de la mano: traditions and innovations in los angeles printmaking

23 Aug

I’m super excited to announce an upcoming exhibition about La Mano Press at the Bakersfield Museum of Art opening December 8th.

It’s my first independent curatorial project and features the work of some of the l.a. based artists who have collaborated with Artemio Rodriguez and Silvia Capistran, co-founders of LMP, for the last 9 years.

As most of you know, Artemio and Silvia relocated to Michoacan Mexico a few years ago, leaving behind years of working with the L.A. community in order to promote the art of printmaking.

The exhibition includes woodcuts, intaglio prints and serigraphs on paper, gesso transfers on wood, installation work, sculptures and video.

Artists are: Silvia Capistran, Dolores Carlos, Miles Grobman, Maria Guadalupe, Diego Guerrero, Rogelio Gutierrez, Jose Hernandez, Gabriela Martinez, Stephanie Mercado, John E. Miner, Laura E. Nieto, Artemio Rodriguez, Sonia Romero and Ernesto Vazquez.

More info as the show approaches.

In the meantime, check out the exhibition I curated using the Permanent Collection at the Museum of Latin American Art titled “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly?: Selections from MOLAA’s Permanent Collection” Info at http://www.molaa.org

-g.

new ruelas print in progress

24 Oct

Julio Ruelas (1870-1907) was a Mexican artist from Zacatecas who is quite influential for the small body of work that he left behind in his short lifetime.

Ruelas traveled through Europe before studying art in Germany and is best known for his dark, symbolist imagery and fantasy-based subject matter. A well-known illustrator in his lifetime, upon his return to Mexico, he created paintings and prints for the magazine “Revista Moderna”  which appealed mostly to artists, poets and critics. He died before the beginning of the Mexican Revolution of “excesses” (tuberculosis) and was active at the Academia San Carlos (post-revolution it became the National Art School).

His most well-known image is known as either “The Critic” or “Criticism” and shows Ruelas, who most often depicted himself and his friends in his work, with what can only be described as a crazy looking hybrid beast that is part bat and part mosquito on his head (who is also wearing a top hat, a symbol, i’m going to assume, of the privileged bourgeoisie of the Porfiriato).  We can gather that the critic is not Ruelas’ friend.  In fact, it seems that criticism debilitates him to the point that he functions as if he’s had a lobotomy.

I’ve always been fascinated with the symbolists.  One of the first artists I can remember obsessing over is Gustave Moreau.  When I was nineteen and studying in Paris, I visited the Musee National Gustave Moreau.  Unlike Ruelas, Moreau left thousands of images behind after his 72 years of life.  You can pretty much rifle through them when you visit the museum.  Like Ruelas, Moreau also counted writers and critics as his friends and was a well-known illustrator.

I’ve not found any literature that physically links the two artists, and Ruelas arrived in Paris to carry out the last three years of his life at least five years after old man Moreau had passed away.  But, like most artists within the same movement, I’m sure that Ruelas was very familiar with Moreau’s work.  It sure seems like it when you compare their imagery.

I know that I am attracted to the symbolists because of the narrative nature of their work.  They are telling fantastical stories:  myths, legends and nightmares.  It appeals to the fatalistic aspect of my personality that I usually keep under wraps as a functioning adult.

I am drawn to the critic mainly because of that crazy little beast, but also because it addresses the part about being an artist that is the toughest for any sensitive person.  Sitting in a room listening to what seems to be remarks that tear apart your images, your vocabulary, your ideas, can be rather painful.  It can also be character building, however, and can improve your communication skills, prepare you for dealing with jerks and can teach you to b.s. about your work.  All of those skills are very useful as a professional artist (and as a woman).

I learned to almost relish critiques (though I often had to self-medicate before or after with a vodka cocktail) during graduate school because it was an opportunity to see how the art world looked at my work and for me to prove to myself whether or not I could handle the criticism.   I’m going to be honest, most of the time it wasn’t pretty.

I was not making conceptual art, I was not making big, beautiful paintings, I wasn’t making anything “sexy”.  I was making prints about my childhood, or immigrants, or the zapatistas in chiapas.  And it was all at some point called “didactic,” “too narrative” or “illustrative.”  Some of the dirtiest of dirty words in the contemporary art scene.

And sometimes it was called beautiful, honest, charming and just plain awesome.  You win some, you lose some.

It’s two years after I finished graduate school and my art career is not dead.  In fact, I would say it’s doing better than ever.  Granted,  it’s not flourishing at art fairs or in contemporary art museums like many of my colleagues’ work.  It also isn’t just sitting forgotten in a drawer or languishing in a trash bin.  It’s at galleries and boutiques, it’s selling at community fundraisers and in museum gift shops and, most importantly, it’s hanging on a number of walls of people whom I know and people who I don’t know.  My relatives have some of my work.   Poets and activists, teachers, students and all kinds of people collect my work.

I work at a museum and I see every type of art come through the front door.  I love every kind, from super traditional works on paper to super ephemeral contemporary pieces that are more markers of our current times.  Some of it (from both sides of the spectrum) will last, most of it won’t.  And all of my colleagues are very similar.  There is room on the art palate of most individuals to savor a little bit of everything.  Some people will love your work and others will hate it.  It’s a crap shoot.  Take the good advice and discard what is useless.

People tend to forget this in graduate school critiques.  Professional critics tend to forget this in art journals.  Or, if they don’t forget it, they forget to remind their readers that this fact is true:  As long as you put your work out there, you will have an audience.  Some of your colleagues will show at galleries, some at museums, some at libraries, universities, community art centers, in books, on buildings, in advertisements, on t-shirts or socks, in an impromptu show that someone throws up on a chainlink fence, on a tv set, you name it.  And they are all fulfilling the goal they set when they went into art:  to communicate with their audience.

 

My response to Ruelas. Image in progress.

So, in response to Ruelas and his aversion to criticism, I created this piece, tentatively titled “Self-Portrait:  Response to Ruelas.”  In it, criticism has created a nice compost heap in my head from which creativity springs.

Instead of a bat/mosquito, a hummingbird/colibri feeds from the plants the emerge from me.

It’s a piece I felt I had to make.  It addresses a number of things, times and memories for me.  It connects me to Ruelas, to Mexican history, to Moreau and Paris.  It connects me to the nineteen year old who heard at a critique that her work was boring, and then strove to work at it until it wasn’t.  It connects me to myself now.  A thirty-three year old woman who has always been an artist and always will be.

My Philosophy of Learning

10 Oct

So, I was asked by my employer to write my philosophy of “education,” what is often termed one’s “Philosophy of Teaching.”  I don’t come from an education background.  I come from a fine art background (with a little multidisciplinary studies thrown in for balance) and really just fell into education out of necessity (and because I enjoy challenges).

My first teaching gig was at age nineteen, teaching Jr. High School art.  Since then, I’ve taught at everything from churches to universities, community organizations to museums.  From one-time gigs to full courses.  I have been learning about education the entire way, and am still learning daily.  I base everything on my own experiences, the experiences of others and research.

Anyhow, below is the way I organized it to make sense.  Feedback is appreciated.

 

Paulo Freire is one of my favorite icons of education

 

 

 

I come to the field of education as an artist who applies her knowledge and experience to the practice of education, not as an educator utilizing art to advance educational concepts.  My goals are to facilitate and cultivate innovative problem-solving, critical thinking skills and creativity in learners.

To fulfill these goals, I have synthesized a collection of  strategies in order to create a practice that is specific to the organization and audiences I serve.  Working at an institution that collects and exhibits art works, object-based learning logically forms the basis of my praxis.  Art museums are in the business of collecting human emotions, experiences and expressions in the form of objects, and are thus the ideal setting in which to transform the abstract into the concrete.  Object-based learning presents learners with a fresh point of view in a culture where virtual content or experiences are becoming more “real” than objects or relationships.  As students spend more time in the classroom focusing on facts and testing rather than examining and experiencing the world and situations outside of the classroom, they cultivate a “mind body disconnect” and lose the ability to access the senses and create a connection to concrete objects and experiences[i].

This “disconnect” creates a learning environment which can seem inapplicable or irrelevant to real life.  Students merely receive facts and rarely engage in converting thought into action or identifying concepts in real world situations.  They often learn separated from the world.  As an educator, I want to reconnect students to real life experiences, the situations in which they function, the history and future to which they belong.  A multidisciplinary approach, in which art is connected to literature, social studies, music or popular culture, facilitates this experience.

Paulo Freire refers to learners and educators who find their place “within the world” as “transformative” and “reconciliatory”[ii].  They locate their experience inside the content of quotidian existence and learn what words, symbols and places mean to them as participants.  They do not passively memorize ideas and definitions, but learn to apply those ideas to their everyday survival.  Words, theories and topics become more than just bland information, they become words to be used, theories to be tested and topics to be explored daily, to affect change.

I understand that this can be difficult for learners who do not come from a strong learning background or who are not familiar with the language of art and art making.  One cannot throw open the doors to creativity and critical thinking and expect students to immediately free themselves from the constraints of their current classroom environment.  I provide what Nina Simon defines as “institutional scaffolding,” or the safety net of a structured environment in which learners are free to participate at their own comfort level.  Only when learners are provided “supportive resources, tasks and guidance” can they “build their confidence and abilities” in creative participation[iii].

Participation and mutual respect are central to my approach to teaching.  As a life-long learner, I approach teaching knowing that I will be shaped by the experiences I share with my students in the same way that they are shaped by mine.  This leads to mutual responsibility in the educational setting and fosters a proactive role for everyone involved.

Visitors and museum staff should interact in the same manner.  The museum should be a setting in which visitors and staff members are equally responsible in creating a vibrant, relevant environment and shaping the direction of the institution.  Simon outlines the degrees of community/staff interaction that are necessary in order for an institution to become a center for collaboration between the staff and the community—finding the balance between those within and outside of the institution, ensuring the organization’s relevance now and always[iv].

I hope to be a key player in the formation of an organization that values the active contributions of visitors and staff, educators and students, alike.  As a child, I found myself in the role of museum visitor, absorbing the images and knowledge that the exhibitions had to offer.  I connected myself to the objects via my own interest in art and the artist’s life.  I was lucky.  I was introduced to museums at a young age and thus grew up in that context, seeing museums as my own and projecting my own desires upon the exhibits and objects.  I participated in creating art and music from a very young age and never felt restricted in my own relationship to cultural production and the means of interpreting it.  I became an artist and art educator.

My own education as an artist has helped me acquire the skills that are necessary to adeptly function within diverse environments.  I learn by doing. I hope to impart the creativity, critical thinking and innovative problem solving skills that have allowed me to view the world in a different way and make my way through it.  It is my goal to facilitate an environment where every visitor can experience art with feeling that they understand it, that it is relevant to them.  This setting can be achieved by listening to the needs of  art learners, creating a safe environment in which they can experience the work and then working with learners in placing the work in a context that is accessible to them and their peers.


[i] Lasky, Dorothea (2009).  Learning from Objects:  A Future for 21st Century Urban Arts Education.  Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education, Vol. 6, No. 6 (pp72-76).  University of Pennsylvania.

[ii] Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: 2009), pp 72-76.

[iii] Simon, Nina, The Participatory Museum (Santa Cruz:  2010), p. 12

[iv] Simon, Nina, The Participatory Museum (Santa Cruz: 2010), pp 190-191.

“Sopa de Gabi” on view through September 26th

8 Sep

Title Wall at Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana

If you’ve not yet checked it out, please visit my exhibition at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana–on view through September 26th.

Curated by Jillian Nakornthap, Sopa de Gabi features over 15 linocut prints ranging in size from 4″x2″ to 30″x22″.  Created between 2005 and 2010, they detail the story of my mother’s immigration to the U.S. via Mexico from Lima, Peru in 1963; run through mine and my partner’s childhoods in Los Angeles and Munich, respectively; and conclude with a 2009 “portrait” of my y0unger sister and Lulu, our strange little cat.  Jillian had initially hoped to curate the exhibition chronologically, but decided to go with a thematic layout.  I am very happy with the results!  I couldn’t have done a better job myself!

On Saturday, September 4th, we enjoyed a tremendous turnout  at an opening that included my family (the characters featured in all of the prints), work colleagues, friends and visitors that generally crowd the Artist’s Village in Santa Ana during a typical 1st Saturday Art Walk. 

This has been one the least stressful exhibitions that I have participated in to date! Not only were Jillian and the GCAC staff super patient and helpful, but the space is amazing and (lucky for me) the sales gallery gets a nice amount of traffic due to its location. 

...and if you don't know, now you know...

I was able to meet new patrons, chat with people about the process of printmaking and tell the stories behind all of my little images. I am definitely, seriously thinking about self-publishing a little book of stories and images, since they seem to resonate with viewers for a variety of different reasons. Some enjoy the personal vignettes and experiences that they can relate to because we share a similar history.  Other viewers are reminded of their own cultural traditions, or of fond memories associated with traditions in which they have participated as travelers or educators. Finally, some viewers see past the “childhood memories” and nostalgic images to see the real history of my family: the migrations, intercultural partnerships and other socio-political factors that have impacted who I am.

I am grateful for each of the above reactions to my work. As an artist educator, it thrills me to see the emotional connections/understanding derived from viewing artwork. We are communicating, my audience and I, and that is, in all honesty, the BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD.

The lovely curator (holding the tulips) and myself (my wardrobe courtesy of the Goodwill)

And now, “thank yous” (because we work together at all times to ensure each other’s successes):

The curator did an amazing job presenting the work and very thoughtfully selected not only the prints, but also the little details that brought everything together.  She also mounted the exhibit herself!

My parents are the most supportive parents ever.  They bought me endless amounts of paper as a child, allowed me to play with fingerpaint and playdough(supervised, of course) and always encouraged me to use my imagination, express myself and present these “expressions” in public.

My younger sister has been subject to my “imagination”, games, songs, inventions and cooking from the day she was born (after I requested she be sent back to her own family).  Her patience is limitless.  As the print reads, “Sisters are Forever.”

My extended family (particularly my cousins) have unwittingly become the main characters in my prints and have allowed themselved to be portrayed again and again graciously and with good humor.  And they always show up to my art shows.

My work colleagues make it a pleasure to suffer along with them in the day to day “drudgery” that is running a museum.  And, to top it off, they even buy my work and attend my art shows.  How awesome are they?

My friends are generous, supportive and they equally laugh at my jokes and my tirades. :)

I have the most patient partner in the world.  And he’s a good cook, to boot.

Much love to everyone.

Sopa de Gabi @ Grand Central Art in Santa Ana

11 Aug

Please join us on September 4th for the opening of the exhibition Sopa de Gabi, presented by Six Pack Projects at Grand Central Art in Santa Ana.  My friend, Jillian Nakornthap,  curated the exhibition, which will feature some of  the prints that outline my family’s story.

I have to admit, I really dig the title.  Anyone who knows anything about my family knows that my great grandmother was a soup whiz–concocting dishes out of leftover anything.

I like making soups, but I’ve never made anything remotely like what my grandmother made–due mostly in part to the fact that I don’t cook meat.  But I like to compare my process of making prints to her process for making soup.

I make prints from the leftover scraps of stories that I can get ahold of.  I’m told that as a child, I was (in my tio Edward’s words) annoyingly cute.  When I pressed him about what this meant, he just laughed and informed me that I would ask questions and not let the subject drop until I’d gotten a complete and satisfactory answer.  I like to believe I was always just collecting information.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve obviously been made aware of the nuances in everyone’s relationships with each other (as a child, I could really only guess), so I’m trying to re-learn a lot of the stories–gathering the complexities of the “flavor”.  With my grandmother’s dementia worsening everyday, that means that when I’m with grandma, I’m digging for stories and digging fast.

I like to think that my stories “feed” my family in some way.  I’ve enjoyed recounting stories with my aunts, uncles and cousins.  Re-remembering stuff one of them may have forgotten.  It also encourages them to tell me stories I may not remember, for whatever reason, and so the list of stories grow.

As Jillian states in the description of the exhibition, soups usually have a long history and are terribly complex.  My stories, while they are fairly universal stories of a kid growing up in L.A., have a beginning in Latin America with families made of mixed races, developing in both North and South America and coming together in California.  The way I make my prints has an even more complex background, developing forever ago and making its way across the ocean and establishing itself as forever relevant.

So yeah, the prints are like soup and I really dig the title.

The link to the exhibition can be found at the Six Pack Website.

Hope to see you there!

UPDATE on the July Print Sale

12 Jul

After a successful open studio at my studio space last night, I’ve decided to incorporate printing demos into the print sale this week at MOLAA.

So, stop by if you want to see some printing demonstrations and maybe pick up some original art and handprinted stationary!

Schedule:

Thursday, July 15, 2010:  11 a.m.-5 p.m., and 6 p.m.-10 p.m.  –Demos throughout the day and at 7 p.m.

Friday, July 16, 2010 11 a.m.-5 p.m.–NO DEMOS

Saturday, July 17, 2010 11 a.m.-5 p.m.–Demos throughout the day!

Sunday, July 18, 2010 11 a.m.- 5p.m.–NO DEMOS.

I’ll post up some samples soon.

One new addition is the edition of the prints, “La Muerte de Momo” which are printed on watercolor paper, Rives BFK tan and a nice mulberry.

I’ll also have cards for sale, labels, etc.

See you there!

-g.

July Print Sale @ MOLAA

5 Jun

Okay, so for those of you who have been asking me where you can purchase my prints….I have a tangible, concrete, legit location for you that does not involve sending money via the internet, sending a check off to a mailbox you’ve never seen and that allows for us to interact!

From July 15th-18th, my prints will be on display and for sale during the Museum of Latin American Art’s “Destination Peru” trunk show.  I will have a couple of tables set up with framed prints and racks of unframed prints for sale plus a number of blocks, tools, etc. just for display.  I will be available on Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday to talk to the public about my work, the process of printmaking, why all the people I make have such round faces, why there are always cats in my prints and why, recently, I’ve begun incorporating German into my work.  Or, we can talk about food, traveling and grumpy great-grandmothers.

The museum is hosting a couple of events in association to the event–and they vary in scope, cost and entertainment–so check it out:

Thursday night (I will be there), July 15th, MOLAA hosts it’s monthly “Happy Hour” called En la Noche at MOLAA.  It includes complimentary booze tasting, antojitos and margaritas for sale in the cafe, live music, gallery tours and my prints for sale in the lobby!  Admission is $10 if you don’t have a museum membership (Membership begins at $25 for students and educators!).

If you can’t find a babysitter or you’re just not into the whole happy hour scene, MOLAA will also host a Peruvian Independence Day festival as a part of Target Free Sundays on Sunday, July 18th.  ADMISSION IS FREE to this festival and includes music and dance performances, face painting and art workshops for the entire family!  I will not be available to tend to my table on the 18th as I will be coordinating the festival, but my mom has agreed to watch the table and answer questions about her hija the entire day (what a lovely mom!).  So you’ll get to talk to someone in my family who remembers all of the stuff I’m chronicling in my work.

All day Friday and Saturday, I plan to be at my little tables, peddling my wares–so please stop by!

The exhibitions that will be featured in the exhibitions during the sale are

Manchuria:  Peripheral Vision (a Felipe Ehrenberg retrospective) and Mariana Castillo Deball (installation and prints).

For more information about molaa, visit their website or give them a call at 562-437-1689.

More updates as the date approaches!

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