Social Practice Art as a Necessary Product of a Global Means to Connect

 

In the United States, it appears though social practice art is no longer fashionable, and issues like identity and feminism have fallen out of favor. Despite this, social engagement in the United States is more important than ever, as our government systems continue to erode and our country struggles to understand our role in the world economy. Social practice and representational art that communicates and connects to a view is harder to measure than reducing Art to a particular style or a personal brand. However, if you listen carefully to the voice of emerging artists, the global tide is beginning to change. Social practice art is making a comeback.

For seven years before becoming an artist, I worked in the tech industry. While the work was not inherently creative, I learned to collaborate and generate ideas, to implement projects globally, and work in an environment of “organized chaos.” Like the Internet, the tech industry is open and generative. People are no longer confined by their location, and are free to collaborate and execute ideas on a global level. Most of us were frustrated with bureaucracy and the status quo, but we were no longer satisfied with voicing our concerns. We were determined to use our resources, build stuff, and fix it.

I plan to bring this attitude to the Art world, because I believe we need fewer restrictions and voices, and more hands to create change. I am discouraged by the status of social Art in the United States, but I am no longer satisfied with merely complaining about it. I am determined to not simply be a voice, but to be the hands. One way I believe I can be a part of the movement to mold and shape the status of Art, is to start by bringing back social relevance, because one important way Art derives meaning is through its connection with people.

In fact, contrary to what it may seem in the mainstream, I believe we’re on the cusp of a global, post-feminist movement. This is evidenced by growing list of successful international female artists such as Hung Liu, Wangechi Mutu, and Lee Jinjiu rising into the art scene and demanding global attention. In their own way, each of these women were able to rebel against their own pressures imposed on them, build upon the work done by generations of women before them, and create their own identity.

I am inspired by these women, and the fact that women across the world are finally being seen as individuals, not just a faceless, mass movement. I am excited to be join this movement because we now have the motivation and the means through technology, to connect with women across the world. I refuse to believe that Feminism was a passing fad because it is far too important to be disregarded. I believe we owe it to the generations of ordinary women who have paved the way, simply by existing, by suffering, and letting their brave voices be recorded and heard. These women put the wheels in motion, and it is now our duty to listen to those voices from the past, use technology to connect and collaborate globally, and finally, use our hands to create.

–October 10th, 2013

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Too Big to Jail

Since http://cindyshih.posterous.com/ is shutting down for good at the end of April, I guess I should start posting everything here. Not sure why I didn’t before, but so it goes…

Cool Story. So, I was feeling a bit under the weather on Monday when I finished up my latest illustration piece on an article from The Nation titled, “Why Don’t White Collar Criminals Get Equal Time?” By William Greider.  When I don’t feel quite finished yet, I sometimes post to Instagram first- which led to THE MOST AMAZING THING: Lil Wayne the Rapper liking my post!!

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Honestly, I think the whole thing is quite hilarious- considering it’s probably one of his many publicists managing his instagram account, but just in case- I told him to contact me if he ever wanted me to do an album cover for him. The offer still stands, Lil Wayne! (E-M-A-I-L-M-E)

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But here’s the finished product, which I added to a mock-up of the layout of the article, just to make it look all professional-like. The piece is supposed to be a bit vague but interesting enough to make someone want to read the otherwise boring article. I purposefully chose green on an off-white background to imitate the look and feel of money, and used imagery from the dollar bill along with the invisible hands of Capitalism framing and protecting those within it. The text reads in Latin, “Quoque Magnus Ad Carcerem” a translation of “Too Big To Jail.”


Guys! I had FOUR shows in October!

Yeah, wow…I totally killed it in October.  I wrote this big long blog post about how awesome it was, how much of a learning experience it was, and how absolutely exhausting it was, but WordPress decided to erase it. Maybe I should put more naked people in it next time.  🙂

Anyway, here were the shows (in no particular order):

  • “A Time to Reflect,” 33 Gough Gallery. Exhibition Dates: October 9th to November 27th, 2012
  • “From the Darkness Creeps,” Big Umbrella Studios. Opening: October 12th, 2012
  • “Provocations,” SF Raw at 1015 Folsom. Opening: October 25th, 2012
  • Student Exhibition at Fort Mason Building B, October 30th to November 14th, 2012

Thanks to everyone who made it out to see my work. I am so, so, incredibly grateful to have such amazing, supportive friends here with me throughout this crazy process. I just hope that I can continue to build on these small successes and just keep getting better.

Here are some photos from my shows this month:

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I was a featured artist at SF Raw, “Provocations,” October 25th, 2012. That show was a blast! Check out my photos from the SF Raw “Provocations” Facebook Album. 

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Solo Art Show. 33 Gough Art Gallery, “A Time to Reflect” October 9th – November 27th, 2012

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Group Show. “From the Darkness Creeps,” at Big Umbrella Studios. Opening Reception October 12th, 2012

Here’s a write-up they did for me!

Student Exhibit, Fort Mason Building B. (My piece is on the bottom left)

Project: Post Art All Over San Francisco = Complete. 


My First Ikebana Arrangement

Lately, I’ve been kind of obsessed with Neo-Nihonga paintings and Ikebana flower arrangements. Now, I’ve never considered myself much of a Nihongophile, but there’s something about the poetic simplicity, the clean lines, and the focus on Nature that I’m really feeling. I find that even when I try to experiment with different styles and techniques in my paintings, I always seem to find my way back to the simple, poetic, and natural. Less is more, when you have a great balance of symmetry, composition, and color.

In addition to tons of resources online, I’ve been reading Keiko’s Ikebana, A Contemporary Approach to the Traditional Japanese Art of Flower Arranging, by Keiko Kubo. For those of you who know me well, you know that I love gardening, I love flowers, and I absolutely need fresh plants and flowers in the house. I’m also have interests that are relevant to old, retired women. I’ll own that. There’s just something about living with living things in the house to make you feel centered and happy. So, Ikebana is totally the next step in my obsession with having beautiful things in my house.

I present to you, my first attempt at Ikebana:

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I took a few photos with this with my camera, but Carlos stepped in and took a picture that kind of put mine to shame, so here it is on his Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloalpz/7749939846/sizes/l/in/photostream/ It’s now a collaborative art project!  The next step is to practice my japanese brush techniques using this Ikebana still life. I’ll be working on this in the meantime. Until then…


My First Juried Show!

Conventional wisdom says that, to be considered a “serious” artist- you need to put yourself out there and enter your work into some juried shows. So, despite its impracticality of costs and effort, I went ahead and submitted my work to the CCSF annual show.

Well, I got in! Today was the opening reception, even though the pieces have been up for a week or two now. I guess they had to choose the most convenient time for unemployed artists and teachers’ lunch breaks, but the most inopportune time for anyone else— ever. So I took some pictures of some of the pieces for my lovely friends and family who have been SO incredibly supportive and awesome through my transformation to “serious” Artisthood.

Upon entering, there were three really impressive pieces. One that was called “Urban Dating” which featured a pig’s head on a woman’s body, holding a guinea pig. Not sure what the commentary was, but it was strikingly askew and well-framed.

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In the entrance was John Wehrle’s Bio and his method in curating the show. Apparently, there had been close to 100 submissions and about 30 were chosen. He mentioned that he leaned toward paintings and two-dimensional work, and a solid grasp on technique as well as a unique concept. Must have been a tough process, there were some great pieces there.

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There were a good number of people milling about, I’d say about 30-40 people at any given time. Pretty impressive, for a Monday afternoon opening reception.

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John Wehrle is the tall gentleman in the hat, with paint drippings all over his white shoes. 🙂 (Love that!)

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I was blown away by this watercolor by Evelyne Picard. She was there, and gave me her card and told me to “like” her page on Facebook. It took me aback somewhat, but I appreciate that artists are understanding the power of social media these days. Which reminds me, I need to get some cards made…

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http://www.evelynepicard.blogspot.com is her website! Why not promote the fellow artists?

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My piece was in the corner upon entering from the main area. Looked nice over there!

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Impressive photo-realist oil piece of an intersection at Excelsior.

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It was a tiny gallery, probably about 15 x 15 sq ft of space. There were about 30 pieces total:

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This one’s for the books! (And my Mom!) Thanks Adam Turner for coming by and taking this shot. And thank you, thank you for all of your support, friends. It’s really amazing to feel so much doubt and fear for pursuing something unknown, and at the same time, so much love and gratitude for everyone around me.

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Love, Cindy


Enough With the Victim Mentality, Artists.

My most recent Facebook update:
Since becoming more active in the art “industry,” I’ve noticed that it’s easier to feel threatened or be jealous of other artist’s work rather than be inspired by it. I’m guilty of it too. We all know being an Artist these days is hard, but I truly think that if we can all help each other out, we can bring about some real change to how we (and our art) is perceived.
I read this article by Alan Bamberger recently, regarding Artists’ reaction to Thomas Kinkade’s untimely death: http://www.artbusiness.com/art-artists-bigotry-hate-and-thomas-kinkade.html
I have a few thoughts on this, but many of the facets can be illustrated by the 65 comment/small novellas (and counting) responses to Alan’s FB status. The reactions range from rage to disillusionment, replete with snarkiness mangled with an air of superiority. All I could think was: Come on people, get over yourselves.
Please excuse my moment of hegemony on the soapbox for a second, and to my friends who thrive on negativity, forgive me for being slightly well-adjusted. To my own shock and horror, I actually think some ideas from Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business- How to Build Value Through Values are relevant here. This little red book was crammed down our throats at Google, and talks about taking control and becoming a player vs. a victim as an entrepreneur. It actually pains me a little to reference a business book and use corporate jargon I would love to soon forget, but hear me out- this stuff is applicable to Art, I promise.
Artists = Entrepreneurs 
Like Entrepreneurs, Artists have to take a blind faith into uncertainty. Entrepreneurs are innovative, inventive, and have the vision and passion to create. As I see start ups in Silicon Valley create companies at lightning speed, iterate, and then sell their vision to bigger corporations for a gazillion dollars, I have to wonder why artists can’t work together to do the same. I mean, Instagram and Pinterest are ART applications! Let’s get some real artists on this bad bay, and we can get some truly beautiful work out there.
And Artists, instead of tearing each other down and arguing amongst ourselves to determine who’s art is better and is more artistic than another, isn’t there something we can do together to make the art industry more relevant? There has to be a way to grow the pie. In any case, I hope I don’t change my mind about this when I’m a hugely famous artist or something, but go ahead and slap me if I do. You have my permission.
 

2 Galleries in 5 Blocks = Worlds Apart.

As we approach rainy season in San Francisco, art openings begin. April brings a fresh, ripe set of shows that finally caught my eye. On Saturday, faced with the unsurmountable choice (hint: sarcasm) between tailgating at Oakland A’s exciting opening day and about a dozen art reception openings, I chose to attend receptions for two galleries on Market Street: Varnish Gallery around 1st and Market, and the Luggage Store Gallery at around 6th and Market. I’ve heard of both before, in fact, I think I went to a swanky New Year’s Eve party that a bunch of tech people threw at Varnish for a few years back- and I heard about Luggage Store Gallery being a great gallery featuring up and coming SF artists back when I was in LA. Anyway, I guess my point is that I went to these galleries because I had some connection to them, not because I felt particularly adventurous. I assume most people go to art shows because they have *some* connection to them.

First show at Varnish was called, “The Have and Have Not Group Show,” curated by artist Lee Ballard. This show opened on Saturday, but will be up until April 28th, 2012. This one received a lot of fanfare, most notably from Hi-Fructose Magazine, featuring a nice collection of images of pieces in the show. The gallery is a cozy space tucked away in a small alleyway near Yank Sing and Golden Gate University, but it was jam packed with impeccably dressed, rockstar artist types with PBR (ah yes, SF hipsters)  and a glass of wine in hand. Image

Coming from the back door, the first thing that caught my eye were Brad Isdrab’s robot looking dudes:

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Definitely enjoyed their prominent display near the back of the room, guarding the pieces on the wall. They reminded me of those wooden proportion models I have in my studio, the kind you use to study anatomy, except these were whimsically primitive and fun.

Next, I saw Scott Campbell’s pieces, which were toward the side wall. These caught my eye because I actually own a piece by Scott Campbell I bought years ago at Nucleus Gallery in LA, I was happy to see that his work was at a reputable gallery years later.

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Next, I checked out Jon Wayshak’s pieces along the back. I was blown away at each of his elaborate illustrations. It had a decided comic book style, but his technique was more artistic and his compositions were exquisite. The pieces were both comical and horrific, the style both organic and polished. These blew me away.

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My favorite piece of the show was by Rick Berry, who I scrambled to look up after the show. His use of color, lines, and movement capture a mood and aesthetic I can only hope to achieve one day.

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All in all, great looking show with impressively high caliber pieces. No crazy adventurous, avant-garde installations- but I appreciated that. Sometimes there’s value just seeing great mixed media work without all the conceptual weirdness. There were a lot of pieces here where a serious collector would say, “Yes, that looks like it has tons of value and I would buy that,” which is more than what I could say about some other galleries. I also appreciated the fact that the show’s theme was apt, relevant to our current society, and the show highlighted the immense talent in contemporary mixed media artists today.

Next show was at the Luggage Store Gallery, called “Me and My ____.” This one was in a markedly different space, upstairs overlooking the shadier side of Market Street. I’ve been to this gallery before, but they seemed to have done some renovations to it that looks great:

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Most of the work were installations, and the space was great for it. I’ll save the critique and go straight to pictures:

This room was transformed into a crazy surreal experience of rapper saints and milagro-inspired decor.

 

This show had a decidedly different clientele, mainly grungy looking art students and musicians (possibly). I really quite enjoyed the passion the pieces conveyed, and the courageous compositions and subject matter. The space was great for cutting edge installations, and walking into each space transformed your surroundings and perspective.

Overall, very cool space, tons of great installations that made you chuckle and reflect- but seemed a bit esoteric and insular to the conceptual art aesthetic. I imagine that to most people, this gallery would be cool to check out but the work is not particularly accessible to most.