Dieter Haack

23.3.1982, oil on canvas, 35.5” x 557”, 1982 

I am always on the lookout for “new” artists – making discoveries of art and artists that are new to me.  I constantly am striving to improve my own, personal, art education.  I see the occasional show, stumble across an artist online, get a tip from a friend, etc.  Rarely do I find such a treasure that is virtually unknown in my circle.  I would be surprised if any of my American readers know the work of Dieter Haack.  Okay, stop reading and just go to his website (dieterhaack.de) and take a look.

Dieter Haack is a contemporary of Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, but unlike those two well-known German artists, Haack is somehow overlooked in the United States.  I suppose the art smarties in New York, the gallerists and critics, and their circle of collectors, the ones that sit on boards of directors and open doors to American Museums, all have missed Haack.  I find that shocking.

I learned about Dieter Haack from some of his major collectors.  I feel honored to have some of my work in the same private collection with Mr. Haack. And now, it’s been a long time, but I need to get back to Germany for an art tour and see what else I have been missing….

From the UK to California

One evening last week, a couple of nights after the Full Moon, when it was just beginning to wane, I saw an amazing moonrise from a deck on Telegraph Hill.  The moon was like a big, golden, flaky biscuit as it glowed through the fog and rose dramatically over Yerba Buena Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), on Saturday I found this piece of mail art from E. Coles in Wales waiting for me in my P.O. Box.  She clearly was channeling some San Francisco energy when she did this one.  And what I also love is its simplicity.  Collage is not as easy as it looks, and sometimes the simplest collages are the hardest to get right.  A simple collage can show when an artist is truly skilled with color and composition – this one is a good example of when it works.   It arrived untitled –  we’ll call it Moon over Yerba Buena Island

Reflecting Collagescapes?

A few more recent pieces in the P.O. Box and these ones (maybe I am reading a bit too much into them) seem a bit inspired by my own work.  Not that I would mind that.

  1. Katerina Nikoltsou from Greece sent an envelope of Greek Time with strips of color and packing tape – we all seem to be using packing tape today.
  2. Meral Agar in Turkey sent the The Red Cat 1 - you can never go wrong with cats.
  3. And from Denmark, Marina Salmaso sent a very tactile piece (the scan doesn’t do it justice).

Thank you all, it’s always good to walk up to the post office and have things waiting for me

Venice 1973

Venice 1973 is a series of 25 pieces of mail art commemorating my grandmother, Dorothy Nykiel.  She would have turned 95 years old this week (October 10).  Each piece includes an image of grandma in her Jackie O sunglasses and smart, faux leopard fur coat visiting Venice in February 1973.  This was no vacation, but one of many overseas business trips.  As a child I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary that my grandmother was a buyer for the china, glassware, lamps and gift departments of a large department store.  She travelled often to New York and annually to Hong Kong and Europe.  This was in an era when a trip to California was still “exotic” for many people.   My grandmother also did the “traditional” grandma things like baking amazing apple pies and spoiling us properly for birthdays and holidays.   It was not until I was an adult, that I understood how remarkable that it was for a woman of her generation to have the career she had and that my grandmother was somewhat of a pioneer.

No Paper, No Plastic

It’s official –  Governor Jerry Brown has signed the law banning one-use plastic shopping bags in all of California.  San Francisco was one of the first cities to eliminate plastic bags and our streets are a little cleaner for it and it’s a step in the right directions protecting our oceans.  So what are you waiting for?  Get yourself a cool, reusable shopping bag with my art on it from Society 6.

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 change.org 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….