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Greetings from the President Dear Friends, The moment has come. After several years of intense planning, on June 6 SFAI began construction to transform Herbst Pavilion at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture into our new Graduate Center. When the facility opens for Fall 2017, it will offer an exceptional experience to our student-artists and scholars in terms of facilities, community, geography, and visibility. The move will also build connections between our undergraduate and graduate programs, between artists and the public, and between SFAI and the many organizations contributing to a vibrant arts district along the northern waterfront. In sum, it will enhance what many of you already recognize: that SFAI is an absolutely essential part of the cultural ecosystem that feeds this great city. This project has only been possible thanks to the tireless efforts of SFAI trustees, including outgoing Board Chair Cynthia Plevin, incoming Chair Christopher Tellis, and trustee Joy Ou; the generous support of many members of our community; the dedicated work of SFAI staff including Espi Sanjana and Heather Hickman Holland; and close collaboration with our partners at Fort Mason Center and the National Park Service. We’ve also been proud to work with Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects and general contractor Oliver & Company to design, engineer, and build a top-notch facility that serves our students and welcomes the public. This construction milestone is the culmination of an amazing and eventful year. Throughout
this issue of Art + Effect, you’ll find images of year-end exhibitions and celebrations, as well as stories about the fascinating, thoughtprovoking, and important work our students, faculty, and alumni are doing. And as I reflect, I can’t help but already imagine SFAI at this time next year. We will be moving into our new waterfront home (with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge), readying it for the imaginations and ambitions of hundreds of artists. And upon the successful conclusion of the ongoing search for a permanent President, I will be serving as Provost, and excited to partner with a new leader to advance SFAI’s inspiring work. Thank you to everyone who contributed to a successful year, including additional members of the Board of Trustees who have now concluded their service: Penelope Finnie, Candace Gaudiani, Faculty Trustee Nicole Archer, and Student Representatives Marcela Pardo Ariza and Sofia Sinibaldi. I look forward, with great anticipation, to what lies ahead.
Rachel Schreiber, PhD Interim President
Above: In March, SFAI alumna Annie Leibovitz (BFA, 1970) invited one hundred SFAI students to visit her pop-up exhibition, WOMEN: New Portraits, at the Presidio, and took selﬁes with everyone, including Interim President Rachel Schreiber.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Ofﬁcers Christopher Tellis, Chair John C. Kern, Vice-Chair Steven J. Spector, Treasurer Elizabeth Ronn, Secretary Trustees Jennifer L. Emerson Diane B. Frankel Todd Hosfelt Teresa L. Johnson Bonnie Levinson Chris Lim Tom Loughlin * Jeff A. Magnin Amanda Michael Joy Ou Helen Pascoe Bill Post Pamela Rorke Levy Trustees-at-Large Don Ed Hardy * Annie Leibovitz * Barry J. McGee * Brent F. Sikkema *
Cover: Student-scholar Benjamin Jones (BA, 2016) photographed by student-artist Zack Sumner (BFA, 2017).
S FA I C O M M U N I T Y
03 Alumni Giving Back
05 New Board Trustees Bring a Diversity of Expertise and Vision
07 Highlights from 2016 Year-End Celebrations
Honorary Doctorates Presented to Art Historian Linda Nochlin and Artist Ron Nagle
12 Introducing SFAI’s (im)material: Video Shorts, Audio Interviews, and Visual Essays
Trustees Emeriti Agnes C. Bourne Gardiner Hempel Howard Oringer Paul Sack Jack Schafer Roselyne C. Swig William J. Zellerbach
F E AT U R E S
Faculty Trustee Brett Reichman *
Why a Gay Aesthetic Matters: In Conversation with Brett Reichman and Daniel Samaniego
13 SFAI + SFMOMA: An Enduring Relationship
17 Elizabeth Travelslight Creates a Space for Math at SFAI
* SFAI Alumni
29 2015 Graduates: Where Are They Now?
25 Benjamin Jones Believes That Art Can Enact Positive Social Change
Alumni Giving Back 5
Alumnus Establishes Endowed Scholarship and Award for Critical Analysis This past spring, SFAI alumnus Joseph Finkleman (BFA, 1974; MFA, 1976) and his wife Susan established a new endowed scholarship and an annual award for critical analysis. Their generous gift will provide major support to a continuing SFAI student each year and will also fund an annual award for exceptional critical analysis. Finkleman was inspired to give back to his alma mater because as a student at SFAI he found â€œa community of equally committed, driven, and like-minded people seeking the
answers that only art can provide.â€? The Finklemans have also named SFAI as a beneficiary in their estate plans. Their planned gift will ensure that the Joseph Finkleman Scholarship and Award will continue to have an impact on our community of artists in perpetuity. D O N AT E Support scholarships or make a planned gift to SFAI by contacting the Development Department at email@example.com or 415.749.4532.
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Alumna Launches $35,000 Match Challenge for the Making History Campaign ^ Cascade Wilhelm (MFA, 2010). < Joseph Finkleman (BFA, 1974 and MFA, 1976) and his wife Susan.
The Wilhelm Family Foundation, under the direction of Cascade Wilhelm (MFA, 2010), has generously offered to provide a one-to-one match to alumni who make new donations of $1,000 or more to SFAI’s Making History Campaign. The Foundation will match up to $35,000 in donations between now and March 2017, with the potential to increase the match to $50,000. Wilhelm’s grandfather, Donald Wilhelm, started the family’s foundation to help foster a dynamic art scene in California and across the United States. Not only was Wilhelm’s grandfather her best friend and mentor, but he was also the first person that encouraged her to become an artist. Now, as the head of the Foundation, Cascade is more committed
than ever to continue her grandfather’s legacy promoting the arts. Of her match, Wilhelm says, “As an SFAI alumna, this campaign is especially important to me because it will unite both campuses. The school is at an exciting moment and I am thrilled to be involved in shaping its future.” SFAI thanks Cascade and the Wilhelm Family Foundation for helping to transform Herbst Pavilion into the new Graduate Center at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.
New Board Trustees Br Expertise and Vision
Chris Lim Todd Hosfelt founded Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco in 1996 with the belief that art has the power to change audiences’ worldview. In the past 20 years, he has curated more than 250 exhibitions that investigate cultural, social, and intellectual history. His gallery represents internationally recognized artists such as Rina Banerjee, Jim Campbell, Jay DeFeo, William T. Wiley, and many more. Hosfelt operated a gallery in New York’s Chelsea district from 2006 to 2012 before consolidating the program in San Francisco, in what is now called the DoReMi arts district. In 2015, he founded a digital media conservation lab to preserve the integrity of artworks that use technological media.
is founder and CEO of San Franciscobased Climb Real Estate. Under his leadership, Climb has become one of the fastest-growing boutique brokerage firms in the city. Prior to establishing Climb, Lim worked in finance at Merrill Lynch and Fuji Securities. He previously worked at Grey Advertising where he built brand and digital marketing programs for Fortune 500 companies. Chris is also the founder of the Lim Gallery in Potrero Hill, which focuses on modern and contemporary painting, rare art books, photography, and printmaking. The gallery represents a diverse group of emerging and established contemporary artists from around the country.
Tom Loughlin (MFA, 2013) is an artist who explores systems of meaning and the way they operate—in particular systems related to language, narrative, ideology, and spirituality used to facilitate collaboration and collective negotiation of social landscapes. Previously, Loughlin practiced law at Robins, Kaplan, Miller, and Ciresi, and was a judicial law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals and Court of Appeals in Massachusetts. Loughlin has had six solo exhibitions, most recently at City Limits Gallery, Oakland (2015) and Spare Change Artist Space, San Francisco (2015). He was a 2014–15 affiliate artist at Headlands Center for the Arts, and a 2013–14 studio artist at Root Division, San Francisco.
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ing a Diversity of
Amanda Michael is an entrepreneur, business owner, and chef who grew up in San Francisco and has fond memories of exploring the studios and public spaces of SFAI as a child. In 2011 she founded the cafĂŠ, Jane, on Fillmore Street. In 2014 she opened a second location on Larkin Street, and will open a third location in the late summer of 2016. Michael serves on the board of the Hamlin School, has been involved with FOG Design + Art since its inception in 2014, and has volunteered in various capacities at SFMOMA. Michael lives in San Francisco with her two teenagers and husband. She is excited by the idea of helping SFAI enhance its earned income opportunities.
Helen Pascoe is a third generation Californian. After graduating from San Jose State University, she was the lead teacher for the John F. Kennedy Head Start Program in Hunterâ€™s Point. She also became active in small business and civic ventures, which led to a professional position as Director of Development for the SFMOMA Rental Gallery at Fort Mason Center. Helen also served on the Board of Trustees for the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. Pascoe has always had a keen interest in SFAI. She remembers attending many SFAI festivities and opening galas over the years and has even taken a few classes. She appreciates how important SFAI is to the cultural and educational fabric of San Francisco.
is a Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal and co-National Business Leader for A&M Investment Management. With more than 20 years in the investment management industry, he has been in leadership roles at Capital Guardian; Fiduciary Trust of California; FT Wealth Management; and Stone & Youngberg. Before entering the investment business, Post specialized in corporate, transactional, and securities law at Pillsbury, Wilson and Post, and prior worked for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, assisting in the passage of the Economic Recovery Act of 1983. Post is currently Chairman of the Heath Angelo Preserve Endowment, a part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. He is also a co-founder of First Graduate, an organization that helps students finish high school and become the first in their families to graduate from college. Post has a special connection to SFAI as he has taken several public education classes at the school.
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2016 Preview Party
Honorary Doctorates At this year’s Commencement, SFAI awarded Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to influential feminist art historian Linda Nochlin and internationally acclaimed sculptor Ron Nagle.
“Art, making art, talking about art, caring about art is really important, one of the last vestiges of human impulse at a time when digitalization takes command… Believe in yourselves but if you have doubts, use them productively. I admire you and wish you the best of luck at this crucial moment. Bravo!” - DR. LINDA NOCHLIN
^ Linda Nochlin, photo by Adam Husted > Ron Nagle, photo by Claudine Gossett
“Put in your 10,000 hours, then put in another 10,000 for me. Believe in things like mystery, presence, transcendence, allure, soul, and vibe. These are things that are hard to pin down, but I think all great work, no matter what the genre, the style, has to have at least one of these things in order to get you involved in whatever axe you’re grinding in the first place.” - RON NAGLE
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(im)material VIDEO 1
MFA Students Discover diverse practices, perspectives, and processes with graduating MFA students Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Francis Calimlim, and Marcela Pardo Ariza.
Forming a living archive, (im)material is a platform for visual storytelling across SFAI’s community of student-artists, faculty, and alumni.
Mariana Castillo Deball Explore Mariana Castillo Deball’s on-site creative process for the exhibition Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances—from fabricating Mimbres-inspired pottery and architectural rubbings to re-creating large-scale mural fragments and frescos.
Cristina Velázquez Valencia An artist working with discarded or found materials, Cristina Velázquez Valencia (Dual MA/MFA, 2017) critiques contemporary issues of environmentalism, feminism, and the parallels between the two.
FIND MORE articles, interviews, and interactive media highlighting SFAI artists and events at sfaimaterial.tumblr.com
An Enduring Relationship The relationship between SFAI and SFMOMA has its roots in the 1870s when the city’s major arts organization, the San Francisco Art Association, opened both an art school and an exhibition gallery. That school eventually became what we now know as SFAI, and that gallery was the first incarnation of what is now SFMOMA. By Jeff Gunderson, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian and Becky Alexander, Media Assistant
In 1916, after the closing of the Panama Pacific International Exposition, public demand for contemporary art was high enough that the San Francisco Art Association created the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA). It continued under the oversight of the SFAA until it broke off and became independent in 1935, soon after moving into new quarters in the War Memorial Veterans Building at Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. Yet the relationship between SFAI and SFMOMA remained strong. In the 1930s, SFMOMA founding director Grace McCann Morley and Ansel Adams pioneered photography as fine art at the museum. A decade later, Adams established the photography department at the school with Minor White,
Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston—all of whom exhibited extensively at SFMOMA. The fact that between 1935 and 1945 “one-third of the exhibitions each year” were of work by local artists demonstrated SFMOMA’s commitment to Bay Area art and its antecedents. This local loyalty complemented Morley’s primary objective, which was “to stay close to the growing edge of creative art of our time” while exposing San Francisco and its artists “to contemporary art as it developed.” 1 Over the years, both SFAI and SFMOMA have transformed into institutions of international stature. Hundreds of SFAI alumni and faculty have had their work exhibited at and/or acquired by SFMOMA. 1 Grace McCann Morley, “An Anniversary,” in Art of Our Time: Tenth Anniversary Exhibitions, January 18-February 5, 1945, 11 (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1945); Grace Morley interviews, 1982 Feb. 6 - Mar. 24, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
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^ Janet Delaney received her MFA from SFAI in 1981 in photography, and worked on the South of Market series pictured here as a grad student. Delaney has been a visiting faculty at SFAI over the years—and very recently. Janet Delaney, Tim O'Shea Eviction Graffiti, Langton Street, San Francisco, from the series South of Market, 1979; printed 2011; chromogenic print; 16 in. x 20 in. (40.64 cm x 50.8 cm); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of the artist; © Janet Delaney.
< Ansel Adams, here with the first students in SFAI’s photography program in 1946 (Philip Hyde, Muriel Green, Pirkle Jones, and others), was instrumental, along with San Francisco Museum of Art director Grace McCann Morley, in ensuring that fine art photography was treated seriously as an art form and exhibited at the museum as early as the mid-1930s.
< Grace McCann Morley became the director of the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA) when it moved into the War Memorial Veterans Building at Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street in 1935. During the 1930s and 1940s, she occasionally taught art history at the California School of Fine Arts (now SFAI). Joan Brown received her BFA from the school in 1959 and her MFA in 1960. She taught at SFAI from 1961–1968. Brown received an Honorary Doctorate from SFAI in 1986. SFAI and SFMOMA have been fortunate to have shared magnanimous donors over the years: the Crocker, Haas, Zellerbach, Fleishhacker, and Swig families, and wonderful folks like Arthur Brown, Timothy Pflueger, William Gerstle, Albert Bender, and Nell Sinton. Pictured below are Harold Zellerbach, Mrs. Henry Potter Russell, and Rudolph Peterson in SFAI’s courtyard—all supporters of both the school and the museum.
Joan Brown, Woman Wearing Mask, 1972; oil enamel on Masonite; 90 1/8 in. x 48 in. (228.92 cm x 121.92 cm); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Audrey Taylor Strohl; © Estate of Joan Brown
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< Dr. Reidar Wennesland and his monkey, Ernest, who became the first and only monkey to direct the school for one month in May 1955. Wennesland was the physician of many Beat Era artists, accepting artworks in lieu of payment. Many artists of that era were fellow travelers with SFAI and their work now peppers SFMOMA including Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, Jess, Wally Hedrick, Carlos Villa, and others.
> Richard Diebenkorn attended the California School of Fine Arts (now SFAI) in 1946 and was immediately hired as a painting instructor for the years between 1947–1950. Afterwards, he wandered off to New Mexico and elsewhere and returned to teach at the school from 1959–1966. Diebenkorn received an Honorary Doctorate from SFAI in 1975.
Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #47, 1955; oil on canvas; 59 in. x 66 in. (149.86 cm x 167.64 cm); The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.
< Barry McGee received his BFA from SFAI in printmaking in 1991, and was was one of the winners of the prestigious Anne Bremer Memorial Library’s Artists’ Book Contest in 1990. Barry McGee, Untitled, 2009; mixed media; dimensions variable; Fractional gift of the artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco; © Barry McGee
The Art of Mathematics 19
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Visiting Faculty Elizabeth Travelslight recounts the unusual trajectory that led to her conversion from mathematician to artist, and how both practices inform her work and teaching. SFAI: Tell us about your path to becoming an artist, especially because you started out with a BA in mathematics. Elizabeth Travelslight: Art making wasn’t part of my family’s cultural history. Both my father and my stepfather are engineers and my mother worked in biotech. My bachelor’s degree was in mathematics, where I researched the feminist histories of math and science. That put me a bit out there compared to other math majors. It wasn’t until several years later when I was enrolled in an MA program at the European Graduate School that I started to make art. The MA program was in Media and Communications and the approach was deeply steeped in continental philosophy and media studies. In one of my classes, a teaching assistant assigned us to write an essay comparing and contrasting Walter Benjamin's The Storyteller with Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author. I thought the assignment was stupid so I printed out both of the texts, cut them up, and wove them together to create a weaving because both of those essays explore the relationship between craft, text and writing. That particular object was a turn for me, and for the first time, I thought, this is where I should be.
Making things felt like a way of contributing to conversations about knowledge production and community building that could emphasize the role of materials. You have an interesting story about how you came to teach at SFAI. Tell us about that. ET: European Graduate School is a distance-learning program with three-week intensives in Switzerland. So when it came time to write my thesis, I started camping out at different libraries around the city—SFAI being one of them. One day I took a break out on the Quad, with that stunning view and I thought, this would be a great place to come to work. I wonder if they need a math teacher? A few days later, one of my mentors Ralph Abraham—a math professor at UC Santa Cruz—immediately encouraged me to apply to the university’s Digital Arts/New Media Program. With an MFA, I’d be eligible to teach at a fine arts college. Once I began immersing myself in art making, establishing myself as an artist, I lost track of the whole idea of teaching math to art students. It wasn’t until three years after I finished my MFA, deeply into my art practice, married, and now a mother of a six-month old, that Nicole Archer, a good friend of mine, called and said, “You have a math degree. I need a math teacher. By Wednesday.” And then there I was four days later teaching math. Sometimes your lost daydreams come looking for you. Has teaching at SFAI lived up to your dream? ET: I joke with my students that it’s the one thing in my life that I am perfectly and uniquely qualified to do—everything comes together in a math class at art school. I love it. And it's what makes working and living in San Francisco as an artist possible for me. You teach a variety of math classes from the history of geometry to ethnomathematics to the economics of art. Which is your students’ favorite course? ET: The class I’m teaching in the fall, Does This Add Up?: Art and Economics, is about the mathematics of personal finance:
Opposite: SFAI Visiting Faculty Member Elizabeth Travelslight; photo by Stephanie Smith.
Above: Elizabeth Traveslight, Elsewhere Postcard, 2010 Courtesy of the artist.
Opposite: Elizabeth Traveslight, Textile, 2007 Courtesy of the artist.
balancing your checkbook, managing your students loans. Then we put art careers into the context of the art market, and then look at contemporary issues in art like labor and global economics. We've visited a local private collector with an amazing collection in Potrero Hill and a commercial contemporary art gallery. We've had visitors with a variety of art careers that make it "add up" in a multitude of ways. The students seem to get a lot of practical perspective from it. Tell us about your more recent work, which might be described as mix between art, technology, and social activism. ET: I have a research-based art practice where I get curious and excited about a certain set of questions and then explore them through art. For The Dissidents, The Displaced, and the Outliers, a group exhibition in 2015 at Random Parts Gallery, Oakland, and Incline Gallery,
San Francisco, I created a series of security blankets to show how various technologies shape feelings of security. These pieces involve my awareness as a mother thinking about the kind of worlds we bring our children into, concerns about gun violence, digital surveillance, and housing security. I made them from different kinds of materials, combining traditional security blanket materials that children attach to—flannel, cotton, fleece, satin—with material from contemporary security technology like bulletproof ultra high weight molecular polyethylene or EMF shielding metallic fabrics. Worked into the blankets are excerpts from Beyond Vietnam, one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s more radical speeches written in 1967 toward the end of his life about the economics of war and poverty. •
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A Conversation on the State of Queer Art SFAI Associate Professor Brett Reichman and his former student Daniel Samaniego (MFA, 2011) consider their perspectives on queer art and how they’re subverting realism.
Left to right: Daniel Samaniego (MFA, 2011) and Brett Reichman, SFAI Associate Professor of Painting.
Brett Reichman: I distinctly remember the first time I saw your work during the MFA portfolio review when you were applying for graduate school. Not only because your work was clearly addressing gay identity politics, but because it was also establishing a broader cultural discourse about masculinity and otherness. Daniel Samaniego: I remember that time fondly—especially my conversations with friends who encouraged me to come to SFAI to work specifically with you, and to explore what the city had to offer culturally. I also think I attended SFAI at the right time. In your Anatomy course, I developed a classical yet conceptually rigorous approach to the body,
and in Matt Borruso’s course Horror and Fantastical Film: The Visual Language of Excess, I mapped out a trajectory for my current work. BR: You’ve been tenacious since you graduated, maintaining multiple studios in the face of many evictions. As an emerging artist, how has it been to grapple with this ever-changing landscape in San Francisco? DS: The frequent moves, increases in rent, and the overall sense of uncertainty have been difficult. I’ve changed studios five times in five years due to varying reasons including landlord driven evictions or raised rents. But the positive aspect is getting to know other artists and forming new friendships. The structure of each studio space has affected my work as well, especially in terms of scale. BR: When I moved to San Francisco in 1981, the city was also a much different place. It was literally ground zero for the AIDS epidemic. There was a lot of fear. It impacted every gay artist I knew and the work we were making. We lived our lives as if there were no guarantees to make it past our 20s or 30s. AIDS was such a foundational topic in my work for so many years, and the effect of AIDS on visual culture still resonates. As a queer artist from a younger generation, what is your perspective in terms of the recent history of visual art during the AIDS epidemic?
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DS: It’s one of reverence. A lot of the art that I’m influenced by came out of the late 1980s and early 1990s, either in response to the AIDS crisis, or in creating a space for queerness. The resilience and bravery of artists working during that time of uprising inspires me. Recently you switched tracks a bit and curated your first exhibition. What was that experience like? BR: The idea for Tight Ass: Labor-Intensive Drawing and Realism [CB1 Gallery, Los Angeles; February 27–April 10, 2016] had been in my head for quite some time. Part of it came from aspects of my own studio work and former students like you, as well as colleagues whose work I have admired, but who haven’t always followed contemporary art trends of the last 20 years. From my perspective, there are false impressions about conceptual approaches to realism that create polemics on a curatorial level. While my premise for the show was realism, it had nothing to do with naturalism. I was thinking more about images that envision a hyperreality, where drawing by hand is a performative act and the process of drawing through repetition is a signifier for identity and sexuality. I think you said to me once that labor intensive processes are not about passivity on the part of either the artist or the viewer, but implicating them both into the artwork. DS: Yes, for me, the use of realism is a conscious decision arising out of a sense of subversion both formally and conceptually. In my work, the excessive use of drawing media performs sexuality through macabre imagery and mimesis. I identified strongly with all the artists in the show who were pushing up against pictorial conventions in their individual approaches, which collectively raised a fierce argument for realism and representation. BR: Well, my curatorial interest was to engage artists who both maintain tradition and transform it as well. I selected work where the sublime or the beautiful on the one hand was clashing with issues of the everyday that are ugly or disturbing, and then thinking about
. . . I think gay aesthetics are elastic and malleable and different for everyone. Daniel Samaniego
Above: Brett Reichman, Selig Z Chair with Vase Collection, 2013-2015 Egg tempera on linen over panel 40 x 32 inches Private collection. Courtesy of the artist and CB1 Gallery.
approaches to realism that call the everyday into question. DS: For me, realism’s relationship to the grotesque is a major impetus for my work as is a defiance of formal conventions. I have also been exploring a large-scale format typically aligned with neo-romantic sensibilities. My recent drawing installations break away from the traditional rectangle and invade the physical space to heighten the awareness of artificial constructions of identity.
Above: Daniel Samaniego Masque For Masque 2016 Graphite and ink on paper Variable
BR: Do you think your work exemplifies a gay aesthetic? DS: I do, but I think gay aesthetics are elastic and malleable and different for everyone. My work hybridizes influences from horror films, fashion tableaux, classical figuration, and the spectacle of the stage with a theatrical, scaled presentation. There’s a sense of eroticism within
my work, as well, that has to do more with mimicry and idolatry than with sex. BR: What about issues of camp and kitsch? They’re thought of as lowbrow, but in my work there’s a tension when camp and kitsch are brought into a highly refined technical process. I think we both have those qualities in our work.
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DS: Yes, and I embrace camp too, as a destabilization of the dominant culture, a reversing of a visual order. BR: It elevates issues to be spending an inordinate amount of time crafting a painting about them. Spending hours and hours rendering, for example, a kitsch ceramic vessel decorated with an absurd mushroom
motif, is ironic on one hand, but that intensity both honors and calls the object into question, similar to the aesthetics of drag. DS: I think in some ways thatâ€™s the role of the artistâ€”to continue to engage with pop culture; to repurpose, surprise, and upend its conventions. â€˘
Benjamin Jones (BA, 2016) is an activist in theory and practice, looking and working towards the future rather than critiquing the past. As a visual artist and academic scholar, he works to reclaim historical agency—socially, philosophically, and psychologically—for marginalized communities. SFAI: What ideas and concepts are important to you as an artist and theorist? Benjamin Jones: I became an artist because I noticed that it could be a vehicle against oppression—a way to amplify my own and others' historical agency toward that end. I started out making protest art that exposed the ugliness in the world. Now I’m more interested in where we’re going and how we’re going to get there than allowing my thoughts and actions to be framed by the past. I believe art is central to building the kind of world we want to see. What started this theoretical shift from past to present? BJ: In the past I was interested in what might make the world end from a sociological and critical/analytic perspective. I painted figurative portraits to venerate admirable figures such as Malcolm X, Emma Goldman, and Che Guevara.
Sometimes I would collapse time with both events alongside each other, teasing out narratives of how history rhymes in our lives today—linking slavery to the civil rights era to Eric Garner, for example. Even when it was pretty, my work was ugly; it reflected ugly phenomena. Scale has always been important in my art practice as a framework for the work’s inherent value. Reflecting on my murals in alleys or at protests, I realized that the impact might not be as positive if all I’m talking about is oppression and what I’m anti, as opposed to what I envision. Part of the beauty of art is that it offers us that poetic space for invention and creativity. This changed my academic research and scholarship towards futurism, futurology, and predictive analytics—thinking mathematically about the algorithms and factors needed to forecast accurately.
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Describe your BA thesis: What We Fin’na Do: An Introduction to the 5,000 Year Almanac. BJ: My BA thesis is called What We Fin’na Do and it takes three preliminary meditations or meditative definitions on the word "Fin’na." I open with the past and ontological glitching and transition to Fin’na as "thought process"—the makings of human beings and the makings of the universe. In the next definition, Fin’na as "preparing to" or as "in fixing to" (where fin’na comes from), I’m looking at the social movements and the strivings of oppressed people, specifically black folks, as we have attempted to make the world a better place. It also explores the factors at play in these movements. The third meditation, Fin’na as "going to," is more about predictive analytics. It’s a precursory take on predicting the foreseeable future by raising questions on how to think about what’s going to be happening— from 5,000 years to beyond. You’re from Nebraska. What made you come out to San Francisco and to SFAI? BJ: Wanda Ewing, an alumna of SFAI, is among the most prominent artists in Nebraska. When I interviewed her in 2009 she suggested I look into going to SFAI. I came out to San Francisco in 2014 to tour the school, and on the trip I got arrested at this Black Out Black Friday protest. The following Monday I toured SFAI, and people approached me saying that they saw me at the protest and they were there too. It seemed that SFAI might be the kind of place that would support the kind of work I was interested in doing. Tell us about your activism on and off campus you’ve been doing. BJ: Though I haven’t had as much time to organize as I would normally in the past, there are so many awesome organizers in the Bay Area. I happened across this queer-and trans-led Black liberation collective known as Black.Seed. They gained some notoriety with their response to the Anti Police-Terror Project’s call for 96 hours of action to reclaim the MLK Holiday by safely shutting down the Bay Bridge for about an hour. I offered my skills as an artist for the imagery we
produced to go alongside the spectacle, the performance that we produced in this political act. I don’t think I’ve felt freer—it was serene to be standing on the Bay Bridge, high off the ground and surrounded by water. What’s next on the horizon for you? BJ: I’m illustrating a post-patriarchy, post-capitalist children’s book. I’m trying to turn What We Fin’na Do into a book with national and worldwide distribution. I’m also writing a book tentatively titled The Life and Philosophy of Dewey Crumpler (SFAI Painting Faculty), of whom I am a gigantic fan. Also, I’m working on a screenplay that’s sort of centered on the great migration, a historical quest based on a true story from Louisiana to Oakland. I am going to do a mural at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. I’m going to finish a mural at the Midwestern African Museum of Art this summer. In December I graduate, so this summer I’m looking at applying to graduate schools for Art History, too. •
Below: Benjamin Jones (BA, 2016), image by student-artist Zack Sumner (BFA, 2017).
Next spread: Installation view of mural wall, Black.Seed Bay Bridge, 2016; All photos by Wesaam Al-Badry (BFA, 2017).
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Where Are They Now?
SFAI tracks three 2015 alumni to find out what they’ve been up to since graduation.
Rachelle Bussières (MFA, 2015) is a fine art photographer interested in the dichotomy between the natural materials she photographs and the chemical printing process. Her work in last year’s Graduate Exhibition earned her an honorable mention from the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and her work is now in their collection. Represented by Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, Bussières is currently an affiliate artist at Headlands Center for the Arts. This summer she becomes a charter resident at Minnesota Street Project. • rachellebussieres.com
^ Rachelle Bussières Franciscains Rocks, 2015 Tous unique gelatin silver prints; 24 x 20 inches
< Rachelle Bussières at work in her studio. Photo by Andria Lo.
ART + EFFECT
< Ellen Woodson takes a break from hanging art at SFMOMA.
Since graduating, Ellen Woodson (BFA, 2015) has moved into an art studio with Taravat Talepasand (MFA, 2006) her mentor, former professor, and fellow SFAI alum. She has also been working for SFMOMA as a preparator, of which is “an exhilarating experience to work directly with imperative pieces of art history,” she says. San Francisco keeps Woodson on her toes. In her spare time, she’s been working on a new series of cyanotype sculptures and prints. She will also be working with the California Historical Society to install art in July. > Ellen Woodson Sweet Dreams.
> Christopher Squier and Mariana Castillo Deball collaborate on an archeological rubbing project as part of the SFAI exhibition, Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances. Photo by Stephanie Smith.
< Christopher Squier Traceries, 2015 Wax paper, coated wire, fluorescent
Christopher Squier’s (MFA, 2015) most recent work has been exhibited in Boston, Córdoba, Prague, and San Francisco. Selected to be the first fellow of a SFAI + Kadist Foundation partnership, Squier had the opportunity this past year to assist artist-in-residence Mariana Castillo Deball to produce new work and participate in the exhibition creation process for Feathered Changes, Serpent Disappearances. In May, he directed a performance piece at the San Francisco International Arts Festival at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. And this summer he heads to the KKV Residency in Trondheim, Norway before taking a leading role this fall as Art Program Director at Embark Gallery in San Francisco. • christophersquier.com
lights, stones 16 x 24 inches