Can a Steamroller be used as a printing press?

Yes it can!

Today at the bottom of Potrero Hill, the San Francisco Center for the Book sponsored the annual Roadworks Printing Festival.    An excellent selection of local printmakers were showing off their work as well as other print activities – and of course, a big old steamroller.

Postal Art Mail Activism

Karen Lindquist’s three pieces in the Collage meets Landscape exhibit are part of a new series called New Mexico Love Story. She describes the series as a visual homage to a magical state with an anti-hydraulic fracturing sub-text.  I visited the magical state, New Mexico, or, as I call it The Holy Land, earlier this month.  I spent a day with Karen in her home in rural New Mexico.  Getting a peek at her new work in progress and talking for hours. 

Hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, is threatening rural communities and wilderness in New Mexico and across America.  All in a race for short-term profits.  The long-term consequences out of this rush to bleed the land for every last bit fossil fuels are not completely known, but the potential for environmental disaster – unnecessary disaster – are staggering.

We spoke on the phone last week and were discussing ways to effectively respond to the fracking threat.  Karen is currently working on a series of handmade, original postcards (the one I received is shown above).  Many are being mailed out to elected officials.  Talking to her I realized what a brilliant idea this is. 

Most politicians are unlikely to give a great deal of attention to email.  Especially those email templates from political websites.  Posting things on social media sites, e.g., Facebook, is pretty much like shaking your fist and yelling at a cloud.  Politicians only take notice of Twitter when, well you know, photos of their junk is involved.  Even sites like are pointless.  Yes, it’s true, you might think your electronic activism is doing something, but it’s pretty much meaningless.  Elected officials still take note of constituent letters – original letters – not pre-printed petitions and postcards.

Imagine if we all started taking Karen Lindquist’s lead and started sending mail art about issues we cared about to our elected officials.  We may not sway opinions, but we won’t be completely ignored either.  At the least, the staff would take notice and you can bet your cards would be passed around the office.

So get making some art about what you care about, send it out!  And if you want to see more of Karen’s work, you need to go to see Collage meets Landscape before it closes this Sunday (September 28th).

Meaty Mail Art

As an artist, I have become accustomed to people seeing all sorts of things in my art – often ideas that I never imagined.  And, as an artist, I sort of have to let it go and accept that my audience might take away something that I never intended.  It’s all part of the relationship between artist and audience.  Well, for now, it’s my turn….

I always look forward to getting these envelopes from Italy stuffed with colorful, printed images from Serse Luiggetti.  The latest set was exceptional, and this very red one (seen above) is my new favorite.  I realized what makes it work for me is that it looks, in a geometric, abstract way, like a cut of meat.  And don’t let the name fool, you, I have a love all meat-themed art.   

Packing Tape Image Transfers

Inspired by a piece of mail art I recently received from Adrienne Masson, I’ve decided to try my hand at creating image transfers with packing tape – I have a new obsession.  And yes, that’s lil’ Tofu doing an interpretive dance at the campground (look closely).

A Full PO Box

Take a two-week road trip and you come home to a good pile of mail.  Above is just a sampling of some of the good stuff that was waiting for me:

  1. The envelope covered with bright Russian stamps had great contents from Virgo. I love the way he did a Collagescape as well – very nice.
  2. Adrienne Mason’s piece arrived from Canada including packing tape image transfers – which has inspired me to try this out myself (more to come soon).
  3. Not one, but two fun pieces from Dori Singh.  All this stitching makes me want to pick up a used sewing machine.
  4. The latest little book from Phyllis Lucas-Haddon reminds us all the summer is not over yet.
  5. Another stitched piece, this one with secret pockets from Carolyn Oord in Québec.

Thanks for all the fun mail – and now back to the store for some more packing tape….

A Block of Tofu

I love sending and receiving mail art.  And sometimes I get mail sent back to me that somehow incorporates my own work or references it in some way.  I am always delighted to receive those and quite flattered.  On Saturday I found this gem from San Francisco artist Todd Young waiting for me in my PO Box.  It is a little block that incorporates some of the postcards from my current show Collage + Landscape = Collagescapes.  Todd cut out and layered the cards creating the impression that my name, Tofu, is carved into a stack of cards.  Brilliant and a big thank you to Todd!

Stopping in Tucson

Heading home from New Mexico to California I decided to come via Tucson.  Sultry and 104° with thunderstorms moving in, humidity in the desert is not exactly pleasant – but its one of the perils of monsoon season.  I did enjoy a nearly empty Saguaro National Park late in the day.  On Saturday morning it was already a scorcher at 10:00 am.  I see that Downtown Tucson has been a victim of 1960’s and 1970s brutallist excess that, if not for the sunny desert climate, might suggest the former Soviet Union.  But not to get too dishy, they have some really great public art (unlike my own City).  I was downtown in order to visit the Tucson Museum of Art.  If you follow my blog, you know what a big advocate I am off checking out the smaller city museums along the way.   I knew they were having a show of the WPA artists in their collection.  The Millard Sheets etchings were a good find and the museums older, historic buildings contain a nice collection of Western art.  I always will go out of my way for a look at some Maynard Dixons.

What I also found was a perfect example of why you check out the local art museum.  I should have known, but I didn’t, all about Rose Cabat.  I caught the retrospective of her work on the day it closed.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of Cabat’s birth – and she is still alive and working!  She is well known in Tucson and another artist we should be seeing in a museum in San Francisco.  Rose Cabat one more reason to hit the road now and then and escape the City.

Art Treasures in Silver City

Silver City, New Mexico has been a place I have been thinking about visiting for some time.  It’s isolated in southern New Mexico and an hour detour off the Interstate.  I finally made it there this month and nearly missed it.

I was hesitant to make the trip because of experiences in other “artsy “ towns along the way.  So many places have gone from funky and artsy to bland and high end.  The rents go up, the prices go up.  What had been cool and interesting, is now expensive gift shops and dull galleries.  The art is often well executed but generally predictable and safe.    These towns have commercial centers that offer nothing for locals who are pushed to strip malls on the edges of their communities.  Does it sound like Santa Fe?  Well I could also be describing most towns on Cape Cod and just as many along the coast of California from Hermosa Beach, to Carmel to Sausalito, etc.  I could be even describing San Francisco.

With this fear, I made the trip to Silver City, arriving from the East to be greeted by the ubiquitous sprawl of chain restaurants and motels.  Keeping my mind open, I drove through town, followed the signs and found the historic downtown.  What a treasure, it’s a good size, full grid of tight streets filled with Victorian, Western and Southwestern Architecture.  On it’s own it’s a photogenic gem.  And yes, I did see some of that high-end kitsch.  But I also saw what happened when a town is relatively isolated and rents remain affordable.  Now it wasn’t all to my taste, nor should it have been, but there was a real mix of art going.  And in case you were having trouble finding art, those big red dots painted on the sidewalks helped you find the way.

The new prints of old photos at Lumiere Editions Gallery caught my eye. They are reproducing early prints from Kodak proto-Brownie cameras.  They are a round format from a camera that was designed for amateur use.  If you remember instamatic cameras, you kind of get the idea.  The originals were taken by one of the gallery owners’ great grandfathers on a western trip in the late 19th Century.  Now, if you want to see something new in the gallery, just look to your right, that’s a John Baldessari hanging right next to you.  Lumiere Editions is also the exclusive printer for some of the powerhouses in American Art (see their website for more).  That’s how New Mexico is – you never know what you’ll find in the most seemingly isolated place.

More wandering around town lead me to loud music blasting from an open door.  I walked in, and before I found the art and was reminded why I need to do a second Collage meets Landscape show.  I fell in love with Jean-Robert Béffort’s work (see above).  His ASpaceStudioArtGallery makes me want to leave San Francisco and just to go to a place where I can have a big old warehouse full of art and coolness.  Jean-Robert’s great and his art is out there – out there where more of us need to go.  I also always get excited to see other artists re-purposing and doing amazing things with old globes.

Silver City, I’ll be back – just try to stay the same and not get all fancy on me.

Just one week left….

There is just one week left, if you haven’t seen Collage + Landscape = Collagescapes yet, you have until Sunday, September 28th when the show closes. 

The show has two parts and 50 pieces of art:

On the main level, my new series of work called Collagescapes where I combine landscape painting and collage.   On the upper level I am joined by 12 artists for a companion show where the theme is Collage meets Landscapes.

Collage + Landscape = Collagescapes

Glama Rama Salon & Gallery

304 Valencia Street (at 14th St.) • San Francisco, California

July 29th  – September 28th, 2014

Glama Rama is open Tuesdays through Sundays.


A Museum Day in Santa Fe

I like to get to New Mexico at least once every year.  Unfortunately I had not been back for a few years.  But that situation was remedied by a visit earlier this month to the state I like to call The Holy Land.  It never disappoints and it was great catching up with friends, eating a lot of good food and seeing some awesome art. 

In spite of the touristy, over-turquoised side of Santa Fe, I always enjoy the place and the collection of art museums there are world class.  I started with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum where I learned something new – I had no idea she visited Hawaii and did some incredible work.  I began my day with those green lush landscapes and already knew it was worth the trip.   

The next stop was the New Mexico Museum of Art.  There’s a fine permanent collection and my personal “discovery” of the artist/printmaker Gustave Baumann. Delilah Montoya’s show Syncretism included an installation of photos depicting the desert landscape migrants cross to reach the United States with empty plastic water bottles dangling from the photos (see above).  A compelling installation but I am curious why the curator failed to label the work in Spanish as well as English.  It seems odd that in a place like the New Mexico Museum of Art the labels are not bilingual.  

The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts retrospective of Ric Gendron’s paintings was another show that asked me why we don’t get things like this in San Francisco?  Not that I regret travelling to Santa Fe, but one wonders about some of the curatorial choices made in the “big” city I call home.   One of the docents very correctly recommended I watch the video of the Bert Benally and Ai Weiwei installation

Lunch was up the hill and then visits to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and a perennial favorite – the Museum of International Folk Art

You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned any galleries?  Well, in 20 years of visiting Santa Fe, I still have not made it Canyon Road – maybe next time, well, probably not.  And I also missed SITE Santa Fe – just because the New York Times gushes, doesn’t mean we have to go.  Plus, it was also closed the day I was there.  When I got up the next morning, I left town instead of seeing SITE Santa Fe.  I headed south for the sublime experience of remote abandoned missions instead.  Plus there is plenty of contemporary “art” for me to see in San Francisco if I choose to. 

My museum day was a full day and a perfect day – finished off with green chili mac-n-cheese washed down with cold beer.