I recently got an email from artist Edna Shochat with a dramatic poster attached. Headlined “One in Eight,” the poster contains seven photos of glossy-haired celebrities showing lots of décolletage. It also has a picture of Edna in a hospital gown, which somehow looks elegant on her.
Beneath the eight photos, a stark American Cancer Society statistic: “During her lifetime, the chance of a woman to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer is about 1 in 8.”
Then Edna has written a more uplifting line: “If you are one of the eight, remember: You may lose your hair, temporarily, or precious body parts, permanently, but you should never lose your sense of style.”
That positive spirit seems perfectly in line with the artist’s personality. When I first wrote about her in the Weekly last year, she was exhibiting her photos at Philz Coffee in Palo Alto. The images were cheerful and humorous freeze-frames of everyday life. The show was also a celebration, of the artist’s first anniversary of her final chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Earlier this fall, Edna told a longer version of her story on the health blog of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, whose surgeons had performed her bilateral mastectomy in 2011 and whose oncology department had administered her chemotherapy. She’s now cancer-free.
"As soon as I woke up from surgery and saw the worried faces of my husband and children, I knew I had to reassure them," the blog quotes Edna as saying. "I said faintly, ‘I think I’m beginning to experience Empty Breasts Syndrome.’"
Edna beams in a photo. Her optimistic spirit also shines through in her pastel drawing “Two Sisters,” which is highlighted in the blog. (The real thing is on display at Deborah’s Palm in Palo Alto.)
She sent me the blog post, along with a kind, appreciative note for my previous write-up about her. But I was the one who felt appreciative, as I read every inspiring word.
Pictured: “Two Sisters,” a pastel by Edna Shochat.
If life gives you self-help manuals, make a quilt. Well played, artist Lisa Kokin, who found a bunch of said manuals at a recycling center and gave their spines new life as the finely stitched 2010 work “Fret.” My detail photo above also offers a taste of her flair for color.
"Sometimes the spines remain partially or wholly intact, but sometimes I sacrifice the titles to make cheery shapes like flowers and leaves, which I hope will create eternal happiness for the viewer in five days or less," writes the East Bay artist, whose portfolio of work includes button works and sculptures.
Kokin also creates altered books and book collages, which makes her a fine fit for the Palo Alto Art Center’s current show, “Bibliophilia,” where “Fret” is now on display. I had written a preview story about the exhibit focusing mainly on the book works by Emily Payne, and yesterday I got to see the full show, which contains art by 15 people overall.
Another highlight was the section of oil paintings by Scot Velardo. Old and discarded books are the canvases for him to paint scenes of street life in San Francisco, New York, Milan.
Seen here: a book called “The Wonderful World of Music” revamped into a slice of life on Harrison Street in San Francisco. Beautiful how the texture of the book title blends with the new painting, and how the conductor’s arms open to the new sky.
When you switch journalism beats, you can usually torch your Rolodex. It’s rare that your sources will carry over en masse from, say, the cops beat to the sports desk.
Bill Jackson is the one of the few artists who was also a regular source for me when I was a news reporter back in the day, covering county government for the San Mateo Times. He was the county’s elections manager then and is a fine-art photographer now. When I jumped ship for the arts editor’s desk, he got in touch again.
Instead of chatting about precinct results, we’ve talked about his pleasantly eerie photography, which has been seen quite a bit around town in recent years. Jackson is a member of the Palo Alto Camera Club and is represented by the Paolo Mejia Gallery in the city.
At the moment, he also has a solo show up at Philz Coffee in Palo Alto’s Midtown neighborhood. Jackson usually likes to photograph people; here he’s found inspiration in the rings and cracks of fallen trees.
His “Timber” series came from “cut and fallen trees from California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, modified in post-processing to create something different from the original,” as he puts it. The series is a blaze of color: atomic reds, deep blues, powerful oranges. I like to imagine some logger knocking down a tree and jumping back appalled, seeing all this wonder inside.
Slightly haunted, but in a good way, by Irene Schlesinger's mixed-media work “Shulamit.” Those eyes. And of course that level of detail that makes you walk up and back in a gallery: up close to see it all, way back to take it in. The eyes didn't follow me, but they were close.
The Bay Area artist contributed this visage to the current “Figures and Faces” show at the Pacific Art League. Several Palo Altans also have their work represented: Maura Carta (oil paintings), Alicia Ivanhoe (color drawings), Cherryl Pape (graphite drawings). Forty works, lots of eyes that follow you.
In my eight years as A&E editor, this is the first time I’ve seen a movie open at three of our local movie theaters at once. “Jobs,” you better kick ass more than “Kick-Ass 2.”
Well, not in here at the moment. Classes at the Palo Alto institution known as the Pacific Art League are being held ‘round the corner at 227 Forest Ave. while the building undergoes major renovations. Exhibits are there, too. During this time, it’s strange to peer into the venerable old Ramona Street building and see a wide open space instead of a gallery, folks painting and framed art. Space busy with construction workers and equipment, that is.
I strolled ‘round the corner this morning and visited animal-themed art in the big group exhibit. Instead of being a dedicated gallery, the large room was displaying its shows on the walls while housing an ongoing art class in the middle of the room. The ambiance was noisier than at a gallery, but cheerful. I like an exhibit with a creative buzz.
In the adjacent foyer gallery the artist Duan Zhaonan is displaying portraits of Chinese opera singers, heavy on the reds, with swift-looking brushstrokes.
Construction is scheduled to finish next April.
Pictured: The Ramona Street facade of the Pacific Art League, currently under construction. Photo by Rebecca Wallace.
Quick. Who do you see in the top image?
I focused on the glasses lens and saw Lennon right away, but peer in and McCartney’s there too. Mountain View artist Jay Hill likes to shake things up, and not just with his cans of spray paint. He calls his works “Dangerous Paintings,” shooting them with blasts of color.
This week, Hill’s work makes a welcome return to Palo Alto (I wrote about his show at Gallery House last year). He’s teaming up with another of my favorites, sculptor Ryan Carrington, who teaches at San Jose State. Their exhibit, “Gravity Ltd.,” is at New Coast Studios, which just announced it would stop hosting exhibits and focus on providing services to artists. Fortunately, another show made it in, and the New Coast folks say that other artists will also be able to self-curate exhibits in the future.
Hill always had art aspirations but started painting seriously only in the last couple of years. His garage studio is a vivid place, with slabs of wood and face masks and cans of paint. Paintings are filled with stylized letters and faces that are hard to look away from. As a longtime Pink Floyd fan, I especially enjoyed his tribute to Syd Barrett.
Carrington and I also had a great chat last year when he was showing work at CSMA. Construction materials such as work gloves, sledgehammers and electrical wire make powerful statements throughout his art; Carrington has a background in construction and likes to tip his artist’s hat to the working man.
"Gravity Ltd." has an opening reception tomorrow, June 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. at New Coast at 935 Industrial Ave., and then is up until June 22, Tuesday through Saturday. Check it out.
Pictured: Top: “Beatle Reduction #1, Come Together,” a 2013 digital morph-mashup of Lennon and McCartney, by Jay Hill. Above: “Heavy Routine,” by Ryan Carrington.
SoCal meets Palo Alto in a new show of 15 paintings by PA native Bryan Ida. On round and rectangular panels, his thick epoxy layers recall his history with Southern California architecture: its boxes and lines, the experience of looking straight up at a tall building and losing all perspective. When a city becomes all abstract floaters, can you still feel connected to it?
Ida’s local ties (besides playing the French horn in the El Camino Youth Symphony) include his stint as a studio assistant for the late abstract expressionist painter Sam Francis in Francis’ Palo Alto studio. This was an influential time for the young artist.
"We often talked about the correlation between music and painting, how it is really the same thing just using different senses," Ida says on his website. "I have applied some of the same principles of music theory to my visual practice."
Wanted: a new home for a Palo Alto forest. That is, the collection of photos on glass, hung with wood, wire and acrylic, known as the art installation "The Palo Alto Forest." PA photographer Angela Buenning Filo gathered and assembled the photos, which are taken by locals of their favorite trees in town. The work has been on display as part of the grand-opening exhibit at the swanked-up Palo Alto Art Center, but the show is coming down soon and the work has nowhere to go.
Art-center director Karen Kienzle is fond of the piece, but “we’re not a collecting organization,” so the center can’t keep it. “Maybe it could go in a corporate lobby?” she wondered aloud. “She doesn’t want to put it in storage,” she said of the artist. “She wants it to be enjoyed.”
To help out, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Jim Filo.
"That’s a heck of a piece of glass," a man said behind me as we admired the Madonna-and-child made from smooth, beautiful blue Murano glass. I then went across the room and stared for a long time at an impossibly intricate terra cotta Nativity scene from Italy. Even the tiny sheep faces were rich with tender emotion.
It was a very nice Sunday at the annual Christmas Creche exhibition in Palo Alto. I recommend it. There are some 350 creches from various countries and in many materials, including this pictured one (thanks, joepemberton) made from paper wrapped around quills. Several take the form of Russian nesting dolls; others are made from ebony, fabric, metal, crystal … the list goes on. Organizer-curators have also done a lovely job surrounding the creches with flowers, succulent plants and twinkling pine branches. When we were there, a harpist played and people spoke in reverent whispers. A peaceful holiday event, on daily through Dec. 5.