Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Afghanistan's Ethnic cool at the MET

Please visit Schema Magazine to read my article written while I was in New York in June.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chamisa Trail in the Atalaya Mountain

Sante Fe, New Mexico

The last plein air workshop at the Glen holds fresh in my memory. No longer in the dry heat of desert Sante Fe, I am tracing scenes from the first few days of August.

On Friday, Stephen and I partnered up and hiked for half an hours up the Atalaya Trail, with our canvas cases pinching nerve endings in our shoulders–ouch; the occupational hazard of plein air painters. The morning sun of 7:45am illuminates the land–with the heat already in the mid 20°c. Stephen, wearing an intense pink tee, refreshing to see on a 40+ gentleman, adds a foreign electric colour to the landscape. He kindly shared good painting tips and names of indigenous plants as we follow minutes-old footprints from Daniel and Joel (our instructor) leading ahead. When we finally caught up, breathing felt a little asthmatic and I became surprisingly nostalgic–I will miss life 7000ft above sea level.

Looking down on the Rio Grande valley and the city and St. John's college below, I begin a sketch on a 10"x 20" board. I started a habit of painting behind Joel because I appreciated the additional view of his in-process canvas. Joel has the discipline down–time well managed from initial sketch, colour mixing, general plane filling, and detail touchup. Never appearing to be in a hurry, Joel exudes a calm “chi” which inadvertently affects us on. He frames with patience; Paints with insistence; Speaks softly.

Good conversation flow as our brushes move persistently. In spurts, we chattered on about what we’re seeing, about other painters, about life. Then there are periods of flat silence that comfortably take place. Each of us focused, racing to secure an impression on canvas as light shifts dynamically over us.

We bitched about ants. Whether it bit us, itched us or walked up our bare limbs, the topic of ants became our collective “blah-blah” in battling the annoyances of the wild outdoors. Yet another occupational hazard of a plein air painter. Not to mention the coyotes and irritating hikers–passing by, each one repeats the same one-liner as the hiker before, “hey more of you painters, all spread out on the trail.” Joel and Daniel are kind, they say hi. Not me, I just roll my eyes.

At around 11am, we all eventually flocked back to the studio room. Our sweaty bodies lounge in a half circle. The fruit of our labor, ripe and vibrant, rest side by side on the wall. Our style or “voice”, hyper contrast each other. So unique.

Joel begins our discussion with sharing a quote by Robert Hughes. The theme of “Fully Human” of this year’s Glen Workshop reenters my mind after hearing these lines:

“Everywhere, and at all times, there is a world to be re-formed by the darting subtlety and persistent slowness of the painter's eye. We are never loose from our bodies and the re-embodiment of our experience of that world.” –Robert Hughes from Lucian Frued, Paintings.

As the last workshops draws to an end, each of us shared about our personal “re-formations” as painters. I recall Lynette (icon painter), Lisa (painter/teacher) and Liz (pastor) shared memorable reflections about the intrinsic integration of art and faith. In a group of primarily mature female painters (along with three gentlemen) I, 26, felt privileged to be a witness and be witnessed, to listen and be heard.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shepard Fairey | Civil Dis-OBEY-dience

Please read my review of Shephard Fairey's show in the ICA Boston on Schema Magazine.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

“Id quod visum placet.”

Here are some of my recent studies using oil.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Learning from tears.

The kitchen table is my island of solitude. It is here in the quietness, I sip my coffee and my sight shifts between the spring green from the kitchen window and the mutiple windows opened on my laptop. Back and forth, nature and technology.

This morning I read Makoto Fujimura's: Empathic Creativity: Generative Transformation. Mako's thoughts drove deep into the heart of an artist's role by first telling the story of Fred Danback - who fought to protect the Hudson river in NY from industrial pollution in his role as a factory custodian.

Mako points out through the story of Fred Danback, that artists need to:
  • Be willing to be demoted.
  • Remember our first love.
  • Take notes with tears.
These points conjured up painful and joyful tears as I recall my previous experience as co-proprietor of the Wired Monk, a community cafe on 4th ave. My family sold the cafe about May of this year. I have been off the floor for 5 months and this sabbatical has given me clarity and strength to look into the rear view mirror and shoulder check what I missed in the last three years. Allow me to reflect.

"Cultural stewardship comes with needed sacrifice." This sacrifice Mako speak of, we (as in myself, my family and staff) practiced with sweat and joy daily. We organized and maintained the space in which "art" was being created and performed in a safe, cozy environment. From the onset, my vision was to connect our small business with the old "grass roots" movement which Kitsilano was historically anchored in. Green Peace, David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver's vegitarian cuisin trend, to name a few examples, all hold history in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. To foster this little subculture, we declared a corner of the cafe, the "stage" and began playing music. The Open Mic Night started with our staff and friend Johnny playing all his favourite Bob Dylan tunes. We got some curious looks but people were slow to pick up our vibe. Our "keys" of humility, integrity, determination and hope for things to come that kept us going, even in financial instability. Over the span of a year, we started to get busy with closet musicians coming out of their comfort zone as well as strong singer songwriters practicing their craft. After a more months of success, we passed some of the "keys" into the musicians' hands and they became good stewarts to the community. The community took ownership and it became for the most part self-sustainable ever since(host, promoter and equipment fund were all volunteer based).

Open Mic Night.

And so we had a rotation of musicians, comedians, flamenco dancers, poets, high school recitals, political rallies, church chores, fundraising parties and threatre productions share their stuff on our "stage" (which by now was upgraded with an ol' thriftstore carpet). Full house was common as we built a reputation for down-to-earth "good local acts".

Dotted Loop jewelry launch party.

To keep a long story short, at the end of three years, we-my family and I- got totally burnt out and sold the busniess. I felt a mix of sorrow and burning anger, yet in this process of failure, I can now thankfully say that God gave me humility and health. And it is at this very moment, I remember my "first love"

I recall the "first love" of playing music at my church with people that poured their souls out in love and adoration of a Creator and Lover. The music was formed by a community of voices who believed that someone was listening and lovin' it! And it was my "first love" which forever imprinted my love for two things: 1-community 2-music.

A Vancouver Film School student named Margaret fell in love with the open mic scene here and decided to create a 7 minute documentary as her project for a class. She shared with me that her "first love" was experienced at Canterbury High where she studied music and art in Ottawa. When she discovered the open mic at the Monk, it fulfilled a craving. "We all crave comfort and creativity as individuals." I remember her saying. From a custodian perspective, I saw this craving being fulfilled in the audience clapping: in old men with long white hair, in groups of styling 20 somethings in jeans and plaid shirts, in an Olympic athlete on wheelchair, in UBC students under the glow of their cellphone or laptop, in yoga instructors, in yuppies in business suites and the list goes on.

And so with tears, I take these notes. Tears not with anger or pain, but with peace. I know with all my heart now, that my family co-created a small humble history here in Kitsilano that people will continue to story-tell about.
Angelina led joyful Christmas carols with friends and church family.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I'm off to New York and Boston in a few days! My heart is ready to explode with excitement. Part of my trip will be spent visiting my dad in Boston and celebrating Father's Day with him. The other half, I'll devote to checking out the art scene along the "gallery blocks", on college compasses as well as in church communities. Here's a few spots I'm hittin'.

The Village Church [West Village]

Resurrection Presbyterian Church [Brooklyn]
5:30 pm at St. Paul's Lutheran Church,
334 S. 5th St.
Sweet Welcome Wagon release party photos click here.

Redeemer Church
06:00pm at Hunter College - Auditorium, E 69th Street between Park and Lex

Upcoming Redeemer artist workshop:
June 26-27th 2009

"Topics will include: the "calling" of the artist, casting a vision and strategy for your arts career, marketing yourself, managing your finances, and legal issues artists face. Sessions will be led by Arts Ministry staff and other Redeemer experts, with special insights from guest artists. The registration fee of $35 covers food and materials costs."

IAM [Groud Zero, NYC]
Weekly discussion group, click here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nature to Scripture: Prunus Incisa Midori (Cherry Blossom)

My neighborhood on West Fifth Avenue, at the western tip of Kitsilano, is embedded with the dense beauty of spring. Born of March, the "Forget-me-nots" pepper the grass with spots of violet, the iris blooms bell-like instruments to ring in the new and song birds fill in nature's techno remix melodies. Across the street, an efflorescent magnolia unfolds its fuschia and pink blossoms- rabbit ears fallen all around the trunk of the tree. My eyes is filled no longer with tears but with beauty of Spring. Four months ago, this very site was blanketed with ice and snow and so too was my heart from some hard knocks.

Our neighbor's cherry blossom tree is in full bloom. I spent the entire morning marveling at its majestic beauty - studying its distinctive characters carefully-from facade to follicles. Full bloom midair, the white mass resembles a cumulonimbus on the verge of storm.

If I squint enough to omit the details, I see a million weightless white wings ceaselessly flapping against the breeze carrying a cumbersome oxidized elephant off my front lawn. I'm on drugs I say to myself.

Sketch: this act of activating lead lines with the micro muscles in my right hand while my eyes study the subject a few feet in front is a difficult undertaking. Over time, I realize my very "createdness" being with this tree. Both of us were created and loved, growing seemingly directionless webs of micro and macro networks through the changing seasons.

In sketching the crisscross diagonal lines of its countless branches, I began to reflect upon a mappings of my life, tracking it like a heart monitor. I navigate this diaspora: Diagonal dialogues. Diagonal relationships. Diagonal prayers. Diagonal city outlines. Diagonal lift-offs and descents.

I read off a website:
" Cherry trees display various growing habits and come in different shapes and forms: triangular, columnar, V-shape, weeping, flat-topped, etc."

Nature's body language, I concluded, is just as complex a system of communication as ours. Then John 12 came to mind.

"Then Mary took a pound [Greek, litra, about 12 ounces] of very costly oil of spikenard, [a precious oil, rose-red in color made from dried roots and oily stems of the spikenard plant, native to northern India] and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil."

Right in front of my eyes, this tree transformed into scripture. The rough elephant I playfully imagined earlier is now the feet of jesus: earthy, firm, cracked and warn. The pure white blossoms express the humility and pure love Mary had for Jesus - that in her poverty, she offered her most expensive possession to wash Christ's feet. The subtlety of the fragrance invoked in me an impression of what the lingering spikenard would smell like on nailed feet four days later.

A week later, after a trail of rainy days here in Vancouver, the cherry blossoms lost its glorious bloom, leaving white drops sprinkled over the lawn, sidewalk, trash bins and dashboards of parked cars.

Imagination eclipsed with the Holy Spirit that day deep within me. Insight I am learning, is sometimes about being at the right place at the right time, to be a surprise witness.