September 15th, 2015
I’ve gotten a bit too busy to write, but I do wish I could make more time for it. Writing helps clarify my thoughts: the act of writing forces me to focus and structure my thoughts in a way that is both challenging and necessary. Hats off to all my writer friends; shit’s not easy.
Last month, I received a letter from a highly respected Art organization in Oakland, congratulating me for being nominated by someone from SFMOMA, Jewish Contemporary Museum, Yerba Buena, or Oakland Art Museum as one of the artists selected to apply for a solo show next year.
As an artist, having a solo show is a huge milestone, but even being nominated by such esteemed organizations was a huge honor in itself. Given that I had started exploring new media, playing with textures, and thinking of new ways to incorporate my ideas, I wanted to produce work that reflected this.
What resulted was my first real foray into the sculptural– titled, Cinderflora, a series of mixed media work exploring an appreciation for decline, the rhythm of growth and decay, and the use of cracks and imperfections as sources for newfound strength. Using traditional philosophies of wabi‐sabi, ikebana, and kintsugi, it collides organic, natural forms with industrial building materials (such as cinder blocks and bricks) to explore the oft‐overlooked meanings in conventional objects. Here is an excerpt from my write-up for the show (many thanks to Henry Lien, my amazingly talented cousin, who is an accomplished artist and writer–for his help):
Establishing a balance between two assumed binaries; harsh, industrial building materials are met with natural, delicate, hand-made forms to question our assumptions around seemingly opposing concepts such as fragile/strong, delicate/harsh, beauty/imperfection,and growth/decay. Each piece tells a different story of nature waiting for man‐made obstacles to crumble, seeking fissures and cracks as a point of entry to find its path into the light.
The title of the series itself attempts to rehabilitate a reviled cliche of a female narrative. The story of Cinderella is perhaps most controversial, because it is a traditional fairytale of finding salvation in a prince’s arms. It elicits sneers from progressives as readily as floral craftwork does, and yet‐ Cinderella’s story can also be read as a tale of hard work, patience, resourcefulness, and taking advantage of opportunities as it presents itself. The alternative reading of Cinderella’s story harmonizes with the alternative reading of paper flowers; which, in turn, suggests an alternate recounting of women’s stories and contributions throughout American history.
It’s a weird feeling; to make the jump into the third dimension, but I’m very proud of this new body of work, and I feel good about my application. Now that it’s submitted, I will have to knock down my expectations a few notches. But either way, I am excited about my new body of work, and intend on furthering this series because it represents so much of who I am. Thank you to Carlos Lopez for his amazing photographs of my pieces, and for his continued patience with me while I work an inordinate amount of hours in the studio. Fingers crossed, and wish me luck- I’ll need it!
If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed the onslaught of notifications regarding SF Open Studios from me. Well, now it’s over- at least for me, but there is one more week left of #SFOS next weekend. *Plug: If you want to see some art, let me know. I’ll take you around, personally. The talent in this City is just too good to waste by not seeing it for yourself.
That said, if you read my last post here, you will know that I had conflicting emotions about opening up my private space to the public, selling my work, etc, etc. Well, I’m happy to report that that specific issue is now over, and since artists make it their business to collect observations, here are mine:
- Part of the job of an artist is never to be satisfied, perhaps with anything- ever. This goes with your own work, other’s work, other’s perception of your work, the nature of the business, the list goes on. I’m fairly certain that the crippling, heartbreaking sadness of never quite being happy is somehow an integral of your creative growth. Knowing this can make you feel like severely depressed, an awful ingrate, or just annoying to be around, because you know you might never be actually happy- even if you’re wildly famous and enormously wealthy. As for me, I choose to compartmentalize and ignore it 99.1% of the time because I’m good at doing that.
- People get it. One of the coolest, mind-blowing, and most humbling moments are when people become emotional in front of your work. This happened three separate times with three strangers, in response to three different paintings. I was stunned. One woman teared up when telling me what she saw in “Regrets Only.” Another man told me about his guilt when he saw “Lilac Wine.” When I finally asked them to explain what they saw in the painting, they fucking NAILED it. I’m not kidding, those emotions were real, and we shared it. Except that mine was outside of my body, and theirs was, well–within. From this, I gathered one of two things: 1. Maybe my art is too heavy-handed, or 2–STOP over-analyzing it already, your work actually matters to somebody. Also, don’t ever underestimate how much people understand.
- Dualities exist, and that’s the beauty of it. Being an “artist” is both simultaneously liberating as well as stifling, and the art world is frustratingly small, yet crazy intimidatingly vast. Maybe that’s why we keep coming back to it. Because in that moment where you see a piece that is so amazing and genius that you tell yourself that you might as well pack up your shit and go home because you’ll never get to that point–you realize that you’re also doing the same thing they are; that maybe you’re at the same point on a different continuum or on a different point, but holy shit–you’re all in it together. And the next time you see their work, you’ll feel infinitesimally small again, but your ego might grow ten sizes larger: because you are getting that close to something brilliant.
I’m not there yet, and I may never be completely satisfied if I ever were– but collecting these observations makes me feel like it’s getting me closer. Thanks to all that came to support me and my work last weekend, I had a blast.
The typo would be ‘paining.’
–From, Robert Hass, “Time and Materials”
I have a signed copy of this poem up in my house, and revisit it from time to time when I need the inspiration. Poetry can be pretentious, as art can be: I think, mostly because people make it loftier than it really needs to be; its really as human as playing basketball (to borrow from Hass again). Too bad I can’t do either of those very well.
I haven’t written in awhile, possibly because I haven’t quite had the physical capacity for insomnia these days–it’s been quite busy. This month is Open Studios in SF, which means every artist opens up their working space for one weekend out of the month- our protected little creative worlds on display to the public. It’s a vulnerable place to put one’s pain(t) on display, but it is also necessary to make a living.
To score, to scar, to smear, to streak,
To smudge, to blur, to gouge, to scrape.
“Action painting,” i.e.,
The painter gets to behave like time.
The layers upon layers of decisions, thought, and time we lay out for everyone to see. Sometimes I go to shows of other artists and see only beauty from pain, something I once told a friend that I felt was an artist’s superpower. It made me feel impervious to pain: Invincible, because I can spin it into beauty for the world. Well, at least I can try.
That same friend told me she never realized I was ever sad, which means I’m doing well being me, I guess. I guess I also can’t really afford to be sad these days–it doesn’t motivate me anymore. Perhaps in another time, when I’m not trying to fulfill commissions, plan lessons, train, keep drawing, teach two gigs, order prints, frame, paint, and figure out how to make ends meet.
I’m not complaining, this is the life I’ve chosen to take since I jumped off the deep-end of the grid. It helps to re-read what I wrote a few years back, about the Lonely Work. And that it is–it’s a constant push and pull of isolation and being on display, ups and downs of trying to fulfill a life’s value with something as cheap as the paper symbol of currency. What a crazy thing to want to do with one’s intellect and potential. It’s easy to make fun of myself.
What is hard, is putting on that passion aside to say, “Come see this! Here are some pieces of canvas you can buy for $___ because!” Truth is, art will never be a necessity, but it adds something inexplicable to a space. I promise. You’re not buying a defined measurement of oil on canvas: it’s a battery of human life, charged with boundless energy confined within a space.
OK, I can stop being corny now. It’s 5am, past the time to be melodramatic and time to go kick some ass. Come to my Open Studios the weekend of October 25th and 26th, or come drink with me at the preview party on Friday, the 24th from 6-9.
1360 Mission Street, San Francisco
Let’s hang out.