Archive for November, 2009

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


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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

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“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!

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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!

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