Author: ellltigre

Thomas “T-Money” Cressman in Living Form

Thomas “T-Money” Cressman in Living Form

In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space”, this past, past week (sorry to any readers out there looking forward to my weekly blog posts but life has been kicking my ass so they’ll basically come to fruition when they come to fruition), I delved into the work of Thomas Cressman and his final BFA show in where he displayed his large scale vessels, structures, and other goodies out of metals (such as a crab claw ring, made with real crab!).

Mr. Thomas Cressman or T-Money, Thom, Tommy, T, T-Bomb, Garlic T (by far the strangest and in my opinion, best nickname out of the bunch because it was given to him by the same Woodshop professor that called me El Tigre), Patina God, or what I like to call him, Big Boss (since he’s my boss after all) is a man with plenty of monikers but with one goal; creating the best damn art he can and showing the world his skills.

So the story goes like this, I was first introduced to Thomas when I was but a wee greenhorn in the field of metalsmithing and trying to carve my way into the Metals BFA. The head of the Department, Susanna, told me that if I were interested in this department then I should speak to the president of MAG (Metal’s Art Guild) which was a BFA student. I’ll always remember that first time I had seen Thomas because you know how you tend to have an image in your head of what the person is supposed to look like because of their position and status but end up totally wrong. Well, in my head T-Money was supposed to be this older, tall white guy with facial hair, and muscular build because he’s been blacksmithing for most of his life. Lo and behold, I only got the “white guy” part right. Thom might be an inch taller than me (I’m 5’3″ or 5’4″), so he wasn’t that towering 6′ man I was imagining. He had no facial hair (I’m pretty sure he shaves everyday) and he might be buff since he plays hockey but I don’t want to investigate that attribute any further (that’d be weird). Also, he has definitely not been blacksmithing for most of his life because as I found out, Tommy had actually planned to attend Northridge College for a Sound Engineer degree before finally choosing his real destiny of being a metalsmith at Cal State Long Beach.

T-Bomb had achieved what some of us, metalsmiths going through our program tend not to do; take almost every metal’s class offered at our school. This is quite the achievement since those classes that he partook in were not mandatory to his graduation. With that type of training it only meant that Big Boss would become one of the most skillful metalsmith in our school and his BFA show definitely demonstrates this. Out of the three galleries shows that week that displayed Metal BFA work, Thomas’ show can be described as a “classically, well-thought out, cohesive exhibition displaying the exploration of the theme of how organic biology thrive and develop within our world.” (See, I can sound extremely well verse when I want to be) Patina God’s (the reason why Thomas received the nickname of Patina God, well,  before I explain his name let me define patina first, patina is defined as “a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color.” But to be fair, it can be any color on the metal. To make a long story short, Thomas started to master patinas during his time at school thus the name) works are colorful but mimicked the pastels pallets found in nature. The show consisted of pieces that were deep organic brown that mimicked mushrooms growing on the side of a tree to crustacean green that mimicked the color of rust from the great ships that have sunken in the seas for years to deep ocean blue that only the crustaceans could have produced due to evolution. Each piece in the gallery aesthetically speaking, harkens back to the object of inspiration for Thom but never fully duplicates the object. He gives you hints and vagues clues to as what it could be because Patina God doesn’t like to make his art obvious, he makes you work for it dammit!

As you slowly make the rounds to every object in the gallery space from large vessels, to ring size jewelry, to massive bending metal rods, you start to realize the Latin names and English titles placards for each piece. The funny thing is that T-Bomb kind of made up those Latin names for his pieces, for example he took the Latin names for colors and the objects that inspired his piece and then combined it into a title. It’s actually quite smart that he created latin names because it adds a flair of elegance and professionalism to his show. Speaking of professionalism, T-Money is one of the most punctual and responsible person I have ever met when it comes to school. This man used to take five or more classes while having more than two studio classes at a time and passed all of them with what I presume with straight A’s. He has multiple small notebooks that are filled to the brim with ideas, calendar of things that need to be done, and about everything else that he needs to remember. Another BFA student once told me that if I looked up to anyone in this metal’s program it was be Thomas because he knows how to handle his business and get it done.

Finally, I’ll leave you, the reader, with Thomas’ future plans of before he leaves and after he leaves this school. He would like to make one more last final big, hoorah piece before leaving Cal State Long Beach and after he leaves this school he would like to translate his sculptures and vessels into smaller wearable pieces. So in the future, look for a top of the line original by Thomas Cressman’s, be it ring or necklace you better act fast before his art starts to raise in price as he starts to raise in fame.

Marty McFly: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Marty McFly: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Today is October 21, 2015, the day in the film Back To The Future: Part II where Marty McFly and Doc Brown travelled to the future… well to the present which will turn into the past after today… It’s all very confusing if you think about it. Anyways this blog post is actually a training exercise to see why I do what it is that I do, such as dress up as Marty McFly (If you look at the image I posted you can see what I mean, and if you, the reader, is curious as to what I’m doing in that photo, I’m trying to flex the wheel fast enough so it can light up).

As mention before, today was the day the hero of the film, Marty, arrives into our present which is his future to set everything right and as a way to respect the passage of time of when the film was first release to now, (which is 26 years) I had to dress up. However, as I continued to explore my mind as to why I would ever decide to dress up as him, I started to realize that his experiences mirror mine own.

So when we first met Marty McFly, he’s just a student trying to follow his musical career dreams but he has self doubts about his future like any sane person would. I’m a student that is trying to follow his art career dreams with plenty of self doubt. But as I further analyze my character idolization I soon realize that both of us have mentors that taught us a valuable lesson with a single sentence that we often recite when we face adversity. Doc Brown taught Marty,”If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”. My professor taught me that “if you commit to an idea, you should commit to it fully”. Ever since she told me that statement, every time I do an art project her voice instantly plays in my head and I start to give it my all. Next, we both have to look into our past families’ lives for inspiration to solve the problems in the present to change our future into something we want. But lastly and most importantly, Marty and I are stylish cats so it only make sense that Marty is my one of my favorite heroes even if he’s a fictional character.

The “Rocks” In Our Lives

The “Rocks” In Our Lives

In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space”, this past, past week, I delved into the work of Bailey Francis who created a truly meaningful show with rocks, branches, and wood based on her experiences when she was vacationing at her grandparents’ home. Although the experiences she had based the show upon was less than a joyful one.

I first met Bailey in Blacksmithing class, she had a hat equipped on her head and wore a “G4” shirt so I knew she was my kind of people (for those of you that don’t know what G4 is, it was a channel on basic cable that was all about technology and gaming. One of my favorite channel until they went under). Also, she was a new face in the metal scene and I was sure that she belonged to a different department/program. So I did what I do best, I got information. I found out she was part of a rare breed at our school that belonged to the elusive Wood BFA program (I didn’t know that the Wood program at our school only had like one BFA during the time I met Bailey, I thought each program had at least five BFA but hot damn I was wrong). Shortly thereafter we got to talking and became good friends because again she was my kind of people, geeky in nature, knowledgeable, and friendly.

And so the story goes like this, when this semester began and as I started this blog, it came to my notification that Bailey would have a gallery show on campus so I jumped the gun the week before she would have it and asked for an interview. She gladly said yes to my request. So fast-forward to the week of the show, I was completely clueless to what she would do for it. Knowing Bailey, it would be something functional, simple, and conceptual but not too artsy-fartsy where I didn’t know what the hell I was looking at. Let’s just say I was partially right with my assumption on the show. For first time visitors that walked into the Merlino Gallery, they were greeted with the doors swung wide open, nothing would be hidden and Bailey welcomed them as they enter. There were rows of tables that she had made from Douglas Fir Pine, the cheapo wood that you can buy any day of the week from Home Depot (there is a story to why this type of wood was used). Upon these tables and under them are compositions of rock, bits of trees and branches that she had arranged all around the gallery. The show’s rock/wood composition actually kept changing right up until opening day because as Bailey stated, when she thinks about a project’s concept too much she would get caught in a loop of self-questioning and constant change until she realized that all she needed to do was get her hands on the material because once she did it would be “nuts” (in a good way). However, before I delve deeper into this show, there was a problem that kept arising with some of the visitors. They simply did not read the artist’s statement which in turn led to no deeper impact of realization, ultimately missing the ah-ha moment of the whole show. Look at the blog’s image and then give the artist’s statement a read (it’s conveniently placed below for your viewing pleasure).

The show Returning to Nature is a tribute to Walt Schirmer – Pa – my grandfather. Growing up, I was incredibly close to him and loved spending time with him in his workshop tinkering away and finding out how things worked. On June 12, 2015, he was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, a cancer that spreads rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks. I began collecting rocks and wood from his driveway, a coping mechanism that allowed me to free my thoughts and to take my minds off things, if only for a little while. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him before he was gone and those are the moments I’ll cherish forever. Pa passed away July 27, 2015 quietly in his sleep. With his last act on Earth, my grandfather was still able to teach me that in order to truly experience life, you must experience death.

Returning to Nature represents the life cycle of the Earth in various stages. Everything from plants and animals to rocks go through a constant cycle of change and destruction and rebirth. Although virtually impossible to detect, rocks are constantly changing; due to the driving forces of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and the water cycle, rocks do not remain in equilibrium and are forced to change as they encounter new environments. A rock may break down and dissolve when exposed to the atmosphere or melt as it is subducted under the continent. Wood as a living form grows, dies, and decays but creates a new ecology for other living organism such as lichen and the termites that currently reside within the tables. The cycle has continued for billions of years and will continue long after we too are gone.”

It changes the whole show doesn’t it? Also, remember the type of wood that was used to make the tables, Douglas Fir Pine, Bailey used to go to Home Depot with Pa when she was a kid and he would pick up that very kind of wood to do home projects. (Fun fact, in the show Bailey has favorite rocks that she displayed and those were her favorite because those rocks helped her take her mind off of the situation the most)

I’ll be honest with you, the reader, that when I first entered the show that it held me in an emotional muddle. We have all lost someone dear to us (a lot of the visitors spoke to Bailey on her lost and their own, which was a powerful thing to witness), and when I spoke to her about the subject, she spoke about how unreal it is. Near the end of finishing up the setup for the entire show, it don on her that when the show had reached the end of the week that Pa was finally gone because the show was going to be over. After hearing her feelings, I wanted to help her feel better and I have a way for you, the reader, to help too (more on that later). It’s this theory I have, so if you’ll entertain me and hear me out, the theory goes like this. People don’t truly part from us in this world because sometimes we only look at the physical measurements of what makes a person live, such as the time on this earth, our health, our appearances, etc. but this make us forget about the emotional magnitude that carries on with person that we love so much and this is what allows them to continue to live on beside us. The stories we shared with them, our laughter that followed their joke and vice versa, the smiles we participated in with each other. We tend to always remember what the measureable things about someone were, but we should remember what we couldn’t measure such as the love, respect, and memories we experienced with that person.

So this is where you, the reader, come in by kicking down the door and screaming “How can I help?”.  See, I don’t believe people completely die as long as we know about their existence and what they chose to do with it. So here is the solution to my theory, the more of us that know something about the life of Pa, Walt Schirmer, the more he lives on. Naturally through natural conversation mind you, Bailey told me a story or two about Pa. Walt and his wife, Marg lived in Northern California, in a home that wasn’t close to other homes(the kind of homes that people get to have privacy and get closer to nature, you know big yards with the driveway that could park, oh let’s say, about 20 cars) and had a road with a sign named “Walt and Marg Pl.”(how badass is that? I strive to have my name on a street sign in my future now) that led up to their home. One day, Bailey took longer than her usual 30 minutes of collecting rocks and wood to get her mind off of the situation. The next time she went out on her collecting escapade, Pa told her that she should be careful since it was unsafe due it being snake season. Pa in his own badass way told Bailey to take his pistol on her walk, (this man is dope because think about it, he probably had to shoot a skinny slithery snake before on a walk and that takes some skills since your target is a skinny slithery snake) of course she laugh and told him that it wasn’t necessary but he insisted that she have some sort of protection so he offered her the next best thing, a machete (she took the machete on the walk by the way, it actually helped on her scavenge since she could poke and prod at stuff).

There you have it reader, you have helped Bailey (thank you for helping me as well in trying to cheer her up) by knowing a little bit about her Pa because at the end of the day we all have those people in our lives that are our rocks, part of our foundation that we were built upon and like rocks, when that person is gone they leave us feeling shaky and uncertain but just like rocks they leave an imprint with us that others also get to witness.

(Thank you Bailey for sharing a phenomenal person with us, and for you Mr. Walten Schirmer, take it easy, you deserve it.)

An Affair With Another Major: Journalism

An Affair With Another Major: Journalism

In an ongoing series, where I explore other academic majors that peaked my interest at one point or another in my life, this blog post will cover the major called journalism. This blog post was made possible with the help of Jamie Perez and contributions from readers like you, thank you. (Can you imagine in an alternate dimension where like Earth-310 version of Tony Nguyen was actually a journalist instead of this Earth’s Tony pretending to be a journalist? Mind. Blown.)

I barely met Jamie this semester in “Contemporary Leisure Study”, which is just some fancy-swami word for a class based on how our individual selves and we as a society use free time but I digress. When we first had class, our teacher asked us about our majors and Jamie said journalism to then my immediate response was “Hot diggity damn, I need to talk to this chick to see what that major is all about.” This was because I’ve always found journalism mesmerizing and powerful. Journalists have so much influence on this world with the information they give to the people, whether they’re truthful or not (I would like to take this moment and give a disrespectful shout out to all those journalists out there knowingly giving skewed, incomplete, or otherwise completely false information to the public, especially you FOX news, y’all some perplexed, dirty, snakey, self–indulgent douchebag assholes still struggling to completely understand the basic concept of honest journalism. Don’t pardon my French on this one for I knew what I was saying) and in a perfect world we would only have the most responsible and honest journalists but we don’t. They’re kind of like the superheroes and supervillains of this world (not very cool heroes or villains when you think of them in the traditional sense but!… eh, never mind, I got nothing) and I always wanted to be a hero so I had to ask Jamie what it takes to become one.

Just kidding, I didn’t ask her how to be a hero (I’m a anti-hero after all).

So the story goes like this, when I first spoke to Jamie it was due in part to our mutual friend, Darren. I could tell she was an easygoing, mellow, and a confident person from the way she spoke to the fact that she drove Darren home after the first day of class even though at that point in time she barely knew him. So I jumped the gun and asked her for a interview about her major which resulted in a yes. However, I had to wait two weeks before I had the chance to sit down with her since our professor had cancelled classes for two weeks meaning our schedules wouldn’t line up with each other until then. Fast forward two weeks, boom, bang, zing, and our class had ended for the day and we (including Darren) walked over to the pool hall on campus to meet up with some of her friends. Friendly introductions to strangers over, I started the interview.

The conversation went easy enough, I told her about the rules on how I conducted my interviews, “No boring questions like “what inspired you”, “what color do you”, “if you could be a dog or a cat…” you catch my drift, I’ll try to keep the interview cool, casual and not forced upon” and thanks to the interviewee it went exactly as so. First we spoke about our current states of life, how it was going between us two, why I started the blog, how was her weekend, again cool and casual. I found out that she was of a French, Native, Mexican, and Spanish descent. Next, I delved into her major only to realize that I knew little to nothing about the journalism degree offered here at CSULB. CSULB wasn’t just teaching students the fundamentals of hardcore-in-your-face investigative techniques (if at all) or how to write an informative article but it also taught journalism media (not in a complete kind of way, where the student didn’t get to learn all about media). Jamie loved the sub-focus of journalism media where she could be artistic and use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator to help make news more visually exciting and relatable to the viewer. It’s a much needed talent especially since this generation and no doubt the next generation will be very tech dependent, too easily bored to look at boring layouts, and not to mention moving from day to day without a second thought of what happened yesterday, so the journalism game must keep up with the times (I much prefer my news simple, coming from someone wearing a fedora with a piece of paper reading PRESS stuck in it’s brim, jotting the news on a notepad with a pen but what can you do?). Jamie then told me an insider secret (well, not really a secret I guess if they’re teaching people about it), which is called the inverted pyramid. The Inverted pyramid has tiers of how important and how much information should be at the top of your article and as it decreases to the end with the more fluffier news to fill space. According to Jamie the first two to three paragraphs is all you really need to read if you wanted to get the main news in that specific article, the rest is important, yes, but only necessary as detail and information to further accentuate the news at hand. I decided to test it out, you, the reader, should too. It’s quite extraordinary to just read the first couple of sentences and know the news but is it really knowing the news? Maybe this is why the inverted pyramid isn’t taught to the public, so they would actually read the entire article. As Jamie so neatly said, “modern journalism is a two way street” in which the journalist job is to get you the truth and the facts but it’s up to the public to have the curiosity to read and make sure they’re fully informed. Or the worst will happen and we’ll end up getting articles that are three sentences long like this,  “Apple Inc. is taking people’s souls. Apple Inc. announced they do not care about public backlash. To avoid this from happening, do not sign Apple Inc. contracts.”  See, you get all the news but you don’t get the “why” and the “how” of the news.

As we continued to speak, I disclose to her that in a way, she and a pen pal of mine (also a journalism major) influenced me to start this blog because journalism was always an interest of mine but it one of those things that gets pushed all the way to the back, right into the corner nook of my brain that until when someone reminds me of it, it likes to just nags at me until I do something about it (it’s exactly like that one time when I was watching a commercial about Toaster Strudels, you know that commercial that says Warm…Flaky…Gooey…Toaster Strudel, now with more icing, because damn right we need more icing. Anyways, yeah, I totally ate Toaster Strudels that same day because of that commercial). Jamie said that it was amazing that I said she was an inspiration, and she was being very humble (no sarcasm) when she told me she had had others tell her the same thing. So the topic then turns to inspiration and how we as people inspires others. It’s an amazing effect that we have on each other, to inspire the people around us to do great things without knowing it and at the same time it can produce awful, awful results. But of course, I would be the one to bring up that point during our conversation, the sometimes awfulness of us human beings just like how when the news lies about the weather for the next day and I can’t trust any of my local meteorologist anymore. Just then, Jamie proposed an idea, that everyone should be a journalist, not in the traditional sense (fedora and all) but to be a journalist that collects news, watches out for their community, and to be a positive but most importantly an active voice in their own society which might just influence our society. To that I say, what an idea, what a wonderful idea.

Tea Falls in the Fall

Tea Falls in the Fall

In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space” where I talk to artists that have a gallery space at CSULB, this week I delve into the work of Kiyomi Fukui and her ever-changing gallery space. If you think about it, Kiyomi is kind of magician to have her gallery continuously change everyday throughout the week just like the changing of visitors that would continually come in and out of the show (I shall break the magician code this week! And explain her magic trick later, it’s a doozy).

(Note, this was my first interview of an artist that was not of an acquaintance or friend, I didn’t even know her name when I first spoke to her. She was a blank slate as you might have it, a complete stranger to me however thanks to Kiyomi’s help, the interview went exceedingly well.)

So the story goes like this, I was interviewing Jaycen Mont Rios about his show, .stonedon a Tuesday afternoon but I couldn’t help but to look across the way to Kiyomi’s gallery, where she sat behind a small table, welcoming guest to her gallery. “Jaycen, what’s going on with that show across from us?”, I inquired to my companion that sat at the table with me. “You mean that gallery over there? It’s a tea ceremony kind of thing. Go get some free tea, man,” he stated in his forever chilled tone of voice. Of course I had to finish my conversation/interview with Jaycen before starting a new interaction with someone else and getting free tea (I do have some sort of manners after all, my mama raised me right). As we kept talking, I would glance back to Kiyomi’s gallery, the Dutzi, to realize that people came and went but would always stop to talk to her even if they didn’t partake in the tea. It was an astounding sight to me because for one, she genuinely wanted to talk to her visitors (I mean, yeah sure, most artists that have had galleries here at school would like to talk to the visitors about art but she interacted with them on a different level, having real conversations that deviated from art onto other life topic, plus it wasn’t artificially forced either) and second, she had actually accumulated an audience for herself in front of her gallery(I want to do that when I have a gallery show).

Having finally finish my interview with Jaycen and waiting for her previous guests to leave the table, I decided that I was thirsty and the only things that would quench this thirst was tea and figuring out what her show was truly about (it couldn’t just be about a tea ceremony, could it?). So I strolled on by to her gallery and said hello. She replied with a smile and, “Hi, would you like some tea?” In my head, I was like, “Hell yes!”, but I decided that “Yes, please. Thank you.” for first impressions would suffice. I casually sat down across from her, she poured me a cup of tea which was a deep rose red color. If you, the reader, inspected the table, you would see that the table was covered by a very reddish purple tablecloth. In the center of the cloth was little shells and other shapes made of sugar that could be used to sweeten your tea. An adorable and very personal touch, seeing as Kiyomi casted the sugar into the shape of all the different objects that she had found during her travels, such as shells.

Now, here is where the magic happened. We just started to talk. Simply put, it was a natural, uncoerced conversation between two human beings.  Call me Marty McFly because this is when I entered a time warp, it must have been about 15 minutes (or longer, I don’t know how to estimate time to be honest) before I realized that the tranquil conversation that I had entered, I didn’t even know Kiyomi’s name. I was dumbfounded by this revelation, we had spoken to each other as if we were long time friends just catching up on life. “We’ve been talking for a while now, I forgot all about introductions. Your name is?”, I had to ask, it’s just something I need to know if I’m talking to someone for the first time. “Kiyomi.” “Ki-yo-mi… is that right?” “Yes and your name is?” “Tony.” It’s amazing what type of information you can get when you’re in a very welcoming and unfenced conversation. She had received a BFA in Graphic Design from another college and while she was tending to that degree, she also found a love for Printmaking. Thus, this is why she’s at CSULB now, to get a MFA degree in Printmaking. Kiyomi isn’t a party animal, so one on one (or sometimes 4 on 1 for her case) face to face interactions are very important to her. As you can see with the way she set up her show, she took on the challenge to have as many face to face interactions as possible (a ballsy move, but one that comes with a great deal of courage to pull off) in where she created a judgement free-zone. The goal for her was accept the person and their words at true face value and to listen to their stories with no ill intent. The original intent of her show however, as she told me, was a place for people to share their insecurities and to accept them but it evolved into a more positive route because as people began to speak to her, it just became more cheery and explorative in nature of the people she spoke too.

So I told you I would reveal the magic trick of the daily-changing-gallery show of Kiyomi and so I will.  I just thoroughly explained one part of it, the people that stopped by the gallery. Each visitor was a key to this mystery because they helped change the gallery space. As I continued to drink my hibiscus tea, Kiyomi asked me if I would spill some it on the tablecloth (in truth, I didn’t want to waste a drop of it because it was so delicious but she’s the artist after all so I couldn’t say no) because she actually took each cloth at the end of the day and hung it in her gallery. With each new visitor was a new spill, a new drop, a new stain, ultimately a new piece of art to be hung. That week everyone had left a remnant (keyword for all you taking notes) with Kiyomi. Second part of the magic was the tea; she explained to me that tea, if you think about it, tea are tiny remnants of something much bigger such as a plant or a herb but when tiny remnants are collected from all over and mixed together it forms something amazing such as tea. Something that was once alive, now beautifully repurposed for something else. The tablecloth was a remnant of a tree, the sugar was casted from the remnants of nature, we as visitors were remnants with our stories, our spills, our drips. We left Kiyomi a small part of ourselves when we chose to interact with her that week but she also left a small part of herself with us that week (with free tea and sugar!). And that my friends, is the real magic, when she gave us something physical to grasp such as tea, sugar, and comfort but what she gets in return is instead incorporeal, such as our time, memories, and stories. However, as any good magician would have it, just when we thought the magic trick was over, we realized at the end that we were grasping her time, memories, and stories the whole time. I applaud you Kiyomi for a such masterful show.

Finally a little gift for you, the reader, I would like to leave you with a poem(also the artist statement) from the artist herself that she delightfully categorized as “positive propaganda”. It is called Reminiscing Remnants: Survival List for the Scary World,

“Consuming traces of life, which means eating and drinking

Finding a connection to the person in front of you

Chit-chatting meanings

To be comfortable breathing in someone else’s CO2

Love what you love

See what the person in front of you loves

Pay a tiny a bit of care, whether you love it or not

Share the good stuff

Share the bad stuff

Leave your marks

Look back with love Read too much into

Forget about it

Remember later

Reminisce the remnants”


“Disposable Thoughts” on Disposable Materials

“Disposable Thoughts” on Disposable Materials

In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space”, this past week I delved into the works of (and when I say works I mean 1000 pieces of work to be specific, they drew 500 each) Tidawhitney Lek and Daniel Antonio Rivera Echeveria. So the stories goes like this, Tida and Daniel are both friends of mine that I had the luxury of meeting in art classes. Tida was in my first ever art class at CSULB which was Foundation 2D but ironically(not very ironic, since I was extremely shy freshman year) we didn’t talk to each other until later in life when we had other art classes together (however she was one of the few people in that first ever art class that ultimately became a really good friend of mine, so she has a special place in the heart). She’s the deep thinker type and you can up talking to her for hours about philosophical topics. In Daniel’s case of when I first met him, it was actually just last Spring semester in Mold-Making class that I made his acquaintance. He is one of the friendliest people you can meet and one of those hardworking kind of guy where he operates on minimal sleep but puts in optimal work all, the, damn, time. They do have similarities that ended up making their show such a success, from their shared determination, to having an eye or should I say eyes for detail, and the amount of work they put into their art is insane and I mean that in the most respectful way.

Before I jump head on into the interview, I’ll paint a picture of the show the best I can to you, the reader, of what I witnessed at the show. The gallery that Tida and Daniel was located in for the week was the Dutzi and it can be best described as a very spacious but modest rectangular room. When I attended the opening night of the gallery, I overheard some people in the gallery reacted to the 1000 napkins that were sewn together and hung from the ceilling with, “I just want to sleep on it” and “It looks like a massive cloud” to which I agreed because I just wanted to throw my body into it and take a long thoughtful nap. Here’s why, it looked like a giant canopy and as strange as it sounds, it was welcoming to the visitor. If it could talk it would have a super chillax voice, “Hey, welcome, come in, relax, enjoy this art at your own accord.” If you look at the featured image, you’ll only get a jest of what visitors walked into because that was only a section of the hanging napkins (yes you read that right, napkins) compared to the actual full-scale size of it. As you traverse the gallery, there was a cave (for a lack of a better term or because I’m too lazy to find a better word) formed by the hanging napkins in where the visitor was welcomed to walk under to explore it’s underbelly. If you continued to walk all around the work, you’ll realized the uniqueness of each napkin. The images on the napkins ranged from a picture of the Batman symbol to a self-portrait to a free form quickly-drawn pattern to exactly 997 more images.

Full disclosure, this is going to be one of the few blog post in which I’ll format it in an interview blog post style but bare with me here because I promise you I’ll add the Tony charm to it as I do so well. So I decided to ask the both of them a series of questions, the classic five as you would have them; how, what, when, where, and why in a not so classic way. The purpose of this type of questioning is because I honestly wanted to know what lead to how and then to where which finally escalates to when and you have to ask why these two people or anybody in life would want to team up and create art together.

Let’s start. (Note, I interviewed them separately)

Me: How did you and Tida/Daniel meet?

Daniel: Tida was working on a huge canvas in one of the painting rooms and that caught my attention. Seeing a girl work on big paintings here at school ain’t common so I thought I better befriend her.

Tida: The first time we met was before we had any classes together. He had stopped by room 202 because I was painting a six-foot painting. It was awkward because he came in and just sat and watched me paint. We then had class for the first time together in advance painting.

How did you two come together to devise a show?

Daniel: I don’t recall who decided to work on a collaboration. But I do know that we both wanted to do more than hang paintings on a wall but yet keeping it in the realm of drawing and painting. So we both agreed on an installation.

Tida: I can’t honestly remember who brought up the idea first but I do remember saying that i wanted to do a collab with him because he was producing art in other ways I thought would broaden my knowledge of what I already new in terms of art making. For sure I told him no paintings. He was down for it.

What was it like to work with someone else on such a big project?

Daniel: It was interesting and fun since we started with one idea and that lead to another idea until we arrived at napkins. We both agreed on napkins because they’re inexpensive and the idea of disposing out thoughts related to napkins in the idea of materiality.

Tida: It was definitely a great experience, it taught many things. I would love to do it again and its worth it. There is a benefit to this.

Are there any fun story about the visitors that stopped by the gallery, any profound feedback from them?

Daniel: While installing (the work) this old couple stopped by and were curious what we were doing. Ends up being that the husband was an artist and had recently had a show about napkins, he did portraits on those napkins. He made about 300 of them.

Tida: We had a crit with a couple of professors that brought up interesting perspectives that I didn’t anticipate, and so that widen my eyes even more about what art can be and where it can lead to.

What was the one thing you wanted people to walk away from the show to feel, think, to know?

Daniel: Personally I wanted the audience to experience the importance of one’s own ideas. and how easily we leave ideas up in the air if we don’t capitalize on them. Also to show a different approach on what drawing could be.

Tida: Particularly, I wasn’t concern with audience. This was an engaging art project that was meant to explore the possibilities of art making. And this was an excellent opportunity to show works on this kind of massive scale.

So out of your 500 drawings which do you remember doing the most?

Daniel: I saw myself scratching my head for more ideas. Seriously, I noticed that I was drawing these abstracted figures.

Tida: Out of the 500 drawings. I remember doodling and these doodles would comes back in swirls, many, many of them combine together to form different compositions. I suspect them to be the next set of paintings series that would make.

Final thoughts on the matter, it was extremely fun to interview these two and their show blew my mind. Furthermore, it always great to see friends succeed in their shared goal of finding a new way to approach art-making and they did it as a collaboration, which is an achievement in itself (take it from me, I’ve seen people melt from the pressures of team-based art projects).

The show left me with the view of it being surrealist, from the concept of thoughts to the display of how thought accumulate in mass and flows within mind but now come to think of it, it also touched on realism. The realism behind how fragile our napkin thoughts can be, it flees from us, it stays with us, it hangs high, it hangs low, it occupies a space, our gallery (well, Tida’s and Daniel’s gallery) and sometimes it can become tangible because we make it tangible.

Jaycen not Jason (“Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space”)

Jaycen not Jason (“Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space”)

In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space” where I talk to artists that have a gallery space at CSULB, this week I delve into the work of Jaycen Mont Rios. First things first, let me get this off my chest, Jaycen has a dope ass name, from the way “Jaycen” is spelt, to his last names, Mont and Rios. (Two last names?! I can only imagine how astonishing the story for his family genealogy is) Full disclosure on my part, Jaycen isn’t some random artist stranger that I interviewed (though that would be fun to do, so I already have. I’ll be posting that blog post soon, so stay tuned) but I actually spends about 3 hours with him every Tuesday and Thursday in Foundry class.

So the story goes like this, this is first semester I met the guy and before I can talk about his art, let me tell you about him. He is by far the most chillest dude I have met in college. And that’s saying a lot, since I’ve already spent a good four years interacting with the Cal State Long Beach populous. Here’s why he’s the most laid-back dude I know, the way he speaks is very calm and nonchalant, never rushes to finish a sentence and you can instantly tell when you talk to him that he’s just going with life’s flows. He’s too cool to have self-induced stress. Furthermore, he’s the kind of guy that always looks on the bright side. As you know, (if you live in Southern California) we’ve been struck with a sickening heat wave as of late and people (me included) constantly complain about the heat and I’ll always remembered how he humbled me in class by saying, “It’s hot, yeah, but it’s not that hot. People live in hotter places, we’re just not used to it in California.” Consider that statement for a moment at face value, ‘yes it’s hot but there are hotter places in this world we’re just not used to the heat spike’ and now consider it with another meaning, a deeper empathic one, ‘some people live in different States or countries with much worse heat than we do so we shouldn’t complain but instead we should remember this face and be grateful we don’t have it so bad’. (Of course I would in my usual read-way-too-much-into-a-simple-statement-self get to that conclusion) So this was what Jaycen’s concept for his show .Stoned was all about: duality, the face value or our self-interpretation of the content that the art presents compared to the actual meaning/intent of the work.

Jaycen shared the Merlino gallery with other printmakers but he had the whole left wall to himself which he hung four prints from the wall. Of the four, two of those prints got a lot of attention from the visitors while I was interviewing him for this blog post but let’s start with the title of his show: .stoned. It’s a major hint to what his show will be all about. A double entendre of being under the influence with mary jane and of the process of lithography in which stones are etched upon to be used as like giant stamps to create the prints for the show. The first one was a print of a blown-up hand flicking off the viewer, with the words ‘To: Charles Banowetz” scrawled in the upper left-hand corner of the print. On two separate occasions, this print was asked about but more specifically asked about who was Charles Banowetz and What did he do you to get his name on this print? The middle finger is a very powerful gesture and to address it someone made the image that more powerful so people we’re intrigued. I can definitely say nobody and I mean nobody would think that that middle finger to Charles Banowetz was meant as a nice gesture but it actually was. Jaycen explained that Charlez Banowetz is a friend of his who graduated Cal State Long Beach and to include his name in the work was meant as a respectful gesture not a disrespectful one. He further explained that sometimes you just have those friends that you can be rude to, or do otherwise offensive things too but hey, they’re that friend that will just end up doing the same to you with the same offensiveness admiration. So as a jest, a giant “F-You” to a friend was produced with good-natured intentions.

The second print that also garnered attention was Ladies Love the D (personally my favorite because of its double entendre). The image consisted of two silhouettes of two ladies in flower dresses (the kind of dresses that you would picture on 1950’s white-picket fences mothers to wear while they call in their children for supper) with their backs turned to the viewer intently looking at a car. Finally on the print was the words; Ladies Love the D. As I sat with Jaycen talking about whatever the hell we were talking about during that time, two older ladies come out of the gallery and starts to talk to Jaycen about his work. One of them (a gentle, tranquil looking lady, who rolled around a backpack) tells us about how she stood there looking at Ladies Love the D while trying to figure about what the “D” stood for. She then recited all the words started with the letter “D” and even the dirty letter “D” but wanted to know from the artist what he was trying to tell viewer. He said that the “D” stood for Datsun, the car brand since he loved Datsuns and as to why he loves them so much, “Because they’re different than other cars.” I’m telling you, this guy is too chill. To be fair to that old lady, I for one didn’t know what the “D” stood for but at face value I thought it just meant the typical “D”. I saw the car on the print plain as day but I just thought, “Huh, the “D”, that hilarious.”

But it wasn’t the “D”, but an idea, a lesson that Jaycen taught me and hopefully other people through his work, a lesson that we all know by heart but we don’t realize often; the face value or our self-interpretation of anything are only half of the content presented compared to the wondrously, amazingly full and actual meaning/intent that we instinctively miss when we just look and don’t ask.

Purpose and Intent

Purpose and Intent

Dear reader, first off the bat I wanted to take a moment to thank you, the reader. To be honest, I didn’t know people would actually even read my blog (even though I’ve been running around this week like a madman telling everyone about it) and actually enjoy it. You guys have been great with the compliments and constructive feedback that will make this blog even better for me and you. This entry however is not only a thank you to you but it will also serve as my mission statement since many of you guys have asked “What is the blog for? Why did you start the blog?”. Simply put, the idea was to make a blog that was fun and entertaining for myself. A way to collect and record all the sorts of thoughts and experiences that happens in my life. But, and this is a big but (ha, big but), it felt like it was missing something, an angle, a hook, a focus that would make me happy to write about and make any reader that stumbles upon this blog site by purpose or mistake to be happy also. Something they can come back to ever so often.

The focus for this blog are about storytelling, human interaction, and I know how strange this is going to show but I really want you, the reader, to know about the people I know. Let me explain that last focus first because it’s so strange. There in the back of my head was always this question that started from this concept that I was so blessed to know the people I knew in life but the question is why? This question has open-ended answers and can be approached in so many different ways that I might never know the scientific answer but I do know the spiritual one: fate. So dear reader, I would like to mimic fate and let you meet people  If they were so gracious with sharing their time with me for just even a moment or even years of their lives, I wanted you to know who these people were and how life made them them.

This crazy concept then led to a self-study of human interaction and how it’s an amazingly strange thing we do as a society yet we do it so naturally and effortlessly at times. I find myself analyzing these specific questions in my head as a I talk to a friend or an acquaintance, “What led me to know you? What is our history together? We used to be strangers but now we’re friends and know of each other’s existence all due to information we’re willing to give to each other during our interactions. It’s just so damn amazing if you think about it.” Sorry those last two were not questions but a realization of how human interaction thrives on storytelling.

If you know me, and know me well, you know that I love stories and the aspect of storytelling. So much so that if you meet me by the art buildings, you’ll see me by a campfire with a pot of beans cooking over it and with my cactus named Spike Jones serving as protection from dangerous cow-eating-wolves. You’ll witness me telling stories to the local artists on the extraordinary adventures of two local detectives. (Sadly, all of that was made up but you get my point.)  We tell each other stories every single day, some are truths, some are lies, some are better than others, sure but we all do it. Matter of fact, we read it, we watch it, we listen to it, an art form that can only evolve with time yet will always be heard the same, with purpose and intent.

Finally, to all those eagle-eyed readers and comprehenders, you’ll notice a fourth hook I’ve included. You guys get a cookie (does not involve actually cookie).

Damn Universe! You’s tricky.

Damn Universe! You’s tricky.

[Bonus points if you know where this picture is from]

Today has been an extremely tiring day due to the heat and lack of sleep but I wanted to end today on a higher note, a brighter one if you would have it. So the story goes like this, I usually carpool with a buddy of mine, let’s call him Jimmy Dean because hell, we always carpool in the morning and Jimmy Dean is all about that breakfast menu, boom perfect fake name. (Fun fact: Jimmy Dean was a singer that own a food company named after himself.) As for the fake name,(spoilers) you’ll see why I chose to use one in the next sentence.

Today is Monday which meant that Jimmy Dean had class at 9, not only that but Jimmy Dean likes to get to class early so he sit next to a girl he’s interested. (Ohh la la la and this is why a fake name must be used to save the identity of a friend. You can never be too careful.) To make his plan work he needed to get to my place from 8:10-8:15 so there would be enough time to drive, park, and power walk to this special class of his. Now this is where things gets bad for Jimmy Dean for he had notice that his hair was unwieldy when he woke, in his words “a hot mess”. At 8:22 he finally arrives to my house, the first thing I asked him while I hopped into the car was, “What happened to 8:10-8:15?” So he tells me the story about his hair, he had to get it just right if he was seeing this girl today. But the irony behind his action is that if he took all that time to fix his hair for her but came late anyways to lose his chance to sit next to her, then what was the point? Of course I took the chance to rub the irony in his face but he shrugged off my comment because at that point we still believed he would make it to school on time. Jimmy Dean is looking for love dammit and he’s going to get it!

Now this is where the story goes from bad to worst. As we headed for the freeway, Jimmy Dean let out a “Oh my god, why?”, the entrance was full of traffic. When we were on the freeway he vocalized that the Universe was against him because surprise, traffic. When finally exited on Palo Verdes, you guessed it, traffic but this time his voice when two octave higher with a, “What? Why? This… argh, the Universe is against me!” By the time we arrived to school it was already pass 9:00 o’clock and class had started.

As his co-pilot for that entire ride, I reassured him that there is always a bright side to everything and maybe just maybe in some crazy way the Universe was not against him at all but the opposite. It was helping him sit next to the girl. And dear reader, I can gladly say that I was right but the Universe decided to up the ante on this little event for my friend. Not only did the lucky bastard get the seat next to her although late but he also got her number at the end of class. Well played Universe, well played.

Moral of the story (I can only assume that there is one): If you have a bad morning, the Universe doesn’t necessarily give you a bad day also, so chin up and live the day fully.

The Show was Called Damascus and Two Other Words That Are Very Unpronounceable to Me (Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space)

The Show was Called Damascus and Two Other Words That Are Very Unpronounceable to Me (Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space)

In a new ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space” where I talk to artists that have a gallery space at CSULB, this week I delve into the work of my friend William Brigham and his multi-medium show. So this entry is kind of Back To The Future-ish because even though I made this blog site just yesterday the art show I attended was actually last week’s news. Almost like I’m riffing on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

So the story goes like this, my friend and sometimes “act like my asshole bigger brother” William Brigham had an art show at Cal State Long Beach. For a quick summary, the show was great. Will had at his show the Damascus knives that he completed (one was a gift to his buddy 25th birthday in which Will used the wood from his friend’s broken speargun for the handle of the knife), Mokume Gane vessels that he had perfected that summer and a ceramic technique called Nerikomi that has a resemblance to Mokume Gane technique. That night a lot of people came out, a lot of people ate food (generously prepared by the artists or their families”, and a lot of people talked to the artists about their work. However, Will had a lot more people talk to him than the other galleries and when I say a lot, I mean a lot. I strolled into the show late to see a smoke from a BBQ grill fill the air next to his gallery, the Merlino. His dad was BBQing that day because well, that’s Will for you. Go big or go home. The Merlino Gallery is not a big space by the way, it can be compared to as having two hallway length space (if that even makes sense to you guys). Of course it didn’t matter because it was packed in by people. At the center of this art can of sardines was Will talking his head off to everyone. I could have swore when he finished talking to someone or a couple of someones more someones would have been hovering around in the back, waiting to swoop in to ask him the same question someone else must”ve had asked him before. This would have drove me insane, to be asked the same questions over and over again but not to Will. In his own kooky way, I think he actually enjoyed talking about his art over and over and over again.

When I got the chance, I quickly became that someone who swooped in to talk to the man of the hour. I had to pay my respects to the artist after all, I went in for a handshake and instead I got a hug. This was the kind of man Will was, a weirdo. I’m only half joking at his expense here, because he’s not a weirdo for the hug but he is a weirdo. To be fair, who isn’t in there own unique way, right? In truth, the hug to a friend rather than a handshake was because he was extremely proud of  what he had achieved in that gallery space that day. He was more than happy to share the space, knowledge, and experiences with his friends. Simply put, he was more than happy to share art with his friends and visitors that day.


After-story-mint-story, I ran back into Will that night to say goodbye and he giddily tells me that the woman and her assistance that he had been talking to for almost an hour (that is my time estimate, not his) was from a fancy-pants art collector (and I do mean fancy-pants) that was very interested in his work. Amazing right? Good luck to you Will!