Author Archives: Alison

About Alison

Alison is the founder and co-director of Artlarking.com. She paints, collages, makes videos, and is having quite a time trying to sing while playing the ukulele.

Video Recap of Neon/Nature and the New Currency!

Neon Nature from Greg Thomas on Vimeo.


Neon/Nature and the New Currency  was an art and music show that explored the apparent dichotomy between organic and neon, natural and florescent.  Thanks to all artists and the Box Factory and all who attended the fiesta!
:::Neon colors are experiencing a surge of popularity in fashion, art, and pop culture.  The brightness of things like hipster sunglass frames stand out because of how artificial and unnatural they seem.  However, the fact is that neon is an abundant element in the universe- the fifth most common element, number 10 on the periodic table, present in the air we breathe.  It isn’t too common on Earth (only about 18 parts per million are found in air) but the fact remains that Neon is Nature.
Neon (from the Greek neos, or “new”), in it’s natural state, is an invisible gas.  A tube of it glowed for the first time in 1902, brought to life by the French inventor Georges Claude.  What it took to make neon glow was human ingenuity and experimentation.  In the early days of neon lighting, its brilliant orange illumination gained it the nickname “liquid fire”, and neon signage proliferated throughout the US in the 20s and 30s.  It was, at that time, symbolic of America’s inventiveness and creativity.
And that is precisely what the “New Currency” is:  inventiveness and creativity.   You.  Taking something invisible, something rare, something previously unknown, and making it glow brilliantly. Rather than worshiping the all-mighty dollar, Artlarking invites you to share what your true currency is.  What you value.  What inspires you and glows for you.  Money doesn’t grow on trees, but ideas and creation blossom like flowers do- from nothing to something beautiful.

Be neon. Be bright. Be natural.  Neon is Nature is the New Currency.

The lineup was:

  • 6-6:45 Seabright (electronic/surf/pop)
  • 7-7:45 Fear Not Radio, featuring Cartoon Justice (experimental musical rendition of Jennifer Harris’ Fear Not Project)
  • 8-8:45 Anna Ash (romantic country/soul)
  • 9-9:45 Uncle Rebel (folk/rock)
Visual Art:  Money Tree Installation by architect Richard Parker, Digital Drawing Video by Shantell Martin, Visual Art by Hailey Gaiser, Kristin Farr, Kristen Reike, Michelle Chandra, Cole Willsea, and Jon Soat.
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Make a Short Film this July for the 3-Minute Picture Show!

What are you doing for the month of July?  When August 1 rolls around, will you have anything to say for yourself?  The answer will be a resounding “Yes!”  if you participate in the Three Minute Picture Show, a SF and Portland, Oregon- based filmmaking project, now in its 10th year.  It was started in a warehouse in Oakland by Chris Baty, the man who brings us National Novel Writing Month (every November), inspired by the success of the idea that deadlines have the potential to inspire great creative feats.

Third place film from 2010:
The point of the project is to “inspire uncritical creativity”.  And although there are no prizes and it’s “easy enough” to make a film without their motivation and post it on Youtube, the Three Minute Picture show has been successful due to the fact that they provide a deadline, a goal, and motivation along the way.  They also provide a fun event where you can screen your film- a Black Tie Gala that will take place in SF on August 27 at the Victoria Theatre on 16th St.
The project also welcomes submissions from kids ages 6-17: the “Twinkling To-Do” is now in it’s second year.  (Out of the films I’ve seen from past years, I personally like the kids’ better than the adults’!):
First place kids’ film from 2010:
Sign up in the next couple of days, and get your creativity on in July!  I’ve already registered and have a puppety plan up my sleeve…
-Alison
Support Three Minute Picture Show at IndieGoGo, ‘like’ them on Facebook, or
Sign up to make your own movie here.
*The Three Minute Picture Show site also has a list of Film-School resources that’s pretty exhaustive- so if you’re intimidated by jumping right into production, check out one of these classes:

The Art of No Fear: Jennifer Maria Harris


I interviewed artist Jennifer Maria Harris last week at Samovar Tea Lounge about social action, childhood, persisting as an artist, and her upcoming collaborative work.  An exhibition for her Fear Not Project  is currently on display at the Red Poppy Art House.

Harris will also be contributing to Artlarking’s June Neon/Nature and the New Currency show  in collaboration with local band Cartoon Justice.  They will be doing a live musical remix of audio files from the Fear Not radio project, where people call a hotline with voicemails to spread the No Fear message.  Check it out June 4th at the Box Factory (865 Florida @ 21st, SF)!  And read….
The Interview!

Alison Dale: Your site is tallpainter.com.  So who is this tall painter?

Jennifer M. Harris: When I was first working as an artist, I was just doing painting, for probably the first 5, maybe even ten years.  When I was in school I’d always done many many different things and enjoyed them.  But interestingly at one point one of my main painting instructors had expressed the opinion that you shouldn’t cross-craft and diversify, and you should focus.  And although I think there was value to that, that is not the way that I work.  I actually really benefit from doing many different things.  So… straight out of school I was listening to him and I think it also made sense just for me to kind of hone my craft… and I also just love it.  But as time passed I got more and more drawn to other projects from the past:  ….printmaking, but primarily doing different projects that would be installations, public art, social action- I was always really interested in that.

The Man in the Napoleon Hat, the Dog, the Lamb, and the Cat by Jennifer Maria Harris

AD: Yes, I’ve noticed you have done quite a bit of conceptual art pieces. A few of them are chalk based projects- what was that about?

JMH: Yeah- growing up as a teenager during the time of the birth of graffiti art, I did a bit of graffiti.  But I got more interested in doing this kind of impermanent, unsophisticated, and in many ways uncool street art -chalk on sidewalks, like children do.  I figured the benefits are: no one’s going to arrest you for it, you can do it pretty much wherever you want, and it’s this very benign entity.  I also got interested in the fact that it disappears over time.  All of the pieces I did were about sharing stories and how they affect us over time, so that made sense with the medium, as something people would run into and then they slowly disappeared as they walked over it.  And I love seeing how over time the older ones would fade and the newer ones would be the strongest, but it was a nice gradual process.

AD:You were trained as a painter- where did you attend school?

JMH: I initially  went to Virginia Commonwealth University.  I got really lucky getting into their program – I had no idea how good it was, but it’s a fabulous program.  And as part of it, I was able to get a scholarship to study abroad at Loughborough College of Art and Design in the UK.

AD: How did you decide initially that you wanted to be an artist?

JMH: I always wanted to be an artist, was always drawing as a kid….  When I was really small, 3-4 years old, my mother ran a  hair salon.  At one point she had me enrolled in this daycare where kids were running around screaming at each other, and I don’t really remember any adults being present- I”m sure they were, but …. i was really unhappy.  At one point she peeked through the window and saw that I was sitting in the corner crying, kids were hitting eachother, all this chaos.  So she pulled me out and made a deal with me that if I could quietly entertain myself in the salon I wouldn’t have to go to the daycare.  One of the big things that i did was to draw people and animals to keep myself company, because it would get very boring.  I always think of this as an important stage, because a really important aspect of art to me has been creating characters-  many of them are animals, so… entities, beings?  that I really wanted to spend time with but who did not yet exist in the world.   It’s almost like that feeling of missing somebody, and then you see them after a long time- that was how I always felt working.

AD:  How did you decide on art school, officially?

JMH:  Going to art school and choosing it as a profession was a random process, and a bit of a surprise.  In high school I was not in the healthiest place, didn’t apply to colleges.  The process of application at VCU was quick enough that I could commit to it- Literally you just go for an interview, one day, and they told you if you got in.  I think I did my portfolio staying up all night the night before, my typical procrastination at the time, went there, and thankfully got in.   Everything changed for me.  Once I got there, I just got healthy on all kinds of levels .  One of the most healthy parts was learning how to commit 500 percent to what you love.  In terms of artwork, that should always be first and foremost in what youre thinking – not what’s gonna sell, or what other people  will like , but what you love.  And secondly, how to communicate that clearly, so that everyone can hear it.

AD:  Would you absolutely recommend art school to aspiring artists?

JMH:  Yes, because the best way to learn is through lots of other people.  When other people have gone before you doing all of these things, then you can learn quickly from the environment.  VCU accepted around 70 percent of their applicants, which I think is a great idea because who can tell who really has “art skills” when they’re 18?  Because you know, it’s not all about draftsmanship, and how can you tell who’s going to do what?  So they would accept 70 percent and just really kick your butt your first year, so it was all about who cared enough to persist.  And that’s a good way, because when you really get out there it’s the same- I’d say that almost all of the people I know who are working as artists now are really the ones who care enough to persist.

AD:  How do you define art? What is art to you?

JMH:  An interesting thing I recently read about the word art is that the root of it has to do with the place where two things join- almost like the word “joint”, just this place where two things connect and where they articulate- where they connect and move…. I thought that was really cool.  Etymology is obviously really interesting to me.

AD:  One  of your current projects is the Fear Not project.  Can you explain this concept a little bit?

JMH:  The Fear Not Project is based on this idea: iif we were all paying attention to both looking for anti-fear messages in the media and the world around us, and also focusing on sharing those messages with each other, we would benefit.  This, rather than what I think our natural inclination is, which his to look for things that we need to be afraid of, and share that information about what to be afraid of.  I think especially in our current times there’s just so much information everywhere that I think you can end up getting an incorrect view of what the world is like.  And that’s not to say that there aren’t things to be afraid of out there, or really difficult situations, but I do think that our level of focus on fear is not only bad for us, but affects our view of other people.  It makes us more likely to be afraid of other people.  Boundaries like race, religion, politics- for those to be stronger, and more negative because of the emphasis on fear.  Part of the idea behind having people share these anti-fear words is about having them say those words- there’s a nice thing about hearing hundreds of people telling you not to be afraid.

Fear Not Library at Root Division, from fearnot.com

AD:  That’s one thing I’ve seen as a common thread throughout your work, storytelling about that larger connection to people.   JMH:  I really at the heart of it, it’s about having people connect with each other and be united in a goal, without caring about if that other person agrees with them on abortion, or if that other person shares their religion, or is a democrat, or is liberal enough, or republican enough, all of these things.  Because I think in reality the world is a much less scary place when you are connecting with people without regard for those things.  And I know that when people have been willing to connect with me, even if I know that on some deep level they may disagree with how I live my life- that makes me feel so much more inspired with everything that I do, and just safe!  It’s sttange but it’s true, that one person can actually make a difference.
AD:  People can connect to your work May 2nd to June 13th is an exhibition of Fear Not at the Red Poppy Art House (the opening reception was on May 11).
What can we expect at the exhibition?

JMH:  The ongoing exhibition will have over 150 images of Fear Not indirect mail, the hand-written part of the project where people send me written messages that I turn into magnets and put them on the street for other people to find, and the finder can report the find on the website, and also share a little bit about themselves and what they think of it.  Fear Not radio is a sound installation of people who call in to verbally assure us to have no fear to this Hotline:   1-888-END2FEAR (1-888-363-2332)  And Fear Not library is 18 of the best selling books of all time- so that includes books like the Bible, and Quotations from Chairman Mao, but also books like Harry Potter, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull- all of the text in these books has been whited out except for the words “do not be afraid” or similar messages (the Bible has 366 instances of this phrase).

AD:  What are some upcoming projects on your horizon?

JMH:  I’m currently working on a collaboration with Dr. Gino Dante Borges, who has a project called The Wild Self (http://www.thewildself.com/).  The Fear Not/ Wild Self collaboration is going to be called the Yip and Yelp project (a website will launch in June @ http://www.yipandyelp.com).  It’s about connecting with the wild part of our nature and finding a voice to maintain a connection with the animal part of our nature; embracing the uncivilized.  It will be a safe place for people to experiment with this idea.  We will have a toll-free hotline to call as well (1-888-yipyelp) where people can call in and record their wild sounds- all sounds will be anonymous.  These sounds will then be divided by location on an interactive map online.  When hearing these sounds, it will be interesting because it can bring us back to our unseparated, animal nature- like, “is that my accountant, or a the guy from the gas station?”  We also plan to do flashmob-style events to bring the wild nature of people to a public space.

AD:  How did you begin this collaboration?

JMH:  Well, I’ve done very few collaborations- not since I was out of art school, really.  This year is all about bringing more people into my art space.  Gino and I met at a show we were both in at Trickster Art Salon, and then we contacted each other at the same time, kind of serendipitously.

AD:  What is the benefit of collaboration and what is your process?

JMH:  No one told me in art school how collaborations can be important- but they are.  In collaborating with someone, you get a better sense of what you bring creatively, because of how your work can be shown in contrast to theirs.  Also working with people that closely you get to learn so much- they can be great teachers.  Gino Borges is a philosopher- he also brings an awareness of marketing and organization to the table.  I’m more timid at getting people to participate in art projects, and he’s more marketing oriented- together we strike a good balance between coaching people and being a little more aggressive, and being cautious and non-pushy.

We meet once a week at Samovar tea lounge, work 2-3 hours together and discuss, separate tasks for the week, and email throughout when needed.  I feel like collaboration has energized and amplified my work- it’s become a great deal of what I want to do with my artwork as the ideas from Fear Not Project have developed.Thanks to Jennifer Maria Harris for the interview!

Oakland Art Murmur’s Collaborative Highlights

Oakland Art Murmur, the East Bay’s first and finest first-Friday art-crawl, happens each month between 22nd and 26th Streets off Telegraph Ave.  It’s only a couple blocks away from the 19th St. BART Station, so for a SF resident it’s easy to cross the great bay divide and check out the studios and the scene.  I try to go as often as possible, especially during these balmy (windy) summer months (the crowds on closed-off 23rd Street provide for enough body heat).

Since we are focusing on collaborative artists here at Artlarking, I thought I’d give a couple of collaborative highlights of the May 6 Murmur:

  • The monster/robot sculptures of Joshua Margolis, ceramic artist at FM Gallery/Studios on 25th Street.  Margolis had some sketchbooks, pens and pencils out on a table surrounding his work, encouraging people to draw a monster or robot and have the opportunity to see it made into a sculpture:

Murmur attendee drawing a monster, with hopes it makes the cut to becoming a ceramic sculpture.

I chatted with Margolis a bit about his process, and he said he’d been making ceramics from other people’s sketches for a couple years, starting with drawings done by the kids he teaches at JCCSF. He chooses from dozens of sketches done on the spot at past Murmurs; Friday night he was waiting on the arrival of a couple of the sketch artists who would be seeing their imaginary creatures embodied in clay for the first time.   It’s cool to take their pictures with the drawings and sculpture, he said.

Some of the lucky sketches to be transformed into 3-d.

3 birds from 1 sketch

I love this idea of exquisite-corpse-esque collaborative work, where one artist expounds upon another’s work (especially across different media).

  • Another artist that touches on this same idea is Paul Nosa, Tucson artist who travels to the West Coast every summer with his solar-paneled and bike-powered sewing machine.  I met him at Dolores Park two years ago, watching his half-gloved hands weave textured embroideries with his free-foot sewing machine.  His pitch is that he’ll “sew your imagination” – 5 words of what’s on your mind turned into a patch:

Paul Nosa sews imaginations on 23rd Street.

  • A final collaborative piece with an interesting process was the photo-collages of the Counterpoint Series.  For these, Lisa Levine and Peter Tonningsenalternate and exchange the same roll of  film to take photos of the same subjects, which are then layered into colorful abstractions.

    Counterpoint series

    Photo Courtesy of Gene Anderson, ouroakland.blogspot.com

So much more to write about , including non-collaborative favorites of mine (Jeremiah Jenkins’ fantastic solo show at Hatch Gallery and Casey Cripe’s layered biological paintings at Warehouse 415), but I’ll stop here and let you get your fill in person next time.  Lucky for you, you don’t have to wait all the way until June 3- –  Art Murmur galleries are having open studios on May 21st for Murmurama, a welcome neighbor event to San Francisco’s Fine Art’s Fair at Fort Mason on that same day.  See you there!  

xo Alison

tUnE-yArDs ‘Bizness’ Shoot: the Merging of Creative Powers

In honor of the tUnE-yArD’s  playing at Great American Music Hall tonight (with Buke and Gass and Man/Miracle), I thought I’d share some of my photos and words of my experience PA’ing on the set of the ‘Bizness’ video a few months ago here in San Francisco.

(For those of you who haven’t seen it:)

I first heard tUnE-yArDs at Rickshaw Stop last May during SF Popfest.  My friend, the talented Mimi Cave (who would later direct the Bizness video), was onstage as a backup dancer and I stopped by after work to see her.  I was excited to check out a collaboration of modern dance and pop music, first and foremost. But  I remember being truly blown away by the entrancing and tribal sounds Merrill Garbus created with African-inspired drum riddims and looping tenor ukulele and vocals. Not to mention the power of the large brass section she had backing her that night.

I immediately became a fan, addicted to the twangy beat and gravelly yodeling of  Hatari. I later found myself in LA when tUnE-yArDs opened Hollywood Bowl for Buena Vista Social Club and Goldfrapp, having no previous idea how she had and would  continue to blow up the music world.  When Mimi put out a call for help on the set of the artists’ first ‘official’ music video earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity.

Music videos, and ‘Bizness’ in particular, are epitomes of collaborative work. The cast and crew on the neon-forested set included choreographers, filmmakers, dancers, art directors, makeup artists, hair artists, costume designers, directors, set builders, videographers, producers, ‘kid wranglers’… and of course, musicians.   Each person worked hard and fast toward a larger vision.  Videos like this one are a true testament to the success of creative collaboration, utilizing almost all of the art-forms that we at Artlarking are into.

Merrill Garbus getting diva'd up by Kat Steinmetz

I attended the first meeting where all parties involved in the video met and brainstormed- passionate creatives like choreographer Sonia Reiter, hair artist Lorenzo Diaz, makeup designer Kat Steinmetz, art directors Miriam Lakes and Adrian Elliot, director of photography Devin Whetstone, and many more.  Everyone came together with ideas before Garbus showed up. It was great to see specialized professionals give feedback to various areas of the production.

When Garbus did show up to that first meetup, she was most likely one of the most down to earth people there- she told me she was having a hard time getting used to the photoshoots and planning while her mind was occupied with world events and local injustices. (From an interview with the Guardian UK: “I do feel like I should be doing social justice work sometimes, but I also retain the right to say that this – my music – this is doing enough for the world.”)  She talked about what she envisioned with her video premiere. She didn’t want to lip sync, as it felt too ‘diva’/pop/fake, for example. But she amiably let the creative specialists run with their ideas.

Merrill and dancers rehearse at Autofuss

I spent the next couple of weekends at production studio, Autofuss, in Potrero Hill; and at an Chabot Elementary in Oakland helping build colorful cardboard rocks and trees, painting yellow triangles on kids’ faces, and chalking schizophrenic geometry onto cold concrete studio floors:

Art Director Miriam Lakes amongst the cardboard forest

One of my favorite kids on snack-break from a long day of filming in Oakland

What struck me about being a small part of the process of the video was the respect each person involved had for each others art form and how everyone stepped up to create a finished product that is much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Director Mimi Cave and DP Devin Whetstone

Director Mimi Cave and DP Devin Whetstone with dancers

In between filming at Chabot Elementary

The workflow on site was also an fascinating aspect: days on sets started at 7am and there was a lot of waiting around, but when it came time to get moving on a scene, all of the components and people – hair, makeup, costume, choreography, etc- came together super smoothly (thanks in large part to the serious organizational production skills of Mimi Cave).  This was especially impressive when the cast included dozens of restless 9 year-olds who had to sit still at their desks on a Saturday, and about 20 modern dancers posed in awkward positions on freezing, chalky concrete floors:

Filming in the Classroom

Chalky dancers during the stop-motion segment

Congratulations to everyone who worked on the video (that has now gone viral, indicated by its showing up on a ridiculously wide range of my friends’ Facebook walls/Twitterfeeds from across the globe soon after its release).  From that preliminary amorphous meeting to the final stop-motion editing by Ashley Rodholm (great job!), I feel lucky to have participated in what can happen when great creative minds merge on a solid project.

So looking forward to seeing the sold out show live- see you at Great American tonight, if you’re lucky enough to have gotten tickets!

-AMD

P.S. For more photos of the shoot, check out my flickr sets here and here.

Ice Cream and My Neighbor’s Art

Art is about opening up doors that seem to be closed, and exposing the unnamed and the unreachable, the unspeakable.  Collaborative art is about reaching out, about sharing, about getting rid of ego to realize we all add to each others being by that which we know needs strength. Collaborative art is about support, about community, and of course exposure.

Tonight, the window to my backyard is open. It is a warm night in San Francisco.  Warm enough to eat ice cream without a sweater on, warm enough to touch the moon that lights up the spring plum tree in bloom.  I can hear the airplanes, the sirens, dogs.  Its too late to hear children, they must have all gone to bed.

The neighbors are laughing… they must have just finished dinner. A moment ago I heard my neighbors sharing stories, and now they are singing!  The most beautiful things, the most amazing things, happen, when people come together. Tonight I wish I had someone to dance with, but for now I will listen to the voices of the people next door who enjoy what is all of ours to share… each other.  What is greater than that, truly? -Hilary