San Diego has often been called out for its tendency to party first and look at art second. The city's detractors might be right. What obliges artists, then, to participate in these events? I wondered as I climbed over barstools, artwork and acres of plastic martini glasses at an art opening earlier this month. Do they have a choice?
Held hostage for a night was the New Contemporaries IV exhibit on view at Alexander Salazar Fine Art (1040 Seventh Ave., Downtown), part of the San Diego Visual Art Network (SDVAN) and the San Diego Art Prize's ongoing efforts to promote regional emerging artists. SDVAN supplied the visuals and Effen Vodka provided the perfect martini. So it goes.
Few artists' works in the show could compete with the party. Cheryl Sorg's “Out of the Blue”; Mely Barragan's He-Man series, in particular, an image of a man prostrate with a cactus growing out of his ass; Han Nguyen's “Re-master[ed]” and pixilated images of paintings by Francis Bacon and Van Gogh; Lee Puffer's antagonistic ceramic heads; Susannah Bielak's Pepto-Bismol drawings; and finally, Gretchen Mercedes' cast resin molds of deer titled “The Drones” were the only pieces in the show insisting you pay attention. The other works drowned in a cocktail of passivity.
Let's be honest: No one benefits from these types of events except the organizers. This is one marketing tool San Diego's art community does not need to thrive on or employ; nor should we depend on the sweat equity from artists to fuel it. We should stop the free-exposure-begets-reward myth that feeds off creativity and perceives art as entertainment.
New Contemporaries IV is on view through Aug. 31 with a closing reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27.
A few weeks ago, we sent CityBeat inteMichael Misselwitz to the rooftop of a nearby vacant Evangelical Bible Book Store to retrieve a canvas covered in a stencil of a mustachioed man in glasses.
He scaled the building, came back with the piece and discovered a small copy of the New Testament spray-painted with the same mustache stencil tucked inside the back flap of the canvas.
We wish we could call the street-art score a miracle, but we were working on an inside tip from the canvas' creator, Jim Houliston.
A few weeks ago, we sat down with Houliston and asked him about his so-called Dagger Project, in which he and his team take their stenciled canvases containing hidden, spray-painted Bibles (which he calls “daggers”) and string them up in trees, on street lights and wherever else they can suspend a canvas and coax people to put in a little effort to get a free piece of art.
All of the imagery on the canvasses and Bibles comes directly from scripture, Houliston says, but he makes the pieces as cool as he can so as not to shove any unwanted messages down people's throats. Houliston wants the gesture to be subtle. People can either keep the Bible or not; as long as they like the free art, Houliston says he's happy.
“I never want this project to be pitched as, Hey, there's a bunch of Christian art out there, go get it— nobody's going to want that,” he says. “People can see it as, That looks cool, and it's free? And I get to climb up on a roof to get it?” Houliston painted his first Bible in 2005 as a way to hide the fact that he was reading the Bible in public. He was a pot-smoking party kid, but before he even reached the end of the Bible, he decided to give the God thing another go (he was raised religious but was drawn away in college).
He says that soon after he made the decision to get jiggy with Jesus again, he saw small, real-world miracles that keep him a believer to this day—hence the Dagger Project and his dedication to getting urban-looking Bibles in front of a few young people's faces.
Bryan Snyder, a one-time CityBeat cover artist, and Mark Patterson, the artist of the famed “Surfing Madonna” mosaic, have completed a painting in Snyder's signature drip technique outlined with a mosaic by Patterson. The piece is being auctioned online at surfingmadonnacollab.com through the end of September, and it's currently on view at E Street Café (128 W. E St. in Encinitas). Money raised will help Patterson with costs he incurred when the city removed the illegally installed mosaic.
On behalf of AIA San Diego's “Good Deed” project, architect Kevin deFreitas is collecting new or used art and design books to be donated to local middle and high schools. Visit aiasandiego.org/architects-bookshelf for a list of drop-off locations or to find out how you can get involved.
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