Monday, April 27, 2009

Guadalupe River Clean Up, Collecting Materials for Banners

On the recommendation of the Friends of Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, I joined a Rotary Club creek clean up in San Jose at Taylor Bridge to collect materials for the visitor participator banners I will create for the San Jose Museum of Quilt and Textiles at the SubZero event in June. I was amazed by how the garbage, mostly shreds of plastic grocery bags, mixed with plant fibers and created swirling nests clogging the water. In places where the creek was low, these nests dry and are frozen swaying in an invisible current.

Below: materials I collected from this creek clean up and from what students collected at a Walk-a-Thon at Stevens Creek Elementary School in Cupertino.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Christina Braun Butoh Costume Test at Tenderloin National Forest

Today I met with the butoh dancer Christina Braun at The Tenderloin National Forest to test out some of my hats on site to see what would work for her performance. She will be dancing for the grand opening of Tenderloin Natioinal Forest on May 9th. Her butoh improve piece will be in collaboration with the musician/composer Jeffrey Scott Perry who will play electric guitar. Christian has named our group collaboration Nectar.
Here is info on the space and grand opening:

I really enjoyed photographing her against the vibrantly colorful murals. It was also interesting to see how she changed her moods with each different hat. I know that when she has her white make-up on it will be a very dramatic pairing of costuming with movements. She may be wearing a different garment but I am glad I got a chance to photograph her in this old kimono from my grandma. I think it is from the 1950's and I like that it has some patchwork on it. It has a rich hidden past life. I also thought the kimono pattern and color went well with Rigo's blue and white tile pathway.

I was curious about the process of creating a butoh improve piece with music. Christina told me that she will give Mr. Perry a sort of outline of moods and gestures for every few seconds of her movements, like " 2-5 seconds-watches flower petals fall" With this outline, I think Mr. Perry will roughly compose a piece and email it to her and then she will practice a few time to that. I don't think they will be rehearsing together at all and will create the piece live on site for the festival. Such an interesting way to collaborate! The music will respond to Christina's rough outline of movements and moods and center on a theme about a humming bird using feedback, digital effects, and downright virtuosic performance technique on electric guitar.
Here is Mr. Perry's website:

My children loved this image below and can't wait for the performance. They both have been practicing this expression in the mirror all evening and entertained themselves to no end.

Christina found a dead potted plant in the corner of the benches and created this poignant gesture below. I have posted more images on my Flickr site:

I look forward to working with Christina on this project and on The SubZero water dance piece in June (see earlier postings). Here is her bio:

Choreographer Christina Braun's collaborations with composers have been presented regularly since 2002, including the Thailand International Butoh Festival "New Generations" 2006, and the West Wave Dance Festival "World Forms" 2007. Christina has danced with Katsura Kan since 2004, Koichi and Hiroko Tamano's Harupin-Ha since 1998, and Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers since 1997. Christina choreographed the 2007 Woman's Will theatrical production of Mac Wellman's Antigone.

Christina’s project SF Butoh LAB's mission is to promote peace through art exchange by producing new dance performances, symposia and workshops. In 2008, Christina co-created BUTOH San Francisco, whose purpose is to foster the growth of the Bay Area Butoh artist and audience communities. Christina curates an ongoing Saturday movement class, the Berkeley Butoh Experience. As a facilitator to creativity and performance training, Christina gratefully utilizes the teachings of Butoh masters Akiko Motofuji, Yumiko Yoshioka, Akira Kasai, and Yoshito and Kazuo Ohno.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cool Studio of Rob Bell

Yesterday my daughter Emily and I visited the millwork, design and fabrication studio of Rob Bell. His studio was so fascinating and the varied projects he works on are really unique. I felt like I was entering an old woodshop in Florence as we stepped down the custom curved steps and into the space..that is until I saw all the high tech computer milling equipment and robotic arm at the back of the shop.

In my exploration for fabricators for the public art project I am working on, my sister, Lisa, recommended I contact Rob Bell as Clif Bar uses his creative design and fabrication services for their displays for trade shows and other events. One great aspect of his work is that he can build things that break down easily and are very elegantly designed and are beautiful to look at. Hanging from the ceiling and up high perched on cases were structures that looked like diatoms. This was a happy surprise as the project I am working on references local cre
eks and rivers and the rise in diatoms due to trash clogging.

Below is a preliminary design for a modular green house he created. The final greenhouse (located in Berkeley) looked spectacular in the images he showed me. It seemed like a bit of public art itself as he had a team of volunteers follow his directions and completed the structure in two days. Images of it can be seen here:

I have als
o begun to outreach to dancers, particular Butoh dancers, as I explore set design. In this frame of mind this "scrap" wood below caught my eye. The open triangular areas were for a project and this board is what remained. I think a series of similar forms would cast really interesting shadows with the right lighting and it would be great for dancers to move in front of and behind. I also love the idea of giving a new life to something that was supposedly scrap. It is hard to see here, but the cuts have very nice clean faceted edges that would cast light in interesting ways. This piece is eight feet by four feet. I am hoping to drive up my van soon and pick this piece up!

Below, Mr. Bell gave Emily a wave form to draw on while we talked. The wave was a test piece for a project that my sister, Lisa Whitsitt, designed at Clif Bar and Zomadic created. Emily drew diatoms and amoebas on it. It was an inspiring visit and I hope Emily retains a memory of it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crane Sculpture Sketches

Today I worked up a sketch for a client of L'attitude Gallery in Boston. The client wishes to see a study with two cranes base on the construction style of the completed Crane Maiden sculpture below. It is really wonderful to see the Japanese cranes mating dance. I am not sure of the scale that the client is thinking of but I know this is for a vacation home in Florida.

Above is the Crane Maiden piece. This was originally created for The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and most recently exhibited at the de Young Museum in December.
More info here:

Friday, April 10, 2009

More on Diatoms and Tapestries

Above is a study for the hanging banners for the facade of the Quilt Museum. These would be made of twisted wire, netting, plastic bags, fabric, recycled bottles and woven elements created by visitors to the Subzero Festival.

Below are studies on the plastic bag woven diatoms for the visitor participatory element for the

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dance Set Design

Today I am meeting with Lenora Lee of Lee Wang Dance at Shotwell Studios in San Francisco to talk about her Zellerbauch Grant application for which I am submitting a set design component.
Lee Wang Dance has a wonderful website and I look forward to learning more about their past and future work:

Above is the set design sketch for Lee Wang Dance. It is based upon our discussions and her interest in the materials and visual movement in this piece below I created in 2003.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

House of Dreamy Creatures Wins Award in Film Festival

Watching finalist screening of films.

Receiving awards, filmmakers: Brittany, Mitchell, Cole, Edward and Cassie.

The House of Dreamy Creatures
stop motion animation created by the students in my summer animation workshop last year won Best Original Literary in the CEEF ePIC Film Festival last night. The movie was also nominated for:
Most Creative
Best Soundtrack
Best Cinematography
and Best Animation

This short film was nominated for more awards than any other film in the festival. It was a great honor for the children. The experience of making a stop motion movie taught the students a lot about expressing themselves creatively and about working collaboratively in a team.

Below: Scene from Brittany's ballet fairy dream sequence.

Below: scene from Edward's grocery-delivering nightmare creature.

Below: scene from Cole's caped monster sequence.

Below: scene from Cassie's sick fairy being taken to the hospital.

Below: scene from Mitchell's nightmare creature chasing child through the four seasons. This scene is Fall.

I am fundraising for more materials and equipment for my future workshops:
Info here:

Water Tapestry

Back to the drawing board for the Sub Zero festival concept with some new ideas for the water themed banners. I am dropping the actual water usage in the tapestry as it is too wasteful a design. Here is the Sub Zero site:

There are many artists using plastic grocery bags to weave with. Helle Jorgensen is a wonderful example. Here is her work:

Visitor component:
The creation of a variety of simple diatom shapes ( unicellular organisms found in water) out of recycled plastic bags and wire. The diatom shapes would work with the theme of water as these algae bloom when water ways are clogged with trash.

Diatom photo above from

I created a water themed kimono for Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Santa Clara a few years back that included diatom elements. You can see them here in this
work in progress shot. They are the yellow wire elements.
step by step:
1. Visitor is given a piece of paper with a the outline of a diatom on it and some wire. Information about diatoms and trash in local creeks and The Bay could be on this sheet. It would also be nice to include information on organizations that do the trash clean ups in the creeks and Bay such as Friends of Coyote Creek and perhaps Friends of Guadalupe Park & Gardens.
2. Visitor shapes the wire to the diatom outline.
3. Visitor is given strips of plastic bags to weave in and out of the wire form.
4. Completed woven diatom is added to the tapestry by hanging it from an earring hook.

Completed Diatom form above.
I would create three or four different diatom templates for people to wo
rk with. I realize that most grocery bags are white. I hope to be able to collect a variety of colors despite this fact.

Also, I knew there had to be diatom craft projects for children on the web. Here is one I found.

Standing tapestry above or hanging banners below.

I am thinking of a fabricator in the East Bay for the large tapestry frame. But it would certainly be cheaper to have the tapestry suspended from a pole that hangs from the street lights. I will have to go look and see what support structures may be used outside the Quilt Museum. If I am able to hang these as banners, then perhaps 2 or three can be made and staggered along the path of pedestrians.

The base tapestry (The dark blue areas in the first digital sketch above) would be created by stitching together bits of fabric and mesh donated to me by Walker Bag. I would also perhaps use plastic bags and iron them together in the style of Virginia Fleck. Her work is very inspiring, too.

This abstract background pattern would echo an ariel view of the Bay and waterways. Here is the image I used for reference in my top tapestry sketch above. This image is from this site:

I love this quilt like image on the Hidden Ecologies website.The poster are images from the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

I still would like to have illuminated elements at night. This would be appropriate as diatoms appear to glow.

Pulling elements from the tapestry to create a garment for a dancer would be really interesting and dramatic. I envision the hat (see previous blog) to be a giant glowing diatom pulled from the tapestry. The garment worn would include the recycled plastic bag diatoms from the tapestry and, man, I still envision the recycled baggie fully of water in the garment being smashed by the butoh dancer as she moves to music concrete (water recorded sounds from local creeks and Bay). Perhaps an exercise in brainstorming here, but I hope can somehow have this come to life at some point, either for this project or another.