Cocooning and Collaborating

In the last several months, since the beginning of 2018, there is a word that I have been using to describe the intention of my actions in this new year. That word is "cocooning" (vb.). Just as the Hermit card describes a period of time in which gentle yet deliberate exile is necessary to accomplish a task or overcome a hurdle, I have needed to gently yet deliberately exile myself from social media and other social platforms that do not serve my creativity at this moment in time. Ironically and simultaneously, this year has been abundant in social interactions ("irl") and collaborative endeavors. 

I begun January 2018 by participating in another art-walk at Bixby Knolls in Long Beach. These events are always fun and light-hearted, as you have the freedom to curated your own little space with a sampling of your work. People from all walks of life come by and interact with you, thus some interesting and unexpected conversations can occur. 

My wall at the Bixby Knolls Art Walk, January 2018.

As I discussed in my previous post, I was working on a mural in the restroom at Impresso Cafe in Downtown Los Angeles last year; to my dismay I had not been able to finish it before leaving for Canada for my Christmas Holiday. I made it my mission to finish it in the first month of the new year, so that I could dedicate my free time to working on my own personal body of work. All things considered I am pleased with the result, especially considering it was my first mural painting and I was using inadequate acrylic mural paints which were very difficult to work with, as they dried almost instantly (this coming from an oil painter who particularly enjoys the sloooow process oil affords!).

Desert Mural in the restroom of Impresso Cafe, Los Angeles. 

Portrait of Desiree, taken from my sketchbook, 2018
Additionally, for the first couple months of this year, I was occupied with drawing portraits from photographs I had taken of my friends. I like the freedom this practice gives me, as I could take my sketchbook anywhere I wanted and draw for one hour or several hours. I feel like I am also challenged by these pieces, as it is important for me to get the true like-ness of my friends and try to make them look as if I hadn't used a photograph for reference. In the end, these resulted in little finished pieces which I am nearly as satisfied with as the large ambitious drawings and paintings I make.

Portrait of India, taken from my sketchbook, 2018
Portrait of Darwin, taken from my sketchbook, 2018

 One of these "sketches" was picked to be used on an online Los Angeles life & culture website called Voyage LA. There is a follow up interview section which I am assured will be published soon. It turned out that many of my fellow FA4 Collective members had also been chosen to be exhibited and interviewed on this site, so it ended up being great and serondipitous exposure for the Collective.

In late February I participated in a show called "On Paper" at the Catalyst Gallery.  It was a nice little space which is owned and operated through Art Supply Warehouse in Westminster, California. It was a good opportunity to showcase a couple of my cut-out pieces from last year alongside some other impressive pieces "on paper"... my favorite surface to work on.

A picture of myself in front of my piece "I, Hermit" at the On Paper exhibition in February 2018.

Furthermore, a good number of members from the FA4 Collective have broken into small sub-groups to collaborate on paintings; these pieces will be shown in July at the Angel City Brewery in the Arts District in Los Angeles. As a Collective we have done many events at the ACB before, however this particular event is very near and dear to me because it is based on the theme of immigration. Coincidentally, I just became a naturalized citizen of the United States this year, so I have already been thinking a lot about what it means to be an immigrant here in the US.

Our piece after our first collaborative evening.
My collaborative sub-group consists of the artists Gloria Elisa Margarita Sanchez, Chris Hernandez, Elaine Kwak, and myself. We began working on our painting in March, and have met a total of three times so far to collaborate on our piece. Initially we started with lines from a poem by Emma Lazarus called The New Colossus, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

Together we have brainstormed about the meaning of immigration, the experience of being an immigrant, and all of the ordeals our family members, friends, and ourselves have had been through being an "other" in the United States.

The statue of liberty, where at the base the lines from The New Colossus is written, has become a symbol for freedom and immigration in the US for over a century. The memory and stories of all of the immigrants who were brought through Ellis Island, whose first encounter of the US would have been to see that statue in the New York City harbor, have become part of the collective national memory. The struggle of immigrants from south-of-the-border and war-stricken countries never ceases to be a hot topic of the day. I noticed, during my naturalization process, that the image of Lady Liberty is plastered all over the immigration offices as a symbol of the American Dream finally becoming realized. Of course there is a level of absurdity to the experience, which is something we discuss as a group as we work on our piece.

From left to right: myself, Chris, Gloria and Elaine. 

Our painting as of May 1st, 2018

Another exciting endeavor I have undertaken recently is a residency program at the Torrance Art Museum called Forum. This program was established by TAM director Max Presneill as an opportunity for emerging artists to network together and learn insider-secrets from many top artists, curators, gallerists, and writers working today. One Saturday per month, from April through December, the group of us (twenty young artists, gallerists, curators, and writers) will come together at TAM and meet with our special guest professionals. There will be a Q&A opportunity where we can pick their brains and learn invaluable information about how to negotiate the art market, gallery shows, press & publicity, etc. 

So far we have only met once for our first official meeting. During this initial meeting, half of the Forum members were able to share a slideshow featuring their art and processes. Coming from a fairly traditional outlook on art-making, these artists have already challenged my way of thinking about the age-old question: "what is art?" So far a majority of them seem to have an affinity for using technology as communication and as art-making tools. For instance there are several artists who make virtual computer-art, such as video games, animations, and computer programming. Additionally, I am also learning about nontraditional ways of existing and facilitating the art world. A couple of presenters from the last meeting have become self-assigned facilitators by creating clubs (for example: The Art Theory Book Club created by Alessandor Earnest) and event coordination. I feel fortunate to be amongst such a diverse group of thinkers and creators, and I already recognize that I am about to embark on a considerable learning expedition. 

Due to a lack of time, the second half of the members were unable to give their presentations, so Max decided to break up the remaining ten people into much smaller groups who will present in the next several meetings. We are to
arrange our presentations to match the discipline of the visiting artist/professional. Thus, the next time we meet in May, I will be presenting my slideshow in the presence of painters Tomory Dodge and Liat Yossifor. 

In December, for the "graduation" of Forum, the members will collaborate to create an exhibition at the Torrence Art Museum. Obviously I am participating as an artist, however it is my intention to push myself and write an essay which will hopefully be a part of the show catalogue. I feel that writing is an invaluable capability which I aspire to do a lot more of in the near and distant future. 

Moreover, to refer back to the sentiment I touched on at the beginning of this post, I feel like I have been in a phase of cocooning. I have been far from "cranking out" pieces recently, and thus my social media has been rather neglected. For the first time in a very long time I am unconcerned with the desire to post out of necessity to be seen as relevant. Instead, I have had quiet and personal epiphanies about the direction of my work, which I know will reveal themselves in due course.  

Work in Progress of a tarot-themed piece
featuring one of my favorite models and friends
Work in progress of my personal "immigration"
piece for the ACB show in July. 

The pieces above are two works-in-progress which I am very excited about. They are both moving toward my inclination to make mixed-media cut-out works on paper. The medium of paper is solidifying itself in my mind as my most favorite surface to work on due to the capabilities of paper to transform into a myriad of potential outcomes. In the future, I envision my work combining large mixed media drawings and paintings with even more ambitious paper-cut to become an illuminated sensational art object...
                                                                                                                         ..... but more on that later!


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