Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Radiant Child: Jean-Michel Basquiat

I think I have hesitated learning more about Jean-Michel Basquiat. I have a bias towards Keith Haring. His art is at the heart of everything I do. I was competitive in my art love. I get defensive of Haring's work because both of them were in the same crowd. They did have a healthy competition and both looked to Warhol for much needed guidance. I realized after watching "The Radiant Child," that Jean-Michel was troubled in a different way than Keith had been. They were both unique, full of life and both taken from us too soon.

Jean-Michel had a keen eye for the complexity of our culture. His need for approval as a person of color and the love of his father seemed like a daily struggle for him. Also, the need to express his anger, resentment, and individuality seemed like an addiction (as it is for most artists). This documentary opened the world of Basquiat to me. I am grateful that I can now learn more about him and his quest to be famous, to articulate his struggles and his amazing skills. I don't know if I would have been able to key into this group of amazing artists in the early 80s in NYC. I imagine myself as one of their assistants and what it would have been like to observe this genius. For me, I usually look towards the past for inspiration. Basquiat had perfected seeking inspiration from his mind, pushing the mind to new limits in the present. What a gift to the world his art will continue to be for those who struggle with the challenges of life. His art makes me grateful that I have been able to realize a dream of sharing him with others. All artists live on in their work.

Monday, October 11, 2010

WTA: Why the Attitude? Please, don't miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

It seems as if articles are being posted every week of stories of unsuccessful, doubting 20-somethings all stuck in "fun-employment." There is a severe lack of decision-making capability in my peers and what I believe, pure laziness. Watch out! I might have just called out our own laziness.

Constantly, these sentiments make me sick to my stomach. More than ever before, my generation has had the opportunity to travel the world with amazing ease. I know far more 20-somethings that have traveled and had some crazy, "life-changing" trip that they brag about. We have spent thousands of dollars on travel and used millions of gallons of oil to get us there. What was so "life-changing" when we traveled? I rarely talk about my travel because of the fear of sounding too privileged, but then I realized, I am a white privileged young person!

In my travels, I think I was given a gift, a large dose of humility and a new perception that the world was not created to be raped and pillaged for my country's benefit. This gift was the hope I saw in these other people's reality. It was the manifestation of hope. We need more examples of this philosophical idea that people have so easily thrown around after Barack Obama's successful Presidential campaign. Do we really want nihilism to take over in this country? I do not believe that will benefit the American society or world.

I am not ignoring the statistics or the reality of this country's unemployment. It is terrible. While I was gainfully un-employeed, working a part-time job to make scraps, defaulting on student loans and asking my parents for money; I was miserable. I will admit that it absolutely sucks and I was hungry at times. I can't necessarily afford to eat enough, yet I still do triathlons. I guess that makes me a member of the privileged poor.

But, I have had a choice. That is what makes my peers and I different than the actual poor who I believe suffer most in our society. They are the forgotten. We have an opportunity of a lifetime to change our attitude. I could have continued to dwell on my belief that my country has turned on me or find out what I loved and go do it. Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

I have chosen to seek out four un-paid internships, while working a full-time retail job, and I started my own blog. I have found interests and committed to them for now. Find what brings you alive in this time of perceived lifelessness. We are not of the assembly-line age, but we are of the technological revolution. We have new opportunities and we have a new space to do something good for our country and world. It doesn't mean we won't have to work as hard as those assembly line workers. We may just have to think a bit harder to see where solutions are hiding.

This positive attitude is not bullshit. It is not special or for the "chosen." It is something you must choose. We must do this together. I will not apologize for our generation, not yet. We are still young and were fed a myth. Don't miss this opportunity. Throw it up and eat something new (just make sure it is organic).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Independent Arts and Media Expo 2011

I will be on two panels for the 2011 Independent Arts and Media Expo this coming Saturday, September 25.

Check it out if you are in the neighborhood...

Sept. 25, at the Expo, 11:45am-12:45pm
Social Networking
CELLspace, 2050 Bryant St. x 18th St., SF
Powerful new tools for online community building and promotions have emerged in the last ten years. Now social networking is changing how we talk to each other and work together. How can you harness social networking for your art?

* Emily Goligoski (, @emgollie,
* Therese Davis ("Networking, In Person and Virtually"; Songbird Festival Founder)
* Kwan Booth, Oakland Local, Legba Digital
* Johnny Funcheap, founder, FunCheapSF
* Gregory Stock, arts promoter

Two panels will be located at SPORTS BASEMENT!

Sept. 25, Sports Basement, 1590 Bryant St, 2:30-3:30 pm
Community collaboration and project documentation
* Wendy Testu, Project Director, Welcome to the NeighborHOOD
* Lise Swenson, filmmaker
* La Constance Shahid, Project Coordinator, Welcome to the NeighborHOOD

Sept. 25, Sports Basement, 1590 Bryant St. St., SF, 3:45-4:45pm
Online Fundraising

* Michael Stoll (SF Public Press,
* Lisa Lee (Publisher, Hyphen Magazine,
* David Hunt, co-founder, Circus Bella
* Irene Kao, Hyphen Magazine

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Buy Art. Not Clothes.

We live in a consumer culture. George Carlin reminded me yesterday. I was talking with my best friend and I had mentioned Carlin's YouTube clip that I had seen the day before mentioning our consumerist behavior in the United States and the corporate hierarchy that has engulfed this country. The clip had gone viral. My network cared about what Carlin was saying.

We must think. We must be intellectual and have conversation. Let's sit around our cafes and our city streets and discuss. Its important to the vitality of our community.

So, I decided, what do I care about? I care about what we see, our advertisements, our movie previews, our internet ads. I care about what they tell us and about how we think, or don't think about them. What can I do to change this lack of thinking, lack of caring. And if we spend money in this culture and I can't stop that capitalism right now? I think we could spend money on good things, good companies, and things that make you critically think about the world.

Think about buying a piece of art. Save a little here and there in a cookie jar and wait till you have $100. Then, go buy a small piece of art and place it where your family, roommates, neighbors can see. Maybe that will be one more small step in the right direction.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Void?

It seems as if we are living in a void. Our country is not only apathetic but our citizens are vacuous. This is not to say those holes cannot be filled. We can always find purpose. As the Opinator in the New York Times gave space to the feminization of Lady Gaga and her power, causing people to oppose this discourse viciously. But, if not Lady Gaga, who or what are questioning who we are as a citizenry, or as a tribe?There are few cultural icons that spur such emotion in contemporary American culture.

People barely remember what or who Tiger Wood slept with or what John Edwards campaigned for? Are we still fighting three wars? Are we supporting Apartheid in Palestine? Did Barack Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? Where is our food coming from?

All these questions spawn ethical debates, which are all important. They all need answers. Those answers partially come from our identity as American citizens, as well as, our foundational values. Lady Gaga knows about these debates, she writes music and wears clothes that inspire some of us to use our philosophical mind. We could then go one step more and use that inspiration for intentionality in our daily lives.

We all have to care about basic necessities to survive, I understand that more than ever in my life. I can't help but walk around the streets of San Francisco and feel the sense of extreme loneliness; it is in the eyes of the homeless and mentally ill and under the Prada sunglasses of a stock broker in the Financial District.

The Founding Fathers wrote about duty, responsibility and community in the Declaration of Independence. I know they might be rolling over in their graves right now connecting them to Ms. Gaga, but I can't help myself. I don't think they could have conceived of our culture. I want to wake American up. We are all responsible towards each other, we need each other to survive. Let the answers to the void be as diverse as the United States.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Art of Viewing

"If one says 'Red' – the name of color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different." (Josef Albers)

I am struggling with the idea of "seeing." Seeing in a way that is important, in the way that I know is vital to society's betterment. I know deep down that my perspective is unique. But, why is it unique? Isn't each person's perspective different, therefore special? Do I even need to place a "worth" on my perspective?

When I have traveled to other countries or my experience with the homeless in the United States, I tried to place myself in their shoes, so I could see with their "eyes." Though impossible, I tried my best. I learned that I could never experience another person's life. I discovered truly what my own humanness and faced myself. I am finding that I could spend my life struggling with just my own perspective. That is a daunting task. I have to find the words, the language, either in visual imagery or the written word to express my perspective. I want to show people that images impact their decisions and how we treat one another and how we live our lives. I want to show that the images bombarding us everyday are shaping who we are becoming. From my perspective, who we are becoming in the United States is a very frightening people. But, how do I connect the color to the eye to the human action?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hey, you are such a ....

Hey, that guy is such a FAGGOT.
Why are you being such a FAGGOT?
You are a FAGGOT!

These phrases have been indirectly/directly used in front of me in the last two months in the city of San Francisco. (Supposedly, the mecca of safety for gay men).

This word. A word that holds so much meaning and history, yet said without much thinking. I was going to us asterisks to block letters, but honestly, I am tired of no one caring. So, by typing it, I am saying I care. I care what this word means to people and to those who choose to use it.

Think who you are around. I know this world is a big maze, sometimes without an easy way out. I get it. We have to think about political correctness ALL the time; its annoying, right?

Oh, wait, if we are a straight man: political correctness sucks if we are a heterosexual man, that's right.

Do I have to keep being hurt because you don't take the energy to use your brain?

This may be my angry rant against the "straight men" or is it something else? Or is this my way of letting people know that just because I moved away from the Midwest, or came out as a homosexual man, or rose above all the times I have been called this word since I was 6 years old, or being rejected time and time again...that I still get called this word. That innocent people still face the tragedy of idiocy.

Well, wake up America. We are racist, homophobic, unfair to each other, unloving and ungrateful. Wake up to your world. Choose something better.

I am tired of us not even choosing to see something beautiful in this world. In this maze, there is beauty. Choose to see it. Choose to use your words intelligently. No one is perfect. I am not asking that.

I am asking you to be aware. To know who you are around and maybe think about how that might impact someone else. I don't care if you are drunk, high, or immature. Play like a champion. All the time. No excuses. This isn't practice.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Remembering the past in the present: Msgr. Oscar Romero

One topic I have yet to truly investigate in this blog is my passion for public art and my experiences with the poor. I have stayed quite subdued in my religious beliefs/moral boundaries at the risk of being ignored or shunned. I hope to broaden my writing into more foundational elements of what has lead me to visual culture studies. In the last couple of weeks, I have reconciled the fact that I will most likely be struggling with the intersection of my gender, my sexual identity, my family and my religion my entire life (as I think a lot of people do). I am embracing this as another struggle; another cross that we all carry. Yet, there is always grace that bellows up like air bubbles from the deep ocean. The last two years have been a constant "breaking free."

I was reminded today, once again, of my "breaking free" with the 30th anniversary of Oscar Romero's brutal assassination. In my time there in El Salvador in the fall of 2007, I was able to paint a mural with my community I had been working with during my time studying at the University of Central America - San Salvador. This highlights the importance of art in my life; visual imagery, positive visual symbols in communities. (At this time in my life, I was recently 'out' and had not even thought about working in museums).

What a journey it has been? Now, on this 30th anniversary of a tragic murder of a leader who stood for all the things that I do, I am at this intersection again. I take solace in Romero's words, his teachings and his ability to articulate his beliefs. I think one of the things that I see in the power of images is it's simplicity. Humans desire communication and connection. We connect to icons and to simple images because they make sense for reasons that social scientists have studied for decades. We grasp onto images as if it were the foundation of our Earth on which we stand upon.

Romero is an icon of El Salvador. His face and his body have been immortalized in paintings, murals and books. In the mural above (in El Salvador, outside his last residence), his body has been enlarged to show huge muscles, as if this priest worked out three times a day and was taking protein supplements. Though humorous to most visitors, Catholic Salvadorans and those who followed Romero's teachings, it is in the most serious of memorials. Maybe it is not so much to remember his physical body, but their own idea of him. Of course, it is maybe the most simplistic of ideas, but nonetheless important to note. This is how they remember him. This is how visitors may remember him. Or we remember through the dramatic movie, "Romero." Very few have heard his voice, more have read his words. But, those scattered images of an icon are what sticks with us.

It is disappointing to me that not more people know of Msgr. Oscar Romero, but that is what happens to dissidents in this world, pushed aside into the time-line of forgotten history. He spoke against the injustices of the poor. He spoke truth to power. He transformed himself and followed his strong beliefs, even if it eventually killed him.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Old Glory

This is an exclusive photo from Gaga's new video, "Telephone" with Beyonce. Man, again I can't help myself but write about her. (Interesting article on gay icons and how they come to exist...)
She has so much power in our visual culture right now. Who drapes themselves with the American flag? It says so much because she stands for so much. She has a clear belief system, she has values and she is integrating them into her music, her dance and her image. I think her performance art is some of the most provocative,meaningful and important art that has been produced in quite some time. I think of my other visual artist genius, Keith Haring and how he is unabashedly produced his art work. He was just as aware of his culture and issues as Lady Gaga is. (Keith also help jump-start Madonna's career in NYC in the 80s).

You don't have to like her music, but you should listen to her over all message of acceptance and tolerance of others. It is much more refreshing than finding out Sarah Palin used Canadian health care at the same time bashing universal heath care. We need more Gaga's, those who recognize their faults yet, celebrate their light to the world. Keep shining Gaga!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I want to move the world with art.

Gaga does it again.

I am beginning to think that this blog is dedicated to Lady Gaga. But, I still feel like it should hit a different note than that, though I think she is probably the artist out there that I am following closest.

When I watched this video, which was made for the MOCA's 30th anniversary, I just wanted to dance. I wanted to be the dancer, the director and the singer.

Good art does that, it pulls you into the piece.

This little preview, a preview for something that has already happened and will never happen again. The collaboration of Gaga, Damien Hirst, Frank Gehry, Francesco Vezzoli and Prada is spectacular. ("My wish is that the entertainment industry makes love more often with the art industry," said Vezzoli of the production. "I love that," replied Gaga. "Having my fans watch the [performance] video and be exposed to a level of art and a level of installation is so beautiful and so important.")

High art meets low art, happiness meets devastation, and celebrity meets nameless.

I keep getting "speechless" when it comes to articulating why I am doing what I am following. I am following this guttural experience of art that is digging inside my heart. It is as if I want to scream when I see great art, great expression, great color, great voice. Because I have been working my whole life to just express myself.

I see this in this video, the dancers with the piano, with the meal being prepared for a community. It all may be elitist, high art, but in the end it is shared in the video of the idea of bringing people together to celebrate creativity. Tell me who does that anymore? Have we forgotten that art is for the people. I really believe Lady Gaga writes for others, she sings for others, so that they may be themselves. We all need to scream a little bit and we all need to break free.

This isn't going to stop. I don't believe it will. Watching this video lights something inside me, it is a raging light for the world to see.

Watch it. Go move your world.

Friday, January 29, 2010

In Memory of J.D. Salinger. Thank you for your words kind sir.

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."

-"Marginalia," Billy Collins

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Please do not blow."

This past weekend, I went along with my fellow Bay Area folk to celebrate a local institution's 75th Birthday, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I could not pass up free museum admission. While wading through the crowds, I came across a beautiful Alexander Calder mobile in their Anniversary Show. Being face to face with another one of his masterpieces, it reminded me of one of the foundational beliefs of why I am going into museum work.
Calder is definitely one of my more influential American artists in my canon of art favorites. He used industrial materials to create mobiles, stationary and movable. Also, his attention to color balance and fun (ie, the circus) in his work are amazing. I was first introduced to Calder's work in my Basic Art class with Mr. Dean, freshman year of high school. This was to be only one of two art classes during my tenure at Kirkwood High. Yet, it had a profound impact on me. Still to this day, those artists featured in my second semester of high school stay with me as I continue my art career. During the class, we were shown a documentary about Calder's life and work. I will never forget during one of the interviews hearing Mr. Calder say that if you ever saw one his mobiles in a museum, just give it a little blow to make it move. His mobiles were meant to move and interact with the space. So, every time I have seen one of his pieces (the St. Louis Art Museum, the Tate Modern, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art), I have given them a little blow, to just make them gracefully move. The SF MOMA was no different and I blew and made the mobile dance for a split second. I moved on to Jackson Pollack's "Male and Female," but in the distance I heard a security guard yell, "Don't blow, don't blow." I looked over my shoulder and I saw a small child trying to make the mobile move. And the child hurried back to their parents in fear. The child has now learned their lesson to never blow on a wind mobile ever again. I don't think that makes much sense, even in a museum. I will never stop blowing and will respectfully not listen to museum guards. I understand why they are there and what they are protecting. But, never stop blowing. Never stop interacting with art. The artist told me so.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In the beginning...

I have started to gather information and archive material for the first interactive I phone tour for the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I am working under Lise Swenson (videographer/producer) and the department of education at the de Young Museum.. The tour's theme will be " Artists' representation's of the de Young." Some of the artists that will be featured will be Andy Goldsworthy, Gerhard Richter, James Turrell and Kiki Smith.

The tour consists of hours of media, HD film, images, interviews, commissioned music pieces. I hope to be able to walk everyone who reads this blog through the difficulties, successes and process. I feel like we are created a piece of art in a sense. I guess this is my own dream of being an "artist" in my own right. But, I believe that this will change how you interact with art in our world.

You will now be able to learn more than you ever were able to at a museum. This will enhance people's experience, those who choose to follow the tour (and those who have I Phones). This is the beginning of transforming museum culture that includes you. Imagine that, a museum for the people? Ironic, isn't it? Maybe it is the beginning of tearing down some of the fear and anxiety of standing in front of piece of canvas and just saying "I could do that" or "I don't understand why this is here?" You will be able to answer your own questions. There will never be enough docents or enough people who desire to educate the public in a museum, but this is the beginning to answer some of your questions.

This is only the beginning, the few owners of the I Phone. One day, I imagine people walking around museums with the I Slate (the yet un-released name of the new Mac touch-screen computer) taking self-guided, docent-led tours all with technology to enhance their experience. This isn't replacing knowledge or human interaction, it is a tool. It is a tool that will need to be checked and balanced along the way, but it is exciting no less.

Sidenote: Two of my above links are biographies provided by ART 21 on PBS. I just found it through Netflix and it is fantastic. They are hour long episodes that feature 3-5 artists in the 21st Century. It is a great tool to catch up on contemporary art, if you are so inclined.