Sunday, March 29, 2009

Now Showing: Nick Cave :Meet Me at the Center of The Earth

Friday's opening reception for Meet Me At the Center of the Earth: New Works by Nick Cave at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco was well attended. Cave's elaborate signature costumes, which he calls Soundsuits, created a technicolor wonderland in YBCA's main gallery. The Chicago based artist (no affiliation with musician Nick Cave) describes his Soundsuits as "a means for understanding identity--those things which make one the same or different from others. These full-body masks release the wearer (actual or imagined) from his day-to-day identity allowing him to inhabit another, very different one." (Source: exhibition didactic by Guest Curator Kate Eilertsen)

The energy at YBCA Friday evening was joyful, with a cast of art lovers almost as colorful as the Soundsuits themselves (one woman wore snakeskin boots and a fedora with the image of Grace Jones repeated in a rainbow print), and many filled the main lobby grooving to the sounds of Jef Stott and The Embarka Soundsystem.
Cave draws upon myriad influences for his work, including African and Mardi Gras ceremonial tradition. He locates and assembles an array of textiles, everyday and not-so-everyday objects: antique masks and ceramic sculptures, yarn and ribbon from old cassette tapes. He weaves these elements together in utterly surreal combinations which are alone fascinating for their sheer excess.
Roberta Smith of the New York Times says Cave's work "must be seen to be believed", and that he "seems never to have met a floral pattern he can't insensify with embrodery, or sequins...but he is equally adept with twigs, white string dipped in black paint...and while he uses the materials in copious amounts, sometimes to a groteque effect, his garments always maintain a distinct and glamorous line." Meet Me at the Center of the Earth is on view at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts until July 5th, 2009.
For more info:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Artist Profile: Kelly Shaw Willman

I always feel very fortunate to have artists among my circle of friends. They never cease to inspire, to make me think, and to leave me in awe with their powerful work and new ways of looking at the world around them. I am blessed to call performance artist and poet Kelly Shaw Willman a friend, and to be able to share her brilliant work on Black Butterfly.
A native of Cosgrove, Iowa, Kelly explores concepts of "birth, rebirth, birthing, un-birthing, the body, the sacred, the intimate, the divine, the dreamy, the imaginative, the symbolism, the stance, and the beauty of artistic vision and exploration."

The body is very much a part of Willman's experimental pieces, and her physical being is very much a part of the performance. In her most recent performance at an intimate space in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood, she bathed herself in fake blood and glitter (glitter is a signature material found in much of Kelly's work), eliciting comparisons to the late artist Ana Mendieta, whose works often involved Mendieta covering herself in blood, earth, or flowers. The environments Kelly creates to perform in unabashedly embrace the feminine. Candles are lit, rose petals are distributed, and there is also the ever-present glitter. "I work most naturally from an intuituve space, where a distant but accessible idea fuels intensive writing, intensive rehearsing, and an intensive construction of a performance environment." Accessible is a perfect way to describe Willman's performance space. There isn' t a traditional stage, and there's something about the environment she assembles (is it the colors? the warm glow of flickering candles?) that is very inviting to the viewer. Willman draws her audience ever closer, and deeper into an intriuging mystery of one woman's dream-filled journey.Kelly's latest performance, part one in an eleven movement series entitled grunge*quest, will continue throughout the spring and summer, with other artists and musicians collaborating for the various movements. For more info. on Kelly Shaw Willman and her work, check out her page on flickr:
Also, watch this space for an interview with Kelly in the near future!

And here's a video of her performance, *regard*

performance photos by Janna O'Shea

Monday, March 16, 2009

Marissa's Latest: Funkstress

acrylic on canvas

So late last summer I gathered with a bunch of my friends at the Paramount theater in Oakland, so excited to see Erykah Badu on tour in support of her album New Amerykah Pt. 1: 4th World War, the sound of of which had been wafting through Oakland all summer long. I was bumping The Healer as I took my morning jogs around Lake Merritt, the sounds of Honey were bumping out of car stereos, and the album was on repeat at many a house party. So when we all gathered in that auditorium we were HYPED to say the least.

The lights dimmed and we were greeted by a funkadelic instrumental intro that woulda made Parliament proud. Badu stepped out onto the stage with her giant afro and took to the drum machine. The whole stage was lit in shades of bright pink and green. I kept expecting the mothership to land at any moment! That's when I saw her, The Funkstress. She was bright blue, and emerging like a newborn babe from a giant vagina (now pretty much abstracted in the finished piece). But the feel that I wanted to capture is still there: a new woman emerging, who is free.

As I worked on this piece, I studied album art from a lot of old P-Funk album covers for inspiration. I love that artwork, because it contains so many different elements from the past and future, and they're all stirred together in this colorful stew. I've also found that the music touches on the same themes I work with in my art. The idea of healing, transformation, or being transported to another world. So much of the music and performance has this underlying theme of: we were brought to this new land where we aren't free, and we can't necessarily go back to Africa, we're outcasts in America...let's go to outer space! You have this amazing album art, performance, and music that is a hybrid of all three: Black Americans with love for their African roots, who are looking toward the future/a place of freedom. They were creating an alternate reality.

I strive for the same thing in creating characters placed in other-worldly settings, or with my heroine Azmera who journeys back in time to heal the psyche of her people and makes her way towards the Electric Homeland.

The funk tip I'm on will probably continue for awhile (I'm currently hard at work in the studio on my 3rd funky goddess, the first one has already been sold) At some point I'll post a picture of all of them together.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Now Showing: Last Exit to Africa (Hip Hop) an Exhibition by Githinji Wa Mbire

On Sunday I attended the opening reception of mixed media artist Githinji Wa Mbire at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley. An exhibition of Githinji's colorful work is always a treat for the senses, and this one is no exception. A native of Kenya, Githinji is best known for his mixed media pieces featuring abstract representations of the African continent. He creates Africa using a variety of materials, text, and imagery, and in all shapes and sizes (some are quite small, others can take up an entire wall space).

I really enjoyed seeing more of Githinji's wonderful works on paper (he has quite a few in this show). They are so colorful and some of them incorporate small bits of text, which appear to be thoughts that run through his mind during the creative process. My personal favorite was the image of Africa made up of faces in varying hues.

The reception was well attended, with a colorful cast of very friendly people. There's just something about Guerilla Cafe that makes you feel at home. And the vibrancy of the space--it's full of artistic flair right down to the tables and chairs--makes it a wonderful space for exhibiting art.

Githinji's work will be on view at Guerilla Cafe until May 3rd. This show is definitely worth a trip there, as are GC's amazing waffles and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Guerilla Cafe
1620 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94709

hours: Mon. 7am-2pm
Tues.-Fri. 7am-6pm
Sat.-Sun. 8am-6pm

Now Showing: Intersectionality of Sisters

Photographer and Youth Radio
journalist Ayesha Walker with one of her beautiful

On Friday evening I had the pleasure of attending the opening reception for the latest exhibition at Oakland's joyce Gordon Gallery, Intersectionality of Sisters, an all women artists show in honor of Women's History Month. The show was intended to be "an exhibition that explores the crossroads of modern and post modern works on femininity, feminism or womanism, postulating interrelations of cultural patterns and breaking boundaries of nationality, class, and gender."
There was a dazzling display of works by a diverse group of artists, working in all media. One of the exciting things about this show was that it brought together women not only of diverse backgrounds, but also in varying stages of their art careers. While many of them are fixtures on the Bay Area arts scene, others were brimming with excitement because it was their very first gallery show.

One of the highlights of the exhibition was a piece by mixed media artist Karen Seneferu. Karen, a veteran artist, presented a small and quite powerful piece covered entirely in colorful beads as well as black beans. The intricately constructed pieces take Seneferu several months to a year to complete, and are inspired by ancestral art.

Karen Seneferu's beaded sculptural piece

There was a great turnout for this event, and the gallery was packed. It was actually tough to get through the crowd to look at certain pieces, but that's a good thing. The Joyce Gordon Gallery is definitely one of the bright spots in downtown Oakland, and the exhibitions held there are always a testament to the wealth of talented and promising artists that call the city home.

Intersectionality of Sisters is on view at the Joyce Gordon Gallery until April 20th. There will be a panel discussion and poetry Friday, April 3rd 5:30-8:30pm.

Joyce Gordon Gallery
406 14th St.
Oakland, CA