Saturday, November 29, 2008

Debra Pincus: Old Fonts and Stuff

It still makes me laugh how a lecture on The Renaissance Rediscovery of Ancient Writing can be so full that people have to pull up chairs and sit on the floor of the aisles. On the one hand, I appreciate the passion and efforts of the Debra Pincuses (Pincii...?) in this world, but it still blows my mind how much their work is valued, as seen in the size of the audience and the fancy catered reception that followed. Or maybe my beef isn’t with how much this work is valued, but with the fact that other work should be equally (or more) valued?

The main thing I learned was that the rediscovery of ancient Roman typography was extremely important to the Renaissance. This one important artist (whose name started with a "B") changed how he signed his name from one Roman typeface in one painting to another (Uppercase to lowercase) and this meant something groundbreaking and profound about Renaissance humanism, what exactly I’m not sure.

The more important lesson: I am not interested in Renaissance typography. I also do not want to ever enter a field that requires me to specialize in an extremely narrow time period and place and to present new analyses of it for ever and eternity. So: steering clear of art history and English Literature. Check!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Call for Emerging Artists! (that's you guys)

I hope some of you will consider submitting your work! Talk to me for more info.

"Young Ampersand invites emerging Bay Area artists to participate in an upcoming group exhibition scheduled for June 2009.

Ampersand International Arts in San Francisco has invited young local art aficianados to curate the first ever Young Ampersand exhibition.

Choosing a subject familiar to all, the Young Ampersand curators with to explore individual interpretations of the idea of Home by artists living and working in the Bay Area."

• open to young artists
• all media expect film and large-scale installation will be considered
• each artist can submit up to 5 pieces
• deadline for entry is Friday, January 16th, 2009
• selected artists will be notified by Friday, January 30th, 2009

For more info email:

Or see me for more information.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kate Pszotka Lecture at Mills (Friday Fun Time)

Kate Pszotka
Artist Lecture at Mills
Friday 14 November 2008

Unfortunately I entered the artist lecture late (apologies- didn’t mean to be disruptive) so I missed Kate’s introduction about where her work had originated and some of what she said about her work in undergrad. What I immediately identified with and was curious about was her exploration of place identification and attachment, as those are themes with which I am constantly preoccupied as I move about the earth.
Kate expressed her interest in objects that you move from place to place with, but that have no meaning outside of the sentimental significance that you attach to them. To get at this idea, she made a piece that spelled out ‘HOME’ with casted and mounted spools of thread. Interesting. It struck me how so many of us can ponder many of the same themes and yet pursue them and conceive of them so differently.
Kate was also very interested in mapping. An apt artistic vehicle for one dealing with place. One of the projects she showed was an Oakland murder map, in which she had posted a series of fluorescent-colored dots that marked out the murders that had occurred in Oakland in 2007. It wasn’t finished, as was true of a lot of her work. Also something with which I could strongly identify. Kate had a lot of cool ideas, all of which seemed to be about three steps away from being fully executed and realized. I know such territory well. It reminded me of the importance of following through on ideas, because I kept wanting to see more of what Kate was getting at, since the ideas were very compelling. I think the lecture was interesting precisely because she seemed to be fleshing out a lot of her ideas. I’d like to see what work she makes after the presentation and how she chooses to complete her mapping projects.

My Portrait of a Stranger Shoot

I went to the Lake Merrit farmer’s market yesterday to shoot my portrait of a stranger project. I sat down on the ground with that sign and read a book until people approached me.

It was interesting the kinds of people that approached me. They were mostly families or couples, only a few individuals. Several of the people I took pictures of either had gone to Mills or had friends at Mills.

Also I think that my appearance factored into people’s levels of comfortability around having their picture taken. For a lot of people (for whatever reasons) the way I look does not signify something dangerous or creepy. Maybe if my body had been presenting other signifiers, they would have felt creeped out. I think I was perceived in a non-threatening way (despite the angry look on my face in this picture) and this helped me garner photographs of strangers. Also, many strangers presented their kids to me to be photographed. That weirded me out—how willing people are to have images made of their kids.

Anyway, we'll see how it turns out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Excerpted Story from This American Life_Reflections on Photography

Sorting through old links I came again across this amazing story from This American Life. I encourage you to check it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I have started to take some pictures for the stranger assignment and have been thinking about two photographers, Adrianne Salinger and Trevor Paglen (an artist I discovered at the Berkeley Art Museum).

Salinger frequently interacted with people she did not know. When she photographed middle-aged men in her home studio, Salinger seemed to somehow turn each photograph into a relationship in itself. It seemed that when Salinger photographed people she did not know, there was a compelling discomfort within the subjects' expressions. The photographs forced the viewer to question their initial reactions through the mysteriousness of a person portrayed as unknown.
Trevor Paglen's work is more abstract, with politically charged photographs documenting secretive sites, often linked to the CIA. In the exhibit, there was a powerful art piece that reflected the numerous surveillance satellites focused on Earth. Paglen's work tends to have a very eerie side to it. With many of his photographs, I felt like I was looking at something forbidden to me.

Here is one project I found on Paglen's website that I found very interesting:

I think it would be interesting to incorporate some ideas from both of these photographers. From Salinger, I really like the concept of viewing the photograph as a relationship between you and someone you do not know. From Paglen, I want to stress the strange feeling I get when photographing a stranger, like I am invading their identity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shirley Tse

Waiting at the place where America parts Eurasia. Iceland, 2004.

I went to SFAI to hear this lecture on November 12th. Tse is originally from Hong Kong and currently based in L.A. and works primarily as a sculptor and installation artist. One of the most interesting points she made was that she thinks of her materials as a huge part of her work. As she shifts and uses new material to create her pieces they say as much if not more about her work than the representational subject that she is trying to convey. She works mainly with plastic, Styrofoam and other man-made substances and it is their synthetic value that really informs her work as she juxtaposes it in natural landscapes. Her sculptures are also temporal, she'll use them for one show or a series of photographs and then discard them. Yet because her materials are ubiquitous, everywhere and they'll last forever, it brings into question the ethics of using materials that are indestructible and yet so damaging for the environment. I found it fascinating that she has done intense research about the history of plastic, its origination, use and place within our society. How she negiotiates precision and awareness in her work between the machine she uses to sculpt with, the form, the material and her hand is really something that I've taken away from this lecture, as well as applying background knowledge to inform one's conceptual work. 

Societe Realiste

On Halloween I went to go see this cooperative Paris-based duo talk about their work.  They came together in 1994 to produce experiments that they refer to as "machines". Their work consists of writing, art and design; they think that the final result isn't as important as the process of a kind of research/experiment. They have constant dialogues or as they say interrogations about their reoccurring obsessions. They call themselves maniacs, I suppose in their tenacious and unflagging efforts to dissect their obsessions and create new forms from their symbols. 
By staging their work they are able to distance themselves from their questions and explore how the political tones of their work play with the nature of public advertisements. By taking different glyphs, strata, maps and symbols, they are able to classify and connect them. One of their projects that does just this is the one where they use color as an alphabet, from international flags and by distilling the unique blues, greens, reds, etc. they create a new language with color that they separate into blocks of what looks like paint samples, but are really unified stratum. They do this similar form of analysis and restructuring with the symbols of money and with national boundaries on maps. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kate Pszotka, Friday at Noon - Don't miss it!

Friday, Noon
The Photo Classroom
Kate Pszotka

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rachel Heath

This artist, Rachel Heath, came up in conversation with Jessie about distressing negatives - but I wanted to share her work more broadly. Rachel doesn't distress her work. She works in 19th century processes like ambrotypes that are by their nature variable since you're painting the emulsion onto a glass plate.

Taryn Simon, The Innocents

Excerpted from the photographer's introduction:

During the summer of 2000, I worked for The New York Times Magazine photographing men who were wrongfully convicted, imprisoned, and subsequently freed from death row. After this assignment, I began to investigate photography's role in the criminal justice system. I traveled across the United States photographing and interviewing men and women convicted of crimes they did not commit. In these cases, photography offered the criminal justice system a tool that transformed innocent citizens into criminals, assisted officers in obtaining erroneous eyewitness identifications, and aided prosecutors in securing convictions. The criminal justice system had failed to recognize the limitations of relying on photographic images.

For the men and women in this book, the primary case of wrongful conviction was mistaken identification. A victim or eyewitness identifies a suspected perpetrator through law enforcement's use of photographs and lineups. These identifications rely on the assumption of precise visual memory. But through exposure to composite sketches, mugshots, Polaroids, and lineups, eyewitness memory can change. Police officers and prosecutors influence memory -- both unintentionally and intentionally -- though the ways in which they conduct the identification process. They can shape, and even generate, what comes to be known as eyewitness testimony.

Jennifer Thompson's account of the process by which she misidentified her attacker illustrates the malleability of memory. A domino effect ensues in which victims do remember a face, but not necessarily the face they saw during the commission of the crime. "All the images became enmeshed to one image that became Ron, and Ron became my attacker."

In the case of Marvin Anderson, convicted of rape, forcible sodomy, abduction, and robbery, the victim was shown a photographic array of six similar black-and-white mugshots and one color photo. The face that stood out to the victim was the color photo of Anderson. After the victim picked Anderson from the photo array, she identified him in a live lineup. Of the seven men in the photo array, Anderson was the only one who was also in the lineup. Marvin Anderson served fifteen years of a 210-year sentence.

In the case of Troy Webb, convicted of rape, kidnapping, and robbery, the victim was shown a photo array. She tentatively identified Webb's photo, but said that he looked too old. The police then presented another photo of Webb taken four years before the crime occurred. He was positively identified. Troy Webb served seven years of a forty-seven-year sentence.

The high stakes of the criminal justice system underscore the importance of a photographic image's history and context. The photographs in this book rely upon supporting materials -- captions, case profiles and interviews -- in an effort to construct a more adequate account of these cases. This project stresses the cost of ignoring the limitations of photography and minimizing the context in which photographic images are presented. Nowhere are the material effects of ignoring a photograph's context as profound as in the misidentification that leads to the imprisonment or execution of an innocent person.

I photographed each innocent person at a site that came to assume particular significance following his wrongful conviction: the scene of misidentification, the scene of arrest, the alibi location, or the scene of the crime. In the history of these legal cases, these locations have been assigned contradictory meanings. The scene of arrest marks the starting point of a reality that is based in fiction. The scene of the crime, for the wrongfully convicted, is at once arbitrary and crucial; a place that changed their lives forever, but to which they had never been. Photographing the wrongfully convicted in these environments brings to the surface the attenuated relationship between truth and fiction, and efficiency and injustice.

The wrongfully convicted in this book were exonerated through the use of DNA evidence. Only in recent years have eyewitness identification and testimony been forced to meet the test of DNA corroboration. Eyewitness testimony is no longer the most powerful and persuasive form of evidence presented to juries. Because of its accuracy, DNA allows a level of assurance that other forms of evidence do not offer. In the exoneration process, DNA evidence pressures the justice system and the public to concede that a convicted person is indeed innocent. In our reliance upon these new technologies, we marginalize the majority of the wrongfully convicted, for whom there is no DNA evidence, or those for whom the cost of DNA testing is prohibitive. Even in cases in which it was collected, DNA evidence must be handled and stored and is therefore prey to human error and corruption. Evidence does not exist in a closed system. Like photography, it cannot exist apart from its context, or outside of the modes by which it circulates.

Excerpts and photographs from two of the stories in Taryn Simon's The Innocents

» Richard Danziger

Wrongfully convicted of murder, Danziger served 12 years of a life sentence; he suffered serious brain damage from injuries he sustained when he was attacked by fellow inmates in prison.

» Ron Williamson

A former baseball player, he served 10 years of a death sentence for a murder he did not commit.

Photography's ability to blur truth and fiction is one of its most compelling qualities. But when misused as part of a prosecutor's arsenal, this ambiguity can have severe, even lethal consequences. Photographs in the criminal justice system, and elsewhere, can turn fiction into fact. As I got to know the men and women in this book, I saw that photography's ambiguity, beautiful in one context, can be devastating in another.

-Taryn Simon

Josephine Taylor

I went to hear Josephine Taylor speak at SFAI on November 5th.... She draws in ink mostly and showed some of the work done with only the sun and stencils on paper, that will be at her upcoming show at Catherine Clark Gallery in SF. 
Her lecture style was interesting. The symbolism that runs throughout her work becomes even more apparent when you hear how she dodges certain people or subjects that she herself brings up. I know that I wasn't the only one in the audience who was disappointed by her saying how profound an image was and how it is intergral to her  work and then not explaining it because of her work not being her therapy. It seems that that is exactly what her work is. 
She stated that her biggest breakthrough in creating her work was when she was a student at SFAI and she just began doing simple pencil drawings of her family. Family/childhood issues play a huge part in her work, including alcoholism, sexual abuse, violence and a lot of inappropriateness, vulnerability and inescapability that threaded throughout her childhood. All of these issues are either very subtly or overtly shown in her drawings. The fact that she blow up her drawings to show such intimate gestures exposes everything. I think that she struggles with her strength and vulnerable natures as a woman and it takes a lot of courage to put her personal life out there like that. I liked that she said that these huge drawings are a meditation for her, that she uses a very small brush to create. I also like some of the scenes, her family scenes that look like perfect family moments, yet they are caked with small dots of blood that you have to get really close to see and which she adds as a "finishing touch". This is one of the best local/emerging artists that I have heard and I'd  recommend going to her opening at Catherine Clark on November 22. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jason Hanasik, Or: I haven't been posting enough to the blog so I'm posting something now, but even if I had been posting I'd still write something

Jason Hanasik
7 November 2008
'Family Matters' and 'He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore'

So on Friday there was an artist lecture over yonder at the photo building, as well as a little Obama press conference teaser (but you had to go home to see the whole thing. Sneaky...)

Jason Hanasik paid us a visit from CCA to talk about some of his work, particularly focusing on his thesis project, 'He Opened Up...' This is a project depicting men in the Marines- predominantly his best friend Patrick and a friend of his Steven (whose brother died in Iraq) in various poses, locations, etc that centers around a discussion regarding prototypical 'maleness' and heteronormativity. The project aims to critique gender presentation and representations of the 'classic' male figure. Hanasik photographs his subjects in unlikely poses, such as the one you can see below that Deirdre posted the other day. They are not all so obvious however- my favorite photo was actually one of his friend Patrick casually standing in front of an open door; displaying indicators of 'prototypical maleness,' such as his strict haircut, but his posture, gaze, and relaxed nature invited questions about what was being challenged regarding male representation.

One of the things I appreciated about the lecture was his language. Hanasik was careful to speak about 'making' pictures, which I prefer to hear (rather than 'taking' which denies important elements of the photographer's agency and process in creating work), and tried to tease out the differences between questions regarding gender presentation, maleness, sexual orientation, etc- he noted where these potentially intersected, but also suggested where they might part ways. He also said something about "photographing people in the places we find each other." I appreciate the attention to detail in his language and the reflexivity this statement implied. He recognized the reciprocal nature of such work as well as his agency as a photographer, involved in a collaborative project with a participant, as opposed to the classic, 'detached' observer.

I'm beginning to lose it here. I don't have my right brain on. Too many sociology articles later... Anyway- I'll stop here, but leave off with a list of themes he presented that I found interesting:

-equipment's (i.e. specific camera) influence on work- what camera suits a particular project
-small town politics
-comfort of subject vs. comfort of photographer
-"learning images"
-big color, size
-"constructed documentary"
-essentializing of the "gay look"

Rolleiflex Twin Lens Digital Camera

At first glance this seemed to me a little like the retro-chic "rotary phones" that are actually push button, but this one actually functions like a twin lens reflex camera, only the capture is digital.
I don't know what the crank arm does, though.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tattoos, Individuality, and Susannah Slocum

I mentioned Susannah's work in the discussion about Sarah's Hello Kitty tattoo. Once at her page on the Pecuniar website, click on 5 to start viewing the nautical star tattoo sequence. Her other series are included here as well - Bruces, vanity plates and more.


Artists on my mind - Carlos Diaz, Glynnis Reed

check 'em out - both carlos and glynnis make really interesting work - their names are linked to sites.

Invented Landscape 80F-NY (2005)

Carlos Diaz

Water No Get Enemy, 2008

Glynnis Reed

Anthony Golcolea

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Friday, November 7th

Please join us tomorrow, Friday the 7th of November for some art and some pizza (and a small celebration of Obama's election.) 12:00 noon in the photo classroom.

(x-tra credit available)


"I am a graduate student at CCA in the MFA Fine Arts program. I mainly work in photo, video, and installation. I am currently working on a project called He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore. This project looks at the liminal space between the gay male civilian and the heterosexual male Marine returning from war.

You can see a very small selection of the work at

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Photo Alliance

The next artist lecture that Photo Alliance is sponsoring will be Barbara Bosworth. Her lecture will be on Friday December 5th at 7:30pm at SFAI on Chestnut Street. You can view some of her work at
The Photo Alliance website is also a good resource for any Bay Area photographer. They have workshops that are $35 for students and can teach you valuable skills, like digital self publishing. I'd check periodically and see what new workshops/lectures they are having...Both the lectures and workshops could be great places to network and find collaborators. The Photo Alliance is also a non-profit and is a possible place to do an internship. There website is