Saturday, March 14, 2020

Clean Sweep

Judith writes: 

WEAD, (Women Environmental Artists Directory) and Yolo ARTS set my Clean Sweep into motion. For an artist, the greatest reward is to have an idea, then have the opportunity to realize it. On March 10, I was rewarded in spades brooms at the Barn Gallerylocated at the Gibson House and Property in Woodland, CA .

In Women Eco Artists Dialog: The Legacy of Jo Hanson, I join forces with my WEAD colleagues continuing the work that Jo Hanson inspired. Exhibition Guide.

For years, Jo has been an abiding inspiration for my “planetary housekeeping” efforts. The iconic image of her "clean sweep" of the sidewalk in front of her San Francisco home prompted my Clean Sweep an arrangement of brooms and a colorful mess of polypropylene, nylon, braided and twisted fishing ropes collected from Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Jo Hanson was buried March 17, 2007 at the Mary Magdelena Catholic Cemetery in Bolinas (formerly Briones Graveyard established in 1853). Old tombstones dating back to the late 1800’s grace the bucolic churchyard. In the Druid section of the historic cemetery, under the enormous stretch of a vast eucalyptus tree, in a plot she had selected, she was laid to rest.

It was a scene right out of “Crab Orchard Cemetery,” the unprecedented installation she first exhibited in 1974 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Crab Orchard Cemetary
Jo Hanson was a mother, an art mother and an earth mother. In her life she showed the way to a sustainable art practice, to a definition of eco-art.
Her daily sweep of the block outside her San Francisco home and her catalog of findings is an extraordinary accumulation of trash as art and social documentary.  In 1990 at the SF City Dump (now Recology) she established an artist-in-residency program that continues today. In 1996 with Susan Liebowitz Steinmen she was a co-founder and co-producer of WEAD that lives on as an online resource and offers exhibition opportunites.
Jo has had a simple yet profound influence on my life and my thoughts about death.
In life her daily sidewalk sweep as an example of — do something everyday — in the small accumulation of actions, one can make a difference — do it right where you are — you don’t have to boil the ocean or to go to the ends of the earth: the sidewalk, the gutter, anyplace can be a site of attention.
In her death, she showed the way to a new kind of burial: direct, in the earth. So eloquent, so effortless.
Her small body wrapped in a cotton shroud laid on a plain board. There was no casket, no elaborations. After family, friends, and fans spoke about her exemplary life and her message of love, she was gently lowered into the dirt grave. Everyone helped with the burial, adding handfuls and shovelfuls of dirt.
Jo hole

Jo Hanson — an exemplar in her death as she was in life. Thank you, Jo!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Castaways: Art from the Material World

Judith writes:

Castaways: Art from the Material World  at the Bateman Foundation Centre in Victoria BC, in the historic Steamship Terminal, March 6- June 5, will cast into the forefront, issues about the fashion industry and its environmental impact on oceans and climate change. The Centre houses the definitive collection of Bateman's works, and has a dynamic program of public events to encourage dialogue about humanity's relationship to the natural world. Bateman uses the sale of his artwork and limited edtion prints to fund many naturalist and conservation causes. 

Many thanks to Vivienne Challendes for having the big vision of the concept and for curating this exhibit that features twenty women textile artists from Canada and the Americas. Many thanks to the staff and team at the Bateman who provided the gallery space and helped to facilitate the many details such a complex endeavor entails.  

It was such an honor to be invited to participate in this timely exhibition — a grand way to celebrate International Women's Day. For my Google photo album.

“Vale of Tears" is composed of hundreds of "castaways" of translucent and transparent plastic wrappers: shimmering pieces of plastic that catch the eye when tangled in the drift of seaweed are hung in the windows overlooking Victoria Harbor. The diaphanous scrim is the backdrop for my wedding dress "Forever" that is made entirely from recycled materials: white shopping bags for the dress, translucent dry cleaner bags for the shawl, pieces of white beach plastic on the trim of the skirt, tiny swirls of pink plastic bags for roses on the tiara and bouquet.​​ Mounted on a 6' pole it stands as a towering presence with my shawl spread as wings. Where the edge of the skirt circles on the floor, the 12’ diameter area has the look of seafoam that was washed ashore. My ensemble expresses the "forever" of my enduring love for my husband and the unfortunate "forever" of plastic.​

"No Room for Sand" is the title of the print of hundreds of nurdles magnified hundreds of times. Nurdles are pre-production plastic pellets. They are almost impossible to see until one learns how to differentiate them from a grain of sand or a fish egg. Once they are known, one sees numbers of them scattered across the sand. Nurdles are the raw plastic material that is shipped to manufacturers of bottles, car parts, toys, almost anything made of plastic.​​ Nurdles replace the diamonds in these two gold wedding rings along with a scatter of nurdles presented like rare jewels. Lest we forget: Like diamonds, plastic is forever.​

To celebrate the frenzy and grace of the last planetary dance Mylar balloons are scattered across the floor. Although faded and torn, the inscriptions of “congratulations” and “good wishes” are still discernible announcing “it’s party time!!!” Balloons may seem fun as they billow across the sky but when they wash ashore, they are not fun to wildlife. Hey, balloons,“the party’s really over.”​​

It was my good luck that I found my person (champion husband Richard), my place (Kehoe Beach) and this rare jewel of a planet (Earth).  

My bouquet of red and pink plastic roses is tossed to you; to everyone; with the wish that you/they find true love that includes a person, a place and this plane​​t. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Plastic Paradigm

They call themselves Next Gen. Young people who are keen to find a way to live and thrive in the San Geronimo Valley. As artists and activists they are joining together to express the issues they face: locally with affordable housing and they face globally with climate change.

We are blessed to have three of these wonderful NextGen'ers gracing our lives as studio assistants.

It was a full -house, standing room only at the Youth Climate Justice Benefit at the Woodacre Improvement Club. Amber Rose Brauer was there taking tickets. Naomi Tartarsky-Bridges was tabling for the NextGen. Anna DeBenedictis created the stage set and poster design. Plus grand-daughter Clementine (10) was with us in the audience, ready-ing herself to take her place in the NextGen NextGen.

Kudos to directors/producers Cory vanGelder and Ciarra D'Onofio for staging Plastic Paradigm and We Can't Do This Alone in a the spectacle of lights, sounds, spoken word and aerial silk dancing.

Richard writes: This painting called Forgiveness was made in 1976 and is reflective of my ambitious self, wanting, as we said, "To put my spit in the stream" —to be part of the critical dialogue. It is, in life, eight feet across. I was happy to see it used as a part of the projected backdrop for the performance, an exemplar of feelings we have; mine being "Don't worry, it's all going to work out—it's going to be crappy at times, but its going to work out in the end." Let's live our lives as though we fought the revolution and WON!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Feelin' the Love

It was a perceptive docent who noticed the mix of workshop participants and exclaimed, "beach plastic art really is for all ages!”  It was true —  working side by side, were two girls clocking in at 3.5 years and several docents at the 60+ years mark. And the afternoon continued on with folks of all stripes enjoying themselves.

A quick adjustment of our plan to accommodate some of the special participants made for very happy campers — people could post on Instagram and/or have a take-away paper Valentine. Whether it was tracing around the plastic shapes or making fanciful arrangements in pink, red, white, and purple, there was something for everyone. And everyone took the Valentine message to heart, using the materials to "feel the love" each in their own playful and creative ways. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Great Wave

When we installed our Chroma Blue at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek it was almost a year to the day (1/22/19) when Ann Trinca, freelance curator, first reached out to us about a show she was proposing that was going to be inspired by the The Great Wave, a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. She intended that the exhibition look at the power and fragility of our oceans with a section of art made from beach plastics and she was inviting us to participate.

After Ann’s studio visit and our trip to the Bedford, there numerous emails back and forth and forth and back. Several arrangements were envisioned — complicated and dense. We all agreed that given the theme that we bring out the blue. There was lots of sorting and setting the stage with our fine collection of international bottles. So on our appointed install day (1/6/20) we were ready-set with a car full of possibilities 



We like to say we work well with others and this day was exemplary. One of the great pleasures is our collaboration — the lively banter with just us and then we appreciate when our circle is expanded to include Electric Works with daughter-in-law Kris Lang who printed our Chroma Blue (big and on canvas), Ann Trinca who held the curatorial vision, the parameters and challenges of the space (curved walls) and the crackerjack installers Erik Mortensen and Jeff Cowherd. Given this expert team, we trusted that although we had decided on a plan, our display might take a turn and surprise us by ending up somewhere we had not imagined. 

Once the shelves were mounted and Chroma Blue was hung, we piled everyday objects (in blue) on the sweep of shelf. Along with the thermoplastic junk of our throwaway culture, we tossed a selection of international single-use bottles from Korea, Japan, China and Malaysia to show how the ocean currents are the great conveyors bringing debris from all around the Pacific Rim to us on Kehoe Beach. As brackets for the ensemble we hung our photographs of blue nurdles. Nurdles or pre-production pellets are the result of the fractionating process of forming hydrocarbons into easily shipped bits; in this case they were colored blue before being made into bottles, bins, or bags.

VoilĂ  —  we might now call this installation Rhapsody in Blue or maybe taking a cue from Wallace Stevens The Man with the Blue Guitar Canto XXXII

Throw away the lights, the definitions,
And say of what you see in the dark

That it is this or that it is that,
But do not use the rotted names.

How should you walk in that space and know 
Nothing of the madness of space,

Nothing of its jocular procreations?
Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand

Between you and the shapes you take
When the crust of shape has been destroyed.

You as you are? You are yourself.
The blue guitar surprises you.

We were surpised with the final result and we hope that visitors to the Bedford will be also be surprised and will find beauty in our blues.

Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts
1601 Civic Dr. Walnut Creek, CA 94596 

January 12- March 22, 2020

Monday, December 23, 2019


Dear Lovely Ones,

Fear Not 2020.
20/20 a prayer for perfect vision.

Imagine living without fear this coming year. 

Wishing you the best in 2020
and "most of all, when snow flakes fall, we wish you love…" Sam Cooke 


Monday, November 11, 2019

Good Signs in Singapore

Back in September we were lunching in San Anselmo with Doug Woodring our friend from Hong Kong. To say that Doug is a BIG thinker is an understatement. As co-founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance, he travels the world, convening conferences and cleanups. For his latest BIG MOVE — he initiated the travel from Bruges to Singapore of the Skyscraper AKA the Bruges Whale designed by New York-based architecture and design firm StudioKCA for the 2018 Bruges Triennial. 

We were doing as we always do when we get together with Doug — brainstorming about user-friendly ways to message about plastic. To deal with the tragic mess of plastic we talked about how to make the question of plastic — a puzzle? a fun game? a treasure hunt? We told him about the interactive activity we developed for the Oakland Museum asking visitors—"Can you find a piece of plastic (in our installation) and tell a story about it?"

Since writing about what we find is an important part of our art practice, one thing led to another. We ended up selecting some fun and findable items on the Skyscraper Whale then writing the text for the Singapore signs. 


This pic from The Straits Times Plastic Whale Breaches for the Sky. 

By the look on that little girls face, clearly the whale is a hit. And we hear from Doug that the signs are doing what they are supposed to do  engaging the public in a fun (and sometimes puzzling) way — causing people to stop and take a closer look. And that is a good sign.

The Whale will be on display in front of the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands until December 19 when it embarks on an Asia Pacific tour.