carrying on

It’s the last week of Carry On, the Faculty Triennial at USF’s Thacher Gallery. The exhibition closes April 13.

Recognizing that the artists in Carry On are educators and practitioners, USF’s Museum Studies team asked us to to respond to the question, “What piece of advice or instruction from a teacher has stuck with you and helped you throughout your creative and/or teaching career?” My response, and the work that was included in the exhibition, was about Carlos Villa, naturally.

My response, included on the wall didactic:
I am immensely grateful to Carlos for being an instructor who saw validity in making art about a Filipino American experience. For acknowledging that identity, activism and politics were valid topics for creative expression. For breaking down the boundaries between one’s personal art practice and one’s pedagogy. For making a syllabus a call to action and a work of art, all at once. For teaching so many of us what participating in, and making, a creative community really means. For modeling a more intimate, connected, alternative to this nebulous, network-y place called the “art world”; for so many of my deepest friendships, collaborators and cronies. For his uncanny knack for match-making creative colleagues. For inspiring me to teach to diversity and to stories and artists often still relegated to the margins, to question the western Canon and its terms and conditions. For always finding love and joy in this work, even on the bad days.

And my 3 works, from the CPV series:

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CPV 4, 5, 6, ink and acrylic on paper, 2014

Carlos passed away March 23, 2013: since his passing, a small group of us still get together for a meal around that date to observe this anniversary, to stay connected with one another and to the legacy we’re trying to maintain for him. It was serendipitous having the Carry On exhibition, and our annual meal, fall so closely together this spring: it was a doubly-good reminder of the work that still requires our attention and our care.

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on board

Pleased to announce that I am joining the board of directors of Southern Exposure. Having been involved with SoEx over half my life in one capacity or another, it’s an honor to be able to continue my relationship to this organization in a new role.

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(This is not the SoEx boardroom. SoEx has no boardroom. Pics from Manananggoogle at SJMA in 2014, to help you visualize my exciting new corporate outreach role.)

We Can Be Heroes

Pics from the fun at ‘We Can Be Heroes’, SoEx’s annual auction fundraiser!
(All pics via SoEx and Minoosh Zomorodinia.)

Big new change: the event was held at Minnesota Street Project for the first time ever. The live auction main event was held on the main floor, and the silent auction in an upstairs gallery.
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My contribution to this year’s silent auction: “Glory Hole”, a small painting of the Lake Berryessa, um, glory hole. Ink and acrylic on paper, 12 x 16 inches.
Glory Hole

And of course Woffles and Herb were on hand to host the closing out of the silent auction walls in their best budget Bowie/Heroes ensembles:

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Our jackets were made from 2 thrift-store tuxedo coats: I cut the sleeves off, smoothed and glued the extra fabric around the armholes down for clean edges, then hot-glued yellow craft sheet foam details that I’d created to the jackets and belts. The sheet foam was also fashioned into ankle cuffs that were held on with clear packing tape. (Fun fact: I can’t sew. At all. If it can’t be done with hot glue, safety pins or staples, it’s not happening.)

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I think this was SoEx’s most successful auction to date: in this moment of uncertain funding for the arts, it was great to see the SoEx community step up to support them so generously.

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This has been in the works for almost a year now, but I’m thrilled to finally be able to share that the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio acquired my painting ‘MacArthur Nurses’ early this year.

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Curator Kevin Greenwood made this acquisition possible–I am hugely grateful to him for his enthusiasm for my work.

Kevin had learned about my work through my friends Shelley Lee and Rick Baldoz, both of whom are professors at Oberlin. Shelley and Rick also helped arrange for me to come give a lecture for, and to meet with, Oberlin’s Asia America Art Collective students as part of a weekend of events and other guest artists in early March. Here we all are, being semi-formal at the welcome reception:

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By the time I got around to giving my lecture on Saturday, things were a little more relaxed:
(lecture pic credit: Kenneth Eng)
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And when we were actually visiting the Nurses, everyone was far less formal.
(Shelley, Kevin, Rick, Woff:)
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(Woff and AAAS Collective mimicking the painting:)
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It was COLD in Oberlin: sleet when I arrived, snow the morning I left. It felt  fantastic in short, bracing bursts, but I didn’t bring warm enough gear to really traipse around and explore, unfortunately. Freezing temperatures notwithstanding, there were incredibly warm people at all the events there.

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ppotwwohThanks for the visit, Ohio. I’ll do my best to make it back soon.

image adjustments

The New Yorker’s February anniversary cover by artist John W Tomac is beautiful and profound: it speaks directly to the fear and uncertainty of our present moment. That said, with much respect for Tomac’s elegant statement, I felt like an obvious alternative storyline needed addressing:

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Tomac’s New Yorker cover (left), Wofford’s revision (right)

It’s important to acknowledge the frustration and helplessness that many are feeling right now, which is what Tomac’s image does so poignantly. Still, my personal sense is that in order to feel empowered to take action, it’s equally vital to keep envisioning the courage to move forward. By tweaking one iconic image and pairing it unexpectedly with another iconic image, this is just a quick, nerdy example of how new possibilities can emerge. The mere hint of something looking like a lightsaber in my version at right automatically creates a kind of neural shortcut to other associations.

Beyond my own 5 minutes of fun with Photoshop, it’s been interesting watching the many ways that artists and activists are presently harnessing the power of existing pop culture, cinema, comedy and all manner of embedded Jungian-hero tropes in their imagery and narratives to bolster their messages.

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To me, what’s present in the best of this maelstrom of creative output and serious silliness is a profound sense of hope, and a willingness to undertake this journey– not naïveté or optimism in some blank sense, but hope in the very specific sense expressed in this brief essay by the great Václav Havel, another improbable president of an entirely different ilk: it’s wise and absurd in all of my favorite ways.

Never Hope Against Hope, Václav Havel*, Esquire Magazine, 1993

(*Confusing byline in link, but this is Esquire’s 2011 repost of Havel’s essay. Original 1993 scan here. If you know any Czech history, the year this was originally published only adds to its potency.)

Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy when things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something to succeed. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all, that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now. In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

Vaclav Havel, 1990. Tomki Nemec
Vaclav Havel, Dec 14, 1990. photograph: Tomki Nemec