One of the great things to come out of working on Factory Farming as a subject has been meeting some very interesting people. I recently met with Katie Cantrell executive director of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition and SF based photographer Caroline Schiff who is working on a project to photograph and tell the stories of rescued farm animals in Sanctuary Stories. Caroline recently had a successful kickstarter campaign to fund her travels and work, and her amazing kickstarter video is well worth watching. We are working together to organize an art show/fundraiser in February 2014 and hope to bring more news soon when we find a suitable venue.
I recently also came across the work of British artist Mishka Henner who uses publicly available satellite images of feedlots in his art. Will images such as these still be subject to the ag-gag laws of Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri which make it illegal to take undercover videos or photos of farms? Ted Robertson writes that some proposals would brand activists as terrorists. I think we all have to start worrying when measures such as this are on the increase.
67 square inches, 6 x 6 inches, oil on canvas, 2013
67 square inches is the space an egg-laying battery hen has to live in for its entire life.
Art in the Park 2013
Until I received an email reminder yesterday, I’d almost forgotten that today, Saturday August 31st I’ll be live painting with about 40 other artists at Pier 27/29 on the San Francisco waterfront, as part of an Art in the Park FREE event to accompany the Americas Cup. There are no races today but plenty of sailing activity out on the bay, so lots of interesting things to paint. I saw some of the amazing craft in the competition from the Bay Bridge two weekends ago and suspect it will be a very interesting and challenging day, and allow me to catch up on the juicy details of what seems to be a rocky start fro the competition. All so very different from my first experience of sailing, which happened to be in the very UK waters where the Americas Cup first began in 1851, establishing itself with the phrase ‘There is no second.’
Soon after leaving university I went for a weekend of sailing in the Solent in the UK with a boyfriend and his friends. The boat owner and skipper of our voyage was a father to one of these friends and bore a striking resemblance to Robert Shaw in the film Jaws. He had a similar knowing look in his eye, could scream instructions like the best old salty dog and of course would down huge jugfuls of gin and tonic almost continuously. We spent our first night in Lyme Regis harbor and rowed ashore in a very dodgy dinghy not so that we could sit and watch the sunset but so that we could go on a huge pub crawl. The town has very steep streets and I still don’t know how we managed to drink so much and find our way back to the jetty, and row back in our dinghy without being eaten by a Great White. Despite my imagination running wild about never seeing my family again, the weekend was so magical that I can still remember every detail. My land legs took some time to return but the raw, red face and stark white neck I’d acquired from too much sun, an oilskin zipped up tight and no sunscreen, held on stubbornly for another week or so. Every time I think of sailing, I remember that weekend and will probably find it echoing around my head on Saturday, though the Americas Cup, Art in The Park is naturally a much more glamorous affair.
Free Lunch and an Artists’ Lounge!
Today is a FREE event, with lots of art activities for families. As participating artists we have our lunch provided and maybe coffee too, and there’s even an ‘artists’ lounge’. Such luxuries are rarely available for our usual outdoor painting sessions and so I’m determined to make the most of them, and curious to know if they will improve the end results, or simply get in the way. Updates to follow shortly …
Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica
Free Range Pigs, grazing
Cow at Tilden Park Farm
Factory Farm Beef Cattle
Factory Farm Hog
Factory Farm Dairy Cows
Factory Farm Hogs
Free Range Chickens
Free Range Chickens
Free Range Chicken
Free Range Cows
Yesterday I installed my 50 panels for the 5th annual 50 x 50 show at the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, opening on Friday 23rd August. I am at the end of what has been a grueling and emotional process. The idea is a simple one, and requires that each artist produce a 6″ x 6″ work, every day, for 50 days. The 2013 show is juried by Lonnie Lee, founder of the Vessel Gallery in Oakland, and will display work by seventy artists.
Oh my. The challenge is indeed mightier than it seems. The fifty panels are displayed in a 7 x 7 grid with the fiftieth one placed to the side, along with the usual bio and statement. The idea of doing a small piece of work every day appealed enormously at first but I always seemed to be behind schedule, did not begin on the appointed day, and probably spent too long making the whole composition make some kind of sense.
My theme is Factory Farming, and builds on work I’ve been doing at a much larger scale earlier in the year. I have to admit that I did feel uncomfortable hanging my work amidst a range of sunny landscapes and abstracts. The central panel with “67” refers to the space a battery caged hen has for its entire life – 67 square inches. I am neither a vegetarian nor a vegan but want animals to be reared with compassion and respect. If we are to continue eating meat, then we can encourage higher standards by limiting our consumption to pasture-based and free-range meat and by eating less of it. Come along to the Sanchez Art Center on August 23rd for the opening reception and download my title list and thumbnail images here: Title list
If you are at all curious about this process then consider applying next year and challenge yourself to grapple with the many questions the project might raise for you.
As an antidote to East Bay Open Studios, I ventured south on the recommendation of a friend, in order to visit Coyote Hills Regional Park for an afternoon of relaxed painting and gazing. The landscape in all directions is incredible with views of the shimmering salt flats at the end of the bay. The marshes on either side of the hills reveal exquisite color and on the very sunny day that we were there, the endless, subtle color shifts were utterly absorbing and hypnotic. The shots below are only from my phone but when I do return again, I’ll post some more serious paintings and sketches. Before we got to the magic of Coyote Hills however, we had detoured very slightly to visit a few kindred spirits of the land … who you also can meet if you scroll down.
The romance of Ardenwood
Huge swathes of the east bay were fertile farmland until the seepage of urban sprawl swallowed it all up. Now Ardenwood Historic Farm is a little oasis of heaven in Fremont, where families and children can wander at will and Thursday-Sunday visitors can chat with docents in period dress engaged in traditional farming practices and tour the house. The farm is still operating along traditional lines and at weekends this includes a functioning blacksmith’s shop, outdoor cooking and train rides.
Shakespeare’s Forest in Fremont
Ardenwood was named after the forest in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ and even had its own little railway station back in the day. We had a magical time exploring its 200 acres. In addition to pigs (who were having a mud bath during our visit), chickens, turkeys and rabbits, there are sheep and goats galore as well as peacocks and pheasant, doves and a few cows.
The amazing 4-H program
We wandered around and talked to a very self-assured teenager tending two pigs through the 4-H program. Established around 100 years ago, this organization teaches leadership and communication skills through the rearing of livestock and other creative projects. Now I know why all those teenagers were hanging out with their pigs, goats and sheep at the Alameda County Fair last year. Long may it continue.
As we left the Visitor’s Center, a mother yanked on her son’s arm “Come on!” she yelled, “We don’t want to miss McDonald’s do we?” Oh my.
But is it art?
As darkness descended and the night began Scott Stulen, the curator of the original Cat Video Festival from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, began the evening’s proceedings and the collective laughter began to roar out.
We all knew, as Stulen comments in this PBS review that ‘It’s OK to like this’ and whether it’s art or not was not the point at all. What I appreciated so much about this event is that it began with a formal institution like the Walker Art Center responding to a private and hidden fascination with cat videos. They took a risk and treated the genre seriously, engaging the public in a dialogue, curating a compilation of the material, and in the process created a popular festival model that is spreading. People love to share, celebrate and express their creativity, and they love to do it in large groups in public spaces.
My friend Rtystyk Shavers was such a great partner on the day and taught me so much about festival presence. We were manning our booth, promoting East Bay Open Studios for ProArts and doing ‘cativities’ for festival goers young and old. What a day! He is a brilliant creator of audience participation and set up a table where everyone could join in and contribute to a funky cat painting on canvas. You can see some of his own amazing work here, and catch him doing more live painting at the Oakland Art Murmur as well as the Malcolm X Festival coming up in Oakland at San Antonio Park May 18th. This painting was created by many, many hands and the calm, smiling guidance of a very generous artist.
The other ‘cativity’ was one I’d learnt as a volunteer at SFMoMA, making block prints from cheap styrofoam. If you draw a design and then go over it with a sharp pencil, you can create a printing block that lasts for a few prints, like these happy festival goers.
According to NPR 6,000 people showed up and the day is expected to raise about $50,000 for the East Bay SPCA. Let’s hope they do it again next year and if you want to check out the videos again, the Walker Art Center has a dedicated youtube channel for you!
East Bay Open Studios at the beginning of June is an ideal time to visit artists you know and also to discover some you don’t. The newly formed South Berkeley Artists group has been meeting regularly to discuss and show current work and now we get to share it with a much wider audience. Each member works to a high standard and the variety is amazing. We’re challenging visitors to make a trip to each one of the ten studios listed on our map and report back. The numbers correspond to the ProArts website map and you can also download our local map from the link below.
Download South Berkeley Artists 2013 MAP
You know it makes sense
Visitors get an opportunity to see work in progress and discover where an artist might be heading as well as seeing and connecting with the materials and methods of each artist’s approach. Buying work directly from artists can also be a sensible financial move and many in our group are happy to take commissions.
We all look forward to seeing as many old and new friends as possible during these hectic first two weekends in June.
The full list below is also on our embryonic blog http://southberkeleyartists.tumblr.com/
- Peter Baczek: Printmaking & Painting, 2808 Adeline Street, #4, (510) 841-1774, www.baczekstudio.com
- Ekabhumi Ellik: Painting & Drawing, 2112 Carleton Street, (510) 684-0970, www.oneearthsacredarts.com
- Harley Jensen: Photography, 131 Alvarado Road, (510) 917-7837 www.harleyjensen.com
- Kristen Jensen: Painting & Jewelry, 131 Alvarado Road, (415) 310-1103, www.kristenjensenstudio.com
- Maj-Britt Mobrand: Weaving & Textiles, Glimakra Weaving Studio 2728 MLKJr. Way, (510) 549-0326, www.tapestryweaverswest.org
- Fran Osborne: Painting & Printmaking, 2925 Ashby Avenue, (510) 717-8612, www.franosborne.com
- Gillian Servais: Painting and Mixed Media, 1219 Grand View Drive, Tel (510) 548-8453, www.gillianservais.com
- Sylvia Sussman: Painting & Printmaking, 2227 Parker Street (rear), Tel (510) 843-0370, www.sylviasussman.com
- Lee Williams: Painting and Mixed Media, Glimakra Weaving Studio, 2728 MLKJr. Way, Tel (510) 206-9265, www.leewilliamsart.com
- Joanne Yeaton: Printmaking (Sundays only), 2733 Alcatraz Avenue, Tel (510) 655-5612
I’m really looking forward to representing ProArts and participating in the amazing Oakland Cat Video Festival coming up on May 11th. I know it doesn’t sound like a normal event for a Saturday in downtown Oakland but you might just get inspired to go along and join with the expected crowd of 5,000, who will be celebrating all things feline and watching cat videos projected onto the Great Wall of Oakland between Telegraph and Broadway at West Grand.
You’ll have fuurrrrn
According to a piece by KQED, when the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis organized the first Cat Video Festival in 2012, 10,000 people showed up to enjoy the curated selection of internet cat videos and share the collective experience of watching them projected onto a big screen. Gems such as ‘Henri Paw de Deux’ will be shown along with many other videos that you may or may not have already seen. If you really want to cheer yourself up now, the hilarity is already available on this dedicated #catvidfest youtube channel but I’m pretty sure it will be even funnier with a crowd. Number 17 is one of my favorites.
There will be food. comedy and an aerial performance before the film show begins. I’ll be at a ProArts table facilitating cativities for all ages so hope to see you there.