Collapse I (Santa Cruz, California 1989)
acrylic on canvas
It used to a fairly predictable convention of grade school that students would begin each fall term with some sort of “What I Did Last Summer” warm-up essay. In a similar spirit, here’s a recap of the past few months in the Wofflehouse universe, crammed into one long post so that we can move on to other, more current, items.
May and June in the Bay Area: basically an insane blur. Went straight from teaching spring classes and painting like a maniac in the studio into teaching double summer session classes and painting like a maniac in the studio. I also gave a strange performance at Southern Exposure, and presented at that Asian Art Museum panel discussion from my previous post.
This kind of flurry is a regular pattern for me: I tend to thrive during these bursts of intense work and little wiggle room, and happily, over the years it has evolved out of being an experience of stress and crisis into one of energy and focus. (But let’s not kid ourselves–there’s always got to be some level of friction and pressure to kick me into high gear.)
The entire spring involved a lot of extended studio time, almost entirely working on paintings for Collapse, my solo project at Silverlens Galleries. While I’ve always painted, I’ve never considered myself a painter, which is hilarious if only because my new line of late has been that I don’t consider myself a performance artist, even though I’ve been doing performance projects lately. I suppose that my resistance to terms like “painter” and “performance artist” has less to do with fear of labels or being inadequate, and more to do with the feeling that my practice is interdisciplinary, first and foremost. It’s not a romance with any specific discipline–it’s more of a pragmatic “this is the medium that fits this project best” attitude. Anyway, my point here is that I really came to enjoy painting in ways that felt very new to me, and I taught myself a bunch of new tricks that I expect to expand upon.
I also got seriously into audio books for the first time, which made a tremendous difference in my solitary studio experience. While it’s already been mentioned that I’ve learned to anchor myself to audio material for those long studio hauls when I get fidgety, I’d never actually listened to this much long-form book material, ever. Whole new world. Totally hooked; love the immersion. It’s a fun new way to be a reader again.
Summer teaching and work on the new paintings ended at the beginning of July, at which point K and I flew to Manila to drop off the work for framing in advance of the show, and to do a little traveling before the opening. A few days in Manila to acclimate, then off to Hong Kong and Bangkok briefly before returning to Manila to finalize the installation.
Having not been to HK since I was a kid, I was floored by how futuristic and intensely vertical it is. I absolutely loved it, and could easily see staying there for an extended period of time. We also geeked it up and made a pilgrimage to the Mira Hotel, simply because it’s where Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill were all staying at the time of the big NSA document leak, for a little “citizenfour” happy hour.
Bangkok felt a bit more familiar, (if anything so ethereal, gilded and congested can ever feel “familiar”), in part because I’d been there somewhat more recently, and because it had some surprising parallels to Manila. Despite the tourist throngs at certain venues, we still managed to find our way into more intimate spots, before heading back to the Philippines.
Through the kind of lovely serendipity that often accompanies my time in Manila, Silverlens scheduled my show at the same time as solo projects by my good friend Gina Osterloh (who was part of my 2007 Galleon Trade project), and new friend Hanna Pettyjohn. All 3 of us live in the US, so summer happened to be the best option for all of our schedules. Our opening reception, just in advance of the 3-day weekend Eid holiday, was a great reunion with many old friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. Eliza and the Wah also used my show as the jumping-off point for an Asia trip of their own, so it was great to have a little more SF representation at the reception as well.
The rest of the time in the Philippines was good, although traffic was more hellacious than I’ve ever experienced in all of my visits, which made catching up with some friends across the city nearly impossible. Still, there were a number of epic nights, and grand reconnections with friends there that made it all worthwhile.
Made a couple of excursions out of Manila to get some brief but wonderful beach time, but overall, this was an intensely urban trip, and I spent way more time in big cities than I’d originally anticipated. But I got invited to participate in and moderate a really interesting Asia-Europe exchange project called Curating-In-Depth 2, and met some great arts people from Slovenia, Thailand, Malaysia and Croatia that I’m looking forward to staying in touch with.
After Manila, I ended up in Taipei for a few days. Various friends had been raving about it, which piqued my curiosity, so I did a little solo stopover en route back to the US. Ate many amazing things, saw some great art spaces, got trapped in my hotel during a massive typhoon…you know, the usual.
Getting back to SF in August was predictably a bit of a let-down. I rarely get depressed after great trips end, but I do find that I like staying in the acclimation chamber longer than necessary if I’m allowed to, and not fully readjusting to my usual routine, if I can avoid it. (This usually looks suspiciously like ordinary idle time.)
Still, within a couple weeks of my return it was time to shift out of the chamber, and back into school prep and new art projects mode, which is more or less where I still am. Now that I’ve parceled this all up in one post, though, I’ll save those other tidbits for subsequent entries. Stay tuned.