Saturday, January 31, 2009

More UFO's...

Here is our great friend Michael Plona's (Los Angeles) digitally-created UFO (his response to our Assignment #3: Out of This World).  Mike squeezed in a little time during his ultra-busy work schedule to bang out this little beauty using Photoshop. I'm not telling you to slack off at work per se, but a little healthy distraction is always good. :) We heart Mike.  

Friday, January 30, 2009

D'Nell Larson @ Queen's Nails Projects: A review by Mackenzie Jakoubek

Listening to “Next Exit,” a song by the band Interpol, always takes me back to a concert I attended with my husband during an earlier time of our courtship while living in the Midwest. This incredibly romantic night marked the first time we dared to even utter the word “married.” That night I heard the same concert as 3,000 other people, but I had felt the music was created just for me, just for that particular moment in time.

But alas, I cannot claim ownership. Hundreds of thousands of people have woven that pop song into their lives, including D’Nell Larson, whose current solo exhibition, Under the Milky Way, is showing at Queen’s Nails Projects (in conjunction with the 2008 California Biennial) in San Francisco, California. Larson, a Los Angeles-based artist, laces her latest collection with songs by Interpol, Nirvana, Mazzy Star, and Joy Division, which act as her own personal playlist in an exploration of how we appropriate pop music within our memories.

Larson’s exhibition is comprised of three pieces—one sculpture and two video works—the heart of which is the projected video entitled, Close Your Eyes and Think of Me. It features D’Nell’s professional musician parents (the term “lounge singers” might describe their sound more clearly) performing important songs from her life. In the video, Dennis and Arline Larson have been captured in their home practice space, the only identifiable objects in the background being a Marilyn Monroe poster and an unmoving disco ball. An installation of the same instrument set-up being used by the Larson’s in the video is featured in the center of the gallery.

The middle-America mom and dad of the video strongly contrasts with the contemporary music they play. Listening to a lounge-y rendition of a Nirvana classic may induce giggles at first, but the connection between the Larsons and D’Nell’s song choices makes her thesis strong. D’Nell’s piece exemplifies the way music shapes our memories just as much as people or experiences.

During Under the Milky Way’s celebratory opening on January 16th, my friend and I (among others in attendance) were treated to a live performance by the elder Larsons. It was particularly interesting to watch the crowd react to the “wedding singer” versions of familiar songs. Many of them watched as if they were witnessing a Gilbert and George performance, as though the Larsons were living statues (though ironically they were performing on the recreated installation). Some chucked, some simply enjoyed the music. To offer a visible reaction felt almost inappropriate as this was truly an intimate self-portrait of the artist within which she revealed to us her personal memories disguised as keyboards and sequins.

Larson's other included video, Untitled (birds), also plays with the idea of how the familiar evokes emotion. The video is comprised of a looped image of birds flying over the sea. The waves have a hypnotizing effect, and the anonymity of the image makes it a ubiquitous one. Accompanying this visual is the song, “The Killing Moon,” originally written and performed by The Echo and the Bunnymen, but in this instance sung by D’Nell herself. The artist’s voice is shallow and raw, like someone singing along to the radio. Similar to the other video work, this piece manages to link broad-based familiarity and intense personal intimacy.

Under the Milky Way does not answer any questions about why we respond so strongly to certain songs, but rather reminds us of how important music is to our individual history. Would our memories be the same without the music that accompanied them in the first place? I know my husband and I think not.

D’Nell Larson’s solo show is a part of the California Biennial and will be showing at Queen’s Nails Projects until February 14. For more info visit one of the following:

Side note: The gallery is small, but it’s worth your time to visit (even if you aren’t an Interpol fan). If you don’t live in the Mission, make a day of it and visit Galeria de la Raza as well, and then get yourself a mean burrito.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

M.Moore's (UFO) Experience.

Leave it to the great Matt Moore Experience Band to totally blow your mind with an impromptu art project. My favorite cat-loving, Mexican friend Matt Moore (Los Angeles) doesn't disappoint with his UFO design for our Assignment #3: Out of This World. Matt created a 3-D design using an aerial photo of Chicago on black foam core. He explains the work as such:

This ship belongs to the Troids. It is ingeniously camouflaged utilizing aerial image mimickery which makes it almost impossible to detect...from above. Upon landing on earth, however, the ship becomes impossible to miss as it is a standing object painted with aerial photography. Unfortunately the Troids didn't account for a 3rd dimension.

I would expect nothing less. I love you Matt Moore. Ew.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Jump for Art.

Hello Friends! I Make Picture's good friend Nick McPhail recently introduced us to his friend Allison Reimus who has a fabulous art blog called Jumping in Art Museums, which she runs from her home in Washington D.C. The blog chronicles art happenings by featuring images taken by willing attendees who literally JUMP (I'm talking suspended in the air) for joy amid the surrounding work. The playful, interactive site not only shows people around the world what is happening in the art community, but also teaches the public that galleries/exhibits/museums don't have to be the dull, stuffy, intimidating environments for which they're too often mistaken.

Nick and I, along with our friend Greg, were sure to "jump" for Allison's blog when we visited Esther's show (see her Featured Artist post below for more information) at Billy Shire Gallery in Culver City, California. The Amazing Allison was kind enough to feature our a little plug for I Make Picture...on Jumping for Art Museums HERE. Thanks, lady! Keep up the great work! Guys, make sure to visit this super-sweet blog!

I love it THIS much:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Assignment #3: Out of This World

After consulting with our recently featured artist Esther Pearl Watson, we have created a project that is both inspired by the painter's whimsical work AND super fun. You all have no excuses not to do this one :)

Assignment #3: Design a UFO.

That's it. There are no limitations to the project, but try you use your imagination to create your own original interpretation of the ideal spacecraft. To Esther, that meant a sparkly, pink flying saucer with hair dryer-esque appendages. For me, it's the silly doodle above. To you, it's probably totally different (perhaps slightly more sci-fi...whatever). Let me see. Send an image of your UFO design (sculptures, sketches on napkins, dioramas, anything) to and I'll share it with the world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Featured Artist: Esther Pearl Watson

“Faux-naïve” and “faux-Outsider” are a few of the terms most frequently tossed around when it comes to describing the style of Los Angeles-based artist Esther Pearl Watson’s charming, folksy paintings. But since viewing the magical, sparkling (literally. With glitter.) acrylic-on-panel works in her current show at Billy Shire Gallery, “Visions of the Future,” I happen to believe that such labels rob Watson of the characteristic I found most emanating: sincerity. That her painting style is implicitly derivative of Outsider/Naïve art seems less likely than that it is merely indicative of the childhood from which her illustrated memories have been plucked.

Through humorous and empathy-inducing narratives, Watson presents tales of growing up all over rural Texas with an eccentric father who had a penchant for—if not a fixation with—building flying saucers from scrap metal. The glorified stick figure inhabitants, stylized lollipop trees, constellation-packed night skies, and glittering pink spaceships are all appropriate fixtures in a collection that details an imaginative young girl’s interpretation of events.

Watson, who has also published a Fantagraphics graphic novel Unlovable and is married to fellow artist Mark Todd, has hit her stride in this endearing, enchanting series. “Visions of the Future” is on display through February 7th and you can learn more about Esther via her website

Luckily for us, the artist was kind enough to participate in our second installment of “12 Questions.” I’ve also included some images and details from her current exhibition at Billy Shire Gallery in Culver City, California.

12 Questions: Esther Pearl Watson

Q: At what moment did you first feel like an artist?
A: I've felt like an artist since I was 8 years old.

Q: What has been your biggest art faux pas?
A: Being over-confident especially when I first graduated college. I did a lot of work for magazines and children's books. Experience has made me more humble and I have tried to remember the lessons I have learned the hard way. Which are many...

Q: Whose style do you most admire?
A: Children and outsider artists. I try not to get caught up in any one artist’s style. I simply like the purity and passion of someone compelled to make art and not concerned about anyone else's rules.

Q: If your work had a soundtrack, what would it be?
A: There would be a lot of Willie Nelson and 80's Italian Disco.

Q: What is your trademark?
A: Narratives that are funny and sad at the same time.

Q: Name your dream collaborative team.
A: Anyone from Yosemite Studios.

Q: How does where you live affect the art you make?
A: Being in Los Angeles, there are some great thrift stores and yard sales. I love work by people who don't even realize that what they are making could be considered "art," like people who decorate their yards for Christmas, or first grade classroom reports about cafeteria food, or finding cassette tapes as spoken letters intended to be mailed to distant family members. I know so many ’zinesters out here. I love people who go through all the trouble to self-publish ’zines and mini-comics when they could easily blog.

Q: If you could travel back to any era for its art and lifestyle, what time would you visit?
A: 1980. As a female artist, I wouldn't go too far back in time or my lifestyle and artistic freedom would suffer dramatically.

Q: Sum up your aesthetic in 3 adjectives.
A: Blobby, funny and sincere

Q: What is your must-have when you're at work in the studio?
A: Crappy instant coffee and headphones

Q: If money was no object, what major project might you take on?
A: A ton of projects...I would travel and make painting of the stories involving various people and places. Or start a publishing company.

Q: What work of art that you've personally seen has most moved you?
A: The Murphy Brothers, two artistic scavengers out in Waxahachie, Texas showed me their house, their pin-laden clothes, home-made jewelry, collection of Chihuahua's and cart. They occasionally sell work at the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie. The Webbs have an amazing collection of outsider art and stories to go along with them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Friday! Friday! Friday!

Be there, or be...a rectangle...or...something...

To learn more about Nick and his work, check out our "Featured Artist" post on him from last month. It's everything you needed to know and more. Then make sure to be in attendance for the reception this Friday. :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Miss DeConto's Homework

The embarrassingly talented Calethia DeConto sent me these images as her response to Assignment #2 "In Your Projects." Calethia focused on the specific images of her daily life that have grown into familiarity. Her idea of "home" in these images is not about what signifies it as a recognizable geographic landmark. These moments captured transcend their time and place, yet still have a specific, personal relationship to their artist.

Don't worry, you don't have to be a "pro" like Calethia ;) . I really would love to see different representations of this assignment, regardless of your skills or lackthereof. I just wanna see your pictures.