Friday, February 5, 2016

The Anvil

This painting by Ian Huebert, which hangs above our home fireplace, pretty well sums up how we have felt this last month, and for that matter, this last five years — toting a heavy anvil across a frozen pond. During the "downturn" Electric Works, our fine art photography and printing business, suffered the ravaging of our neighborhood real-estate by "start ups" and fancy condos, and the decimation of the SF art scene by lofty rents, not to mention business drying up like spit on a hot iron, also, not to also mention, cumbersome and expensive audits by the City of SF and the Labor Department (successfully concluded in our favor). Cool Don't Live Here No More written by our upstairs neighbor Tony Robles says, "SF is no longer a city it's an app." But truly, we continued to do what we started out to do—live by the principals of The Land of Yes.—to provide printing and consulting services to artists at any career level regardless of marketplace clout. True, our projects have ended up at Yale, The Smithsonian, the di Rosa Preserve, etc, etc. and we admire the hierarchy of cream rising. But, the hundreds of artists who crave the dialogue that comes from collaboration and have been shut out by economic "curation" needed a place to land. For 20 years we tiptoed across the thin ice of economic survival. And what did we learn? Stay tuned to this blog as we roll out the fuller history of "THE LAND OF YES." 

We had a February 2nd deadline to vacate if we were to retain our security deposit. It was a monumental marathon of effort. But we did it, we made it to the other shore and it will be free skating from now on—for Judith and Richard free skating is spelled — "retirement." Noah and Kris together will be taking over the Electric Works print and photo studio and will be offering upbeat energy and excellent service. We are excited that Kris will be returning to the helm of the printmaking service after a 3-year family leave. And we will be cashing in on our "Golden Years."

They asked for "broom clean."
Noah takes a parting shot.

All the while during our time at Electric Works our beach plastic project has been a welcome "hobby." Trips to Kehoe Beach the highlight respite from our hectic work lives in San Francisco. But now we intend to take things at a different pace. With what we have been able to accomplish with little to no promotion, makes us wonder what will happen when with get going with some bits of PR.

With exhibitions in Hong Kong, Cairo, Georgia, (USA) Georgia, (Republic of...) to name a few, 2015 was an exciting international year for And we are full steam ahead in 2016. We continue to be active bloggers about our adventures on and off the beach and have revved up a new blog for our musing about life at Rancho D, as we call our test garden and home. What can the perIpatetic artist's mind do with a little soil, water, sunlight and germ plasm? We are increasingly intrigued with the alchemy of fermentation and distillation.

"Gyre: The Plastic Ocean" now at the San Jose State University Thompson Gallery, February 2 - March 25, 2016 organized by the Anchorage Museum traveled to The David J. Spencer CDC Museum in association with the Smithsonian Institution and the USC Fisher Museum of Art. We are happy that our work is contributing to the important message about the gyres and is being presented in conjunction with such an esteemed group of international artists.

Needless to say, as we move into our "retirement" it does seem that we have plenty to keep us busy. It may not exactly sound like it but we are really interested in some relaxing time off. And did we say, digging the dirt, getting our garden in? Git them 'taters and onions in the ground. Come on kids, it's time for a trip to the beach and an overnight at Rancho D.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Best Idea

When we read the theme description from the Brower Center's call for artworks: 
“The best idea we ever had,” we said oh yes! Wallace Stegner wrote of the national parks.  “Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst”; we knew we had to submit a proposal.

The Brower prospectus goes on:
"Next year is the centennial of the Organic Act of 1916, which established the National Park Service.  The purpose of the agency, this law says, is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Art was crucial to creation of the National Park System.  The oils of Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, Thomas Moran, and other painters of Yosemite moved President Lincoln, in 1864, to protect that most beautiful of valleys as a park.  Paintings and photographs of Yellowstone had the same effect in 1872.  The success of David Brower and Ansel Adams in getting a copy of Adams’s portfolio of photographs, Sierra Nevada: the John Muir Trail, into the hands of Franklin Roosevelt tipped the balance in creation of Kings Canyon National Park."

Kennedy got the ball rolling on the National Seashore idea wanting to preserve his little slice of heaven on Cape Cod. Congressman Clem Miller from Marin County had the same agenda for his slice of heaven on the West Coast, and really captured congressional attention when he handed out David Brower's picture book Island in Time to every member of Congress. In the early 60's it was becoming obvious that the placement Earth's continents are not etched in stone, as it were. Rocks were constantly on the march. Point Reyes Peninsula was indeed an Island in Time.

At Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore we feel transported out of our everyday. It’s as if we had taken a trip to somewhere far away, yet we are only 7 miles from our home. Since 1999 we have collected ocean-born plastic from 1000 yards of this beach. We have tons of it used to create artworks as a fine-grain metric demonstrating the extent of planetary plastic pollution.

Kehoe Beach wasn't always here. It arrived on a tectonic conveyor—some rocks matching the granite rocks of the Tehachapi Mts. 300 miles south. Some from the Monterey Formation.

Hundreds of visits to Kehoe inspired us to create this image as an enlarged "postcard" enticing visitors to our favorite National Park. Many thanks to expert font-meister Noah Lang for his help with the design and layout of the text.

The QR code links to an animation demonstrating how the cliffs at Kehoe arrived. This gives a nod to the NPS interpretive agenda. Used with permission from Tanya Atwater, director of The Educational Multimedia Visualization Center UCSB. Your very own QR code reader is waiting for you from your phone's app store—it's free—it's fun, you can even scan the tag on your avocado. Urrgghh!!! But, that is another story about those pesky plastic tags on our vegetables. Teach your device to read...

For more about the efforts of David Brower and his cohorts watch this trailer for "Rebels with a Cause" then watch the movie.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

By snow or by sea

By snow or by sea, sending you warmest wishes 
for a wonderful holiday season.

Hey baby, it's not that cold outside and even with the high surf advisory and high tides,
we were game for the elements. Forget Toys-R-Us, we are shopping for treasures at Kehoe Beach. Like drifts of snow, cloudy froths of sea foam blew like tumble weeds across the sand. Off-shore ocean turbulence whipping up organic matter and Bing and Doris are whipping it up here:

Monday, November 9, 2015


Welcome to Georgia

We never imagined when we started picking up plastic trash from Kehoe Beach that we would end up in Columbus, Georgia USA. Neither of us had ever been to Columbus and the only person we knew was by email—Emily Gray Holton chair for the GAEA (Georgia Art Educators Association) conference. But by the end of the weekend, we were embraced by the warm arms of that gracious southern hospitality, making friends galore.

In preparation for our presentation we surveyed artist friends, about their school experiences, about positive/negative teachers who encouraged or discouraged them on the path. Judith, in elementary school in Dallas Texas, had the good fortune of having a dedicated art teacher and dedicated art room. Along with experiments in making batik and hand-sewn book bindings, the bold teacher even hiked her rowdy 5th grade class out to the woods to sit quietly, to observe nature, and to do plein-air painting. 

With all of budget cuts (art and music are usually the first to go) art teachers scrimp and improvise materials to have enough to serve their students. Rethunk Junk, the title and theme for the 2015 conference, was planned with workshops, a trade show and us as keynote speakers to give teachers new ideas about how to innovate with materials that might otherwise be considered trash. 

We each have had many years in the classroom so we were eager to be with our tribe: maker people who like to make things; who like to make things happen. Teachers who believe that art is an important part of the curriculum — that involvement in the arts improves concentration, confidence and problem solving. And, beyond the skill building, gives a deeper appreciation of that most human experience — making art.

How refreshing to be in a place we have never been so that every vista, every road was the "road not (yet) taken"…

Thursday evening when we walked into the Columbus Museum of Art, the place was rockin'. Conference people (in this case an all-women crew) were in full swing nae-nae-ing and whip it line dances in the museum atrium. We were dazzled by the Museum's collection including the recent acquisition of a Paul Manship sculpture—The Flight of Europa. Like Europa, we were ready for fun.


Emily and her intrepid team co-chairs (sister Erin Gray and Denise Marsh) put together an amazing array of hands-on workshops, exhibitions, and events along with many opportunities for sipping and socializing. Richard even picked up the brush.

Friday morning we meandered the famed RiverWalk along the Chattahoochee River. We strolled up stream to the rapids and the towering brick edifice that was once the Phenix Mill Hydro power plant. For Northerners and especially Californians, we were struck by the informational plaques that seemed to be placed every 1/2 block memorializing Civil War events. There was more often than not the prominent mention of "Invading Federal Forces" a reminder that the War is still very much alive in the minds of the citizenry. It's a town made of brick, glamorous to we fault-liners who don't see so much of it in earthquake territory. The hotel, a former warehouse, the College, an armory— all from deep red brick.

The conference was held at Columbus Ironworks Trade Center, a magnificent convention facility developed in the city's historic ironworks, where the iron cladding for the CSS Merrimack was forged along with the first breech-loading cannon. Across the road from our digs was Columbus State University that has an impressive state of the art arts facility. And just a short walk over the bridge is Alabama.

Friday evening we wowed 'em with our own brand of hospitality. Our song and dance routine, our power punch of a powerpoint was a hit. Judith even told her naughty joke and they laughed and broke into applause. We offered insights into our creative process and the fun we have at the beach and in the studio. 

Richard began with Rilke's Growing Orbits

"I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years,
and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song."

The next morning at breakfast even the plastic butter cup captured the attention of the conference attendees. What ever happened to the pats of butter on a thin slip of cardboard with a piece of wax paper on top?

And speaking of butter, we lathered on the butter and poured on the gravy as in Biscuits and Gravy.The ultimate in homestyle comfort food. And Grits, baby! Grits!

Judith's jewelry was an attention getter. There was much interest in the how-to of the pull tab bracelet and the necklace made of scraps of coffee cups meat trays, and other bits of styrofoam. For more about her jewelry visit her blog.

Any conference that begins with dancers rocking at the Museum and concludes with the Cathy Heller, past- President of GAEA leading a flash mop in a clog dance ensemble that included Waldo, Sunny and Cher and 2 (two) nuns. It was Halloween.


After the evening festivities of the conference we went to uptown Columbus.  We sat in a sidewalk Café sushi joint watching the parade of costumes. Seemed all of Columbus was in the costume-age mode even though we've heard that Halloween is cast as the devil's work (often called Harvest Fest lest Satan be invoked). Lots of clad and scantily-clad folks out enjoying the warm balmy air. A pair of San Francisco style glamour-tranny's sat at a table next to us, seeming to navigate the super-high heels with casual aplomb. Where are we? Then, we knew we were smack dab in the Bible Belt, when we saw HIM strolling through town. 

We are grateful that Lauren Christine Phillips while giving us a lift back to Atlanta fulfilled Richard's wish to see some of that famous Georgia red clay. She toured us through the beautiful grounds of Callaway Gardens in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Memorial Chapel fashioned after a 16th century Gothic chapel is where Richard did a hallelujah shout-out for our time in Georgia. Yes, Reverend Lang is in da'house.

At the airport we were captivated by colleague Pam Longobardi's installation of Drift Nets from her Drifters Project. Pam is a tireless advocate for the oceans and has the high honor of being a Distinguished University Professor, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia. 

After what seemed to be an interminable flight (with a screaming baby) back to California, we made it home safe and sound. We are sure that instead heading directly west the pilot took us the long way around. We think they routed us through Dubai. Although we were plum wore out by the time we arrived, we are so happy to have brought that rainy night in Georgia home with us — with more rain forecast for today.

We conclude the report from our time in the South with the final word from Emily:


We will always remember the melodic roll of her drawl, the dipthonged vowels, make the word DONE doooneee go on forever.


Most people go blank when they hear the numbers — 46,000 this, one million that statistics almost incomprehensible because of their magnitude. Since the problem of plastic pollution is so big we thought some simple visual graphics would add some punch to our powerpoint. 

When artist/illustrator Michael Bartolos asked if he could trade the use of the windows and studio space at Electric Works for his design services we jumped at the chance to use his skills as a graphic artist to create some informative visuals to represent the statistics about what is happening in the oceans. 

We had our first opportunity to try them out at the Georgia Art Educators Association Conference.

This shopping cart graphic really got the message across when the slide came up and we counted out, lingering for pauses: "One...two...three...four...five...

Thanks to Michael for great ideas made visible.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


We grew up with the myth of the solitary artist, starving in a garret, wresting a vision from the depths of the soul. A lonely existence — why would anyone aspire to such suffering? But, as the myth goes, the rewards are great — that devotion to suffering for the creative life would be inscribed in the annals of art history, or at least a mention in the back pages of Artforum magazine.

So you might imagine that we when we met, the idea of collaborating met with a bit of resistance. Could the sum of the parts really be greater than our individual efforts? Could we really join forces with someone we love to make art?

The research proves true that humans have a long history of working together, whether tiling the soil or building a monumental cathedral, many hands make light work. As a noun it is called team-work; as a verb, coupling; or maybe yoking up to pull a heavier wagon. There is a quite a list of couples who have changed art history: the Delauneys, the Eames, Gilbert and George, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

In 1999 we forged an artist partnership to work with plastic found on Kehoe Beach. Since then, as our collection of plastic has grown, we have grown as individuals and as collaborators. Now with the Venn Diagram of our lives set we understand the challenges and pleasures of working with each other and we have have worked successfully with curators and directors who have helped to enlarge our project, adding other circles to our set. We appreciate the lively conversations that ensue when problem solving big issues about installations and exhibitions. As we like to say, we play well with others.

Thanks to director Farley Gwazda at the Worth Ryder Gallery at UC Berkeley we prepared the table for participation for the exhibit theme (processing). Farley was interested in engaging students in our sorting methods so we were able to experiment with the idea of adding circles to our Venn Diagram by including others in our collaboration. Visitors would complete the table setting by sorting and arranging pieces of plastic on the plates we provided. 

Check these fun fab pics of the (processing) opening reception with in-action shots of people gathered around our table of plastic, creating plates full of amazing arrangements.

In the corridor adjacent to the gallery, our posters asked passersby for help identifying plastic objects from our collection. Inspired by the have you seen me? question posed on milk cartons, our posters evoked written responses — both serious and sublime. 

We are pleased to be in the fine company of other artists whose work addresses society’s endless accumulations: Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, Carrie Hott, Rose Khor, Heather Murphy, Sugata Ray, Danielle Schlunegger, Andrew Ananda Voogel, and Tali Weinberg.