detail, but I found the shapes much more compelling as anonymous monoliths, esp in relation to other aspects of the installation as it developed.
The metal detectors themselves are similarly basic: other than making them to scale, I wasn’t interested in making them “realistic”, wired with artsy technological doohickeys, or finish-fetish perfect. They are simply clearly hand-made, but still blandly generic, objects.
On the far wall is a jungle/garden scene, which corresponds to that illustration I shared earlier. I’ve had an ongoing fascination with the Western yearning to return to Edenic innocence, and how problematic that becomes as soon as folks arrive and start destroying stuff. These days, such issues are usually worked out on some package-vacation to Hawaii: tourism is a far-from-benign source of much environmental/economic exploitation. Also for me, the paradox of the western gaze towards the tropical other is art-historically endlessly hilarious in painted works by guys like Gauguin, Rousseau, and Charvet (among many).
This garden wall is also the wall that leads directly through to Southern Exposure’s actual garden, so it seemed only natural to double this sense of contained flora and faux verdancy. Also, I love fake plants.
The right wall is something of an oceanic continuation of the garden wall, but I wanted to convey a sense of distance and isolation, and to counter the high-school scene on the opposite wall (there are 4 blank gray objects on each wall). This is partly due to my ongoing fascination with islands in general, but more specifically references the islands of the Philippines, since that’s the country I’ve most often traveled to, and will keep traveling to, for a wide variety of reasons.

There were many power outlets along this wall, so with some low-level landscape design and some layers of 1/8″ MDF foliage, nature was restored! Given that SoEx’s back gallery had many nooks and ledges, and no two walls matched, it seemed only right to employ more layering with various panels of fake plant life and other weirdly flat-edged objects.

Lastly! This wall is my stylized homage to both the Alamanda Putrajaya Mall (near Kuala Lumpur) and the Glorietta Shopping Center (in Makati, Metro Manila). While both are attractive because they’ve had real and/or fake palm trees inside (always a plus!), Glorietta has the dubious distinction of being the host mall for a rebel soldier mutiny and a couple of different bombings in recent years.

Every mall you enter in Manila has some sort of security set-up: sometimes it’s a couple of guards who poke through your bag with drumsticks, sometimes it’s that plus a metal detector. I don’t think the U.S. is too far away from this, given how trendy it’s become to unload a semi-automatic weapon during sales events.
So that’s basically it. There’s a lot more going on in my brain regarding this piece, but really, I’ve subjected you to more than enough of this. Normally, I generate this kind of writing before/during the creation of work, but this time, I wasn’t in the mood to do it until afterwards. At some point I’ll have to edit these thoughts, and generate a more formal statement about the installation, but as far as a “this is how Wofford’s crackpot logic generates art” post goes, hopefully it’s interesting.

Okay. It’s 3 pm, and I still haven’t eaten breakfast. Or lunch. Or blunch.
My stomach’s growling like an irritable tiger, so I’m off to jump the wall and feed myself!

opening night

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

The opening was a serious party: tons of people turned out to see Chris’, Elaine’s, Bruce’s and my projects on Friday night. I didn’t even get a chance to say hi to half of my friends, it was so hectic: I’d catch someone’s eye in the blur, and then they’d be gone, or I’d be gone.

Had I actually gotten some sleep the night before, I might have had more festive energy: as it stood, by about 10 when the opening was over and everyone had moved on to raise more hell elsewhere, I was just exhausted and hungry and needing to be somewhere quiet. I didn’t go dancing! I didn’t even have a single drink! (I’m ready to go out and party now, but it’s Sunday afternoon, which isn’t the most optimal time for such a celebration. Maybe I’ll cut loose and have a Diet Coke or something. Or clean the house, since it’s been in chaos for a few weeks now. Or get on with the preparations I need to do for my CCA course which starts tomorrow evening. So, yeah. Party on…rage hard.)

Lee and Emily chopping it up in the in-between (MRG3′s pic):
Erika and Joe getting snap-happy at me:
me getting snap-happy (or snap-somethin’) at Erika and Joe (Joe’s photo):
Clam & Cousin Darcy emerge happily from John’s rear:
Weston, Dorothy, Ricky vamping it up:
Brizzle passes inspection (MRG3′s pic):
Barb and Anu do the Queen’s Guard thing in the detectors:

bringing it

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Wowowow. Boy, did I need some rest. I’ve been sifting through the photos from the past couple of weeks, and it’s well nigh impossible to edit down to a wee few. It appears I’ll have to subject you all to several related posts on this whole SoEx saga.

In order to get from here:

(dec 31)

To here:

(jan 11)

it took about 40 people, give or take. At the beginning, sometimes one or two folks a day; towards the end, there were as many as 6 people holding it down.

Since I started essentially from scratch on Dec 27 with only generative drawings as references and nothing pre-built, the only way to make my demented vision of a project come to life was through some serious teamwork. For a seemingly simple installation outcome, there was an enormous amount of hidden labor: multiple layers of primer and paint to get the right flat look, paper pattern-making then cutting out forms from MDF with a jigsaw, hand-lining everything in black with a brush, panels spackled, sanded, etc etc).

This installation was only possible in such a short time-frame through the generosity of friends, family, the SoEx goddesses and their SoEx volunteers who have now become my new friends, too. If any of you folks are reading this, thank you again and again sooo soo much for your time and talent. You are beyond awesome. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Roll call on the VAD (Volunteer Art Dept), aka the unseen forces behind “Unseen Forces”:

The Fs and F:
Camille Wofford, Rick Griffiths, Max LaRiviere Hedrick, Summer Benavides, Libby Pidgeon, Bryce Ballinger Sarabia,
Suzanne Husky
, Michael Hall, Lisa Ricci, Christian Maychack, Frankus Flores, Dorothy Santos

Galleon Traders:
Mike Arcega, Claire Light, Stephanie Syjuco, Christine Wong Yap

LHS Alumni, inc Art Boot Camp corporals/pirates:
Angie Lau, Laura McKinney, Claudia Alvarado, Karla Louie, Nicole Hsiang, Sam Heller, Andrew Lux, TZ Rogers
The Go Bears:
Sarah Brock, Josephine Zarkovich, Kenneth Lo

The SoEx Volunteer All-Stars:
David Huff, Carrie Katz, Adrian Cotter, Helen Lee, Laura Poppiti, Crystal Chou, Pam Gilmour,
Chelsea Heikes, Suzy Elizabeth

The Fine Ladies Of SoEx:
Maysoun Wazwaz, Courtney Fink, Aimee Le Duc, Tara Foley
They’re so amazing, and so much more interesting than these trolls. Why don’t I have a proper photo of them?

Upon some reflection, here are some of the ideal conditions for an exhibition, created by Southern Exposure:

1. time
SoEx was amazing about providing contracts and details about exhibitions well in advance. They also provided us with an unprecedented window of installation time: 3 weeks (usually it’s 2, I think, but we had the luxury of the winter holiday break to pad us with an extra week). I’ve never had so much time to install before. The average has been 2-3 days, occasionally as long as a week. This was especially critical, since I had little ability to construct this work at home first.

2. communication/text/publicity

SoEx was consistently excellent about communication on multiple fronts. They were great about emailing and calling me with necessary details. They had members of their curatorial committee write essays about each of the 4 artists, and then created a small catalogue with these. Artists almost always need published critical writing about their work, which can be very hard to come by. Our show was widely publicized, via email blasts, detailed website info, and press releases to the various local fishwraps (we got a really nice preview piece in the SF Weekly).

3. moolah
SoEx provided healthy stipends which covered all of my material costs for this show (and even helped with the food I provided for volunteers). I didn’t make money doing this show, but I didn’t go into the hole, for once. Unless one’s got a trust fund or a lucrative part-time job, it’s unfortunately pretty typical for an artist to go into debt when putting together a non-commercial show. I’ve done so many shows over the years where I had to pay for everything out of my own pocket: in 2008, that phase of my career is officially over.

4. overall professional support
The women of SoEx are like the coolest, smartest cheerleaders in the world (no, that’s not an oxymoron): extremely positive, friendly, consistent, and professional. I always felt like they trusted my intentions, and were willing do whatever it took to help make my project happen. They had a comprehensive, well-organized supply cabinet with everything I needed for installation.They loaned me keys to the castle, so that I could work as long into the night as I needed. They had an army reserve of volunteers that they called into active duty.

5. community
Piggybacking from #4, the community of nice people that orbit around SoEx makes everything feel doable and makes an artist feel deeply appreciated. Add to this the aforementioned friends and volunteers who were so willing to jump in and help with the project, and it was genuinely touching how much was possible under those conditions.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say, in my many years of showing, primarily at nonprofit/artist-run spaces, it’s been extremely rare to have this perfect storm of good conditions. This is not meant as a diss to other spaces: there are many practical/financial reasons that not every show can operate this way. I think that in naming what went so right at SoEx, though, I’m hoping that it continues to clarify for me and for others how things can and should be done, where possible.


creeping closer

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Lordy lordy. It’s after 1:30 am, and I’m still at the gallery. Chris Bell is here too, working on his piece. We’re both getting pretty punchy, but it’s nice hanging out with a fellow artist. I’m on my way home relatively early, nonetheless: was here until about 3 am last night, got in around 11 this morning, will be back here in about 8-9 hours.


It’s been insane, but truly a joy: so many folks have been helping out, making this installation come to life. Even if the piece falls on its ass, it’s been so, so wonderful feeling the support and sense of community. Friends, family, former students, volunteers who are now new friends: it’s been awesomely awe-inspiring, and the lovely ladies of SoEx have been soexxier than ever. There’s a looong list of people and to thank, but tonight I’m not quite coherent enough to do their generosity justice. Also, the Academy wants me offstage in 23 seconds. A longer, more reflective, gratitude-laden post will follow in a few days, but for now, I’m just trying to stay on target, and finish this piece. And that piece. And that one over there, too.

The opening is this Friday: please come. Between Chris and Elaine’s respective installations up front, my piece in back, and Bruce Tomb’s web archive, there are a wide range of complementary strategies addressing space rather serendipitously at play here.
See you kids there: I’ll be well-rested, not too deranged, and happy to see you!

Opening Reception:
Artist Projects by
Chris Bell, Elaine Buckholtz, Jenifer Wofford, Bruce Tomb
Jan 11, 7-9 pm (artist talks at 6:30 pm)


417 14th St (at Valencia) *note new address!!!!
San Francisco, CA 94103

the 31 to the 1

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

It’s been a lovely transition from 2007 to 2008: the whole thing will eventually become a pleasant blur of hours on end spent inside Southern Exposure, reveling in the luxury of a two-week installation window (gawd…SUCH a treat…). I’ve been there installing since Dec 26. The first few days were pokey, mostly just fumbling around and decision-making and getting distracted by having burritos within walking distance. Now I’ve got fabulous friends and volunteers and family showing up to help out, so we’re going into production mode, for reals.


I was in Southern Exposure until 6 pm on Jan 31, and was right back there again around 2 pm on the 1st. My sister, who knows about all things wonderfully restaurant-y, had called me up a couple of days before New Year, asking if P and I would like to go out to early dinner with her and some friends at a new restaurant called Conduit. As it turned out, not only was Conduit delicious, hip and brand-spankin’ nuevo, it was literally half a block away from Southern Exposure…I got dolled up in the SoEx bathroom, and stepped across the street to dinner.

Conduit’s so new that its website isn’t even up yet, but I found some promising reviews of it here on Yelp. The food was lovely and delicious (I’m not going to even begin to attempt a hack review of it), service was impeccable and personable, and the seven of us who went had the best time. Check it out if you’re curious: it was pretty great.


summer + 2 woffords


someone farted


shadow puppet hands


coffee klatsch

Got out of Conduit around 10:00, trotted back over to Southern Exposure to pick up some belongings and wish the SFers well, then zipped back over to the East Bay to hit up Patrick and Thea’s excellent NYE party in Oakland. As I am one of those superstitious folks who believes that what one is doing and who one is with at midnight informs the arc of the year to come, how could we resist a party invite that promised print-making, shrinky-dinks, and cocktails?



Patrick’s magic touch guides the beast

Gocco and shrinky-dink insanity into the wee hours…



And everyone got a special new year’s print that was made that night.

Hope you all are well and happy: I’m planning on 2008 being pretty epic, creative, fun and prosperous. Crap: did I already say that last year? Well, it never gets old…


Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Jan 1 breakfast concoction: black-eyed peas n rice n egg!
Some call it Hoppin’ John–I think of this more as Hoppin’ Jhon-Jhon.
Happy New Year, southern-style and pinoy-style!