Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


From Rebecca Miller, Blackbird Space:

You are cordially invited to a reading and reception for the Orgasm Zine, written by Dodie Bellamy's prose workshop and designed by Rebecca Miller.

Friday, February 9, 8 p.m. Free
Dog Eared Books 900 Valencia St. (@ 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110(415) 282-1901

Zines will be for sale.

Contributors:Dodie Bellamy, David Christensen, Drew Cushing, Judith Jordan, Kevin Killian, Anne McGuire, Rebecca Miller, Michael Nicoloff, Laura Wasserman, Emily Wilson.

Monday, February 5, 2007


Hi. It’s bittersweet to be unfinishing! My place . . . has become part of my daily routine now; I always check the blog even if I don’t contribute to it, and the whole constellation of experiences I’ve had with this show make it feel like permanent part of my life.

As Anne has pointed out, My place . . . has catalyzed new connections among people who’ve been delighted to meet each other and might not have otherwise. We’ve been communicating by any means necessary, using whatever technologies are at hand: whether face to face in the gallery and offsite; online via email and the TART Journal; by phone; by reading each others’ writings and viewing each others’ work on video or as printed images. We’ve discovered unexpected mutualities of interests, exchanged ideas, pursued lines of inquiry that took us to new places, even explored possibilities for collaboration.

Something wonderful was started here. I believe this network will continue with a life of its own, if only in the altered consciousnesses of each of us who’ve become enmeshed in the connective tendrils of Anne Colvin’s far-reaching web. I feel honored to have been one of the two people Anne chose to help germinate the piece.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Last Thursday I showed up at Mills College for a My place field trip to see Take 2: Women Revisiting Art History, a group exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum of work by nine contemporary women artists, organized by SFMoMA curator Janet Bishop. While the field trip didn’t quite pan out as planned and serendipitously turned into something else better than imagined (more about this later), the show -- up through March 15 -- was definitely worth the trek to Mills’ Oakland campus. The pieces, all from SFMoMA’s collection and Bay Area collectors, are scrupulously chosen and sensitively installed in Mills’ glorious gallery space (the skylit ceiling is a work of art in itself), and their quality is uniformly high. There’s an excellent, not too expensive ($20) catalogue of the exhibition with good reproductions.

My favorites were the two compelling videos by the English artist Sam Taylor-Wood: One’s based on a Chardin still life, the other is an updated meditation on a generic 19th C. French café scene. You should see them if you haven’t already.

Janine Antoni’s body-based conceptual work here is almost too sensually seductive and infused with autobiographical content and personal emotion for me although some pieces (e.g. Umbilical, 2000) reflect a mischievous sense of humor and Dadaist sensibility, and possess a formal rigor and visceral imagery, that rescue them from bathos. I’m generally a fan of Antoni’s work, btw.

It was also heartening to see works by Kara Walker and Stephanie Syjuco that I had championed early on and included in exhibitions I organized. Two of the Walker black paper cutouts were in Shadow Play, 1996, at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art; Syjuco‘s wonderful Comparative Morphology prints were in LifeLike, 2001, at New Langton Arts.

Take 2 is definitely about a revisionist art history in which contemporary female artists co-opt the master’s tools to remodel and enlarge the master’s house, if not dismantle it. So it’s interesting that Janet Bishop doesn’t actually mention the word "feminism" in her otherwise informed and informative catalogue essay.

Instead, she writes:
The works in Take 2 . . . present and represent acts of aesthetic renewal; they write and rewrite art history as they engage issues as varied as self, gender, race, mortality, and religion, often with both humor and gravitas. While work that is substantially about the adaptation of existing material is hardly the purview of women alone . . . it is perhaps productive to consider this topic with regard to women, particularly in light of the disproportionately miniscule place within art history that they occupy, not to mention their anonymity within non-fine art traditions, since these situations are in turn part of the context within which they operate.

The art of elegant, eloquent circumlocution may be a pre-requisite skill for an institutional curator. Feminism is obviously still the F-word in those circles (although why at Mills?). Similarly, none of the works in this exhibition -- apart, maybe, from Taylor-Woods’ A Little Death, 2002 and Walker’s exquisitely brutal Untitled, 1998 -- are going to shock or really challenge any mainstream sensibilities. Beautiful as the exhibition is, and superb as many of the pieces included in it are, to me it’s oddly inert, lacking in vitality. That’s partly because we’ve seen most of these works exhibited before, if not contextualized in this particular way. Still, it’s a decorous display, polite, careful to avoid offense. A show like this should be an explosion!

That’s what I think. If you’ve seen Take 2, what’s your take?


PS: Janet Bishop is speaking with one of the Take 2 artists at Mills next Wednesday, Feb. 7. @ 7 pm in Danforth Lecture Hall in the Art Building. It’s free.

Sunday, February 4, 2007


Yesterday was the closing day of “Evidence”, a group exhibition at CCA’s PLAySPACE Gallery of work by Emily Green, Robin Johnston, Celia Manley, Carrie Minikel, Elizabeth Mooney, and Carly Troncale, six female second-year MFA students at CCA. These women work in a variety of mediums, producing art that (to quote the press release), “demonstrates evidence of something not physically present in the work itself, for instance a higher power, a machine, human emotion, nature's involvement, or words spoken and dissolved”. There is no feminist rhetoric or theory postulated in the language around this show, yet I couldn’t help looking at the exhibition with an eye coated by the issues that “My place…” has conjured– these artists are all female, after all. Looking at the evidentiary traces of work, movement, and thought among these pieces made me wonder whether there is something inextricably female about the sort of attention to detail that these works exemplify.

This work is largely about the leftover details of activities as mundane as cleaning the gallery floor; one work is a simple arrangement of items found in the gallery, ranging from staples to a scrap of paper that reads “back in 5 minutes” to a neatly arranged pile of swept-up dirt. These artists share in common a meticulousness, an almost obsessive quality that I find poignantly relatable– is this a girl thing? I don’t have the answer, and I’m not ready to make claims about what’s “inherently female”, but I do notice that women seem to be particularly prone to save the traces and byproducts of activities and memories– snapshots, old ID badges, Playbills, dried flowers from a special occasion. We seem to want to hold onto memories in a way that is very tactile; it is not enough to have experienced something; we want to collect little reminders of those experiences. And this is where women artists come in.

From time to time, something fairly mundane and commonplace re-hits me; one of those moments that recurs often for me is the realization that artists produce so much stuff. Making stuff is the business of art– of course, much art challenges and defies this notion, but at the base level, it’s true. The art world, if there is such a thing, revolves around stuff. That is exactly what this show seems to celebrate– the ability of artists to save and “make use” of everything. The kind of special affinity toward objects that many women artists show is, perhaps, what sets them apart from male artists. Again, I shy away from blanket statements, but these are the kind of theories that started brewing when I looked at the work in “Evidence”. In this show, the attention paid to the evidence of activities and experiences unseen and, ultimately, impossible to relay gives us a very tangible sense of who these artists are and the how they think. Process is very much unfurled and left out for us to see, and in this sense, I think feminism creeps into this show even if it wasn’t meant to; there is a kindness and an openness in these artists’ willingness not to hide anything that, I’d hope, is a female quality, if not a human quality. - Jessica Brier

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Oliver watching The One Minute Film Festival video.
Tricia and Schel reading some of Moyra's press reviews.

10 - degrees

"In the U.S. ... we could make some choices: No we don't want to live in a world with a 10-degree Fahrenheit increase."

Linda Mearns, National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

South Park

Jordan Essoe explores the links between Moyra's two books.

Patricia Maloney jots down a book reference.

Lee Pembleton asks Moyra about her life.

Sorry we missed you Beate, next time.

5 minutes of electrical rest

Subject: Save the Planet from Moyra Davey

Dear Friends,
Today, the 1st of February 2007: Participate in the biggest mobilization of citizens against global warming! The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet.

People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the first of February 2007, between 1.55 pm and 2.00 pm in New York, 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy. 1.55 pm in Ottawa, 10.55 am on the Pacific Coast of North America.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves. Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate.

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris. This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight.

Pass this on. Please circulate this call to your utmost ability to your network.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


* Here's the link to yesterday’s NYT article by Holland Cotter about the “Feminist Future“ Conference held @ NY MOMA last week: Feminist Art Finally Takes Center Stage. It’s heartening and relevant to our My Place discussions.

* Jessica Brier, TART intern and CCA Curatorial student, has written a wonderfully succinct and accurate description of Anne’s My Place project, herewith:

My place between 12 and 2pm . . . celebrates the work of artist and writer Moyra Davey and curator Marcia Tanner. This project is a cross-generational, interdisciplinary experiment that asks us to rethink what the ‘gallery’ space is and the kinds of experiences we expect there by creating an environment of equal exchange. The gallery has been transformed into a living room where people experience a small slice of Davey and Tanner's work, and each day is different. In this project as in all its endeavors, TART pushes the boundaries of exhibition-making and provides a unique contemporary art experience for San Franciscans.
Here are two more quotes I came across today among the 110 emails awaiting me. The first is from an announcement for the 20th transmediale festival opening January 31 in Germany. The title is a bit hyped up, but I like the description, which applies to Anne’s project as it nears its own open-ended “unfinish”.

The 20th transmediale festival runs under the theme 'unfinish!'
unfinish! demands the re-opening of processes that are deemed closed. unfinish! questions finality and claims that any given situation is full of potential. unfinish! investigates artistic processes that are open to change and reversal of decisions. unfinish! is the battle cry and the curse of digital work that knows no conclusion, but only consecutive versions. A paradigm of digital culture? Are you ready to unfinish your world?
The second was contributed by a participant in a prolonged discussion of what new media curators are paid (not much, especially if like me they’re freelance) on the listserve: CRUMB: New-Media-Curating. His name is John Hopkins, and this is his definition of “spiritual” (as opposed to material) success:

As an artist, I would define spiritual success as the experience of opening an expressive pathway between the Self and the Other which allows for the open exchange of life energies. This kind of success is not dependent on numbers affected (beyond a single Other). In an open connection of this sort, the two parties engaged both may walk away from the encounter inspired. With more energy than before they had their encounter.

By this metric, My place between 12 and 2 pm @ TART is already a spiritual success, and it ain’t over yet.

- Marcia

Marcia meets Moyra

My Place blog: 1.29.07

Anne Colvin phoned me today to remind me that “My Place” will be closing soon, at least insofar as it occupies her gallery’s physical space. She hoped I would make another mark in the TART Journal, preferably to post tomorrow, which I’d planned to do anyway. Hard to know where to begin, so much is swirling in my head.

First, I’ve neglected to mention that Moyra Davey and I met, all too briefly, while I was in New York earlier this month. She was gallery-sitting at Orchard, taking her turn at the experimental curatorial space she and a group of other artists/writers/theorists co-founded a couple of years ago: A $15 taxi ride took me from Chelsea, where I’d spent the day slogging through galleries, to Orchard’s all-but-invisible storefront in the Lower East Side. It was dark and starting to rain when I entered the narrow, dimly-lit interior -- they were showing experimental Polish videos from the 1960s which I tried to get into but couldn’t -- and Moyra came up to greet me. She’s probably thirty years younger than I am, with an engaging presence, straightforward and unassuming. I liked her right away. I’d hoped we could go out for a glass of wine but that proved impractical so we sat together at a table in the rear of the gallery, sharing a can of truly vile Budweiser (how DO people drink that stuff?) since all the Heineken had been consumed.

We talked and talked. Naturally we were curious about each other. I hadn’t yet seen her art work or read her writing; she’d googled me and thought I was a visual artist (there IS a painter my age named Marcia Tanner -- but I’ve never met her). What could Moyra and I possibly have in common -- apart from our both being white, female, writers, Anne Colvin’s acquaintances, and involved with visual art -- to incite Anne to pair us in what was still, to us, this enigmatic project “My Place”?

Even though our conversation lasted for an hour and a half I’m not sure we came to any conclusions, but we did learn some things about each other. Moyra is an impressive person, extraordinarily accomplished as a photographer, videographer, and published author. She’s also a mother with a young son, a professor, and wife to another artist, Jason Simon. Like Anne Colvin, she’s modest and self-effacing, not helpful traits in today’s fame-and-celebrity-driven art world. But her thoughtfulness and introspection are among the qualities that render her works authentic and valuable as human documents, whatever their market value.

Moyra is The Real Thing, an artist unswervingly dedicated to art and artmaking, experimenting with whatever forms, experiences and materials present themselves. Books inspire her; she loves to read and write, and both activities are part of her practice. She loves teaching even though she worries it may detract from her studio work; how does one reconcile/balance/juggle the two? Is teaching also an extension of her practice? She seems to take her involvement with Orchard very seriously. But what about motherhood? How does feminism figure into her creative consciousness?

We parted having raised more questions than we answered, I think, but that’s a good thing. I left Moyra feeling energized, bursting with unfinished business. I knew, for instance, that I WILL write the book I’ve been postponing for the past four decades, whatever it is (at this point I have NO idea). And Moyra has one more friend and admirer. Maybe that’s why Anne put us together?

Since our meeting I’ve done a bit more homework. The Orchard website describes Moyra thus:

Moyra Davey is an artist and a photographer. She is the editor of Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood, (Seven Stories Press, 2001) an anthology on maternal ambivalence and the intersection of motherhood and creative life, and author of The Problem of Reading (Documents Books 2003), an essay-book with photographs by Davey, JoAnn Verburg and James Welling. Her most recent project is a video on psychoanalysis, nostalgia and NYC post 9–11, titled Fifty Minutes. Davey is a 2004–05 recipient of an Anonymous Was a Woman award.

I just started reading Mother Reader. Moyra edited it brilliantly, and I recommend it to every creative woman who’s already a mother, considering becoming a mother, or neither. I’ll be giving it as a gift to my friends this year. I’ve ordered The Problem of Reading from Cabinet Magazine and hope it arrives soon.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

50 minutes

Moyra Davey blowing dust off one of her books in 50 minutes.

Today Allan De Souza visted. Allan taught with Moyra on the artist-run Vermont MFA program which incidentally is up for sale. He's a friend of Moyra's, grew up in the UK and has recently moved here from LA to take up his position as Assistant Professor in the New Genres Department at the San Francisco Art Institute
we had a lot to talk about!

He is also an artist and will be presenting Will **** for Peace (excerpts) (Yong Soon Min, Allan deSouza, U.S., 2003); a three-day restaging of the original bed-in, in the context of the Iraq war as part of Yoko Ono: Imagine Film at Berkeley Art Museum on Tuesday.

Welcome to San Francisco Allan.


Gail Wight The Evolution of Disarticulation catalogue presented
at TART. Disheveled Neurochemistry essay by Marica Tanner

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Clear Voices

You can order Moyra Davey's book Mother Reader Essential Writings on Motherhood presented at TART at Seven Stories Press

In different ways, through autobiography and storytelling, the clear voices gathered together here in one volume propose an eloquent alternative to longstanding myths and conventions about motherhood, art and the relationship between them. - Seven Stories Press

Voices include:

Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath, Mary Kelly, Alice Walker, Joan Snyder, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison and many others.

Over and over it has been said that there is a dearth of such literature because mothers do not have the time to record their experiences. In her essay "Feminism and Motherhood", Susan Griffin compares her note-taking on motherhood to a Resistance fighter's journal, where there is time for "brief illuminations which we must record between interruptions". - excerpt from Moyra Davey's introduction.

Conflicts and Convergences

I’ve spent the last two weeks under deadline writing student evaluations, and an essay. And so, I’ve been thinking about teaching, and about “my own work”, the conflicts and the convergences. Recently I read an essay by the Quebecois writer Yvon Rivard, a reflection on his education, his own teaching, his writing. He describes the experience of being taught, and in particular a nurturing relationship with a young priest, remembering mostly the man’s energy and passion. He thinks of this man every time the question comes up: should he devote less time to his students and more to his books? Rivard weighs in on all that teaching represents in his life and concludes “Writing, teaching what’s the difference?” I was startled by this statement, and by the generosity it inspires. I’ve wanted to spend some time thinking about it, and so decided to begin here, with Anne’s request that I contribute to the blog for "My Place". On the surface the two practices seem antithetical: teaching is about giving to the other, writing is about taking time for one’s self. But in fact both are about putting an object of knowledge out into the world, and in turn being fed by it. This reminds me of Norman O. Brown’s concept of “aliment and dejecta”, the fantasy of a generative, self-sustaining cycle whereby the thing that one produces also nurtures - Moyra Davey.


Last Saturday was visitors’ day at “My place.” I arrived at Lusk Alley several minutes past the appointed 12 p.m. and parked in a No Parking Anytime space outside TART in front of a truck loading up dozens of white orchid spray arrangements for a party (TART’s neighbor is an event planner).

The flowers were reassuring, as I had no idea what to expect on the other side of TART’s heavy sliding door. I’d been booked for fifteen-minute sessions of “tea and conversation” with people who wanted to talk with me -- but why?

Anne Colvin greeted me and young people, five women and one man, were hanging out in the galley kitchen around a circular dining table strewn with documents: Moyra Davey’s portfolio of evocative photographs of her bookshelves, copies of her books, and a few of my publications.

The high white walls of the space were completely bare. Anne had set up a sitting area, a little island moored in white space, with a custard-colored couch, red chair, a table, and a couple of lamps. I began with Shalo, an MFA student at the San Francisco Art Institute and a native of Colombia. In our intense if oblique exchange he mainly wanted to know whether I thought artists should be able to appropriate the work of other artists off the Internet etc. We discussed issues of copyright, intellectual property, open source, artistic freedom of expression, etc. Once assured that I’m the side of the artist he seemed satisfied.

My other clients were three delightful young women. There would have been a fourth, Jessica Silverman, but she was called back to her art gallery (Silverman, on Third Street in San Francisco) just as we began to chat. Too bad; she seemed interesting. Chris Thorson is a painter, a recent MFA graduate of the San Francisco Art institute who now works as a career consultant for students at California College of the Arts (CCA). Tricia Avant is an MFA student in photography and video at CCA. Jessica Brier is enrolled in CCA‘s curatorial program; as an intern at TART she set up and manages this blog. My conversations with them were exhilarating and inspiring. While their individual practices are different, they share a fierce desire and urgent need to revisit earlier discussions and expressions of feminism, and to reframe those in light of their lives and work: to define a female space for action and expression globally in the menacing world we inhabit now.

As I’m currently pursuing two projects (at least) that reconsider the feminist enterprise in contemporary visual art (particularly among women artists who use experimental media), their interest was profoundly gratifying to me personally. It was also a huge surprise, as I’d become inured to younger women’s dismissal of feminism as no longer applicable to their concerns. Anne Colvin and I talked about this on the phone today and agreed that the tide seems to have turned. It looks as though we’ll have plenty of young, smart, talented allies in the pursuit, who will lead the next wave.

Thank you, Tricia, for turning me on to Bracha Ettinger and her concept of The Matrixial Borderspace.

And thank you, Anne Colvin, for creating a borderspace, matrixial or not, where such conversations can happen, and I hope, continue. (My spell check wants to change “matrixial” to “matricidal”! It’s done it twice now! While no stranger to matricidal impulses, I’ve just added matrixial to its vocabulary.)

P.S. Thank you also to my friends Camille Utterback, Drew, Clive McCarthy and Brendan Lott for visiting “my place“ on Saturday. I’m sorry the only “art” to look at was me talking to artists! It was lovely to see you there. - Marcia Tanner

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

feminism: the remix

My talk with Marcia last Saturday was interesting in terms of subject matter but, perhaps even more so, in that it was a unique opportunity for a multi-generational conversation between curators and artists in a gallery space. Anne, Marcia and I reflected sadly on how seldom this actually occurs. I lamented the art world's unfortunate favoritism for the young and trendy; as someone who's very young and fresh in the field of curating, I find the perspectives of people who have had a variety of experiences over a long career incredibly inspiring and humbling. I think it's important to be humbled alongside praise and encouragement. I really reveled in the unexpectedness of finding myself in the same room with Marcia Tanner.

We spent some time discussing the moment that feminism is at today and why there seems to be a serious re-examination of feminism in art right now. My sense is that there is an overwhelming feeling of worldwide crisis, a kind of contemporary 1968 moment which feels urgent and pleads for action. It seems to me that the resemblance of the contemporary moment to the tenor of the last few decades makes it a particularly appropriate time to revisit and reevaluate some of the ideas and theories that have been so central to the development of contemporary art, chief among them issue of identity politics. Marcia and I agreed that the notion that identity politics are "played out" is false, and they still very much bear weight on artists today, particularly women and artists of color. Although the conversation is far from over, "My place..." provided an invaluable platform from which to begin. - Jessica Brier

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

matrixial borderspaces

i had a wonderful meeting with marcia tanner on saturday. i didn't know what to expect and was a bit nervous initially. i came to her with a few questions about whether or not my practice was in keeping with feminist practice and how she felt about ettinger's concept of matrixial borderspaces. delightfully, i found that she was incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about our conversation, as was i, and i look forward to continued interactions. i've been thinking about the project as a whole and am very impressed with the idea of a show that is about having conversations in a gallery space and making art out of everyday life. it's exciting that the work of two feminist artists/critics/curators were the catalysts and sources of inspiration that ultimately brought all these other people into the gallery to have conversations about things that are important to us. many thanks to anne, marcia, and moyra! - tricia avant.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Meeting with Marcia

Saturday was a very busy day at TART; Marcia Tanner spent the afternoon meeting with students and artists who've been inspired by her:

Marcia and SFAI student Shalo share tea and conversation.

Local artist and SFAI alum Chris Thornson said her talk with Marcia felt "strangely short and long at the same time".

Marcia meets with photographer and CCA student Tricia Avant.

There was plenty to read and look at on the sidelines and, of course, many cups of tea were enjoyed. Camille Utterback, Brides of Frankenstein artist chats to Chris.

Marcia engages in questions of feminism's role today and the parameters of curatorial collaboration with TART intern and CCA Curatorial Practice student Jessica Brier.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Here Come the Brides

The Brides of Frankenstein curated by Marcia Tanner for The San Jose Museum of Art, 2005

- a sample of works from the installation video screened at My place.

whereas we after a manner see

Bruno of Ampersand offered the following words by Henry James to Marcia, in response to her lovely tribute to Marcia Tucker:

Don't think, don't feel, anymore than
you can help, don't conclude or decide
-- don't do anything but wait. Sorrow
comes in great waves -- no one can know
that better than you -- but it rolls
over us, as though it may almost smother
us it leaves us on the spot and we know
that if it is strong, we are stronger,
inasmuch as it passes and we remain.
It wears us, uses us, but we wear it
and use it in return; and it is blind,
whereas we after a manner see.

-- from a Henry James letter.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The MTV Generation!

Today was busy round at "My Place..."! First of all Bruno from Ampersand dropped in, spent some time, dipped into Moyra's book The Problem of Reading and we talked. He really responded to Moyra's writing style which is beautifully succinct and very accessible, no mean feat given that she's something of an existentialist! While Bruno was here a group of CCA MFA students came by, courtesy of Glen Helfand and much appreciated. They also wanted to buy the book which I have to admit I hadn't thought about but I will make a link to Cabinet who distribute it. Two of them are in the Photography Program so were particularly interested in Moyra's images and will be scheduling some time to have a phone conversation with her.

Much chatting and tea-drinking later, it transpired that Laura Forst and Tricia Avant had recently moved here from LA and were eager to get an insight into what was going on in San Francisco - I pointed them in a few directions. Turns out that Laura had a different “life” before moving to LA and used to work for the founder of MTV and the likes of Chris Blackwell. We had a laugh about how “old school” MTV seems now to the younger generation! Anyway watch this space as there might be some new guests....


Bruno puruses Moyra's photos in the comfort of Anne's gallery-turned-living room.

CCA students and local artists Tricia, Laura, and Najoung (left to right) delve into The Problem of Reading over tea.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bad Girls West

.....the exhibitions grew out of initial conversations we had when I was staying with Marcia, Dean and Ruby on one of my frequent visits to NY. We had both noticed that a second wave of women artists was making feminist art in a way that was a departure from those in the first wave. It was FUNNY, often bawdy, sexual, and outrageously over-the-top. It made its points through humor and sensual seduction rather than didactically yet still employed some of the unorthodox materials, techniques and forms that earlier feminists had liberated. Marcia Tucker mentioned that she'd been thinking of organizing a "small show" about this phenomenon, then suggested that we organize sister shows that could open simultaneously. As I was not a curator but rather a writer and art critic then, with NO curatorial training, experience or aspirations, I gulped, but then thought Why not? So she gets credit for that initial impetus.

We certainly collaborated with each other on formulating and framing the exhibition's theme[s], and referred each other to artists. Marcia helped me with introductions to East Coast artists and New York studio visits; I did the same for her with artists in LA and the SF Bay Area. She opened doors and gave me guidance and support. There was some overlap between the exhibitions in that we both showed some of the same artists, and both included the video program curated by Cheryl Dunye, but our exhibitions were quite different in many respects. The New Museum show was in two successive parts; mine was a single show (with forty-one artists, not including the video artists). Hers incorporated a lot of pop culture material: comics, 'zines, pop song compilations on tape, etc.; mine didn't, but it did include some outdoor pieces and would have had more (a great Sylvie Fleury piece I wanted, for instance) if the UCLA Art Dept. had acquired the Hammer Museum in time (initially, BGW was supposed to be the inaugural show at the Hammer and I had big plans for that space!).

Also, I believe my show embraced a larger definition of "bad girl" humor than hers, in that not all the work was bawdy or sexual. Some of it, like Jean Lowe's work for instance, was definitely funny but subtler in its critique of patriarchal attitudes toward man's dominion over nature. Still, Marcia was impressed by some of the tough work I did include, like Lutz Bacher's mirror installation.

It was Marcia Tucker who got funding for the joint catalogue, very late in the game, and invited me to contribute an essay, which I did in record time. So that wouldn't have happened without her, and I was thrilled to have such a beautiful publication documenting our hard work. However the catalogue design makes it look like a single exhibition and it definitely was not. The captions on the image reproductions don't indicate in whose exhibition they appeared, for instance. You have to look at the individual exhibition checklists at the end to determine which works were in which show. I doubt that many people do.

Once Marcia read my essay she decided I should concentrate on writing, not curating, and continued to insist on that every time we met or talked thereafter. I think she was being realistic about my chances of making a viable career out of curating at my age and with my lack of credentials, but I believe she also genuinely liked my writing. Unfortunately, it's all her fault that after that first curatorial experience (and I've NEVER worked so hard in my life, or received so much critical flack from feminist academics, etc.) I became addicted to the process. I don't know that I'll ever kick the habit completely. Writing, though, is feeling more and more alluring these days. We'll see.

Anne, this wasn't intended as a blog post but maybe it is? You decide . . .

"Marcia, it's Marcia"

[This is not a blog, exactly. It turned out to be a eulogy, and VERY long. I’ll have to continue it tomorrow. Sorry!]

Marcia Tucker, founder of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, ground-breaking curator, major art world force, and my friend and mentor of twenty years, died of cancer this past November. Last week I flew to Manhattan for her memorial tribute on Friday at The New School. It was a crisp, cold, clear afternoon, blue-skied, a gift. I took a walk along Central Park West, where I shared a bag of roasted chestnuts with the park squirrels.

Here on her home turf I realized how acutely I missed Marcia’s presence in the world: her phenomenal energy, brilliance, wise counsel, generosity, encouragement, and sense of humor; her prominent, expressive dark brown eyes, distinctive proboscis, bloodhoundish under-eye pouches, surprisingly delicate small hands, wildly curly graying black hair, and her musical voice. “Marcia, it’s Marcia,” was our usual telephone greeting; we sang it to each other.

Passing the Society for Ethical Culture building reminded me of her. Like other institutions in the Upper West Side it was founded by a visionary, a Jewish émigré from Europe named Felix Adler with the same incandescent passion for learning, commitment to egalitarianism and social justice, activist zeal, moral concern, intellectual curiosity, and respect for artists and cultural workers that Marcia’s career embodied. Characteristically she’d made that heritage new -- iconoclastic, radically open and inquisitive, and very much her own -- with The New Museum and with everyone and everything else she touched.

The 500 seats in the New School’s main auditorium were already filled when I arrived. Along with artist Fred Wilson and other overflow guests (many of whom I vaguely recognized as art world luminaries) I was ushered to an upstairs auditorium: “closer to Marcia,” Fred quipped in the elevator. Those seats filled up quickly too. Watching the program on video was a frustration only slightly mitigated by sharing the experience with 200 other people who’d also come to pay their respects and had been similarly exiled.

Marcia Tucker . . . was remembered yesterday . . . as a woman whose insatiable curiosity and ability to ignore her fears led her to alter New York’s museum landscape and become a mentor to a generation of curators and artists,“ reported Randy Kennedy in The New York Times (Saturday, January 13, 2007). Kennedy noted that the event “turned into a kind of reunion for many of the curators who had worked for her and with her over the years,” and also a gathering of artists whose careers she had influenced, “including Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, Elizabeth Murray, Fred Wilson, and James Rosenquist.“

The program opened with a video excerpt of an interview with Marcia that Lynn Hershman Leeson conducted and filmed in Summer 2006, only a few months before Marcia died. That was a shock, poignant yet exhilarating: to see her so much herself, so alive and vivid in her dangling earrings and wildly colored print shirt against a backdrop of crammed bookshelves, talking with her usual directness and humor about her career and the institution she founded.

The speakers included Lisa Phillips, who succeeded Marcia as director of The New Museum; artists John Baldessari and Pat Steir, who had each known Marcia for 40 years; Susana Torruela Leval, director emeritus of El Museo del Barrio, Manhattan; Martin Friedman, director emeritus of The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Jessica Simpson, a young student at Brooklyn College with whom Marcia conducted a lengthy email correspondence; Carol Becker, Dean of Faculty at the Art Institute of Chicago; and Ned Rifkin, former director of the Hirshhorn Museum, now Undersecretary for Art [!] at the Smithsonian Institution, whom Marcia hired fresh out of grad school in 1980 as a New Museum curator.

Each speaker had a personal relationship with Marcia and an individual take on her legacy, but common themes emerged. Marcia transformed the careers of each of them, encouraging them to believe in themselves, take risks, and pursue their goals despite their fears. She had an amazing eye and “extraordinary antennae” for recognizing and championing potentially important, innovative new artists. She sought out and nurtured talent wherever she found it -- among curators, writers, artists, and arts administrators -- and was prescient in this regard. She understood the way the art world worked, including museums, but believed that entrenched structures could be changed, expanded, opened up, made more welcoming and experimental, less hierarchical and elitist. She worked successfully to effect those changes in her own museum and nationally. She was a feminist, allegedly a founding member of the Guerilla Girls, who made a point of encouraging women with self doubts to realize their dreams and believed that everyone’s consciousness regarding sex and gender needed to be raised.

Marcia’s writings and public lectures on artists, curatorial practice, museology, artists’ education and art theory redirected discourse on those topics. The New Museum -- the institution she founded after being fired as a curator at the Whitney Museum for the exhibition of Richard Tuttle’s work she organized there in the 70s -- became the test tube for her radical re-thinking of the ways museums could and should be run. She and her curatorial staff organized exhibitions that altered the parameters of what a museum could present: they were experimental, often anti-formalist, conceptually/thematically based, and politically charged. For her staff it could be a rough ride following the “crooked path” that Marcia advocated, but ultimately enlightening.

Marcia’s own crooked path embraced singing (she founded a group called The Art Mob that met regularly at her house every Monday night for twenty-five years to sing Sacred Harp music; they performed publicly and made several CDs); stand-up comedy (in her personae as Mabel McNeil and Ms. Mannerist); motherhood (at age 42 she gave birth to Ruby, her daughter with her husband Dean McNeil -- Ruby‘s now 24 and an MFA student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago); writing (she left an unfinished novel and a memoir); and, at the end of her life, the study and practice of Buddhism.

I should mention that the program began and ended with performances of Sacred Harp songs by singers from New England and members of The Art Mob. A spokesperson acknowledged Marcia as having almost singlehandedly revived the form throughout New England and the South in the past two decades.

I found out later that Marcia had chosen the speakers and, knowing her, curator to the last, she’d probably orchestrated the entire event. If you had lived the life she lived, this would have been exactly what you’d hope for as a public celebration of your life. It wasn’t a sad occasion at all; it was inspiring. As someone said to me, “There was a lot of love in that auditorium.“ I, like hundreds of other people present and absent, had been lucky to know Marcia. In the time we have left, we have work to do.

This has taken me all day to write and I haven’t even mentioned how I came to know Marcia Tucker, how I became a curator at age 54 thanks to her prodding, and why I may now be evolving into a writer, ditto. There are also some odd parallels in our lives which I’d like to talk about. A demain.

My Place or The Neurology of Love?

Although I'd registered for this conference (see below), I chose to have tea and conversation at Anne Colvin's place, TART, this Saturday, January 20, over the prospect of discovering how scientists have solved, finally, the mysteries of love. Think what I might have learned from "pair bonding in voles"!

At Anne's place, though, there's the prospect of discovering more mysteries.

- Marcia
It’s that time! Please join us as internationally renowned scientists discuss the brain’s responses to romance, arousal and heartbreak:

The Sixth International Conference on Neuroesthetics
The Neurobiology of Love
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Berkeley Art Museum
University of California, Berkeley

Throughout history, love has been a subject most often addressed by poets, artists and songwriters. But, thanks to groundbreaking discoveries in neurobiology in the 1990s, scientists have begun to ask some of humanity’s oldest questions about the various emotional states and behaviors known as love.

From pair bonding in voles to the similarities between the brain’s response to lust and to addictive drugs, current studies are revealing the biological mechanisms behind our pursuit of love and those that result as a consequence of our finding it. Researchers hope this knowledge not only lets us better understand our behavior in relationships, but also the biology behind what may be making those relationships important to easing stress and promoting physical healing.

Come hear leading researchers in the emerging field of “The Neurobiology of Love” discuss their latest findings at the Sixth International Conference on Neuroesthetics. The conference, which is sponsored by the Berkeley-based Minerva Foundation and the Institute of Neuroesthetics in London, is free and open to the public.

Registration at is required for admittance. For any questions, please call the conference coordinators at 510-847-2191.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bad Boys

Had a visit from a New Genres SFAI student which was great because I discovered that he came to the first TART show, I don't know my name two years ago and has been following the program ever since. He wasn't sure what to expect, hadn't heard of Marcia Tanner, Marcia Tucker or the Bad Girls show but left suitably informed! He did however recognize a Keith Boadwee image in the catalogue who was one of the few male artists included in the show and coincidentally is one of his teachers at The Institute. Shalo is now excited about the prospect of meeting Marcia Tanner on Saturday for our scheduled one-on-one conversations, Anne.

Shalo puruses the Bad Girls catalogue.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bad Girls

Friday, January 12
Bad Girls: In memory of Marcia Tucker

Day 2 of My place... coincided with a memorial service in New York City for Marica Tucker, who passed away late last year. In memory of Marcia Tucker and to celebrate her life, Anne showed the catalogue from the exhibition Bad Girls, sister shows which Tucker and Marcia Tanner organized in 1994 at the New Museum in NYC and Bad Girls West at Wight Art Gallery, UCLA respectively. Below is the invitation to the memorial service held in Marcia Tucker's honor:

You are invited to honor and remember

Founding Director, New Museum of Contemporary Art
3 PM

Tishman Auditorium
The New School
66 West 12th Street
New York, New York

Organized by the New Museum of Contemporary Art in association with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.

Here's an essay written by Lisa Phillips, the current director of the New Museum, about its founding director:

The Problem of Reading

Thursday, January 11
Moyra Davey's "The Problem of Reading"

The first day of My place... brought a selection from Moyra Davey's series of photographs of her own book collection, which visitors to TART viewed just as Moyra sent them to Anne, each loose in a little portfolio. Below is Moyra's statement:

"The Untitled series appears in the book The Problem of Reading, and all the photos are related in some way to that theme. Some document the transformation and ultimate dismantling of a corner bookshelf over a period of 5 years, others show close-ups of the books with accumulations of dust and small household objects. Book stacks constitute a kind of collection, and the dust, the longer it piles up, becomes a collection as well. The image of burying books with dust describes the relationship of time to our collections, where the object, a contained knowledge, gives way to the sediment of time, until time is the thing collected."

Among the visitors on day 1 of the project was SF artist and writer Jordan Essoe, who wrote the following in reaction to Moyra's work:

"Moyra's unframed handful of photographed bookcases and busy shelves escort you through a nonhierarchical circulation of personal property, and aptly summarize the expectation of what any participant in chit-chat brings to the table: a discharge of symbolic information. Whether randomly assimilated or intentionally harnessed, any assemblage of collected valuables is strangely dehumanizing and of questionable biographical value. On the other hand, as with the mental records of conversation, it inevitably invites attention, curiosity and conclusions: a sundry of detritus, deliberately set in upright rows, but scattered. A well prescribed catalyst and touchstone for 'My place Between 12 and 2' on its inaugural day."

Jordan looks through the collection with Jessica Silverman and Jessica Brier in the background, enjoying tea and conversation.

The Journal

The TART Journal was created to facilitate dialogue generated by the current exhibition, My place between 12 and 2pm, which features work of various kinds by Moyra Davey and Marcia Tanner. Each day, Anne is showing something that Moyra and Marcia have shared with her, and for 28 days, all are invited to TART between 12 and 2pm to see what Moyra and Marcia have shared, sit, drink tea, and talk. To extend the conversation beyond the gallery, we've created this virtual space where anyone can react to and discuss the project rooted at TART.

Please feel free to make comments and add to this forum, Jessica.

My place between 12 & 2pm

with Moyra Davey and Marcia Tanner
January 11 - February 7, 2007

I decided to invite Moyra and Marcia over to my place. I haven't known them long but am getting to know them better through their work. I like and respect them both and they have been very supportive.

I wanted to think about their work in a different way, not controlling my choices but allowing for a more open, collaborative process. This has felt good. I decided to present the works as a series of surprises happening on a daily basis over a period of twenty eight days. Leaving things to chance, exploring the unexpected, going in with a certain degree of uncertainty, that's what this is all about. I also believe in the power of small gestures.

Marcia is full of life, her trajectory has lots of twists and turns. She's an inspiration, she follows the beat of her own drum. Marcia curated Bad Girls West - Marcia Tucker's Bad Girls sister show - Brides of Frankenstein, Mi Casa es Su Casa, We Look and See and more. She supports women artists, she collects, she writes, the list goes on. She also has over twenty years of experience as a critic and curator.

Moyra is very gracious and generous, you believe in her. She reveals things. She has been working consistently for the past twenty years as an artist showing at American Fine Arts, Rena Bransten, Artists Space, Alexander and Bonin, Aldrich Museum, Nicole Klagsbrun amongst many others along the way. She is also a founding member of Orchard a great co-operative gallery on New York's Lower East Side.

My place between 12 and 2pm is an invitation from me, Marcia and Moyra.

See you there, Anne.

47 Lusk Alley
SF CA 94107
415 203 5865