Thursday, August 21, 2008
marine research lab in bodega bay. The class I am Ta-ing in landscape
painting has two 3 day sessions out here. UC owns many acres (80?) of
this coastal land, where they monitor water activity, study invasive
plant species, and come up with various other reasons to place PVC
pipe and little yellow flags in the dirt, water, and rock. Standard
uniform is camouflage pants and waist-high rubber wading boots. .
Everyone looks like a slightly older version of my bio friends from
undergrad - sunbleached, tousled and happy.
Like many other california coastal retreats, bodega bay is actually a
teeny fishing town, dotted with crab shacks, rv parks, and modest
cottages. Its dubious that good coffee may be found. Up and down
highway one, there are places to blow cash on food and drink. On the
ocean, houses fronted with the large plate glass windows face the
stellar coastline. It's east to wonder who can afford to pay rent on
During daylight, we paint. Today I was lucky to have a couple hours to
get messy as well.
After the ritual of shlepping gear and setting up, Plein air is
veryfun. Health benefits include the perfect ventilation afforded by
outside air. Painting benefits are the full experience of the place-
sun, wind, jetlike pulse of the ocean, changes in view and color..
This immersion in a changing place informs me throught the day. I try
to keep making corrections- not necessarily to recreate the image, but
the feeling of it.
Ive had such a hiatus from painting due to the baby-protection
impulse, that just getting out there is exciting.
The instructor has steered students away from doing "tourist
paintings". I am starting to wonder if the pretty painting is an ok
place to start. What would it look like to do a set of tourist
paintings, and then a set that are not?
Friday, August 15, 2008
spent more time thinking about (rather than making) art. I originally
went to school expectant of technical improvements in my painting
skills. One year in, I think I understand the objectives at Davis.
Because of the diversity of media (sculpture, performance, written
word, captured image) the time there has more to do with forging a
rigorous daily practice. Advancing your field (whatever it may be) is
crucial. And "finished" product is hard to define. Is it an ephemeral
experience? A collection of discrete 2d or 3d objects? (these undergo
easy criticism.) a set of components to be assembled by the viewer. I
have developed sincere curiosity about the varied approaches to fine
art creation - displacing quick critcism of my past.
The more i look at art, it is harder to see what I can add to the
urban painting dialogue. Every subject matter feels cliché.
A small spark of enthusiasm came yesterday.
Went to Oakland and visited the roof garden of the kaiser center.
Halfway up the skyscraper, there's a great landscaped park. I sat on a
shady hill with my friend and had a picnic. Our backs were to the
small biomorphic lake. We were surrounded by the top half of the
city's taller buildings. I like how the city is abstracted here
against a foreground of hilly grass and mature trees.
Other subjects of interest- compressed back alleyways, jumbles of pipe.
Fueled by morning coffee and bagel, heading home to paint now. No
phenomenal subjects in view- just have an urgent need to work.
With a boy on the way, I've got to pick up the brush every day...
Habit must precede the little fella. Considering all the kicks I am
getting (an exciting sign) I suspect a lot of running around over the
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
that we label every jar gave me an excuse to start filling up shelves.
Also, on wall, made some white paper white with gesso to prep for
daily painting. Baby steps are needed to surpass my toxics fear before
baby arrives. Armed with good gloves, linseed oil, and new media ( oil
that acts like acrylic, and vice versa) - i need to paint every day.
Subject matter has become less compelling- so all I can imagine is
built up stroke and color. Actual practice will test my fiction.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I roll down the hill on bicycle to attend her memorial service in a park across from City Hall. Dona posters are taped up to orange cones. Visitors line up to sign into her book. The traffic din of MLK street backs all activity. I miss my old neighborhood. In the weeks since her passing, I've had time to think about what Dona gave us. I knew her from my advocacy work on smart growth on University Avenue corridor of the city. She always returned my calls and carried issues (regardless of their seeming complexity or un-popularity) to the council floor to be addressed. While most council-folks were quick to dismiss homeowners in exchange for the easy favor of large developers, Dona kept everyone at the table. Over the years, I started to see glimpse that she offered this courtesy to the wide variety of individuals, businesses, and advocacy groups in her district.
In Civic Center Park, neighbors, city reps, friends, and community leaders gathered. There was song and spoken word. Spectators clapped, sought shade under the few trees, and nodded in agreement from time to time. Recurring themes were her strength, integrity, and fair representation of her constituents.
As the speakers continued, I felt increasing admiration for the hard work she did, regardless of a difficult illness. I think of the times when I have balked under lesser problems. I feel grateful that my respect for Dona is growing now, but wish that I had understood the greater scope of her generosity and strength during the time when I worked with her.
Some highlights for me, are her approval of the pedestrian/bike bridge that marks a graceful entrance to the city, and access to the Bay Trail, her push for a Density Bonus committee (to unravel convoluted development standards for large buildings) and her advocacy for open space and city park improvements.
At the event, I saw a few friends from my years of city-meeting-attendance, and felt a refreshed inspiration to improve Central Berkeley quality of life.
Thanks for the inspiration Dona. You are missed.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
water treatment plant on the other, the road opens up to the familiar
roll and twist of grizzly peak. My most common bike route of the past,
now absorbed in comfortable foot stride. The solitude givesme time to
talk to the baby without much worry of eavesdropping or speculations
of lunacy. I wish for some of the sweet familiarity of this hilly
street to be enjoyed by our child. Will they be excited by the
abstractions of hillsides? House and yard suggested in the tops that
are visible at street level -- street pattern and roof squares forming
patterns down below. I like it more here than kensington. There is
less foliage, the grey street arcs gracefully downslope, well
complemented by green canopy and sky. It feels like city and land in