Monday, February 28, 2005

Tastemakers and the Artist's Vision

"There is indeed a downtown POV here in NY and elsewhere that likes to guard its favors. Downtown tastemakers will quietly rave about something or someone until that music or art achieves a relative popularity- then it is denigrated as having "been better when I first saw them". A lot of alt music publications and websites share this weird snobbism, it's a way of establishing a little in-crowd."
-David Byrne, blog entry 01/30/05 from
  • david byrne's tour journal

  • at the met
    at the met
    photo by Gregg Chadwick

    I have been discussing the idea of artist and audience recently with a diverse group of fellow artists and collectors.
    David Byrne's take on downtown tastemakers seems quite apt. The importance of being the first to find a new artist and then to quickly denigrate them as their popularity grows seems to have a relation to our contemporary inundation with advertising campaigns extolling the new and the fresh, as well as our fear of aging or worst of all-irrelevance. Most artists I know, work in their studios for years guided by their own personal vision. At times our work is part of the moment or zeitgeist. At other times we are forging ahead into a dark wood, unsure of the final destination. If we are fortunate our audience makes the journey with us. Recently I had a conversation with Michael Hertzberg, who produced the comic masterpiece "Blazing Saddles" and worked with Mel Brooks on numerous other projects. As we spoke, a large photo of Mel Brooks in full Native American regalia beamed down on us. Michael expressed -"I don't think a true artist creates for an audience at all. Instead the artist works on finding their own vision. A sort of vision quest as expressed in many Native American cultures." It was a very bold statement and seemed to point out the responsibility inherent in creation and in the viewing of great art. More to follow...

    Sunday, February 27, 2005

    Photographer Zana Briski's "Born Into Brothels" Wins Best Doc at Oscars


    Tonight's Oscars shed light on many fine performances. I was especially taken with Jamie Foxx's speech during the acceptance of his best actor award and Jorge Drexler's off the cuff rendition of "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" from "The Motorcycle Diaries" which won best song. The film I am most intrigued with is Zana Briski and Ross Kaufmann's "Born Into Brothels"
    which won best doc.

    Summary follows from A.O.Scott's review in the New York Times:
    "Zana Briski, a New York photojournalist, spent several years in the red light district of Calcutta, where she ran a photography class for the children of prostitutes, encouraging them to document the squalor and the vibrant humanity that surrounded them. The seven children featured in this lovely documentary are not only Ms. Briski's subjects, but her collaborators, and it is thrilling to watch them discover their own artistic talents. This flowering is counterposed with a chronicle of Ms. Briski's efforts to get the children out of the red light district and into boarding school, a story that yields both optimisim and a recognition of just how cruel and intractable the conditions that face these children and others like them really are."

    Also see: Kids With Cameras


    Friday, February 25, 2005

    Art that Schwarzenegger Needs to See

    Vietnam Women's Memorial

    In honor of the 11,500 women who served with the US forces in Vietnam. Most as nurses or connected to medical units. Dedicated in 1993 as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall.

    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    Schwarzenegger Fears A Nurse in Uniform

    by Gregg Chadwick

    The latest California actor turned governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has picked a battle that he can not win. Arnold is a cartoon warrior. His opponents up to now have been mainly celluloid villains and opinion poll watching politicos. What Arnold has found out in his rash decision to issue an emergency order rolling back nursing ratios in emergency rooms is that California's top nurses are tenacious and brilliant: "Arnold behaves like an arrogant patriarch with respect to women's occupations," said Rose Ann De Moro, executive director of the California Nurses Association. "Nurses, teachers, home health workers -- it's vulgar how he's run roughshod over them. He's arrogant, and he's a bully."

    The AP reports how these events started "in December, when a small group of nurses gathered at a state women's conference to protest Schwarzenegger's decision to side with hospitals and limit the state's nurse-to-patient ratio. With his wife,Maria Shriver in the audience, Schwarzenegger responded to the protesters by saying, "The special interests don't like me in Sacramento because I am always kicking their butts." The nurses union denounced his comment, and the attacks on the governor have escalated since."

    "The arrogance of taking on teachers, nurses and other professions where women are underpaid, overworked and vital to society is beyond the pale," said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights."But Arnold is someone who treats women as objects, so it's natural for him to have a tendency to disregard and devalue professions that are made up of women."

    Last week, critical care nurse Kelly DiGiacomo had a ticket to attend the Sacramento premiere of Governor Schwarzenegger's new film-Be Cool: Get Shorty II. While seated in the audience, in her nurses’ uniform, DiGiacomo was approached by an undercover officer who demanded to see her ticket and pulled her out of the audience. DiGiacomo was then detained in a small back room where she was interrogated for an hour by an undercover officer while other officers guarded her. She was then held for another 30 minutes before her release.

     “It’s appalling that the highest constitutional officer of our state feels a nurse’s uniform is threatening, and is unwilling to allow a working nurse to attend a public event,” said CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.

    “RNs have a right and a very good reason to protest the governor’s rollback of patient care protections to please his corporate healthcare donors. His attempt to suspend First Amendment rights for RNs because they advocate for patients, not for corporate interests, is deplorable,” DeMoro said. DeMoro also blasted the governor for “a disgraceful waste of public money to fund his private security detail to harass nurses.”

    Arnold's emergency order, made at the request of the California Healthcare Association (the lobbying arm of the hospital industry), puts tens of thousands of Californians at risk for mortality, medical errors, and infections. The California Nurses Association has called on Arnold to:

    1. Maintain the 1:4 minimum ratio in the Emergency Room at all times.
    2. Implement the 1:5 ratio in Medical–Surgical Departments.

    also see schwarzenegger vs. nurses:


  • The California Nurses Association has suggested to call and e-mail the Governor's office: Call 916-445-2841, extension 7 during business hours and leave a message saying:"I am offended by your remarks about nurses and I oppose your attack on the safe staffing ratio law.”
    E-mail the governor at and cc CNA at

    Wednesday, February 23, 2005

    Rock n' Roll Suicide

    by Gregg Chadwick

    Hunter S. Thompson's recent self-inflicted death brought to mind Elliott Smith's tragic suicide as well as Kurt Cobain's and Mark Rothko's from years before. We mourn their loss and as Moby says about Hunter on his blog- "the world is a lesser place without you." But our society also sneers at those who take their own lives- confusing mental illness with cowardice.

    The visionary artist David Best will have none of that and his Temple of Honor constructed at the Burning Man arts festival in 2003 was created and burned as a contemporary, propitiatory offering of sorts for all those who have committed suicide. The interior of the Temple of Honor was lined with handwritten names, pictures, photos and poems for the lost. These scraps were burned with our prejudices for those whose internal struggles proved too much. We miss Hunter's ragged wit and Elliott's soulful Beatlesque music and Kurt's fiery presence and Rothko's vision. In my mind I picture all of them together like angels listening with compassion to the sorrows of the world in a chapel lined with the paintings of Mark Rothko.

    david best, temple of honor aflame
    burning man 2003
    photo by Gregg Chadwick

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    the curve of a back and the desert floor

    by Gregg Chadwick

    I just got back from a weekend at Joshua Tree with a group of writers and actors. We talked deeeply about the process of creation. And I spoke about what inspires me. The writer Phil Cousineau would describe my processs of artistic discovery as "pulling moments" from the hustle of life. Each of these pulled moments undergoes scrutiny and at times reverie. Some become a source for new work. For me the desert landscape encouraged visual metaphors. The sweep of the huge rock formations reminded me of the curve of a woman's back- a sleek movement across a canvas perhaps. Now it is up to me to carry these thoughts into the work.

    Gregg Chadwick
    38"x48" oil on linen 2002 

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Alexander and Jane Eliot

    "Intolerance is the father of illusion and evil deeds.Tolerance is not its opposite; tolerance is neutral. The opposite of intolerance is creative imagination, sympathetically exercised in the service of ever illusive truth. The people I trust and admire take that path. Scholars, scientists, priests, and philosophers have helped guide me ... A fiery legion of artists and writers flung wide the gates and beckoned my near- sighted soul to go deeper"
    -Alexander Eliot, "The Timeless Myths"

    esprit d'escalier
    esprit d'escalier
    30"x20" monotype 2005
    inspired by the vision of alex and jane eliot

    In Japan, individuals of extraordinary talent and vision are recognized as living national treasures as they live out their later years. The American intellectual couple Alexander and Jane Eliot should be given honorary Japanese citizenship and awarded that honor. Recently when I met with Alex and Jane in their warm Venice bungalow I was struck by their graciousness and humility. The front room is crowded with treasures gathered from their years together. And their minds are full of some of the twentieth century's most important memories.

    Alex was the lead art critic for Time magazine from 1945 until 1960. His articles on the growth of American post-war art and the rise of New York as the center of the art world were unsigned per Time's policy of that era. But he was able to gather some of the most pertinent information into his volume,"Three Hundred Years of American Painting" - published in 1957. The book was a huge success and along with a Guggenheim grant enabled Alex and Jane to move to Greece to further their studies of art and myth and to raise their children in an international atmosphere away from what President Eisenhower labeled as the growing "military-industrial complex."

    It pains them both to watch as the current administration stokes the fires of international conflict and evokes the painful memories of fascism. Jane is unstinting in her criticism of the Bush presidency, "I was a child in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. And I know what fascism looks like." Then her memories flood in and she points to a blackened metal circle suspended on her sculpted grotto that fills a wall in the front room. The grotto is a sort of historical-mythic manger with elements gathered from their years of travel and Jane's countless friendships with writers and artists. Jane recounts a moment from her childhood as she watched a fire set by Franco's soldiers destroy a Spanish church. She stood transfixed in its red glow. Jane watched the sculpted saints burn and then the halo above Mary fell free as her wooden body was engulfed in the flames. The glowing orange circle hit the ground and rolled across the plaza eventually landing at Jane's feet. She hurriedly grabbed the halo and hid it in her bag. As a child it seemed a sign of hope for peace. And again we need that hope.

    Alex Eliot
    alex eliot
    from the black mountain project

    The conversation turns to Alex . "Yes, I met Matisse in the south of France in his later years" Alex says. "He wasn't well and Matisse was making those vibrant paper collages while confined to his bed. Well, I was given an audience with Matisse and as I was leaving something got into my head. There was a question I needed to ask. I had made it to the top of the mountain as it were and I was not going to leave without finding out the answer. I had gone to Black Mountain to learn to be an artist and then on to the Boston School of Fine Arts but I needed to know from the master. So I turned back to Matisse and asked,"What should I do next?"
    In response Matisse propped himself up on his bed and like a mantra repeated one word -"Draw, draw, draw ..."
    In a recent review Alex set forth what can be considered his views on the visionary nature of art:
    "Art is not just a matter of keen observation and craftsmanlike representation. At best, it's a visionary process. The great American philosopher William James posited that the consciousness of humanity as a whole is transmitted as "beams": "Glows of feeling," James said, "glimpses of insight, and streams of knowledge and perception float into our finite world." A true masterpiece of any art transmits transcendental "rays" in the Jamesian sense."

    In his book "Sight and Insight" Alexander Eliot describes a Chinese painter who, upon completing his masterwork, paints a door in the foreground, opens that door - walks through and is never seen again. I expect Alex and Jane to find that door and to walk through together leaving their art and writings as clues for us to find our own path.

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    one love

    Bob Marley would have turned sixty today. Marley's life was brief but his legacy has been long and widespread. His music brought the hopes and dreams of the African diaspora into homes and clubs worldwide and was influential in dispelling the notion that important music was created only in the economic powers of Western Europe and the United States. Marley's gift was to cast the music of rebellion into infectious rhythms that lifted the spirit without abandoning the reality of political struggle in an unjust world.

    bob marley

    "In this great future, you can't forget your past."
    -Bob Marley, "No Woman, No Cry"

    In Kingston, Jamaica and for the first time in The Rastafarian holy land of Ethiopia crowds gathered to hear Bob Marley's songs of freedom and his hope for a united Africa. The Associated Press reported that in Ethiopia's capital- Addis Ababa -tens of thousands attended a memorial concert entitled "Africa Unite'' after one of Marley's songs. African stars paid tribute by performing at the concert, including Youssou N'dour and Baaba Maal of Senegal and Angelique Kidjo of Benin. Marley's five sons, his widow Rita and other former members of Marley's band the Wailers also performed.

    In a letter published in Sunday's "Jamaica Gleaner" American reggae historian Robert Roskind wrote,"this concert is much more than entertainment and an honouring of Jamaica's best-known artiste and healer. This evening will be a call to every Jamaican individually, and to the nation as a whole, to claim their God-given destiny to teach love, forgiveness and compassion in their lives. We as individuals need to answer this call. Jamaica as a country needs to answer this call. And the world needs this example of healing through one love.''

    Saturday, February 05, 2005

    faces of the fallen

    Chester Arnold, the visionary Bay Area painter who exhibits at the Catherine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, has inspired his students at the College of Marin to create a moving exhibition of memorial portraits of American troops killed in action in Iraq. According to the
    San Francisco Chronicle
    Chester Arnold encouraged his students to take on the project after the United States military death toll in Iraq reached one thousand killed in action, "Perhaps ‘Faces’ can change the political debate,” said Chester Arnold. “Instead of ‘red states vs. blue states,’ I hope that we can find common ground as we did after September 11th.”

    In the College of Marin’s “To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen” exhibit art students and faculty have painted portraits of American troops killed in Iraq – more than 1200.

    From the
  • College of Marin's website:
    “Faces” has tapped into a river of emotion in towns and communities across America, many of which have brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, neighbors and friends in Iraq. More than 100 news outlets have profiled the exhibit, including ABC-TV national news and The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and New York Newsday. Now, every day the college receives heart-felt responses from family, friends and others around the country needing a chance to remember and reflect on our losses. Some request portraits of their fallen relatives. Others ask that the exhibit tour the country, or be posted online. Visitors have come from as far away as Tennessee to see the faces of their loved ones.

    January 18 through February 22, 2005
    Monday - Friday
     9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Saturday, Sunday
    10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
    Art Gallery, Fine Arts Building
    College of Marin
    835 College Avenue
    Kentfield, CA 94904

    For more information about this exhibit, call 415-485-9494.
    I had the pleasure to create monotypes for the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art's Monotype Marathon alongside Chester Arnold last June and now applaud his courage in tackling this war in his classes and his art.
    Also see:
  • Arlington
  • Veteran's Day
  • Update: Now at Syracuse University, New York
  • Wednesday, February 02, 2005

    David Best's Chapel of the Laborer

    Update: Chapel to be torn down today- Thursday, February 3rd

  • Throughout the day yesterday, people came to see, photograph and touch the towering structure. Some left notes tucked in the building's walls complimenting the work.

    "What a wonderful temple!!! I love everything about it. Please let it stay!!!" read a note signed "Sharon."

    Some were in Spanish, such as one signed by Carlos Diaz that described the chapel as "bonito," or pretty.

  • by Gregg Chadwick

    david best- chapel of the laborer
    David Best - Chapel of the Laborer, San Rafael
    photo by Alan Dep

    David Best set out to build a temporary chapel for day laborers in San Rafael, California, "I wanted to break into a poor community, to build a central location where the laborers could reflect," said Best to Leslie Fulbright of the San Francisco Chronicle. "But the city has made us all illegal -- the Virgin Mary, the day laborers and me."

    David Best
    Temple of Honor - Burning Man 2003
    photo by Gregg Chadwick

    David Best is known for his massive yet elegant wood and paper structures created as temples of memory in the Nevada desert each year for the Burning Man Arts Festival. Best's creations become convergence points for reflection and prayer without the heavy handed overlay of dogma and guilt found in many organized religious spaces.

    "This is where people come to buy groceries and make phone calls. It's a hub, and a place where someone can go and sit and cry about not being with family," Best said of the San Rafael space chosen for his chapel.

    On Tuesday Councilman Cyr Miller stopped by in an attempt to persuade David that the city supported Best's art. Moments later, Best invited a Guatemalan immigrant to sit down inside the shrine and was promptly reprimanded - "That is not allowed," Miller said then threw up his hands and sighed saying he had no choice but to demand the removal of the chapel.

    The chapel was to be part of Art Works Downtown's new exhibit- "Offerings and Sanctuaries".

    From the Chronicle:"Phyllis Thelen, president of the nonprofit art association, said this is its first venture beyond the gallery walls. She said that although the city was very helpful with finding locations and getting permits, officials had no choice but to condemn Best's project after the owner complained.

    "We've been back and forth all morning," Thelen said Tuesday. The owner "said her insurance company threatened to cancel her policy. It's unfortunate, especially because the manager thought she had the authority to approve it."

    Call or fax the city of San Rafael and express your disapproval. David Best is a major artist and the City of San Rafael was fortunate to have him take part-
    Contact information below

    City of San Rafael
    1400 Fifth Avenue
    San Rafael, CA 94901

    Main Fax # (415) 459-2242



    First elected to Council in 11/87;
    elected Mayor in 11/91;
    re-elected in 11/95, 11/99 and 11/03.
    (Term expires: 11/2007)
    (415) 485-3074


    First appointed to Council in 2/95;
    he was then elected to same position in 11/95;
    re-elected in 11/99 and 11/03.
    (Term expires: 11/2007)
    (415) 485-3074


    First elected to Council in 11/91;
    re-elected in 11/95, 11/99 and 11/03.
    (Term expires: 11/2007)
    (415) 485-3074
    (415) 455-9550 (phone & fax)


    First elected to Council in 11/93;
    re-elected in 11/97 and 11/01.
    (Term expires: 11/2005)
    (415) 485-3074
    (415) 457-9820 (phone & fax)


    First appointed to Council in 6/96;
    he was then elected to same position in 11/97 and 11/01.
    (Term expires: 11/2005)
    (415) 485-3074
    (415) 258-9519

    GARY T. RAGGHIANTI, Part-time City Attorney

    First appointed City Attorney in 11/84;
    he was then elected to same position in 11/87.
    Has been re-elected every four years.
    (Term expires: 11/2007)
    (415) 485-3080