The above are the examples of David Yamamoto’s work that I found to be most interesting and apt for the current times. These three photographs are part of David Yamamoto’s “Recession” series, which, in his own words, “…documents the evolving landscape as businesses are closed in the face of our economic downturn. The images show the remnants of businesses and the attempts at erasing the previous tenants. In the absence of the logos and signage, the remaining structured spaces reveal attempts to construct and control the movement and experience of the customer. The locations are haunted by a failed consumer economy and memories of the economic prosperity that defines the recent past”. I found these photos to be particularly interesting given the proximity of the photograph sites, my own experiences during the recession and the widespread ability to identify with the abandoned and foreclosed stores and businesses. I liked how each of the photographs included this sort of dichotomy between the wasted/abandoned semi-permanence of the man-made wastelands, vs the natural and renewable beauty of the sky and/or surrounding environment.
I had a great time doing the plaster casting project. First of all, it was an excuse to go to the beach, and honestly you never need an excuse to go to the beach, but I was happy to use it. Second of all, I really liked the idea of essentially working with a natural medium. Even though we are using store-bought plaster and possibly store-bought tools and equipment, the rest of the project requires your hands (or feet), some ocean water, and plenty of dry and wet sand to work with. What could be better than the act of legitimately creating something from negative space, using mostly natural ingredients? It stumped me too.
During week 4 I spent the class period checking out Maccabee Shelley’s incredible glass and ceramic work. Maccabee uses molds to establish the basic shape and then adds to that and builds off of it. Overall he tends to incorporate broken glass, melted glass and ceramic bowls and molds throughout his pieces.
Maccabee said he likes to use glass because of the beauty of each piece and because of how each intricate piece fits together to make a whole. He mused that there was “something to” breaking the pieces and then building them back up again. I really identified with the fragility vs stability dynamic that he was playing up. It’s interesting how easy it is to break a glass bottle, hence it’s fragile, but that same glass will probably be around in one form or another for much longer than anyone realizes, hence its stability/durability. Maccabee said he felt like with his art, but most art in general, it is really up to the viewer to interpret the piece on their own and to generate their own meaning and to essentially “create” your own meaning using his piece as your inspiration, and I couldn’t agree more. Art is more of an “in the eye of the beholder” sort of thing. I greatly enjoyed the back and forth with Maccabee and felt that it contributed to a greater appreciation for, and interest in, each of his pieces.
During week 4 I had a nice chat with Zac Ramirez. Zac is a physical education major, a 2nd year student, a member of the Army ROTC, and has plans to join the army immediately after graduation. Long-term, Zac, a Los Alamitos native, has plans to return to the area after serving in the army with the goal of teaching P.E. and being a football coach.
When it comes to art, Zac is in the same boat as a lot of students in that he’s only been exposed during the required high school fine arts class. We both really enjoyed checking out the amazingly intricate glass pieces done by Maccabee Shelley. More on those pieces in my artist writeup. To be honest, Zac and I spent a fair bit of our time, in between looking at pieces, just talking about football and the lack of a football team both here at CSULB and, more egregiously, within the city of LA. We both expressed cautious optimism at the chances of getting one, though most likely two, pro teams relocated to downtown LA in the next few years. One thing that Zac said that gave me a little insight into him as a person was about the type of football coaching job he’d most enjoy; Zac said he’d way rather start as a coach at a school with either a non-existent program or one that had perennially struggled so that he could really invest and build a program from the ground up. While we didn’t get too deep into our own artistic insights, or lack thereof, we had a good time chatting about our other interests while observing some really incredible and unique pieces of art, which I think is what the spirit of this class is all about.
I chose to share this video from the program “Telescopes to Tanzania” that I recently donated to and that recently reached its goal fundraising amount. No, this video isn’t from Kickstarter, it’s actually from IndieGoGo but they really are effectively the same business model and process so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. I chose to donate to this program because of my deep curiosity and fascination with the universe, and what better way to stimulate and spread that curiosity than by giving undereducated and underestimated children in Tanzania the tools to stare at the night sky in wonder. Although a little cheesy and perhaps staged at times, the video does a good job of connecting to the target audience and genuinely illustrating their reasoning for wanting to not only bring telescopes and other scientific tools to Tanzania, but to open an entire science center dedicated to educating the school children and local communities as a whole.
I have to admit, I had to set up an Instagram account for this assignment. Not that I have anything against someone for using Instagram, because I honestly don’t. I think I just never have the desire to constantly snap photos as I go and I have a mild case of OCD (not really) so I know if I did start doing it I would spend far too much time ensuring the photos were clear, the red eyes removed, the shade/tint altered, etc. All that being said, I actually rather liked the assignment and was invested in snapping a few decent photos after I got the hang of it. One thing I really enjoyed was looking at everyone’s photos afterward. It’s amazing the difference in some people between actual face to face interaction and interaction via social media. What this says about the larger issue of problems communicating in person aside, I love how a quick glance at a series of instagram photos from a person can tell you more about them than they would ever offer on their own in one on one conversation.
As far as our class goes, there was definitely a lot of overlap. This is to be expected, considering the assignment was only for one day, it was a day that every one obviously had class, and a day during Week of Welcome. Those aren’t the only reasons for overlap of course. The nature of social media, and my generation’s use of social media in particular, is that it’s a way to express one’s uniqueness in more or less the same way as every one else. For example: While you may be unique in that you were the only person eating chocolate chip waffles off of a mickey mouse plate at 3 am on thursday morning, the fact that you like to take pictures of your food isn’t unique, as most of the free world is aware. It seems like with Instagram, like with all Social Media, and really anything that is “consumed” by the masses, there are trends that constantly pop up and gain steam and completely overwhelm the market. The selfie, sunrise/sunset photos, planking photos, foodie photos, etc. The masses just put their own spin on the current trend. One look at our group’s hashtag and it’s obvious that a lot of people took pictures of their bedrooms/out their window upon awakening, inevitable breakfast photos followed, and then pictures of various spots on campus flooded instagram. While some people posted pictures of their pets, or their car, or a group selfie, or the line at Starbucks, it’s obvious from looking at the photos that the people using that hashtag are all tethered to a similar community. Though our ages and our interests may vary, the need to express our individuality while simultaneously being accepted and “liked” by others is universal across any and all cohorts.
“Teen Idol Poster Series, James Franco”
During week two, I wanted to take the opportunity to revisit some of the pieces that I may have overlooked or missed the previous week. So I made a point of going only to those pieces that I didn’t recognize instantly. The one that I came across that had the biggest immediate impact on me was Pilar Gallego’s piece on Teen Idol, James Franco: the headless version. Jokes aside, my first thought was this piece had to do with equality of some kind. Essentially, if you take two guys with similar builds and you remove their heads, they are gonna look the same. The longer I stood there the deeper I went in that direction. I started thinking about how much effort and worry and time and energy and money people put into perfecting, modifying, painting, tattooing and or admiring their face. The face is the “front page” of the body. It’s the most identifying part of a person’s body, and we seem to base our daily mood on how we feel when we look in the mirror at the face, and/or how others react to it. Coming back full circle now, Pilar’s piece amazed me because of just how much she was actually removing when she “removed” James Franco’s head. She was removing so much of his identity, and so much of his (perceived) daily cares/worries.
After reading over Pilar’s page on the GLAMFA website, I’m not so sure that I hit the mark when it comes to the message she was trying to convey. Her goal was to explore semiotics, particularly with regards to “archetypal masculinities”. However, at this point, just to be able to extract some personal deeper meaning from a piece is an important and worthwhile pursuit.
During week two I got the chance to meet Kathleen Nguyen. Kathleen is a freshman from the Bay area who is majoring in Health Care Administration and would love to get a job in a hospital back home in NorCal after finishing school. Kathleen and I agreed that we were eager to get this class started as it offered the opportunity to approach visual arts in a more “hands-on” way than say a traditional art lecture class might approach it.
Kathleen was forthcoming about her lack of experience and exposure to art, but expressed legitimate interest in getting more comfortable with viewing art and picking out the deeper meaning behind certain pieces. We both enjoyed the “Who Do You Worship” (Keep Calm and…) piece, much like Juventino and I during week one, because of the pop culture appeal, and our general disposition to a lot of things in the same vein as the subject of the piece. Then again, that piece seems rather easy to pull meaning from. We both had a tougher time searching for meaning from the two gigantic rectangle board pieces, though just going strictly by color you can sort of divine the mood intended perhaps. All in all, Kathleen and I had a nice chat and were able to connect over mutual understanding (and lack thereof) of certain artistic pieces, and we had a fun few minutes talking about the biggest changes you experience going from the relatively strict and institutionalized structure of high school to the freer, more independent lifestyle of college. After sharing ALL of my saved up super-senior wisdom, I’d have to say I think it was a productive convo for the both of us and I think Kathleen and I are exactly the type of people this class was meant for: people who just need a little more exposure to types of art and actual art pieces to observe and explore.
UC Santa Barbara
During week one, the artists aren’t actually present with their pieces, so this isn’t technically an interview, more of a reaction to a particular piece that I found engaging. While there were many pieces that I found interesting, the one that stood out to me, as I mentioned in my classmate interview, was “Taking Off” by Matthew Usinowicz. As you can see, it’s an American Flag with a balloon “head” and it’s tied to the wall so as to stop it from “taking off”. I immediately saw this and thought of two words: American Capitalism. The word ‘ego’ also immediately came to mind. I consider myself a progressive liberal so the idea of an egotistical and money-grubbing America connected with me on a certain level. After taking a look at Matthew’s GLAMFA page, I feel reaffirmed in my interpretation of the piece. Matthew says that his series of pieces are based on his experiences with American capitalism ideologies as a member of the middle class.
As I touched on in my classmate interview, I don’t have much experience with art, particularly viewing more abstract pieces with no explanation of the meaning behind it. That being said, I consider myself a relatively perceptive and insightful person, and I definitely felt an immediate connection with Matthew’s piece and the message behind it. The question that keeps nagging at me is how much my political leanings affected my interpretation of the piece. A traditional, prototypical “patriotic” American might see that piece and read the name “Taking Off” and think that it stands for American greatness, whereas I see it to represent greed and ego. Having taken several philosophy and psychology classes, I am no stranger to the concepts of social filters and perception, and now the concept is reinforced yet again in the realm of art.
During week one I met Juventino while waiting for our first chance to check out the art galleries on campus. Juventino is a second year student studying mechanical engineering and admitted that this class was his first real exposure to the arts, at least from an educational perspective.
At first Juventino and I just walked around the galleries essentially waiting for something to strike us. We both got stopped by April Bey’s collection of pieces, “Who Do You Worship?” (Keep Calm and …) for its obvious pop culture references, and counterculture attitude and I think that reasonated with Juventino as much as it did with me. The main piece we talked about however, was “Taking Off” by Matthew Usinowicz. I go into more detail in my “artist interview/overview” blog post, but essentially Juventino and I both agreed that, to us, the piece reflected both America’s rise in prominence post-industrialization, but also the rising ego of Americans with respect to the rest of the world. However accurate the perception, the fact that it got Juventino and I to stop and discuss our interpretations and to kind of “talk it out” with each other made me appreciate the piece more.
To close, Juventino and I agreed that, with limited artistic background, it can be daunting and even a little intimidating to walk around and view art and not feel like you’re that person in the room who measures art by weather it’s “pretty” or not. We did note that without the artist there, it definitely is all up to the audience to make their own interpretation, so there really isn’t a wrong answer or wrong interpretation. Finally, we agreed that it would be really beneficial for our own personal limited artistic exposure to eventually get a chance to chat with an artist week 3 and beyond and actually get to compare our own initial reaction to a piece with the artist’s actual inspiration or message behind the piece. Looking forward to the next convo!