Nature and Asian calligraphy inspired AAU instructor and prolific artist Jenny Balisle to create the most striking compositions that encompass stunning effects. A large body of work that represents diligence interwoven with innovation teases us with unresolved questions on technique. The complexity of Jenny’s artistic process is juxtaposed with the simplicity of the choice of subject. Pigment soaked in layers of solvent-rich oil boasts of variation in application techniques. This very lucidity defines her artistic identity. In conversation with Jenny Balisle who taught me how to get better at what I do:

  • You are obviously committed solely to abstraction. However, some of your drawings involve repetition and meditative mark making that have dared to venture into the representational world. Does the highly personal and rhythmic quality of line encourage you to cross conventional borders in order to find expression?

My pen and ink drawings explore repetitions of line and organic forms. As a result, I explore the simplicity and complexity of gestures, marks, lines and textures. Often, viewers will observe a symbol or form from nature. As a result, the mark making of the art becomes a language of expression. Therefore, I cross borders through the viewer’s interpretation of the art.

  • I helped to display your paintings at the Faculty-Alumni Auction and I have to admit that I was completely floored by the beautiful and finely layered surfaces. Would you like to share your secrets with us?

In my latest body of work, each painting took over 2 1/2 years to complete because of the drying process of multiple oil paint and mediums layers. The secret is having time and patience on your side.

  • Photographs do absolutely no justice to your work. The composition is undoubtedly minimalistic but only close observation reveals how committed you are to your method of painting. How did your process find you?

My process has taken years to accomplish and will continue to evolve over my life. Artists have to discover what they excel at, work hard and make it the best possible within their skill set. Make art that is your own and do not copy.

  • You are extremely well-informed about the current art scene, concepts of art and have a lot to offer in class. How challenging was it for the student in you to emerge into an instructor while you juggled with the ceaseless quest to establish yourself as an artist?

. It’s very important to know how your art fits into the current contemporary scene. It helps an artist look at their art honestly. In addition, being a fulltime artist prior to teaching guided me as an instructor. To me, teaching is giving back knowledge to promising artists. However, establishing yourself as an artist takes a lifetime.

  • How does being a woman affect your role as an artist? What project have you undertaken to promote women artists?

. I proudly take the “labels” as artist, educator, advocate, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and woman. Of course being a woman has affected my role as an artist and I have been rejected based on that. However, the strength I’ve gained from these experiences provides the inspiration to work harder to produce the best art possible.Ultimately it should be about the quality of the art and I look forward to a time of equality. Even though I feel positive about the direction of the art world’s perspective towards women, progress has been slow. As a result, I’m curating and participating in a show featuring eleven women artists. The women range in ages, education and background. Please check out the website and blog: www.factorxx.com.

JBP67222252V- Jenny Balisle

JBP67222252V- Jenny Balisle

Class with Carrie Ann Plank is the simultaneous culmination of fun and the deceptive obliteration of labor. It is hard to categorize her into anything other than the ‘accomplished artist and ingenious instructor’. Dexterous and cognizant, this multifaceted ally cum tutor makes the miter saw seem less intimidating and printmaking more fascinating to me. I bring to you a demo in the hope that it might lure you into bringing her Mixed Media class into your life.

Armed with printmaking, the content, concept, and context of her work find themselves rendered through an amalgam of diverse techniques. Her approach is informed by a plethora of information and found imagery. Carrie Ann effortlessly accommodates ‘manuals, treatises, medical texts, records, and charts and diagrams of all descriptions’ to create a unique repertoire whose quest for aesthetics in atypical spaces redefines convention and confronts perception.

Begging the question - Carrie Ann Plank

Begging the question - Carrie Ann Plank

Greg Gandy created quite a stir at the Faculty-Alumni auction this year. His paintings were a popular choice and sold for the highest bids at the Live Auction. On his experience at the auction he states, “In retrospect, I am very proud to have been one amongst many talented artists in this year’s faculty alumni auction. I am especially proud that I was able to support the Academy through it’s scholarship fund. On the day of the auction, however, I was impressed with the excitement in the air about art in general. It was especially rewarding to have that excitement be due to the few pieces I had in the auction. The live auction was especially memorable. It was fun to see patrons bidding live on my piece.”

Art summoned Greg in his sophomore year, perhaps residually from childhood creativity indulgences. Greg’s quest for skill brought him to AAU and his impressive work amasses assiduous and countless hours in the studio, “I can’t put into words why, its just something I have in me. I think because it doesn’t come easy to me I never get tired of doing it. To me being a painter is like being a great problem solver. Each painting requires a new way of thinking and fixing the scene to create a successful painting. … I am in the studio just like its an everyday job. I paint from 8am to 7pm because I feel like that’s what it takes to get better.”

A recent graduate, this remarkable go-getter paints realistic, detail-oriented landscapes of San Francisco amongst other things. Currently represented by John Pence Gallery his still lifes and urban landscapes are a must-see for all.

Rainydayonmarketstreet- Greg Gandy

Rainy day on Market Street- Greg Gandy


For Garrett

His Own- Andre Hermann

His Own- Andre Hermann

Andre Hermann aspired to be a war photographer. He documents a different genre of war now, one that is highly personal, equally painful, unpleasant and concealed.
At 625 Gallery, the artist takes you on a heart-rending ride through little Garrett’s complex world as you bear witness to the most poignant moments of daily life captured on film. The photographs leave you disturbed and pensive while the film offers a closer encounter with the brave protagonist.

Andre wishes to create an awareness of the disease in question, to highlight the impact of its attack.  Epidermolysis Bullosa or EB refers to a rare skin disease that Garrett has to live with every single day of his life. The inability to produce collagen-7 protein that sticks the outer layer of the skin to its inner counterpart changes everything for everyone. Garrett is fragility wrapped in bandages, 24/7. Visits to the doctor are undesirable, excruciatingly long and painful; similar to the bandages that need to be changed 2-3 times a week with a great deal of patience and effort. You may want to question the very idea of God and unflinchingly invite cynicism into your life. If that is the case, you may have just missed the point.

The idea is not to evoke feelings of pity. Garrett is incredibly cute, popular at school, shares a unique bond with his mother and has doting girlfriends. Extremely passionate about basketball, he invites his friends over for an occasional indoor game and was even appointed ‘honorary assistant coach’ to exercise his extensive knowledge on the subject. Andre worked with Garrett and his family for a year and a half on a weekly basis to build a body of work that hopes to culminate into a traveling exhibition. It is fascinating to discover how the physical condition affects in varying degrees, not only the victim and his family but all who come in contact with it.

As viewers of an exhibition, it is perhaps impossible for us to gauge what it is to live with EB. Impact, innocence, ignorance, intensity and isolation collectively gnawed at my feet as I walked through the images. How does one start to accept pain in one’s daily routine? The element of shock is aimed to challenge the way you look and feel. Hence the artist plays the crucial role of a mediator between viewer and subject. In collaboration with Blurb Inc. he brings to us a book on the subject, the proceeds of which will partially go to Garrett.

The AAU Alumni Association will host a party for faculty and alumni at the closing reception to help raise funds for the cause on Tuesday, December 1, 2009. For those of us who cannot attend the event to gain a better insight into Garrett’s story, the book of 70 powerful photographs is available for purchase at 625 Gallery for $25.The series of photographs ends on a relatively happy note with Garrett out in the open. Check out the artist’s website and blog at www.andrehermannphoto.com

Garrett and Andre at the opening reception

Garrett and Andre at the opening reception

Amiable, talented and enthusiastic Meryl first grabbed my attention at 79 Gallery when the Senior Portfolio Show was being hung. The work was fresh, candid, promising and I was curious to know more. It revolves around the crucial role that experiences play in shaping personalities. She perceives human beings as ‘casts’ or ‘molds’, each made up of a unique blend of substances.  Her civilian medals, symbolic of an essentially unrewarded and tough human existence beckoned me.

As she states, “Three out of four medals have enamel fired onto a surface within the piece and one displays enamel in its raw form, powdered, within vials.  I like to use found objects in my small medals work to support concept and to offer visual variety; in some cases, a beautiful or interesting found object can be more visually and emotionally striking than a mass of expensive metal.  Some techniques used in the process of creation were soldering, enameling, reticulation, riveting, hinge making, framing or bezeling, decorative filing and patina.”

With an unlimited reserve of resources at her disposal, the sky is the limit. To explore the unusual, to refine, define and redefine appear to be her enduring obsession. Found objects seem to effortlessly find, tease and challenge her into expressing a visual language far removed from the norm. She reveals that installation work demands careful consideration that embodies concept, choice of material, execution and attention to detail.

Civilian Medals detail - Meryl Pataky

Civilian Medals detail - Meryl Pataky

Civilian Medals detail - Meryl Pataky

Civilian Medals detail - Meryl Pataky

Allies at the auction

First things first, the Faculty-Alumni Auction highlights are long overdue. Here goes:

  • Greg Gandy sold his paintings for the highest amount both at the Silent and Live Auction.
  • Adam Forfang came in a close second at the Live Auction.
  • Brian Blood and Carolyn Meyer did exceptionally well.
  • The overall turnout was higher than last year and most artists got a positive response..
  • 79 Gallery is proud to announce record breaking sales.
  • Love of art transcended a challenged economy.

I take a backseat this week for an interview with a group of participating artists who happen to be recent graduates and friends. I sent them the same set of questions and requested them not to cheat or to get too serious so this is what we get from Aileen Chong, Courtney Jacobs and Dan Ochoa.

As recent graduates, what was your experience at the Faculty-Alumni auction?

Aileen : Unfortunately, I woke up not feeling well. I didn’t want to take the chance of getting worse, so the best thing was for me to stay home and rest. At least, my dog Isa kept me company 🙂

Courtney : I was wondering how they were going to get all those paintings in the 79 gallery…but they did it!  Very impressive.  Also…nice catering.  Especially the mini-cupcakes.  I’d go back next year just for those…

Dan : There was a lot of work there.  I saw a lot of familiar faces and it was my first opportunity to drink a glass of wine in the gallery.

  • Do you miss school?

Aileen : Well, I’ve been out of school for almost a year now, and I feel I’ve gained more through my own experiences. I wish there was a more diverse group of instructors for the non-figurative program. However, I did learn a great deal from my directed study advisor, Jenny Balisle. What I did like about school was being a part of a community with other artists who shared the same interest. Luckily, I still have that connection with certain fellow artists.

Courtney : I miss seeing my art friends every week, and having specific assignments and deadlines to work on.  I DO NOT miss waking up at 5:30am to catch BART to the city…(I live in Pleasanton…so it’s a trek).

Dan : That is a complicated question to answer, and I struggled in the program. There is a lot of pressure to conform to the aesthetics of instructors and other students.  Overall, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to focus on my work and find my voice as an artist. I miss doing critiques with Bao Ping, Zhaoming Wu and Zin Lim. Also, I miss drinking Guiness and playing fooseball across the street.

  • What has been the most interesting aspect of your life as a student?

Courtney : I feel like I learned so much–not just from the teachers, but from all the students and seeing all their personal styles come to fruition.  That was exciting to be a part of…

Dan : I ate SunChips for lunch sometimes.

  • What are the pros and cons of being on your own?

Aileen: The pros of being on your own is that you learn and grow. It’s also good that you discipline yourself to just paint for a few hours, to look for opportunities and so on. You are your own boss.The cons are having to pay rent, bills, loans etc. without that stable income. Being an artist is not an easy occupation. But getting your work out there and knowing people are drawn to them and want to buy them, makes it all worth it.

Courtney : Pro: I no longer have to wake up at 5:30am (which makes me a saner person)  Con: paying off my student loan.  ugh…

Dan : The main con is that I have to pay back all the student loans I borrowed from the government. For the most part, I am an independent person and I enjoy being on my own. I like having full control of my work, the artists I am exposed to and the galleries I work with.

  • What have you been up to lately?

Aileen : I have been working part time, and mostly painting at my studio space where I share with 3 other artists. I have recently been picked up by 3 galleries around the end of September, so I have been busy painting away!

Courtney : I’ve been painting more abstracts…working larger, with more layers.  I’ve also had a craving to return to portraits and figures…so I’m doing a bit of that on the side, too.

Dan : I am dealing with 5 galleries right now, so I am very busy painting. I am working towards a Solo show at Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, UT for December. I have some really large works,  including a 7x5ft which took about 9 months to complete. At the same time, I am trying to develop my work conceptually.

  • Between the three of you, who do you think is the most talented. Why?

Aileen : We are all talented in our own ways. We come from different backgrounds and experiences and incorporate that into our work. Dan has chosen a direction in his work that is an extension of who he is. On a daily basis, he challenges himself on how to continue to develop his concept and imagery. With Courtney, I believe she is hard working and is constantly involved in several art shows and competitions. Her work is colorful and spontaneous, like her personality.

Courtney : Talented?  I’m not sure I even believe in that word anymore…it all depends on how much time you spend developing your craft.  Having a good work-ethic, self-discipline, with some passion and inspiration thrown in there too…  So in that sense, I think all three of us are doing what we can…(haha…way to cop out of the question, i know).

Dan: Since, I met Aileen over a year ago, I felt her work was aesthetically mature. We share a studio now and I continue to see her develop.  She has a 7x6ft painting in the break area in our studio and it is amazing. I am always impressed by her work.

  • Do you share trade secrets or compete with each other?

Aileen : Well, Dan and I are in the same studio space, so we do see from beginning to the end of a painting. He knows some of my process, but not all…thank goodness for closed spaces! But overall, I think we are all supportive of one and another.

Courtney : THEY WILL NEVER LEARN OF MY PRECIOUS SECRETS!!  Just kidding…yeah, I think we’re pretty good about that.  Dan or Aileen will tell me about a gallery where my art might do well, or a show I could submit too, we’ll go to each others’ opening receptions to support each other.  I think we honestly want to see each other succeed…unless they are leading me into a path of destruction and I haven’t figured it out yet!  In that case they better watch out.  I’m not above name-calling or sour facial expressions.

Dan : I am open with the people close to me about my techniques. However, I don’t think that it is in my best interest to broadcast them to the world. I see a lot of young artists copying the works of more established artists and I think it is unfortunate. Everyone has something unique to say. Part of being an artist is understanding yourself and conveying who you are in your work. I spend a lot of energy developing specific techniques and imagery  that support the concepts of my work. I am a competitive person but I like to see the people around me succeed.

  • What makes you friends?

Aileen : We all like to paint! And we are all pretty easy going and like to have fun.

Courtney : Um, they put up with me.  And I put up with them…

Dan : We all went to school together. We have all spent many hours at the bar, 1am in the morning, arguing about other artists, techniques and galleries. We are all passionate about what we do and I think that shows in our work. 

JM Study - Dan Ochoa

JM Study - Dan Ochoa

Attraccion Verde - Aileen Chong

Attraccion Verde - Aileen Chong

Gal1 - Courtney Jacobs

Bipperbaplybops - Courtney Jacobs


“About 16 years ago at our annual Spring Show, we were only able to give paint brushes and pencils as prizes. Other departments had industry sponsors and were able to give out awards such as computers and cameras. I had the opportunity to put on a couple of art auctions while I lived in LA to raise money for scholarships, so I asked the president if we could put on an auction to raise award money for the spring show for FA students. For this we contacted the Faculty and Alumni. It continued to grow each year until last year we had to go to a jurying process because we had 700 entries and could display about 400, Bonhams and Butterfields joined in a few years ago and it has continued to grow in popularity thanks to them and the support of president Elisa Stephens.” – Craig Nelson.

Craig Nelson and Carolyn Meyer go back a long way with the auction and were at the forefront of overseeing the event last Saturday. The response to their work at the auction was wonderful too. I personally witnessed a head-on collision between two parties over Craig Nelson’s painting while Carolyn Meyer was one of the few artists whose work had bids even before the work was displayed.

The collection this year was rife with talent. A delightful plethora of paintings mounted at the Faculty-Alumni auction  provided an unreserved juxtaposition of works by well-known and emerging artists. Several works chosen by a jury were featured in the Live Auction. The show was jam-packed with an eager audience.

Prominent artists Zack Zdrale and Adam Forfang share a lot more in common than participating in the show. Alumni and Faculty at the AAU, both winners of the most prestigious awards at the Annual Spring Show and currently represented by John Pence Gallery, a deep interest in realism and inspiration from the old masters define their work.  And last but not the least, I shared a class with Adam as a classmate and Zack as an instructor.


Against the wall - Zack Zdrale

Against the wall - Zack Zdrale

Female I - Zack Zdrale

Female I - Zack Zdrale

  • What defines your artistic background?

My training had always focused on the figure. I’ve always been fascinated with  the rendering of life in two dimensions, and the classical techniques used to do it.

  • What influenced you to be a realistic painter?

I had only worked in value with dry medium before graduate school. Never color. I wasn’t in the fine art painting program when I started. I switched to Fine Art after visiting the John Pence Gallery for the first time and seeing the work there. The gallery was full of figures, landscapes, and still life that were classically rendered yet modern.
I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to be.

  • How did John Pence Gallery happen to you?  What other key factors helped
    shape your career?

After that first visit to John Pence Gallery, I vowed to learn to paint in the same way I could draw, and get into that gallery. The morning of my final review I sent a packet of my slides there. Not to long after that I began talking to the gallery, then, there was a studio visit, and John Pence took a few paintings back to the gallery with him. I was the “Introductions” artist that year and had a solo show in June.Besides the great instructors I had at the Academy, I’ve kept in touch with a few of my old instructors and mentors. I would often call them with questions and advice. Once I was with John Pence Gallery, they took care of all the promotion and introduced my work to several collectors. Besides the actual artwork, being with the gallery is really what has shaped my career.

  • What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?

Staying fresh and inspired is frustrating at times, but it always comes. The most challenging part is painting. I enjoy it, and some days the paintings practically paint themselves, but it is often still very hard.  I never want to stop learning, or even plateau, so the bar is always being set higher.

  • You were really good as an instructor, strict but fair and academic yet open-minded. What is your most interesting experience as an instructor?

Thank you. I have to credit Mark Tennant for this. I model my instruction after his.As far as the most interesting experience, I don’t know that there is one that beats the rest. Each class is different. What consistently excites me is the improvement I see in the students that work hard and apply the concepts we employ in class. Many have no formal art training before starting graduate school, and by the end of the semester they’re doing excellent work.


Gradation II - Adam Forfang

Gradation II - Adam Forfang


UnderAttack - Adam Forfang

UnderAttack - Adam Forfang

  • You set a trend by winning the first place in three different categories at the Annual Spring Show. Tell us more…

I’m not sure what else I can say. I worked very hard, had great guidance from my teachers, and enjoyed tackling the different subject matter. It felt like the awards were a by-product of all those factors. Of course, I was very honored to have my artwork validated in such a way.

  • I was surprised to see someone as immensely talented as you, have concerns about fitting into the contemporary art scene during one of the critiques in class. Your simplicity and humility intrigue me. In the same breath, how did John Pence Gallery happen to you?

Well, I got involved with the John Pence Gallery in my senior year thanks to one of my instructors- Randy Sexton. The timing was perfect, because there was a job opening to do shipping, hanging, and eventually sales. The job taught me a lot about the inner workings of the business. During the next year, I produced a cohesive body of work (about 25 paintings) to show Mr. Pence that I was serious about being a professional artist. My first solo show was in July 2002.

  • What is your choice of objects for still life based on?

Sometimes I start with just one word in mind- and then try to compose objects or situations that will illustrate that idea. But inspiration comes from everywhere: things I read, music, or events that happen in my life. I try to communicate through my paintings, and have a distinct personal point of view.

  • I am curious to know the story behind the stunning painting titled ‘Under Attack’. How did that come about?

The title is a play on words, because the pear is covered with copper tacks. The imagery here is meant to suggest a sense of vulnerability. In my mind, I envisioned a kind of voo-doo doll stuck with dozens of pins.

  • Apart from the realism, you seem to be developing a style of your own. How would you describe that process?

“Developing” being the key word. I am constantly being inspired by the contemporary art scene- especially the more I learn about modern art history. I believe it is important to stay open minded and do something risky with one’s art once in a while. For me, it is impossible to avoid thinking about the unfolding of technology and the digital age- and the possible integration that could occur with painting. The newer process involves using my traditional drawing/painting technique to interpret and render JPEG’s unique visual language. The end result is reminiscent of Cubism.

I got to oscillate between helping Hillary Welde as she organized the auction and handling the front desk so ironically I missed every single bit of the Live Auction. I have to do some research to bring that part of the event to you but I promise to deliver more next week. Don’t forget to come back for highlights of the show and a fun interview with fresh graduates!

At work.

Hillary Welde, Director of AAU Galleries

Hillary Welde, Director of AAU Galleries

Its been a pleasure to work with Hillary Welde, Director of galleries for the past few weeks. It might be perceived as premature to form an opinion in so short a period or risky to unreservedly appreciate the boss. How does one detach from the perceived undercurrents of a personal agenda?

Luckily for you, this is a temporary phase for me so I get to take a few liberties. I work ‘with’ Hillary Welde who flatly refuses to let me work ‘for’ her. If there is any truth in the belief that the people in the highest positions are also the humblest, I seek no more proof. Months ago, I was shocked to witness Mark Tennant, Director of Fine Art Painting meticulously clean the main door of the building and proudly admit that he thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Hillary is no different when she drags a big roll of bubble wrap to the storage room or becomes an active part of every single mundane job in the gallery while she calls the shots. Whether she handles people or situations, one thing is certain. Everything is personal and yet extremely professional. Respect based on admiration is the hardest to acquire and very few have the knack of being a leader sans acting like one.

With so many budding artists popping up everywhere, we are lucky to have three galleries dedicated exclusively to us. I have discovered that Hillary has made incredible changes to kickstart new events. As she unearths new possibilities, I take the opportunity to bring to you an exclusive interview with her.

  • What was your first encounter with art?

My parents always made museum visits a priority. I really fell in love with art when I studied abroad (Paris) during my junior year in college.

  • What inspired you to enter the art world? What are the key factors that helped shape your career?

After spending nine months in Paris, I decided to pursue a masters degree in art history… I worked part time in galleries and finally landed a job as a gallery manager in Palo Alto. The gallery specialized in nineteenth century french figurative art… I worked very closely with the owner to learn all aspects of the business from the ground up.

  • What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Creating an environment that both provides learning experience/environment for exhibiting student artists.

  • What skills do you think are integral to your line of work?

Communicating with people, making art feel accessible, motivating students, engaging clients/public.
Being open to a wide range of artwork, aesthetic styles, mediums of expression.

  • How does being linked to the AAU differentiate your galleries from the rest?

Our galleries are intended to provide a learning experience for the exhibiting artist.

  • What are the most significant changes that you have made in recent times?

Bringing in a wider range of medium/departments to exhibit in the galleries… Creating shows that have a cohesiveness/grouping artists together that have a shared vision/theme/aesthetic.

  • How did the auctions come about? What is the scale of the auction this year?

Craig Nelson started the auction 14 years ago… Each year it grows in size and scale and continues to reach an even broader audience. This year, we have over 500 pieces from over 60 different artists (faculty and alumni).

  • What is the process that artists have to undergo to get a show in your gallery?

I meet with all prospective artists. We review their portfolio/body of work and discuss their vision for a gallery show. I identify the gallery that would suit them best.

  • What opportunities do you provide for the talented unknowns?

Exposure, cultivating client contacts, learning to work with a gallery, understanding the installation, promotion, selling process.

  • What advice would you like to offer to all artists?

Don’t be your own best collector… Sell your work!

Talent oozing out of storage spaces!

Talent oozing out of storage spaces!

This is the busiest phase of the year for the staff at 79 Gallery, as it gears up for the forthcoming Faculty-Alumni Fine Art Auction.The annual mega event boasts of a dazzling array of approximately 500 paintings to choose from.The gallery will host the Preview and Silent Auction where you will encounter some of the finest work on display. In collaboration with the highly reputed appraisers and auctioneers, Bonhams and Butterfields, the preview is followed by a Live Auction that you simply cannot miss! It showcases a smaller group of selected paintings and is inevitably throbbing with excitement as the competitive collectors bid and the coveted art sells. I attended the event last year and I highly recommend it. This year I am on the other side of the fence working with the staff towards a successful event. It all lasts barely for a week so make sure you fit this into your schedule!

Important dates for your weekly planner:

Thursday, November 5th: Silent Auction starts at 9am, Preview Party kicks off at 5:00pm.

Saturday, November 7th: Reception begins at 2pm, Live auction at 3pm.

The amazing event raises funds for the Fine Art Student Scholarship while half of the proceeds go directly to the artist. Come back for an encounter with participating artists and more news on the event as the week progresses. See you at the auction!

79 Gallery was a perfect start for the ‘first Thursday gallery-hopping’ with friends. 625 Sutter and a couple of detours later I can assertively offer one single tip. LEAVE EARLY! For our clique, the 688 Gallery opening reception never saw the light of day.

I had to go back the next day to bring you the latest. Be sure not to miss one of the most unusual exhibitions at the AAU galleries.  688 Sutter hosts a show organized by the Sculpture Club featuring 14 individual styles and personal statements from graduate and undergraduate students. The spirit of the club finds itself channeled into an exciting show born out of popular demand. The work ranges from jewelry to bronze casting and everything in between.

Gallery assistant Amy Vazquez reveals that sculpture is a welcome change for 688 Gallery, “Being the Sculpture Club’s first group exhibition, I think this show does a great job at demonstrating to the public the wide range of works that are being produced in the Sculpture Department. It was also very nice to see how excited the sculpture students were to have their work displayed, and their anticipation in preparing for a future show. “She further states that displaying the diverse styles was a challenging but interesting experience.

The actual physicality of three-dimensional works often calls for a tempting tactile response from viewers who steal a moment from the alert gallery representative to reach out and touch the forbidden. Not always a good idea especially if you’re considering a brief encounter with Michael Barrett’s interactive sculpture titled ‘Punchline’. An interesting take on the absurdity of life, the installation mimics a boxing ring, an environment that symbolizes the endless struggles that mankind faces. A video of the artist getting punched by a left hand glove aka Alter ego, as he attempts to paint a straight line with his right hand could save you from a first hand experience. Check it out.


Bobkidu series - Bob Carpenter

Bobkidu series - Bob Carpenter

Bob Carpenter’s ‘Bobkidu’ series creates an environment of original characters in a plot.  The artist and his ‘shadow’ or alter ego leap into life and narrate incidents to the viewer who in turn gets as deeply involved in the experience as the characters themselves. Almost animated in their appeal, the highly expressive figures do not fail to grab a great deal of attention.

A mélange of delicate materials, gleaming surfaces, roughed up textures and solid structures creates a unique visual indulgence. A personal favorite, ‘Anatomy of Kisses’, by Sonya Zuniga is as delicate as it is dangerous. Interesting dichotomy and skilled craftsmanship make this sharp-edged, welded steel holly wreath an instant success. Look but don’t touch!

A quick look at the 625 Gallery Jacquelyn Vierra and Carina Lomeli’s painting show. The former explores the beauty of nature in female nudes rendered in a representational style. In an attempt to bring classical realism to the contemporary art world, the artist paints an unconventional rear view of the model. Carina Lomeli prefers to paint her impressions and experiences in San Francisco. Drawing parallels between her personal relationships and the pace of vibrant but complex urban life, she realizes how deeply connected we really are.

Director of galleries Hillary Welde makes a special appearance next week. A super exciting event juxtaposed with an absorbing insight into the gallery world.  Stay tuned…

Identity issues

SheSpeaks - SolaSawyerr

She speaks - SolaSawyerr

I am at work, occasionally glancing at a sporty Sola as she hangs paintings up for her thesis show. It is easy to categorize Sola as a bright-eyed, pleasant acquaintance; essentially strong and  enthusiastic. Still in the process, she has already managed to lure passers-by into inquiring about her work. It fails to surprise me though. The striking black and white imagery is highly charged with universal emotion and direct appeal.

The show is an ode to Sola’s family as she explores interpersonal relationships immersed in the yearning that physical displacement creates. The unusually large format of these portraits, the archaic palette and the choice of technique evoke a sense of history that unfolds her untold story of multi-ethnicity .The process of art becomes a platform for Sola to reach out and to redefine the elusive family ties that are in fact so deeply embedded in her heart. She contemplates with poems that cradle the paintings and reveal to us a completely different facet of her personality.

At the opening reception Sola metamorphizes into a fashion statement, charming her way through the impressed audience. It is delightful to watch one of us cross over in style with a load of talent . No prizes for guessing that her parents are the proudest in the room. I was instantly smitten by a sense of nostalgia for the people I call home and the places that never cease to exist in the mind’s eye. Not to mention the countless sacrifices and  endless hours of work that are essential ingredients of a successful graduation show. What better occasion could I possibly ask for, to photograph Sola with her loved ones?

The Sawyerr family

The Sawyerr family

Opening night

Opening night

Another appealing series of multi-layered photographs by Justin Borsuk explore the American landscape. As a refreshing change, the artist deals with the identity of a place, rather than his own. Colour, texture, layers and composition team up to record a highly personal and unique moment. The layers not only enhance the image visually but bring to life the inherent emotional layers associated with the memories that each place evokes. The process creates a complex image loosely reminiscent of Picasso’s cubism; it is the portrait of a place from several different points of view, visually and metaphorically on the same picture plane.

Fox Theater - Justin Borsuk

Fox Theater - Justin Borsuk

Bowling ball - Kimberly Mowbray

Bowling ball - Kimberly Mowbray

Kimberley Mowbray’s haunting and arguably daunting photographs portray the artist’s introspective nature. Ironically she searches for answers to her inner turmoil in external spaces. Immersing herself in landscapes or man-made structures, she makes an attempt to come to terms with life and its challenges.
With the use of the traditional wet plate collodion process and a pinhole camera the artist intermittently transforms herself into a ghostly apparition. Some landscapes are not shy to absorb her existence while others let her emerge into a distinct being. These effects add greater significance and mystery to her work. It gives the viewer a sense of clear intent and yet leaves adequate room for interpretation.

It is interestingly coincidental that all the three artists at the 79 Gallery this month, share a sense of history and exploration of roots in their work. I take you on a tour of another AAU gallery next week. Are you ready?

Amplified abstracts.

Ashley Adams

Ashley Adams canyoneering near Zion National Park in Utah, to get to a location to shoot. "We had to repel down into water filled canyons; it was a blast!"

I  have been looking at some super interesting student work at the 79 Gallery. Best described as modern and organic, Ashley Adam’s photographs grab you instantly and keep you speculating until curiosity gets the better of you. I took refuge in the titles to discern her journey through a seemingly concealed world, easier to ignore than to capture.

Floating through the images of magnified surprises from nature, I thoroughly  enjoyed the guessing game that inevitably followed.  An interview was due because I was intrigued.  Her work  reflects my own fascination for nature and affinity for abstract art.

  • Why did you choose photography as your medium of expression?

I have loved photography since I was a little girl. I can still remember hiking along the Appalachian Trail with my dad when I was nine and constantly stopping to take photos of nature.  I love being outside in the natural world and photography allows me to share what I see with others.

  • Do you plan your images? I am curious to know if the naked eye can anticipate the impact that your photographs make.

I have never been able to plan my abstracts.  They are sometimes incredibly hard to find while others times I have gotten four in one day. I have had to train my eye to look for the unexpected. I will be hiking in the woods and something catches my eye and I have to stop.

  • Your choice of scale challenges one’s perception of nature and forces the viewer into undiscovered or unexpected spaces. How did that come about?

From the beginning, my main priority has been to play with line, texture, color, and scale. I feel that most people that shoot abstracts only shoot macro photography: I did not want to fall into that category.  Plus, I have a lot of different lens: everything from a wide angle to a 400 mm zoom and my thought process is that I should use all the tools that are at my disposal. I think it is so much fun to play with perspective, it gives more of a wow factor when people really finally realize that the image is not just another close-up macro shot.  I like seeing people’s expressions when I tell them the rock they are looking at is a 30ft section or that the Ruth glacier image is actually a 2 mile cross section that I took out of a three person prop plane.

  • Does the brilliant sense of colour that is integral to your abstract photographs require the use of additional or specific chemical processes?

No. I shoot completely digitally.  For me I think there is no reason to add colors, textures or lines to my photographs. Mother Nature gives us enough beauty to look at and find: there is no reason to tamper with it. I use water and light to my advantage to get the colors you see.  There was one time I was shooting in the eastern sierras in November and it was the first snow of the season. When I was photographing in a birch tree forest I noticed this huge boulder and it had the most amazing colors I had seen on a rock before, the reason that there was such vibrant colors was because the rock was too warm for the snow to stick to and it just wet the entire boulder bringing out the color underneath.

  • Does your work involve a lot of traveling? Where has work taken you so far?

I am very fortunate that my work takes me to some of the most beautiful places in the world. As much as possible I pack the back of my pickup with gear and supplies and go camping and shoot. I usually stay in California because there is so much diversity here, but I have also been able to travel to Oregon, Utah, Colorado as well as Alaska, Bermuda, and Europe.

  • I love the sense of abstraction that comes inevitably from your choice of scale. Are you inspired by abstract artists?

Yes, one of my inspirations is Mark Chadwick. He is an amazing abstract painter out of the UK. I feel that his work has the vibrant color and lines that my work has. It is truly beautiful and inspirational.

  • What motivates you the most?

For me my motivation absolutely comes from my passion for the outside world. I love sharing the beauty I find with others and show them that Mother Earth is the original abstract artist.   By looking at nature in a new way, I also hope to give them a new appreciation for it.

Can you guess which enlarged environments these abstracts originated from? Cheat code : Roll mouse over image.

Abalone Shell - Ashley Adams Artist Palatte - Ashley Adams

Ice - Ashley Adams Kelp - Ashley Adams

Redwood Bark - Ashley Adams Ruth GLacier - Ashley Adams

I also recommend checking out Mark Elliott’s versatile figure paintings and Linda Olafsdottir’s carefully rendered dreamy illustrations.

On the agenda at 79 Gallery  next week is Sola Sawyer’s graduation show. I have met Sola a million times outside our studios and exchanged pleasantries but rarely ventured into her studio for a sneak peak. The opening reception on Thursday October 1, promises to unveil her paintings juxtaposed with some photography. Be there!

L’art et le vin.

Last Tuesday 79 Gallery bore witness to the beauty and hospitality of the lush DeLoach vineyards.  The opening reception of the AAU faculty and alumni plein air event drew in an impressive and eclectic audience. President Elisa Stephens graced the occasion with a brief appearance.

L’Art et Le Vin’ is a week-long exhibition displaying some of the finest impressions of the two day art event hosted by the DeLoach vineyards a short while ago.  Some artists painted on location while others found expression in sculpture, photography, installation and jewelry making.

The evening was a veritable delight as I wove my way through the amazing art of over thirty artists and engaging conversations. The verdict was unanimously in favour of the exquisite DeLoach wine served and the art displayed at the venue.

Expect to see unusual surfaces such as wine barrels that capture the stunning beauty of the vineyards and Carolyn Meyer’s signature cigar boxes that don thick and creamy pigments. Kelsey Simmen encapsulates her memories in gorgeous pendants and Margo Musser indulges in meditative sculptures of natural objects that bring the vineyards physically closer to us. A significant group has found inspiration in the animals at the organic farms. A large clay sculpture, ‘Earth and Sky’ by Peter Schifrin explores the interconnection between man, land and sky.

VINE TO VEIN - Kyle Silber

VINE TO VEIN - Kyle Silber

Kyle Silber’s tongue-in-cheek installation features an I.V stand tailor-made to suit the winos! Aptly titled ‘Vine to vein’, this service apparatus with 18 gage catheter needles boasts of providing both white and red wine to the unsuspecting spectator.  The device with two coloured glass bottles swings between utility and aesthetics wooing a duo into a tempting experience of bonding over wine. The connection between human interaction, art and multiplicity of meaning is important to the artist. Simply plug in the device that doubles up as a lamp if wine is not your thing!



I bring to you participating artist Anna Nelson’s views on sharing her life and art with Craig Nelson. This accomplished artist couple that needs no introduction has made a wonderful contribution to the show.

•    How did you meet?
Craig was my teacher at Art Center College of Design for an illustration class my third term.  I was totally amazed with his energy level and continue to be amazed by it now….it happens to be our 27th anniversary today.

•    How do you relate to each others work?
I am always impressed with Craig’s work, truly… going in and out of the studio and watching how quickly he can create what I feel is magical on canvas is inspiring.  According to Craig, I’m too critical about my own work and too positive about his work.

•    How was your experience at the DeLoach vineyards?  Did you paint together?
We had a blast at De Loach painting in the vineyards and on the property…we were in separate locations as we found things that inspired us in different areas.  It was so much fun to see so many artists creating and soaking in the inspiration surrounding us…not to mention enjoying and appreciating Jean Charles energy and enthusiasm.

•    Have you ever collaborated with each other to create art?
We discuss ideas and concepts all the time and offer suggestions here and there…it’s a lot of fun!  It’s nice when we travel because we appreciate and notice similar scenes that inspire both of us.

•    What is the most significant difference between you as artists?
Craig does more figure work, incorporating the figure into his compositions and he will work on a much larger scale.  He doesn’t generally do still life paintings and I enjoy them very much.  We both like to paint on location and have painted in Italy, Mendocino, Sonoma County and Lake Tahoe together.



And last but not the least, Jeremy Mann whose admirable work and super speedy growth as a successful artist reflect the aspirations of most students at the AAU.

•    What is the story behind your art?
I’m searching for ways to bring my painting closer to a desired state of emotion.  Not necessarily a story or dialogue, but moreover a permanent emotional icon.  I’m less concerned with the characters of the story portrayed and bring attention to the enduring state one might experience at the end of a good book.

•    How would you describe your artistic process?
Just referring to the steps I take to paint an image, its all over the board, as it should be I believe.  I’ve been systematic in my approaches and whenever I become too aware of that I experiment and adapt to new tools, styles, gestures, etc in order to keep the work fresh.  I study from plein air painting often in order to grasp the true qualities of light which cannot be found in work done only from photographs in a studio.  Everyday is an experience, and each one different, which helps destroy the development of a single process lest the artist, and his work, becomes boring and meaningless.  I try to be constantly aware of the transient nature of things, of light, of movement, of moods, etc. during life in order to replicate those things truthfully in my work.

•    3) You have a distinct sense of colour. What do you owe your personal palette to?
No idea.  I can say I have a great enjoyment of the tonalist painters, the early impressionists, old photographers, etc. most of which use a muted harmonious color palette which I most likely am inadvertently trying to replicate with a uniquely personal color choice.  I’ve conditioned my palette over the years to better achieve and accustom myself toward those color schemes, but from where does this decision originates is probably beyond a paragraph of discussion.  In short, from melancholy.

•    You seem to oscillate between a tightly rendered and a fluid, expressive style. What drives you to make that choice?
The recognition that an artist is weakened by constraining themself to one or a few forms of expression, and that the ability to work in many styles and mediums allows an artist to make choices and decisions that would otherwise be hindered by a lack of experimentation.

•    What would you attribute your success to?
Hard work, openmindedness, and an honest need to express visually what I fall short of verbally.



Brand Manager Patrick Egan informs that the exhibition travels to the DeLoach vineyards for a harvest party in the near future. The inspiring artwork, new artistic acquaintances interspersed with random bonding over art with strangers is what defined the evening for me.  It was wonderful to absorb all that the experience had to offer and I can’t wait for more!  I wish I could write about every single artist whose art inspired me in so many different ways. But this is where I choose to let it end. There’s more exciting news next week about the monthly student show at 79 Gallery. Some very talented artists, a variety of styles and an interesting interview. Till we meet again…