All posts tagged: artists

Omiiroo Gallery art events oakland

Omiiroo Gallery in the Sweet Spot

I met Githinji Mbire in a parking lot while interviewing aerosol artist Desi Mundo in front of the Alice Street mural. I’d asked Desi who he’d recommend I interview next. “That guy right there walking by,” he pointed to a fast-moving Mbire.  Last week (unannounced) I dropped by the Omiiroo Gallery  in Oakland on a stretch of 15th street that was abandoned when I lived in the area. Now, it’s lined with art spaces and art businesses. Mbire describes himself primarily as a sculptor/painter who has also moved into film and performance. He kindly obliged a spontaneous chat. What drew you to this block? Omiiroo has been in the space about a year now. Before, we had a gallery on Franklin and 14th. One of my friends had moved in here. And one day I was passing by here as they were working on the block and I thought, I want one of these. Another day when I was on 15th, she (my friend) just opened the door and I was like “WHAT?” She happened to …

mural artist oakland graffiti

Protecting the Artist and Rejuvenating Community

The corner of Alice and 14th Street in Oakland has always drawn me in. When I moved back home to the Bay Area in 2000 I took dance class at Alice Arts Center. It was in a neighborhood I didn’t know, but as soon as I entered, it owned me. Alice Arts seemed like the heart of Oakland, and in its high flung rooms I felt I could fly. Years later when I had to move from Temescal (the house was about the collapse, I was told), I moved here instinctively, two blocks from Alice Arts, now Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts. I don’t live here anymore, but find myself in the area now and then. Recently a mural arrested me. It flashed its colors and held me fast. The first thing I thought – “Of course” and “a long time coming.” Dancer Ruth Beckford’s image rises high from the center, surrounded by the neighborhood’s historic layers of arts and advocacy. I had only lived through a shred of it, and my stay coincided …

On the left, Haig Patigian with the bust of Helen Wills and on the right, Helen Wills. 

Greatest Bohemian

Contribution by Peter Garland. Peter Garland, a native of Dublin, Ireland, became interested in San Francisco history through the statues of Haig Patigian while living in North Beach. He researched the sculptor’s life and career and for many years lead two walking tours of Patigian’s works around San Francisco (Patigian created more of San Francisco’s statues than any other artist). When Haig Patigian was six years old, he told his twenty-three-year-old mother, Marine Hovsepian Patigian, “I want to be a sculptor.” He was particularly interested in human figure. His wish would be granted, often against a background of bloody persecution and death, both for his own family and for the Armenian people. His father, Avedis Patigian, was interested in visual art, too. He was the first person in Van to take up the fascinating new pursuit of photography. When the Turkish authorities spotted him walking about photographing  the picturesque city, surrounded with tall rocks that make it look like a castle, they accused him of selling photos of the towns fortifications to the Russians. Avedis Patigian, in 1888, …

“How Others See Us”

I’ve been following the work of photographer Ken Holden since the day I saw his exhibition at the de Young Museum’s Kimball Gallery in San Francisco a few years ago. The range and potential of the artist were overwhelming, considering he was a relatively unknown fine art photographer. At the exhibition, I realized that I had seen Ken wandering the museum almost every Saturday, (I used to take my kids to a Saturday morning art class there), and shoot non-stop, visitors, architecture, and textures, but not the artwork on display. Ken was also interested in how people looked through a shattered glass windowpane, or through a raindrop covered plastic tent, or the slow environmental changes throughout the museum – through this, through that as he studied the environment. It’s hard to talk about what this artist likes. But it’s rather easy to figure out what he doesn’t like: the obvious and perfect reproduction of reality. Ken doesn’t photograph the “postcard” image. Rather, he captures what lies in our imagination on the sidelines of our vision. Ken and …

theater Bay Area Middle East Syria

ReOrient: Middle East on the Bay

Our last post, a chat with journalist Jamal Dajani, questioned the line between news and entertainment when it comes to reporting on the Middle East. This week we offer an alternative to news and fully embrace entertainment, namely theater, as a means to see the region beyond the headlines. ReOrient 2015, a festival of plays and a discussion forum, comes our way every two years. It opens September 10, bringing two slates of plays to San Francisco.  Golden Thread Productions will stage eight short plays, plays written and performed by artists from Armenia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the U.S. Filming the designers, actors and directors during their first reading brought the scope of ReOrient home for me.  Participants came with a range of prior knowledge about the Middle East and a unified enthusiasm for learning and creating art. Between September 10 and October 4, ReOrient rolls out plays, talkbacks, panels, roundtable conversations, a family show, and an Arabic folk music recital.  Chosen from submissions from across the globe, …

Congressman, can you please fix this housing thing?

I thought I would sit in the back and listen to the Congressman talk at us. I came to hear Congressman Mark DeSaulnier tell us what was up and what he planned to do about it. Sitting back passively was my idea of participation. But I’d come to the wrong event. This was the Congressman’s “mobile district office hours” which meant each one waiting in the library lobby would have a one-on-one opportunity to air grievances, request help, chat. Now I understood why the freshly showered guy next to me held a dossier, and why the lady next to him clung to a thick packet of paper with sticky notes. They had real business to discuss. I had not come to a town hall. I reread the flyer I picked up on the way in: Congressman DeSaulnier will be available to share thoughts and to answer questions on federal legislation, and to assist with issues related to Social Security, the Veteran’s Administration, passports, or other federal agencies. Well, why not? I had questions and thoughts. …

Motti Lerner: I am trying to deal with fear

Motti Lerner is an Israeli playwright whose more recent plays have been rejected in Israel, and staged only in Europe and US for dealing with controversial political issues (including Coming Home, Pangs of the Messiah, The Murder of Isaac, and Benedictus). In SF Motti Lerner’s works have been produced by Golden Thread Productions and I had the honor of taking production photographs and observing the playwright at work. A couple of months ago, Motti held a three-day writer’s workshop at the Playwrights Foundation. I had the pleasure of meeting him again and chatting about literature, his plays, Chekhov’s influence on his work, love and life in general. G.B.  How would you describe the creative process? M.L. I never use the word creative process for it, but rather, hard work. Not because there’s no creativity but because it’s mostly hard work. In writing there’s a lot of research and learning involved. Of course there’s a moment when you start creating the characters and the creative ideas come from associations, but the hard work is to choose among all …

Interconnections that spark art & audience

Last year, London native Michael French launched Aluminous, a resident theater company at The Flight Deck in Oakland. He moved to the Bay Area after 12 years in New York and in Colorado. What brought you to the Bay Area? I’ve been here five years. I came here to start a theater company and to meet like-minded people, which I’d been struggling to do in Colorado.  I said to myself, I have to do this in San Francisco, it couldn’t be Oakland. So, I got here and I refused to look at Oakland. I just had blinkers on. I’d travel into SF (from where he lived Oakland), rent these spaces, and put on theater projects. Then, one day I remember I was standing by the MacArthur BART station and I was watching all the people go in, and I saw more people of color, more diversity in the 10-15 minutes that I was standing there than I did in the audience I was attracting in San Francisco. And, finally, I thought, what am I doing? …

Path and Patterns in Art, Spirit and the City

I saw Paz de la Calzada’s labyrinth installation at the de Young not that long ago and couldn’t keep her name or the art out of my mind. By chance we went to the same event hosted by Burning Man’s Black Rock Arts Foundation in San Francisco and had an opportunity to chat a bit about her work and life. She’s doing an artist residency in Crete and will be back in SF end of August. I’m looking forward to new installations by the artist.  We corresponded by email: You have explored hair in your work. What does hair signify for you?  For me hair is an icon and a reference of the human body. I have a special interest in patterns, both in nature and in the industrial world. Hair is an organic natural pattern that I have used to create a dialogue with the urban architecture, questioning sometimes the rigidity of its forms. In this sense I have used mostly feminine hair to cover a building or to playfully engage with it. I …

Outsiders Find Home

Where is home for the outsider?  What would have happened if Duke Ellington’s right-hand man, the composer and lyricist Billy Strayhorn, went on a road trip to Isfahan with a popular Iranian actress? Golden Thread Productions joins forces with the African-American Shakespeare Company (AASC) to present the world premiere of Isfahan Blues, a new memory play from TorangeYeghiazarian inspired by Duke Ellington’s 1963 tour of Iran. With an original score from Marcus Shelby, Isfahan Blues is what might be called—to use a musical term often employed by Ellington —a “fantasia.” It aims to shed light on a little-known historical moment when a uniquely American art form inspired generations of young Iranian musicians. What would it be like for a black musician and lyricist, inspired by the life and character of Billy Strayhorn, to leave the tour and strike out on a road trip to the legendary city of Isfahan with Bella? And what was it like for an Iranian woman in the early sixties to touch a third rail in her own culture, by insisting …