Friday, October 19, 2007


After sitting in front of a computer all day, I can get a little stir crazy. I love the nights here in The Mission, so I went out to drink coffee and do a little reading. Unfortunately, there are no benches or places to sit near the coffee shop... but there is a backhoe parked on Valencia Street. I thought "Heck, why not?" So I spent my evening reading Days of War, Nights of Love - Crimethink for Beginners. I was introduced to the book by a fellow volunteer while I was working with Food Not Bombs in Oakland, during 2000-2001. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I haven't read it for a while. It's inspirational, hits every aspect of my day to day, and makes me want to do better things with my life.

That little black driver's seat in the middle was my reading spot for the night.

While I was reading, I was thinking about the art teachers in my past that have truly inspired me to think about more than just the work itself. These are people that have challenged me on how I think, what I say, and why I create. The three names that have had a lasting effect on my life are Christopher "Lucky" Leone, Vladimir Lubel and Brody Hartman.

Chris was one of my early drawing teachers at SDSU and used non-traditional ways to make us think about art and drawing. His show "Freer" was one of the most eye-opening art shows I have ever been to. Not simply because of the work, but because of the redefining of what an art show can be. (I still have the postcard from the show in 1996) He was also the first person I knew to refer to his wife as his partner, and equal - I have always remembered that.

Vladimir was one of my design teachers during grad school at the Academy of Art. After a semester or so, I realized that the Academy was not a place for experimentation - it was a place to learn how to get a job. This was antithetical to most of my art schooling, and art in general. That was until I had Vladimir as a teacher. He always talked about looking at the world and projects differently, challenging what we had been told, and making our own curriculum. The best illustration of that was during a critique when he tore a large corner of my poster design off the wall and stuck it on the other side of the piece and said "Why not this?" It sounds simple and may lose something in the translation, but as a design student at a conservative "art" school, it was borderline revolutionary. I will always thank him for that. Another assignment was to create a piece that dealt with all of our senses. My piece was an elegant candle-lit dinner setting. When the lights were turned off, the unnoticeable writing on the candle glass projected words on the wall that were a reflection on a recent relationship... reinforcing the idea that things are not always as they seem. I tried to find a link to Vladimir's installation art online, but no such luck. His art is as challenging as his teaching - amazing. If you have any leads on a site of his work, please let me know.

Last, and definitely not least... Brody. I also had a class with Brody during grad school at the Academy, but it wasn't a traditional design class. He had us meditate at the start of each class to help us focus on the task at hand, and it really changed the way people related to the work. 9/11 took place during that semester and Brody's class was the first one I had after it happened. We stopped work on our projects and sat together to talk about how we all felt and what this meant to the world at large. That was an intense class. I produced one of my favorite installation pieces ever that semester. I made and installation and interactive piece called "Gun." The idea was based on the image that the mind creates when various people are confronted with a gun as word / image / sound. Brody taught us about how the world around us will affect and define our work, whether we notice or not.

I owe a lot to these three people. So, thank you.

p.s. - It turns out that the driver's seat in a backhoe is a great place for people watching. I caught a Hummer quickly swerve to avoid a one inch tall metal construction plate in the road... ironic? Also, the best conversation I overheard was "... of course you can use my bathroom. I want you to use my bathroom." This was from a seemingly new couple walking by, hand in hand. Oddly adorable.

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