Friday, February 17, 2012

Art @ Work in DC

This month, I had the pleasure of participating in a number of workshops facilitated by Albus Cavus at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, part of the Smith Center for Healing & The Arts, in Washington, D.C. Albus Cavus -- a collective of artists who work to strengthen local communities through public art -- partnered with the gallery to bring empowerment and healing to a community affected by today's economic uncertainty. Hanging from January 13th through February 18, the Art @ Work exhibit features works from over 40 local graffiti-style artists who often collaborate with Albus Cavus, including Peter Krsko, Decoy, Jazirock, Chanel Compton, Aniekan Udofia, and Ben Tolman. Each piece is a unique commentary on the feelings behind the current US financial and unemployment situation.

The works covered a variety of urban art styles:  

To further bolster the connection between art and the local community, members of Albus Cavus led three onsite mural workshops in line drawing, stenciling, and painted collage. Over three weeks, the gallery was transformed into a working studio while more than 50 DC-area residents collaborated on a community mural. Like the exhibiting artists, we also reflected on and discussed our experiences in the current economic climate.

In some respects, life in the northern VA suburbs of DC has fared better than other areas of the country. Still, the ripple effect can be felt here. This past October, The Soundry -- the gallery/studio/cafe/boutique where I'd spent a lot of time over the past few years -- shut its doors. Our community lost a unique place for emerging artists finding their voice; for those artists to work on creative collaborations alongside more experienced artists until the wee hours; for young musicians looking for a place to rehearse; and for the public to finally learn that art isn't all about stuffy still lifes and landscapes. I'm coming to realize that, for me, art -- much like life in general -- is about risk. It's about putting yourself out there, pushing yourself to test the boundaries of your creativity, and then pushing through them. To express. To learn. Perhaps, even, to heal.

My recent mixed-media "Baby Canvases"

Sometimes, though, you can do all that -- and even more -- and still get knocked off your feet by the unexpected or the inevitable. That's what I was thinking the other week in the Stencil Workshop. So because of that, and the current unemployment rate of around 8%, I chose to work on an 8 Ball stencil. So many people these days seem to be behind the 8 Ball.

Others chose to incorporate different symbols. We also collaborated on a large stencil of Uncle Sam, and painted it to resemble the color of money.

Uncle Sam, first layer

Next layer

Community mural in progress

The following week, in the Painting and Collage workshop, Chanel Compton encouraged us to draw on our own neighborhood experiences in putting together a mini collage painting of our hometowns.

The base of my collage, inspired by life in NYC

My finished project

We then used collage and painting techniques to add neighborhood scenes to the community mural.

Mural in progress

The community mural will be unveiled tonight at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009. Afterwards, it will be donated to a DC-area school or community center as part of Albus Cavus' Open Walls project.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Walk This Way....

It's great to be back! Yes, I disappeared from blogland for quite awhile. As you know, I do that from time to time. And while I wasn't abducted by aliens, and didn't run off to join the circus -- despite my kids' best efforts to make me -- the summer left me sunburned, paint splattered, and dog tired after teaching several sessions of children's graffiti fusion art classes, only to work until the wee hours in the studio experimenting with new techniques. But I'll save the What I Did on My Summer Vacation essay for another time, to tell you about some exciting stuff.

Tonight, it's back to Art Carnage at The Soundry, from 8:00 to midnight! I'll be rolling out a new line of graffiti-inspired SHOES under the Area 718 line at this year's Material World. Along with a variety of live entertainment, the event will feature handmade fashion goods from designers like Ten East Read, Official Nice, Sweet Chloroform, It Takes All Kinds, What is Reality, Suzannah Ashley, Odd Bodkin, Lauren Jacobs, and YarnGasm!

One project I toyed with this summer was making graffiti shoes for my daughters. Another time, I'll post a tutorial showing the basics, but here are a few shots of how they turned out:

I then expanded the idea to strappy sandals, flats, and some other kids' shoes, all of which will be available at Art Carnage. Enjoy the sneak peak!

Also making their debut tonight are my handpainted graffiti belts, along with purse/backpack bling made with chain, beads, metal, wood, and upcycled sari fabric.

Want to see them in person? Catch Art Carnage: Material World tonight, from 8:00 to midnight, at 316 Dominion Rd., Vienna, VA 22180.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Warning: You Are Now Leaving Your Comfort Zone

4 a.m. at Cell Block 316

OK, I'll admit it. I may be a mom, but I'm not a nostalgic one. You won't find me weeping at preschool graduations. (It's preschool, people!) I remember my daughters' first words, but not their second, third, etc. I don't keep lace-bound scrapbooks filled with their macaroni necklaces, tickets from the zoo, or scraps of fabric from onesies that they spat up on for the first time as babies.

It's not that I don't have any maternal instincts. It's not that I don't care. While others are shedding tears over the last day of school, baking cupcakes, packing up for vacations, or wondering what to do with the mountain of classwork now piled on the kitchen table, I'm also taking time to pause. To recollect. To reflect.

A few weeks before school ended, I sat in the music room with the other first-grade parents to see our kids perform a play -- entirely in Japanese. My older daughter's school offers a language immersion program in which math, science, and health classes are taught in Japanese. Over the course of the year, she'd learned all the hiragana characters and moved on to kanji. Numbers, animals, and simple words progressed into phrases, sentences, songs. It hadn't been easy. We'd both thrown the pile of hiragana flashcards into the air occasionally out of frustration. But here she was now with her classmates, acting out the tale of Momotaro, rattling off lines I could only fumble to pronounce. There she was, jumping and twirling a hula hoop on stage, while bantering back and forth with her classmates. Weeks before that, she'd been adamant about practicing the hula hoop every night while muttering to herself in Japanese. Now I knew why.

The same week, I sat among another group of parents, this time from my younger daughter's ballet class, to watch their final performance. Because my husband had usually accompanied her to class each week, it had been awhile since I'd seen her dance. There had been a time when she'd hear the music and insist on doing her own thing, then suddenly sit down and refuse to do anything. And  here she was now, listening to and following instructions at the barre, dancing across the floor in time to the music. There she was, landing a jump that I'd seen her try at home many times before, only to fall.

No, I didn't tear up on either occasion, but I was proud of my girls. Damn proud, to see them pushing their own limits, to see how much they've learned, how much they've grown.

Pushing limits -- whether it's their own or those of their parents -- comes naturally to some kids, maybe because this is one way they learn. With adults, it's a lot harder. We get stuck in our routines, our schedules, our mindsets. For whatever reason, we don't often venture out of our comfort zones because it's simply easier not to.

But that's how we learn, too. That's why it's all the more necessary for us.

 My "cell"

And that's why I entered Cell Block 316 last weekend at The Soundry. Artists, poets, and musicians agreed to be locked down for 24 hours while they started and finished an original work onsite. On one hand, the challenge excited me. I'd chosen to work on a 24"x36" canvas; normally I work on smaller pieces. Also, I wanted to experiment by working backwards from how I usually work in terms of technique. I felt inspired to work out of my comfort zone. On the other hand, walking through the doors of The Soundry at the start of the challenge, I also felt uncertain. Many of the other artists had brought more than one canvas; I just had one shot at mine. Also, I'd planned to take a short nap earlier, but of course that never happened. It would be a long night.

So I set up shop in the classroom where I'll be teaching in a few weeks, pulled out my sharpies, oil pastels, and a stash of paper towels that my daughters and I had dyed with acrylics awhile back, and cranked up Lady Gaga on my iPod.

Awhile back, at a local gallery that has since closed, I'd attended an art reception where the artist spoke about her work. Although her name escapes me, one of her practices resonated with me. Hidden in each of her paintings, she'd said, was a personal intention or message.

So I started writing on the canvas, stream-of-consciousness style, why I choose to create art.

Next, I ripped up the paper towels and collaged them onto the canvas, then stenciled on the word "create." Collaging them took several hours. Around 12:45 a.m., when the collage step was finally finished, I realized that I'd been working for over 6 hours. Time to walk around and grab a coffee! Some snapshots of the other cellmates at work:

Then it was back to work. I decided to sketch out a peacock on one side of the canvas...

...and added some stencils and details to the tail.

After 5:30 a.m., after a few color washes, the painting was finished!

Evening Muse, 24"x36" graffiti fusion collage painting

Just before dawn, I was "released" from Cell Block 316 feeling exhausted, but also more alive than I had felt in awhile.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cell Block 316: Artist Lockdown and Art Show

Yes, call me crazy. (It probably wouldn't be the first time.) Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Maybe I'm up for a challenge. Maybe I want to run up my coffee tab even further. Or maybe I just need to get out of the house and away from my kids' (bedtime) dramas.

Regardless, I just signed up for

Cell Block 316: Artist Lockdown and Art Show

at The Soundry. Starting this Friday night at 6 p.m., I'll be joining a group of like-minded, restless, masochistic, competitive, caffeine-addicted artists who will agree to be locked in The Soundry for 24 hours -- the amount of time we'll have to complete an original work for the venue's next exhibit. In fact, the art reception will take place at 8:00 p.m. Saturday night, a mere 2 hours after the lockdown ends.

Paint? Canvas? Fiber? Recycled materials? Beads? Wire? I don't really know yet, but the result will be interesting. I'll be taking notes and photos throughout (or at least until I fall asleep in my palette), so you can expect a blog post afterwards about the experience.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

G40 Art Summit: Four Floors of Fun

The other week, we headed down to DC's U Street corridor to check out an event at the forefront of the District's urban art scene -- the second annual G40 Art Summit. Curated by Art Whino, and sponsored by vitaminwater, the monthlong event showcases a variety of genres, including aerosol art, stencil art, murals, wheat paste, skateboard art, customized collectibles, and 3D installations. Urban artists took over the former 25,000-square-foot Dept. of Transportation building on 14th street and transformed its four floors into a collaborative work of art. The event also featured live entertainment, vinyl record vendors, and live aerosol art demos outside the building.

Enjoy the highlights!

Even the stairwells were transformed...

... along with the restrooms.

My older daughter's favorite part of the exhibit was the hall of skateboards.

More fantastic mural art awaited on the upper floors.

There was just something about this painting by Charlie Owens that I loved. The original (seen here) had sold, but I was able to purchase a print. Can't wait to hang it in my studio!

G40 runs through June 17th, at vitaminwater® uncapped LIVE, at the corner of 14th and W. NW.