Beauty is Disarming: Christo & Jeanne Claude @ The Paramount Friday, Mar 31 2006 

I had such a great time last night at the Christo & Jeanne-Claude lecture. They are both now 70 years old, having been born on the same day, and their energy and passion was inspiring. Jeanne-Claude surprised me as a witty and humorous character. She was sort of in the background for so many years and is now finally getting the recognition she deserves as an integral part of the artistic team. I loved the way they interacted, they are a charming couple.

C & J photo
Christo led us through a 40 minute slide presentation in which he described the process of their work. He discussed materials, research, engineering, location, funding and the incredible amount of time and money it takes to realize such monumental works, like the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin. Jeanne-Claude would tell funny anecdotes in between slides. The slide ended with the a full detailed description of their current project that is being developed for the Arkansas River in Colorado, just north of Denver.

After the slide show we had an intermission and were able to write down questions we would like to ask the artists. I was thrilled when I heard them read aloud my question and actually said hello and looked for me in the audience. I asked “What effect does your work aim to have on humans?” And the question was taken very seriously, Jeanne-Claude said that the work they did was for their own pleasure and if others liked it, that was just a plus. She had an interesting analogy, when a parent walks their child down the street and someone stops and says what a beautiful child that is, the parent feel good about it, but the parent did not create the child with the intention that it would please someone. The most moving part of her response for me was when she stated, “Beauty is disarming”, she was referring to the effect the work has on the viewer and how their projects have never been vandalized.

I am of the philosophy that art is a selfless act, done for the benefit of all of us. So her initial response struck me as selfish, but later I understood that they depend on the viewers and their memory of a beautiful fleeting moment. She said their favorite quote is “Once upon a time”.

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Bearing Witness Artist Panel @ The Carver Museum Thursday, Mar 9 2006 

Even though it was a busy day at work, and I was a little tired, I decided to go to the Artist Panel last night at the Carver Museum. And I'm sure glad I went. The presenters all African American women in the arts were excellent and had different qualities that contributed to the lively discussion, Caulleen’s spunky attitude, Deborah who spoke from the heart, Cherise Smith with the historical background.

I recently moved to Austin and have been craving this sort of discussion for quite some time. It has also been hard for me to meet folks who are committed to art and community, and at last I felt a sense of reassurance that there are others like me in Austin. I was excited to meet Arturo Palacios from the Dougherty Arts Center, Beatrice Thomas from the Carver Museum and Wura a young sculptor who is Nigerian-American.

There were also moments of confusion and anger for me, I thought it was insensitive to bring up the word “mainstream” into this discussion. I also felt that the mainstream was alluded to and measured upon success as a monetary value. I’m Salvadoran-American, but my community background has been based on working with Chicano artists. I drew so many parallels from the discussion yesterday with the struggles of Chicano artists for Identity, Representation and Accessibility to resources. I think the struggle is one in the same and my hope is that we can begin to think in terms of multicultural arts programming. Art history is being re-written as we speak and its important for artists to think in a global perspective. If we are all part of this polycentric visual culture, that is when we begin to redefine the mainstream or at the very least challenge it. Its time to surpass boundaries of nationalism and ethnicity in contemporary art, while continuing to project our own identities and dreams.

Dario Robleto @ the ArtHouse in Austin Saturday, Mar 4 2006 

Gospel of Lead a show curated by Regine Basha is currently on display at the Arthouse in downtown Austin. The exhibit features the work of Dario Robleto, an installation artist from San Antonio, and Jeremy Blake, a California video-installation artist.

I love visiting this gallery on Thursday evenings, when they stay open late and its usually more quiet. To my knowledge, this is the most contemporary art space in Austin. The Capitol Metro bus drops me off right at their door. I had been hesitating to visit this exhibit, I had seen the work of Jeremy Blake at the SF MOMA about a year ago, when they presented the Winchester trilogy and I didn’t really connect with the work. This same installation was on view at the Arthouse, but I thought, why not go check it out, the title of the exhibit at least was intriguing.

Gospel of Lead

When I entered the exhibit, I was immediatly attracted to the work of Robleto. Their was an uneasiness about each piece, a sense of timelessness and a feeling that every object whether it was a button, a piece of fabric or bullet shards, everything had been purposefully placed with unconditional tenderness. The work evoked a sense of loss that really moved me. Some of the pieces listed materials such as human bone and objects dating back to the civil war.

I thought the music from the Winchester trilogy went very well with Dario’s work, but I wasn’t really interested in the videos. In Robleto’s work I could see traces of life, human hair, bones, buttons, teeth, coins. I thought of Doris Salcedo, absence was implied.

I wanted to see a sign or a clear signal of what Dario thinks about violence, but there were no absolutes in his work. It left me questioning, I love work that allows that opportunity.