Archive for the 'writing' Category

Extent: work by Beili Liu

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

To what extent must we make? What compels us to explore a space?

Extent- Extension – Ex–Tension

There is something about filling a space.  Beili Liu, on the faculty for studio art at University of Texas, Austin, uses spaces to create site-specific installations. Upon entering Liu’s work I am filled up, but not with objects. I am filled by light, air, color, and sound that is not there, but I still hear it; a gentle vibration that occasionally waxes and wanes depending on the moray affect of the golden threads that cross the path of my eye as I descend and ascend the stairwell of Form/Space Atelier in Belltown.

Liu’s installation challenges the viewer on many levels and begs you to just be in the space and do nothing. I can’t help but wonder at the time, commitment, and passion for how she alters the space in the tender way she does. She has created a mesmerizing work that echoes the main feature of the gallery: its stairwell. Entering quietly, I felt as though I could hear the harmony of the thread, a gentle plucking harp like sound, I yearned to touch the thread and held back.

Yet there is an angularity with the sutures that hold the thread on each side of the stairwell. Stapled every ¼” or so apart, it’s as if the wall has been surgically manipulated with the tracing line of the echoed stairwell. It strikes me with a severity that is softened by the resonance in between the two sets of marks on the walls. Hovering 7 feet and 2 inches above as you descend or ascend, it’s like a gilded mirror peering into another world.

I had the honor of dining with Beili Liu and her partner Blue Way before their return to Texas. She discussed how she is “interested in working with line and tension that is the memory of line. Sometimes the work starts with the material and other times I respond to the space, in this case I was able to work with both.”

Liu works mostly with one material at a time and lets intuition guide her process. This is her 2nd piece using the golden mercerized thread and she’s created several pieces using red thread over the last three years. She shared, “I want my work to be worthy of people’s time and attention.” Taking two full days to install with Blue, he said, “She responds to process, the dominant element is the stairs in the gallery, she puts the art above the stairs, and that helps us be mindful of going up and down. If people don’t take the time, and just come in and go out, they might miss it.”

She’s excited about the process perhaps more than knowing why she made it. In a time when intention is pushed on the viewer, she is maybe asking us to just try to have an experience and then make-up our mind. Liu has created a world with new gravity, upside-down we glide on her steps, floating, clinging, suspended on our way, transcending the extension, reverberating within stillness.

Extent runs through March 13th, 2011 at Form/Space Atelier. To see more of Beili Liu’s work go to her website.





Saturday’s New Members Talk at SOIL: Process, Content and Form

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

This past Saturday I caught a ride with SOIL member Saya Moriyasu to the New Members talk. 7 of the 10 new members were present to share about their work. Each person articulated with ease about what they do as artists. I often enjoy artist talks, partly because I am an artist, but I think too, that the art can take on another level of meaning based on conversations around it. Here’s a brief synopsis of what I saw and heard from Saturday July 10th, 2010 at SOIL.

Susanna Bluhm is working on a series of paintings based on her interpretation of The Song of Solomon; also known as The Song of Songs. Her paintings are meant to create new visual representations of the biblical work. In dealing with this love story that takes place within a lush paradise, she is using a rich palette and working on abstract landscapes. She mentioned that people can know the meaning or not, and if they only see an abstract landscape that is fine. Her paintings are vibrant and flat, and on closer view deep and luscious. In the end she plans to create 40 paintings for the entirety of the project.

Susanna Bluhm

Susanna Bluhm

Chris Buening discussed his work as portraits that are often about memories. He draws and outlines with whiteout, then cuts shapes to make new forms within the topography of the surface. He also talked about using whiteout as a metaphor for covering up life’s mistakes. His work reminds me of complex explosions as seen under an electron microscope. For me his use of layering, hiding, and cutting away is both formally and metaphorically beautiful.

Chris Buening

In Cable Griffith‘s work he is inventing, improvising and exploring elements of control. He said, When do you stop? How do you organize? Both the aquarium piece and the painting are using flattened shapes, but he extends the flatness. In the aquarium, the layering of panels creates a heightened dimensional space; he calls it a thriving artificial environment. In his painting titled The Mountain, he is playing off old renditions of the Tower of Babel paintings, and commenting on what he calls the Tower of Academic Painting. It is also a playful study of space, piles, and it reminds me of the children’s book Hope for the Flowers. I think the comparison might be fitting in terms of where, as artists, we think we are supposed to go, and where we are really able to go, and accepting, creating and living life.

Cable Griffith

In general, Tim Cross uses basic materials like pencils and paper, but for the SOIL show he shared some amazing transparencies on light boxes. Each of them had to do with some type of transportation and failure. One was a plane crash the other a bridge under construction. In his work he considers breakdown, failure, and re-building, like Beuning’s work, also a nice metaphor for life. I see it as a re-use or possible expansion of materials. Tim is one of those artists who takes on the exploration of man in his industrial environment, and uses industry to promote thought and ponder the beauty, creative and destructive forces within and around us.

Tim Cross

Derrick Jefferies reminds me of the artist Tim Hawkinson. He’s interested in nature, biology and the human body. During a root canal, I wanted to watch the process with a mirror and was asked if I was either a scientist or an artist. Perhaps because we like to thoroughly examine our world, artists can be classified as scientists. In Jefferies work he layers and builds materials hoping to transform and perhaps transcend the object and image, he said, your eyes can’t grasp it, what they see is not what the mind comprehends. Some folks may wonder, “What is that?” He likes and encourages the guessing games. Often using simple materials like chewing gum and latex gloves, he seems to be making internal fleshy organs as a way to turn ourselves inside-out, and possibly create an entry into exploring some of our deepest fears about our own sexuality, identity, and humanity.

Derrick Jefferies

Curtis Erlinger‘s background in collage gives him multiple access points to glue concepts together. Using photography, painting and time-based video he makes work about the past, present and future. He discussed his painting based on an old negative his mother had taken. On the opposite wall he presented a live projection on a monitor, in between the painting and the monitor is a camera that is shooting the painting and then sending a live feed of the inverted positive image to the monitor. Erlinger is thoughtful and curious in considering the past before he was born. In listening to him share about nostalgia and the potential dangers there in, it had me thinking of my past, the potentiality of living in the present, while also considering future endeavors. I often ponder the richness of knowing where I came from and digging deep can offer treasures as well as a skeleton or two. Erlinger mentioned that he is trying to illuminate and retrace the past, and in doing so he owns it.

Curtis Erlinger

The last to share was Timea Tihanyi. Ellen Ziegler, the fabulous MC of talk, first let us know that Tihanyi had studied medicine before her studies in art. Again here’s the science and art connection. She discussed her work in relation to the physical experience of being in the body. In sculpture, there can be a multitude of variables and unknowns, she related this openness and organic quality of those unknowns to the organic quality of our own bodies. Explaining that her previous education was in neuropsychology made sense. Her sculpture, consisting of toothpicks dipped in plaster and set betweens panels of pink insulation, reminded me of illustrations of synapses firing in the brain. Tihanyi has a delicate yet powerful sensibility with materials and the subject matter. The height of her piece matching her own height; perhaps suggests a self-portrait that shows strength, malleability and fragility, like our own tenuous human experience.

Timea Tihanyi

Not present but also new to SOIL are Kirk Lang, Joey Veltkamp, and Philip Miner.

If April showers rain in May, what does the month of May bring? Great Performance Art!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Amy-Ellen FCM Trefsger in Monochromatic May at Gallery 4Culture
Queen Schmooquan in her last pre-baby show at the Can Can
AK Mimi Allin in Project: Space Available HAM, Hold All Movement

What an amazing amount of talent we have in our fair city of Seattle. The sheer exhuberance, determination, fortitude and willingness to push to the edges of wonder, humor and mystery; these ladies have it, and I am honored to have witnessed what they have to say.

Check out Gallery 4Culture while you still can and witness the documentation of three years of study in the wardrobe of the wearer of grey for an entire month. Monochromatic May ends May 27th, 2010. More info on her website: and if you want to read about my thoughts check out the studio-visit on the City Arts Blog.

Image from the Monochromatic May @ Gallery 4Culture Opening - May 2, 2010

Image from the Monochromatic May @ Gallery 4Culture Opening - May 2, 2010 - With Live models in Grey, AK Mimi Allin, Amanda May, and Darla Rae Barry.

Queen Schmooquan is a character played by Jeppa Hall. Her work is brilliantly absurd, mesmerizing, comforting, wondrous and amazing. Seeing her last show pre-baby I was reminded of the 1st Gong show at the Croc in 2007(?), before I knew her. I was a tingle, I laughed so hard, every moment I was shocked and destroyed only to be built up again by the hilarity and show(man)ship. I love the gender-bending and wit. She was gonged too soon, and to me, the judges missed the space-boat entirely. She won’t be performing for a while, but definitely check out her website, listed above.

for only $5 - an autographed Twinkie: aka Chicken Baby Food!

And then there’s AK Mimi Allin, whose performance I saw last night. We entered and were given silent instructions. I had to decipher using Morse code a series of dots and dashes and then follow instructions until all participants had been admitted. We all stood there, waving our flags with various expressions. Then Mimi shared gestures, live radio broadcasts, movement that at times was so subtle all I could do was cock my head and breathe, and other times, I belly laughed. HAM or Hold, All Movement is another testament to Mimi’s endurance, genius of study, and sheer wit and playfulness. She has another performance (with the HOLD) on Sunday May 23rd 2010 at 3pm, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and space is limited. Read more and info on how to see the performance: AK Mimi Allin.

image from AK Mimi Allin's blog.

SOIL gets to ACT out a little

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Sneak Peak

SOIL, an artist collective in Seattle, is teaming up with ACT theatre to add art installations in several of its building’s windows. Earlier this evening I got a look at the current installations by these SOIL artists: Julie Alpert, Susanna Bluhm, Cable Griffith, Derrick Jefferies, Kiki Macinnis, and Timea Tihanyi

The work is thoughtful, compelling and themed according to different decades. Each artist received a stipend from ACT. Susanna told me that ACT was concerned that they couldn’t offer the artists more money. The artists, on the other hand, were nicely surprised by the stipend. In a time when artists often do these sorts of projects for free, or pay to be juried into shows, plus the costs of materials, framing and shipping usually out weigh any sales; it’s wonderful that ACT not only collaborates with visual artists, but supports them a little in the finance department. Stunning from the inside and on the street, NICE WORK SEATTLE CREATIVES!

(all pics taken with cellphone:)

SOIL at ACT: a new and ongoing partnership
ACT (on 7th ave. between union and pike)
Kreielsheimer Place
700 Union St
Seattle WA 98101

May 6th-August 30th

reception May 6th, 2010 5pm-7pm

Are they Boot Makers? Chauney Peck and Hirata/Hashemi

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Working on the third draft of my thesis for an MFA in visual art, I continue to explore what it means to be an artist. To enter into a visual, philosophical and emotional relationship with it. A couple weekends ago I visited two art shows in Seattle, one for an artist’s talk, the other for a chance conversation.

The first was Chauney Peck‘s talk on her show Bang, Universe, Everything, at SOIL Gallery. This month she’s exhibiting new work that shares bold color, intuitive and chance constructions, dynamic possibilities with shape, line, and movement, and a deep undercurrent of meaning in relation to people, the environment, spirituality, and consumption. I viewed the show before the talk and was impressed with her use of materials and instantly drawn to certain collages and assemblages. For me, I felt compelled to look, to wonder, what were these about? The talk helped illuminate more about her process. She created Chance Cards to help with some of the decisions during composition but she also depended on intuition and her skilled eye to complete the pieces. She shared at length about the spiritual implications of giving away, of Gifting. Having read the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde, she described the intention of making, of the labor, care, and specialness she wanted to imbibe in the works, and then to give them away as an offering. Perhaps as a means to create more abundance in the universe, challenging herself to be free of expectations and wanting. The informal talk ended with questions and discussion about technology, materials use, using chance as a loose guide in making art, chaos vs. control, the fetishizing of commodities and what stories do we find that are meaningful.

Chauney Peck @ SOIL Gallery

I then walked around the block to check out the Sol Hashemi/Jason Hirata show titled Hidden Snacks, at Punch Gallery. I was fortunate that Jason was sitting at the gallery that day. He too had been at Chauney’s talk and it was nice to have shared that experience. I asked him if he and Sol would do a talk, and he said they weren’t planning to. I have been watching Jason’s work ever since an open studios at the 1426 Building on Jackson a few years ago. He’s a recent grad from the University of Washington with a BFA in photography, as his art partner Sol. Both men are working hard in the art scene of Seattle. I asked Jason how the show was going, he said, “good, some folks walk in and then walk out fast, others linger and look.” It left me wondering, what are these guys up to? People had told me about the show, “they hid snacks around and took pictures of them.” I asked Jason about it, his response was something along the lines of, “we basically hid snacks and then photographed them.” “Are these foods you eat?” “These are what we could get cheap at the grocery outlet,” he replied. We talked for a bit about the lettering on the window sign. Sol had been watching the man put the lettering up and he saw something in it and told him to stop and leave it that way. I think this was my favorite piece. In a way it states, these two men are creating and showing us the archive of a moment, a decision, a chance happening between environment and objects. Is it art? Does that translate in the images? Does it work or make sense? Can people access it and if not is it legitimate? The window sign is the most visually interesting, as was a photograph of a tomato soup can tucked in a paint rack, a sweet nod to Warhol, that I will go back and purchase (photos are for sale for $10). I also found one photograph taped to one of Jason’s hairs and then taped to the wall to be very intriguing. But overall the show left me thinking, and that is maybe better than liking a few pieces individually.

Sol Hashemi and Jason Hirata @ Punch Gallery

I am really glad that I could talk to Jason while we were in the space. Interestingly he was reading a book about the white cube gallery called Studio and Cube by Brian O’Doherty. It makes me think that perhaps what they are doing isn’t designed for the White Cube? Or even better, by putting it in there, are they creating a new challenge for the viewer? Do we have to respond visually to everything? I really appreciate the way these two communicate with each other and then share it with us, many may not understand, but I am realizing that that is not point. If there’s possibility for contemplation and conversation, I find that meaningful.

Lastly, someone recommended to a friend an art history book. Mainly, an easy to read first book, that shares about the basics in Western Art. Turns out I have the fourth edition of it in my classroom (it was used as a Middle/High School textbook at one point). It’s called The Story of Art by German writer, E. H. Gombrich. I haven’t read the whole book, but I can tell it’s references are based in the white, male, Eurocentric art realm. But it was first published in 1950, and it’s been a slow process to examine people beyond the white dudes. Philosophically he states some clear concepts in the introduction and conclusion though.

There is really no such thing as Art. There are only artists. (page 5)

The general public has settled down to the notion that an artist is a fellow who should produce Art much in the way a bootmaker produces boots. By this they mean that he should produce the kind of painting or sculptures they have seen labelled as Art before. One can understand this vague demand, but, alas, it is the one job the artist cannot do. What has been done before presents no problem for them any more. There is no task in it that could put the artist on his mettle. (page 445)

from The Story of Art published in 1950

Thankfully Both Peck and Hashemi/Hirata are not just making boots. Not to say that bootmaking isn’t a noble craft. To work beyond the shoemaker’s last, I feel gives me a stronger reason to create, discover and connect.

“Pay Attention, Pay Attention, Pay Attention,” said Kiki Smith

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Artist Lecture: Kiki Smith at Kane Hall, University of Washington, March 4th, 2010

Trying to find parking before a lecture can be torturous. My ticket was in will-call, so my friends dropped me off. Fortune would have it, that since my name falls in N-Z, I could head past several people, have my name checked, get a hand stamp and enter with all the ticket holders, 5th row, near the podium, not bad. My friends showed up and I ran to the bathroom. And who is peeing in the stall next to me, none other than Kiki Smith. I recognized her voice from videos. Her voice is very much her voice. So while washing hands, I asked, “Do you get nervous before these things?” She answered personably, “Oh these talks are fine, it’s just that they can go shitty or really great.”

It was a full auditorium, Liz Brown, Chief Curator of the Henry Art Gallery at the UW made a few thank-yous and gave the briefest introduction to the artist, who then took the podium. It were as though she was talking with us in the kitchen. She talked of being a print maker and how it can get a bad rap in the art world, about the hierarchy of mediums, and the accessibility today of the image, and its reproducibility. She talked about growing up with her father, the sculptor Tony Smith, and made statements like, “life wasn’t worth living if you didn’t make art.” and that inevitably, “it can be inherently dissatisfying, that’s why we keep going back to it.” She recommended that we pay attention, that artists can revitalize their surroundings, and see things in new ways. She said, “Creativity is given to you freely,” and later she joked, “but not all day, every day.” She suggested that we can have quiet spaces in our lives where we open up and listen.

She discussed examining meaning, turning things on all their sides, like in Cubism, ideas can exist simultaneously, they can be wholistic and conflicted. It was liberating to listen, and reassuring to trust one’s own process and just make. Probably what had the deepest impact was her sharing about being a maker, using her hands, drawing, tearing, twisting, cutting paper, making marks. That that is something we need to do. I was reminded of that tonight.

In the end her prediction at the sink was the latter of the two for me. Someone asked her, “do you always know the meaning of what you are working on while working?” She responded, “No, in the unknown we get to blossom, so blossom away.”

Whiting Tennis: Studio Visit

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

I visited Whiting Tennis and his studio on Sat Nov 21st, 2009. He has a wonderful home in the Ballard/Crown Hill area of Seattle. His decor is sparse and kitsch and the wood paneling suits it all. Just going through the foyer, the kitchen and then into the studio there seemed to be orbits of wonder circling Whiting Tennis’s space. While his home is active with wonderful items to look at, the studio is stunningly filled with drawings, objects, sculptures, old signs and crazed bits of wood. Whiting showed me several parts of projects and I became mesmerized at his focus and ability to translate his doodles into 3-dimensional visions. We talked about art making and art viewing and how sometimes when you see work that is really good, that touches you inside and sticks, you just have to go back to your studio and create. Seeing a Philip Guston exhibit in New York at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, he couldn’t make it through the entire show the first time because he was compelled to return to his studio and work. Eventually he did return to see the show in its entirety. In a way that’s how I feel about Whiting’s work. He reminds me of the wonders of using your hands in art, of actually making stuff and getting dirty. Being an on again off again musician too, I have to admit his music does something similar for me. I saw him play this past Thursday night at Vermillion, and was reminded of the same thing. Whether it’s his visual art or music, Whiting’s work inspires me to get in my studio or pick up my guitar and play. As I was leaving I noted the photo of Laura Palmer on the mantel; all the more revelatory upon the interesting planet of Whiting Tennis.

Whiting Tennis shows work with Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle and Derek Eller in New York.

to see more studio images, check the side bar on the right.



Uh, yah…it’s a Wiener Mobile. I prefer Hebrew National, but they don’t have a Kosher Mobile.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Here’s the Wiener Mobile and Rudolph chillin’ in the grass. It’s a challenge project to use the Wiener Mobile in an art project. Just beginning to play around.


Statement about new Work

Friday, December 26th, 2008

INGREDIENTS for making a photo by e. shafkind

* 1 cup memory
* 1 cup metaphor
* 1/2 cup of macabre
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose outdoor light (when possible, sometimes with a flash)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon whimsy ( i worry about that word a little)
* 1 1/2 cups candy-coated milk chocolate pieces


1. Preheat oven to the moment where life, love, and thought collide and then, even though you might not think it necessary, shake well.
2. Thoroughly cream together shortening, sugars, eggs and vacant stares.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the metaphors, memories and macabre and ponder precious moments, soon add to creamed mixture and mix well.
4. Stir in 1/2 cup candies. Mix well. Drop by teaspoon unto cookie sheets and decorate with remaining candies. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

last day of summer vacation

Monday, August 27th, 2007

megranpa.jpg Here’s Granpa and I from our trip to Italy last fall. I woke up too early this morning (like 4:30 eek) probably because I am thinking about work and tomorrow we go back to start meetings and prepping for next week, when the students return. Earlier this summer my Granpa unofficially retired. In that he still works a little, but he no longer goes into an office. But he had been doing that until he was 88. He turned 88 at the end of June this year. We experienced an amazing journey last fall with spending 3 weeks in Italy. This image is from our stay in Assisi. So this post is dedicated to Granpa, who is starting his lifetime summer vacation! I don’t know if he would think of it that way…but I like the sound of it and in certain ways, I envy him.