Category: Artwork

After Oakland Ghost Ship Fire, Cities Need Solutions To Cultural Witch Hunt


oakland_witchhuntThe recent Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire here in Oakland, CA. has ignited a Witch Hunt by city officials across the country from Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, Baltimore to New York and counting. Unfortunately for hundreds of artists this tragedy is being used as an excuse for city officials, in an attempt to save face, by making examples out of residents in creative living environments. The sad reality of this is that it is unfairly targeting artists and treating them like a scourge on society by pushing them out onto the streets while not really addressing the real issues in a productive manner. The stampede to shut down artists’ warehouses is burning through creative communities red tagging buildings in a wholesale fashion. It is good to note that not all artists spaces/warehouses are out of compliance, contrary to the narrative being pushed by media outlets.

Another issue at hand is the assumption by city officials that only artists occupy spaces that may be out of safety code compliance. Let’s face it folks – there are small churches all across this great nation that are housed in buildings that do not meet fire safety compliance codes or have assembly permits. Walk down the street in any disadvantaged community and you will see a string of churches in old store fronts, theaters and similar buildings that have been transformed into houses of worship. How about all the garment warehouses? How about all the unlicensed automotive shops? Are city officials going to treat them in the same manner they are treating artists?  Are city officials calling out the owners of those buildings for not being compliant? The answer is an emphatic No! At least not until it benefits them politically. Where is the fairness and wisdom in the recent actions across the country against the arts community?

Speaking of disadvantaged communities – why are they only targeting the disadvantaged? Do you think that possibly some buildings in upper scale areas may be out of compliance. Well we may never know because they aren’t on the Gestapo Compliant Lists.

Why is everyone, outside of the artists community, standing around saying nothing while there is a rounding-up of artists, galleries, and DIY spaces being booted from their homes and studios where they make their livelihoods?

Here’s a good idea it’s the Holidays! (start X-Mas background music)No better gift than the gift of eviction! How about the cities send inspectors through the neighborhoods shutting down homes who have their Christmas tree wired up with a crazy menagerie of cheap extension cords and old Christmas lights. While you are at it make sure the toys don’t pose a fire hazard. Little Bobby’s racecars might cause a fire too!

This post isn’t meant to cast aspersions on the seriousness of fire safety, the usefulness of code compliance and the good work that city officials do on behalf of all city residents. The Ghost Ship Fire was a horrible tragedy that ended the lives of 36 amazing human beings that were loved by their friends and families as well as the artist community of which they were a part of. These actions against the artists communities dishonors the memory of those who perished in the fire and sadly uses their deaths as a political tool to hurt artists across the country.

The Ghost Ship building was a problem that had a long list of issues that made it unsafe and sadly it flew under the radar, but in the artist community it was the EXCEPTION rather than the rule.  The majority of artists spaces in Oakland (the greater Bay Area and beyond) are run by responsible people who care enough about themselves and others to create a safe environment and to be conscious of fire dangers. Kicking people out as a reactionary reflex (based on infractions that can be repaired by owners when given notice, the time, and the opportunity) is flat out wrong.

There are better alternatives. The mayors of all these cities need to throw up a stop sign with inspectors and mandate that the insanity be stopped right now. We can find better solutions to these issues. For example, the city can work with owners in a manner so that buildings can be brought up to compliance on a time frame that is reasonable and doesn’t require that they evict the artists from their homes and studios. Cities can create a program that will help building owners do this without going broke or having to raise rents to exorbitant levels. There can also be initiatives to work on solutions that help the current creative community stay in their spaces and make them safe at the same time. This is the role of government is it not? The path of scapegoating and targeting good people in the city by just shutting them down and demonizing them as hazards is not productive nor compassionate.

Artists communities incubate the cultural advancements that make our world a better place. When you go to the museum remember, that painting on the wall was made by an artist who most likely started out on in an old warehouse space. When you hear your favorite band remember they were practicing in a makeshift studio for a long time and playing shows at artists warehouses before they hit it big. When you go to see a circus remember that those performers lived life in a warehouse where they could practice their craft day in and day out. When you go to the movies remember that the filmmaker lived in an old warehouse space projecting his/her films on the walls for friends before they ever got funded to make that blockbuster that you love so much.

The truth is that Art is not made in the clean cellophane environment that the mainstream consumes it in. Art is birthed in places where people struggle, make concessions with their level of comfort, and place their focus and resources on creativity above all else. Those who support it are other artists who with a gaggle of their friends in a old warehouse will sit on uncomfortable chairs to watch a play, listen to a unknown unsigned band, look at paintings made by someone thought to be insane, or engage in one of a million other artistic happenings. Without these people and creative spaces…life would lose its luster, wine would have no taste, and our walls would be bare.

Let’s let cooler heads prevail and have all parties involved come together for the greater good. City officials, mayors, building owners, and artists can do the right thing and work in unison, instead of in opposition. Through a positive community strategy all creative living spaces can be brought up to compliance without evictions and financial punishment on building owners. We can make the world a safer place and our cities can retain our cultural incubators. Everyone wins!

To help the Victims of the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire Please consider giving to the:
Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghostship Oakland Fire


Common Ground – Group Show at Gray Loft Gallery


Hadley Williams © 2015

Second Fridays Art Murmur @ Gray Loft Gallery in Oakland yesterday was a wonderful surprise. The current show is a group show that includes Larry Davidson, Philip Dow, Katie Hawkinson, Joe Slusky, Jon Wessel, and Hadley Williams.

A great selection of artists who are all in tune creatively. I was particularly drawn to the work of Hadley Williams whose fields of bio-forms set off slight vibrations. The work is very serene yet emits a visual buzz. There is also an attention to surface that is very well executed.

John Wood’s paintings also relay a visual vibration. His use of line and color is brilliantly demonstrated in the series of paintings at Gray Loft. Although chaotic his squiggly lines seemingly create hidden images that are juxtaposed against heavy strokes of color laid in a guttural fashion. The resulting paintings are reminiscent of a work that is in mid-deconstruction or a level of evolution.


Philip Dow’s sculptures are produced with a blend of materials including cast acrylic which plays a prominent role. Dow manages to create works that entice the viewer to experience the piece from a variety of angles because of the large sections of acrylic that have a Fun House prism element to them. The work is playful as well as visually powerful in his blending of materials and juxtaposition of surface qualities.

Katie Hawkinson is pushing paint in the tradition of bay area abstraction. Heavy strokes and thick paint that detail the history of her process. Some of her works include figures of birds that appear on the canvas out of the brush work.  Hawkinson create fields and then defies them with new applications of paint. She builds some wonderful abstract  landscapes and then counteracts them with planes of color. I love her abandon use of paint with drips and brush marked strokes.

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I recommend taking the time to go down and see all the work in this show. Curator Jan Watten has a assembled and strong collection of artists who are creating compelling work. Gray loft Gallery should be on your list of galleries to visit in the Oakland Jingletown area.

COMMON GROUND is open April 1- – May 16th, 2015. Their next reception is Saturday May 16, 2015 3 – 5pm (There will be a Rock Wall Wine Company tasting.)

Free Speech Retrospect: Don’t Draw That réspondez s’il vous plait


dont_banner300 It has been a while since I posted. I have been occupied with completing art works for a display at Art Basel , follow up show at AutoBody Fine Art, and a movie project.

My first show in 2015 is participation in a group show at Works/San Jose, a community art center in downtown San Jose, CA. This is my inaugural showing in San Jose, CA. I honestly cannot recall the reason it has taken so long for me to have a show in San Jose, because it is one cool city. I used to come here yearly for Game Developers Conference and I always visited their modern museum of art which never failed me with a brilliant show.

Don’t Draw That: réspondez s’il vous plait is a group show at Works/San Jose gallery with a wide variety of work that responds to the recent events—including the murder of artists by terrorists in Paris, and the calls from many in reaction, including from some world leaders, for artists not to create provocative work on religion or other subjects that might offend—have spurred a wide range of responses from creative individuals and communities. The show includes work that touches the subject across all lines and pain points.

One of the art works I have in this show is a painting I did in 2009 titled “Jihadi Martyr in the Golden Pussy of Heaven.” I am not placing an image of it here, as I wish for patrons to attend and see it in person (March 6th – 21st, 2015). However I did wish to take the opportunity to write a few words on my thoughts about my participation in this exhibition. The painting in question is a classic example of my influences from religious art, cartoons, and Mad magazine style satire. This work was originally part of a series called “Die for Allah.” It was a defiant reaction to Islamic extremists attacks on innocent people. There were 5 paintings which displayed images that were satirical views of what some people, may consider to be absurdities of extremists interpretations of the Islamic faith i.e. promises of paradise for killing innocent people, virgins to tend to the sexual desires of martyrs, …etc.

This series of work was shown in a gallery exhibition and then posted on my web site.  A few years later, I submitted a proposal to a contemporary art space in another state for a completely different series of paintings. I was told that the curatorial committee was interested in my show but saw the “Die For Allah” works on my web site and decided to decline my proposal. Their decision was based on the idea that they felt that the “Die For Allah” series would be viewed by their patrons and their association with me would jeopardize the art centers funding and make them a target for Muslims who would be offended that they were displaying my work.

I was quite irritated that they were judging my proposal on work that wasn’t even part of my proposed show – in addition I felt they were spineless and self censoring their program out of misdirected assumptions and fear. On the other hand, it was their decision and they have the right to display work that fits within the framework and guidelines of their program. This is their Free Speech and I respect and support that fully.

I believe, as many artist do, in exercising my right to Free Speech and defending it for others whether I agree with their viewpoint, find them offensive, or otherwise valueless. Free Speech at all costs is a tight rope and delivers a challenge to a society in global multicultural system. Dialogue and tolerance are paramount. In addition there is still the possibility that you may cause offense…that is the price we pay.

For my part I must declare, I don’t feel the same way I felt, when I first painted “Jihadi Martyr in the Golden Pussy of Heaven.” It’s not that I think the painting has lost its impact or that the satire is wrong in anyway. Many things like religion have an inherent power, and power always corrupts. For this reason we must allow for them to be criticized, otherwise we will be overcome by them with the establishment of institutionalized oppression. Now at the time I made this painting my motivation was fueled by a need to react against the actions of extremists by exercising my right to satirize their actions and religious beliefs, and this painting does just that – it very poignantly takes a comical jab at Muslim extremists who feel that it is their mission to kill those who don’t agree or live by their standards. The political statement behind the works very strongly raises the flag of opposition to any group who would use violence, coercion, threats or murder to limit Free Speech in a free society.

In retrospect, I see that the deeper devilish danger threatening Free Speech is not the actions of extremists. For ultimately their impact is shallow against nations who have liberty embedded in their constitutions and culture. Au contraire, the real threat is the reactions of democratic governments who use the actions of extremists, taken against artists, to pass legislation that usurps the very freedoms for which artists use to create art.

Post Charlie Hebdo, there was a call for more police power and surveillance. The Orwellian lie was repeated by media outlets, that we need to be protected from extremists and the only way is to allow government to remove more of our freedoms.  Democratized governments are increasingly turning their eye toward their citizens and using the actions of extremists as justification for building a police state and increasing reductions of privacy and the deterioration of personal freedoms. The Snowden revelations are concrete evidence of this direction coupled with politicians loudly parroting the message  “We need the power to listen in to conversations, we need the power for home searches, we need the power to comb internet records…”

This all pales the threat from extremists on the soil of democratic nations. My goal in writing this, is not to diminish the lives of the artists in Paris or any others who have suffered at the hands of extremists for exercising Freedom of Speech, without doubt this is tragic. I only now realize that perhaps I didn’t tell the whole story.

Perhaps, my painting didn’t go far enough…perhaps it should have included elements that detail how democratic governments are stealing the freedoms of citizens and using Muslim extremists as an excuse to rob us of our Free Speech, privacy and personal rights. For that would have been more accurate in focusing on the real danger from the Hebdo murders.

As an artist, the final act of creation is displaying your work to the public. This is the moment when what you have created becomes a permanent part of the cultural landscape. I am a fan of satire and my work has always had humorous elements. Much of my art has been an exercise in button pushing. When you see “Jihadi Martyr in the Golden Pussy of Heaven,” you will either love it or hate it. Some people have viewed it and thought is was in poor taste, and others have seen it, and laughed uncontrollably! Ultimately, I hope that this art work creates a dialogue that encourages viewers to explore the complex Free Speech issues we are faced with.

To other artists I say, express yourself to the fullest and use your tools freely but examine what you have wrought. Examine it closely, because there are many who will use it to fulfill their purpose and it may very well be the undoing of your freedom to create.

Art Review: Derek Van Beers @ Roscoe Ceramic Gallery

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I hate what you Stand For © 2012 Derik Van Beers
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Fix Me Jesus © 2012 Derik Van Beers

Oakland’s art scene is booming. The First Friday event is fun but definitely more of an overcrowded night on the town. It’s quite difficult to maneuver and see the various galleries. Fortunately we have Third Thursdays which is my choice for gallery hopping. This month artist Derik Van Beers has a couple of works at Roscoe Ceramic gallery. Van Beers’ work moves away from traditional trappings of ceramic sculpture. The pieces are expertly crafted objects made up of multiple pieces collaged together. Van Beers blends a comic style with Day of the Dead. The topics reference the indifference of understanding between warring parties. These sentiments are juxtaposed with happy colors and clown-like faces. I am looking forward to seeing more of his work. Take the time to go down to Roscoe Ceramic Gallery and see the works on display.

Review: Art Hazelwood and William Wolf @ ArtZone 461 Gallery

Steven Lopez and Eric Koehler at ArtZone 461 Gallery : Art Hazelwood and William Wolf Print show
Gallery Director Steven Lopez and Eric Koehler at ArtZone 461 Gallery : Art Hazelwood and William Wolf print show 2014

San Francisco, CA. – Up now at ArtZone 461 Gallery March 1 – April 6, 2014 is a two man show of printmakers Art Hazelwood and William Wolf. This show is produced in conjunction with the SGC International 42nd Annual Conference in San Francisco. ArtZone is the host gallery. Both Artists have incredible artistic vision and technical mastery to match. This is a posthumous show for Wolf who passed away in 2004. Wolf was one part of the early bay area figurative movement. Hazelwood worked with Wolf over the last years of his life as archivist and friend.  Wolf’s works on display are truly poetic. Many are a collage of body parts disjointed and visually bound by their eloquent composition. Subdued colors along with exquisite print textures exude a harmony which runs through all of his work. His modus operandi included repeatedly re-working plates so that there was an unending evolution, resulting in one plate having many different print incarnations. In contrast Hazelwood’s prints of political inspired themes, with rich black ink and melodious line quality, speak volumes of his interest in bell ringing the injustices of America. His figures are beautifully drawn, and orchestrated into scenes which touch upon the political pain points with a style that is reminiscent of satirical cartoons. There is much theater in Hazelwood’s work and his vision and characters come to life on the paper. This is a unique opportunity to see two masterful printmakers side by side. I recommend you take the time to go by and experience the work for yourself. The show is up thru April 6 at ArtZone 46 Gallery. Located at 461 Valenica St. San Francisco, CA.

Fine Art: Sell it but never do this!


photoThis post is for the young uninitiated artist. Don’t ever (ever) place a sign on your art that says: Clearance.

This is tantamount to placing a sign that says: Garbage.

Admittedly the panels in this picture, with what seems to be acrylic paint smeared on them, can be debated as to whether they are Art or garbage.

Nonetheless the purveyor was posing as an artist so we can guesstimate that the panels are presented as art.

That’s your lesson for today.

Aqua Art Miami 2012


This year my work was displayed at Aqua Art Miami during Art Basel through Jacqueline Cooper Fine Art. Aqua Art has been operating during Art Basel Miami as a satellite show for 8 years and has developed a solid following as well as a reputation for displaying great art from West Coast galleries with a highlight on emerging and mid career artists. The show opened the evening of December 5th with a VIP event that was(putting it lightly) a complete blow out- attendance was through the roof and the vibe and excitement was fever pitch. The high energy has remained and the show runs through December 9th. Most of the galleries have a distinct vision to their stable of artist and a few seemed discombobulated. This Isn’t a criticism as the same can be said for Art Basel. News was also released yesterday that Art Aqua was purchased by Art Miami. Word from the galleries was that the Art Miami folks went around to make introductions and to ensure exhibitors that all is well and they are looking forward to working with them in 2013. If the Art Miami folks can keep the momentum going and continue with bringing in the edgy west coast galleries than Aqua Art will continue its rise on the Art Basel radar as a destination to find fresh art unfiltered by the Basel big gallery hubris.

If you want to see the work of mine that Jacqueline took to Aqua Art go to my website at and look at the “Mexican Drug War” series. So instead of just promoting myself I want to name a few notables.

Edward Del Rosario produced some exquisitely painted works that were mysterious and playfully dark. His work “Contest of Champions” hints of the gender interactions of love and social circumstance.

Dickson Schneider and his “Free Art Cart” bucks the Art Basel aesthetic by giving away the valuable commodity to the masses. Schneider has built a cart that is reminiscent of the old style ice cream carts. He sets up in front of the Aqua hotel and offers his “free art” to any and all who ask for a work. The artwork is part art display and part performance. This is the second year he has produced this work and it has also been shown in Oakland, Ca. at the now recently legended Oakland Art Murmur in Oakland, Ca.

Finally Helen Bayly my fellow artist at Jacqueline Cooper fine art produces incredible drawings inspired by decadence, lust and deep seated sexual desires. Blending religion, mythology and classical drawing, Bayly creates work that draws in the spectator and excites the senses. There is dark underpinnings and Bayley’s execution is alluring and delicious.

All in all Aqua Art is a unique part of Art Basel and has made it mark as a must attend event!

Oakland Underground Film Festival


This September 22-24th is the Third Annual Oakland Underground Film Festival. Live music, DJs, Taco Trucks, Beer a true Oakland style event.

Opening Party: September 22 @ 10pm
Closing Night Party September 24th
All Shows $10

Located at: Grand Street Tavern
3200 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610

Check out there Website for details
Oakland Underground Film Fest