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San Francisco Art Institute is closing

Facade of the San Francisco Art Institute

SFAI is closing indefinitely. Such sad news. It sounds like the CoViD-19 situation was the nail in the coffin.

I took a painting course there during the summer before my senior year of high school. I lived in the East Bay and took BART or drove over the Bay Bridge every day. It’s the sort of place I’d want to be if I had decided to keep studying art. A place where you could get lost and be left to your own devices, sort of like the old Foulis building at GSA but more labyrinthine.

The school has been around for almost 150 years. Diego Rivera painted a huge mural in the student-directed gallery in the 1930s. The photography department was founded by Ansel Adams. San Francisco’s wild parrots sometimes roost loudly in the loquat tree in the Spanish courtyard. I can’t think of anywhere in SF that offers better views of the city and the bay, for free from the Brutalist ampitheater or for the price of a bagel and a coffee at the cafe.

It’s one of my favourite places. Very sad to see it go.

Loquat tree in the Spanish courtyard at SFAI

Concrete work at SFAI

The cafe and terrace at SFAI

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Ceramic cat by a young David Hockney

Life-size black and white ceramic cat by David Hockney

Ceramic Cat
David Hockney 1955

On loan from Jean and Paul Hockney.

This cat was given to David Hockney’s brother and sister-in-law as a wedding present in September 1955. It was one of approximately four cats made by the artist whilst a student at Bradford College of Art. After the model was produced the mould broke, making this sculpture unique as it was the only one with indentations. Subsequent versions were produced with a smooth finish and in different colours.

This life-size ceramic cat with stubby little legs is in one of the display cases in the ground floor of Salts Mill alongside many other pieces by David Hockney.

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time, scratching, snow, and white noise

🔮🦷👁🌙

Last night was Musarc’s winter concert The Orrery on the first day of LCMF 2019. Our performance included a new commission from Lina Lapelytė Time to Become One, the UK premiere of Jennifer Walshe’s The White Noisery, György Ligeti’s Poème symphonique, Un soir de neige by Francis Poulenc, and Fritz Hauser’s Schraffur (Hatchings).

A glowing orb suspended over an audience and an assortment of metronomes in a darkened room

Everything revolved around a floating, glowing orb.

The evening was conceived in collaboration between Sam Belinfante, the contributing composers / artists, members of Musarc, and our inimitable directors Cathy Heller Jones and Joseph Kohlmaier. It all came together with a ton of help from friends and metronome-sitters, and exceedingly delicious vegan food was offered by Return to Shashamane.

It was intense and meditative. I’ve spoken to a few friends in the audience who had nice things to say, but also I’m curious to know what others in the audience thought. I’ve seen at least one good blurb, which is lovely.

Big things for the choir next year I expect. In the shorter term, I’m looking forward to the rest of LCMF’s Witchy Methodologies. Particularly On Rites and Reenchantment and On Gossip & Eavesdropping.

Image via LCMF

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a dreamy, foggy place

“The way I remember growing up in Venezuela, for instance, it has nothing to do with the reality that is the country right now. I think I’m from a place, but that place doesn’t exist anymore. When you have to integrate into a new place, you are forced to mix so much information that it becomes unclear who you are. You create a new scenario for yourself. I like to think that it’s some sort of utopia, and to see how I can transmit this sort of dreamy, foggy place.”

Sol Calero in a Tate artist interview describing some of the motivation behind her work (source). I’ve felt something similar at times, though certainly not as intense. It’s a “glass half full” description of the feeling, and her work shares that vibe.

Her commission El Autobús 2019 is at the Tate Liverpool until 10 November 2019.

Side note: I think she’s got an old school Indexhibit site. <3

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“We have no art. We do everything as well as we can.”

“watermelon” by Sister Corita

We watched “Power Up: The Work of Sister Corita” this morning. The talk was given by graphic designer Barbara Glauber (see Heavy Meta and Yale School of Art) at The Cooper Union in November 2018.

It is a superb talk, and I’m beyond pleased that we were able to find and purchase a secondhand copy of the out-of-print book Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent online.

We have no art. We do everything as well as we can.

“daisy” by Sister Corita

Sister Corita was a nun, artist, and educator that worked in LA in the 50s-60s and in Boston later in life. See the ten Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules.

Corita Kent used appropriation without irony or cynicism. She identified, combined, and repurposed the hopeful in the everyday. She was a prolific giver that shared seemingly without expectation of return. She used optimism as activism.

Ignore the persuaders

“r rosey runners” by Sister Corita

It is interesting that her appropriation of advertising copy seemed to wane later in life. Maybe advertising began to feel less optimistic to her, instead more sinister and insidious.

I wonder at how difficult it must have been to leave the order. Not just because it meant a return to the secular after a lifetime of regulation and restrictions, but also because it meant that she had to leave the resources of the art school, the playground she had so carefully cultivated. Her later work is still incredible, but it seems more weary and a little more laboured. “Bogged down” is one way of describing it. Her prints from the 70s almost veer in to motivational poster territory.

Salute your source

How to create or maintain the playground required for work with her sort of radical optimism? A major element is the physical space, both small (the room / studio) and large (the community / city). It is also the mental space.

Both of these spaces come at a premium now, though. I struggle to get enough of either.

It feels like there may be some sort of third space offered by working with the web, but I haven’t figured this out yet. When I try to work digitally, I get bogged down. How to experiment with the web in a way that is as gestural and intuitive as a line drawing?


  1. watermelon, serigraph, Sister Corita Kent (1965) 
  2. daisy, serigraph, Sister Corita Kent (1966) 
  3. r rosey runners, serigraph, Sister Corita Kent (1968) 

The images here are from the Corita Art Center website. See their online Collection for high-quality images and more details about her work, including transcriptions of the text within her prints.

They are currently seeking donations to acquire these pieces. Donate to the Corita Art Center here.

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All Things Bright and Beautiful

Close up of weathered boards and tarring in Dungeness, UK

Just learned about Keith Collins and his relationship with Derek Jarman via Collins’s obituary in the Guardian. What an interesting life. This “how we met” interview with the two of them (The Independent, 1993) is worth reading, and there are some lovely photos around.

SB and I went to Rye with some friends in May 2017 and took a bus out to Dungeness. We just wanted to experience that strange landscape but came across Prospect Cottage as well. It’s all on it’s own, pretty far from much. No plaque or barriers or anything.

It’s a wonder that Collins maintained it for all those years after Jarman’s death. Who is maintaining it now?

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Documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”

Screenshot of Tove Jansson swimming in Finland from the BBC documentary Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson

Screenshot of Tove Jansson swimming from the BBC documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”, around 1:20 mark. View the trailer here.

Until I watched the BBC documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”, I had never really known about the artist and author Tove Jansson nor the context for her work. I’m so glad to have come across the film. She was an impressive and talented woman that lived through some devastating times. The documentary is enhanced by quite a bit of original footage, images, and quotes from her journals and other writings. It also includes interviews of her friends and family. My only criticism would be that the tilt-shift effect on some of the shots of contemporary Helsinki and the Finnish countryside felt a little heavy-handed.

The scene above was likely filmed by Tove Jansson’s partner and great love Tuulikki Pietilä, a Finnish graphic artist. Her nickname was Tooti. For nearly 30 summers, Tove and Tooti lived and worked in a cottage that they built together on a little remote island called Klovharu. It sounds like they were quite the independent adventurers, and their time on the island seemed idyllic. This moment was rather heart-wrenching.

Last summer something unforgivable happened: I started to fear the sea. The giant waves no longer signified adventure but fear. Fear and worry, for the boat and all the other boats that were sailing around in bad weather. We knew it was time to give the cottage away.

Once they had left, they never wanted to come back. They didn’t even want to talk about it. It was the end, and that was it.

A side note: Sophia Jansson’s comment reminded me of a moment in a recent episode of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me when Peter Sagal asked Norman Lear if he had any tips “for those of us who would like to arrive at 93 as spry and as successful and happy as you are”.

What occurred to me first is two simple words, maybe as simple as any two words in the English language – over and next. We don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over, and we are on to next.

I’m looking forward to discovering Tove Jansson’s work. I’ll probably start with the original two Moomins books, then move to The Summer Book and A Winter Book.