Saturday, October 13, 2012

Creating Poetry

2 Open Studio artists make digital art worth seeing
Originally published October 12, 2012 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

When I was a journalism student at Fresno State, professor Flynn—a quirky, straight-talking veteran of both the navy and the Miami Herald—started his reporting class by drawing a list on the blackboard. Flynn’s “Hierarchy of Writers” placed poets at the very top. They were the loftiest, most respected of all writers. Below poets were novelists, playwrights, essayists, advertisers, publicists, etc., and at the very bottom were reporters, the lowliest of all writers, commonly associated with the word “hack” if they did it for too long. I did well in the class, but Flynn’s “Hierarchy” certainly put that into perspective.

"Celeste" by Bonita Diemoz
As a photographer, I have sometimes sensed a similar unspoken ranking for visual artists. At the very top level are, or course, painters—presumably what all artists would aspire to be if only they had the talent. Below painters in significance are sculptors, architects, printmakers, designers and all sorts of crafts-persons. Photographers are nowhere near the top, and, like journalists, probably somewhere near the bottom—or maybe even in a category all their own, separate from art. Why else would photography be excluded from juried art shows, or share the home arts building with the county fair apple pies and postcard collections?  (To be fair, I hope this has more to do with the popularity of photography and the volume of entries, rather than a snub at photography.)

"Rhoda" by Bonita Diemoz
As you might expect (and I love to demonstrate), I don’t know much about poetic writing. But I would refute a hierarchical view of artists. The most talented among us don’t automatically become painters and the rest of us take what’s left over. Being an artist is all about finding your voice, and the best way to express yourself may not necessarily be through dabs of color on canvas.

Those led to photography can be just as brilliant and talented as any other artist. And these days, digital processes have given photographers many more ways of expressing themselves. In the Open Studios Art Tour calendar for 2012 you’ll find 38 photographers and 13 digital artists. Some digital artists further subcategorize their media as collage or mixed media, and print on surfaces as varied as paper, metal, glass and fabric.
Bonita Diemoz’s surreal digitally altered
 photographs are a treat to see, as well
 as her beautiful Victorian home in
 downtown Santa Cruz.  

"Magdalena" by Bonita Diemoz
Bonita Diemoz, who creates digitally altered photographs, will be participating in her seventh Open Studios Art Tour this year. A former weaver and casual photographer, she took a digital photography class at Cabrillo College from Ted Orland about 10 years ago just to learn how to use her new digital camera. But when she also learned how to use Photoshop, she was hooked. “Once I discovered what I could do in Photoshop, I found my niche.” she says. “I love it. I spend hours and hours and hours even though I work fulltime. If I ever get to retire I’m going to do Photoshop all day long every day.”

Diemoz describes herself as the “Cemetery Queen.” Her favorite cemeteries are in Italy and France, where larger-than-life marble statues adorn the graves of the wealthy. On her website, she shares maps to guide others to Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa or Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. “From about the 1880s to about the 1920s there was a real renaissance of people hiring famous sculptors to make their one-of-a-kind monument,” says Diemoz. “Today, that’s just prohibitively expensive.”

"Metamorphosis" by Bonita Diemoz
"Rosebud" by Bonita Diemoz
Over the years, she has amassed a large collection of statuary imagery from visits to her favorite cemeteries—angels with impressive wings, lovers kissing, a mother feeding a baby, a woman sleeping—and has combined these emotive images with dramatic scenery. Local residents will recognize the cliffs, surf and beaches along West Cliff Drive as backdrop for many of her photos. The results are startlingly beautiful and otherworldly, more surreal and romantic than tragic.

Diemoz says people either like her images or they don’t. “I know I don’t appeal to the masses. I used to work for one man that won’t even look at them.” She says she gets a good cross-section of visitors at Open Studios. “The young women seem to like the angels.”

"Domenica" by Bonita Diemoz
Linda Cordy’s paintings and digital collages are
 displayed in her living room, as she gets ready for
Open Studios, with her dog, Bailey. 
Another digital photographer taking part in Open Studios is Linda Cordy, who says she has been an artist “as far back as I can remember.” She started oil painting when she was five with her grandfather, an inventor who owned his own photo studio. “He was so patient and wonderful. He was like the perfect English grandfather,” she says. A photograph of one his inventions—the “Mobilopter”—is featured prominently in one of Cordy’s digital collages, looking like a cross between a huge, bloated insect and a helicopter, and very steampunk. “It really did fly,” says Cordy, so proud of his dream-fueled ingenuity.

"Jelly" by Linda Cordy
Cordy was also a student of Ted Orland’s at Cabrillo College. Her collages are a fascinating combination of objects and places she’s photographed, and she enjoys pointing out local elements in her work that people will recognize, such as the roof of the Rittenhouse Building or the top of the Boardwalk Merry-Go-Round. In addition to combining layers of her own photographs, she uses digital images of her paintings to create texture and subject matter. She also scans real objects such as flowers and feathers for her collages. “I have to go through thousands of photos. There aren’t many photos you can make collages out of,” says Cordy.

"Wonderland" by Linda Cordy
Much of Cordy’s work is personal or family-related. She has a large portrait she painted of her paternal grandmother on the wall of her living room, with words and phrases floating around her head such as “suffragette,” “union organizer,” and “seamstress to the queen”—so her legacy would be remembered. Cordy has also created a digital family tree collage, with biographical photographs of her relatives. And, above her fireplace is a painting of a seductive scorpion fish—a personal and political statement, she says, about her bank. “They have my loan and they have been evil,” she says with a laugh.

"Velocity" by Linda Cordy
As both a painter and a photographer, Cordy might be the first to tell you that there is no way to rank various artists’ mediums. She says that what appeals to her about painting is the “hands-on process, the more organic connection to the work.” But being a digital artist at the same time, gives her a sense of balance. She spends just a many hours on her digital collages as she might on a painting. But, time spent (or not spent) isn’t really the measure of a successful work of art. “Art has always changed to reflect the current culture,” and new art forms like digital photography “always seem to be under scrutiny,” she says. And photography—as popular as it is—isn’t necessarily the tool of artists who can’t paint. “It is not cheating to take a photo. It’s just another way of seeing.”
"Legend" by Linda Cordy

3 Crafty Weekend Getaways

Drive "over the hill" for a perfect day of food, crafts and adventure
Originally published September 7, 2012 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

It’s a distinct pleasure to show someone from out of town the treasures of our county. The beach, the weather, the redwoods, lunch at Charlie Hong Kong—what’s not to like? On top of that, our museums, galleries, downtown, and schools are fiercely dedicated to giving us endless opportunities for learning and making. But, there are exciting things happening over the hill too, in some not-so-far-away locations. The still warm days of September and early October might be the perfect time to extend that summer vacation feeling by getting away from home for a perfect weekend combination of good food, exploration and crafting. Here are my suggestions for three destinations and your itinerary for the perfect day:

Family Threads Quilt Shoppe in San Juan Bautista offers classes in sewing, quilting, and fabric
 painting. In fabric painting, taught by quilter Annie Smith, Louise Coombes applies non-caustic
 fabric paints, made permanent by heat-setting with an iron.

Destination:   San Juan Bautista

Driving time:        49 minutes from Santa Cruz
Classes:                Lapidary, beading, stained glass, quilting, sewing
Eats:                      Vertigo Coffee, JJ’s Homemade Burgers
Special events:   Cactus & Succulent Show, Sat. & Sun., Sept. 15-16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,   courtyard of Jardines Restaurant, 115 Third Street, free
Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Summer Outdoor Movies on the Plaza Lawn, Sat., Sept. 29, sunset (8 – 8:30 p.m.), free,

Perfect day trip:
Start the morning with a cup of Old San Juan blend and a pastry at Vertigo Coffee, an artisanal microroastery named after that famous Hitchcock movie filmed at the mission. Walk down to Washington Street, and stroll through the amazing cactus and flower garden in the courtyard behind Jardines Restaurant (on Sept. 15-16, you can also see the Cactus and Succulent Show).  Within a few blocks, learn to use the rentable longarm quilting machine at The Last Stitch in their 2-hour class; or take Lapidary 101 at Tops A Rock Shop; or learn to sew or quilt at Family Threads Quilt Shoppe. A little ways out of town, buy organic local fruits and vegetables at Pinnacle Saturday Farmstand on Duncan Avenue before they close at 1 p.m.

Return to town for a jalapeno burger and garlic fries, with friendly chickens patrolling the outdoor patio at JJ’s Homemade Burgers. Window shop along Third Street, but don’t miss the unexpected finds like barber chairs and pinball machines at Fat Willy’s Antiques on Fourth Street, the most eccentric of San Juan’s numerous antique shops. Head for the Historic State Park Plaza on Second Street, and experience the awe-inspiring dignity, quiet and beauty of San Juan Bautista Mission, dedicated 200 years ago in 1812. Search for paw-printed tiles on the mission floor and the grave marker for Maria Antonio Castro McDougall, the widow of Juan Anzar, who once owned vast land grants in the area. Finish the day with a winding drive through San Juan Canyon to the top of 3,169-foot Fremont Peak. Hike a short distance to the spot where Captain John C. Frémont planted an American flag in 1846 to begin his fight for ownership of the Mexican province of Alta California, and, if it’s clear, to watch an orangey sun dip into the Monterey Bay. (Or see “Vertigo” on the Plaza Lawn at sunset, Sat., Sept. 29.)

Vertigo Coffee, 81 Fourth Street, (831) 623-9533, Sat & Sun 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Tops a Rock Shop, 209 Third Street, (831) 623-4441, Sat & Sun 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., see for a calendar of classes
The Last Stitch, 107 B The Alameda, (831) 623-4330,                    
Family Threads Quilt Shoppe, 107 D The Alameda, (831) 623-0200, Sat only 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., see for calendar of classes
Pinnacle Saturday Farmstand, 400 Duncan Avenue, (831) 623-9422, Sat only 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.,
Fat Willy’s Antiques, 603 Fourth Street, (831) 801-7375, Sat & Sun 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Old Mission San Juan Bautista, Second Street, (831) 623-4528, Sat & Sun 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,
Fremont Peak State Park, end of San Juan Canyon Road, (831) 623-4255, 8 a.m. to sunset , ( for Fremont Peak Observatory info) 

Destination:   San Martin/Morgan Hill

Driving time:        58 minutes from Santa Cruz
Classes:                Gourd crafts
Eats:                      Ladera Grill
Special event:     Calabash Gourd Festival, Sat. and Sun., Oct. 6-7, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park, $3 parking fee,

Gourd artist Cyndee Newick will show her
 creative gourd work at the Calabash Gourd
 Festival in San Martin, Oct. 6-7. “Dragon’s Keep”
 is made from a very large, thick kettle hard
 shell gourd, which is wood-burned and
 carved, and then painted with acrylic medium.

(Photo used courtesy of the artist.)  
Perfect day:
Start the day with a warm apple cinnamon bagel and coffee at Daily Bagel Café at Tennant Station in Morgan Hill. Head south on 101 to find the Wings of History Air Museum tucked behind the San Martin Airport, where you can see a full-sized replica of the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer and other historic planes. Further south, on Fitzgerald Avenue, find locally grown produce at LJB Farms, including the most perfect peaches you’ll ever see from Andy’s Orchard. Drive north on Monterey Road until you see the giant pyramid of pumpkins at Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park. Stroll through acres of orange, wander through the corn maze, take a hayride or a loop on the Pumpkinville Train, and attend the first ever Calabash Gourd Festival (Oct. 6-7), sponsored by the Calabash Club of Silicon Valley. Get inspiration from the displays of gourd art, then take a half-day gourd craft class to make gourd jewelry, masks, ornaments, or bowls (register in advance on the website). Gourd-craft activities for children, dried gourds and crafting supplies will also be available.

Grab a quick lunch at the festival, or, for more a more elegant dining experience, enjoy tortilla-crusted tilapia or smoked salmon linguini at a sidewalk table at Ladera Grill in downtown Morgan Hill. After lunch, if you call ahead, you can visit the unusual SK Topiary on Santa Teresa Blvd., where you can purchase wire frames (also good for mosaicing) and topiaries of all shapes and sizes, including dolphins, giraffes, cats, dogs and golfers. Then, sip wine on the Grande Terrace overlooking the lovely vineyards at Clos LaChance Winery. Continue south on scenic Watsonville Road for more wine tasting, or stop at Uvas Reservoir to hike over the dam and spillway to a trail overlooking the water where an occasional male tarantula will cross your path in search of a mate. Drive back home through the redwoods on highway 152, stopping at the top of Mt. Madonna for a great view of the Monterey Bay and if you’re lucky, a lovely sunset.

Daily Bagel Café, 614 Tennant Station, Morgan Hill, (408) 779-3933, Sat & Sun 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
LJB Farms, 585 Fitzgerald Avenue, San Martin, (408) 842-9755, Sat & Sun 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,  
Wings of History Air Museum, 12777 Murphy Avenue, San Martin, 408-683-2290, Sat & Sun 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park, 14485 Monterey Road, San Martin, (408) 78-7225, Sat & Sun 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.,
Ladera Grill, corner of Monterey Road and Third Street, Morgan Hill, (408) 201-9200, Sat & Sun 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.,
SK Topiary, 13235 Santa Teresa Blvd., San Martin, (408) 686-1918, Sat & Sun 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,, call for appointment
Clos LaChance Winery, 1 Hummingbird Lane, San Martin, (800) 487-9463, check calendar for hours of operation of tasting room
Uvas Reservoir, 14200 Uvas Road, Morgan Hill, 8 a.m. to sunset

The workroom at SFCB offers plenty of space for workshops and a gallery with handmade book-related exhibits. 
(Photo from SFCB website.)

Destination:   Potrero Hill, San Francisco

Driving time:        1 hour 27 minutes from Santa Cruz
Classes:                Bookmaking
Eats:                      Source, A Multi-Dimensional Dining Experience
Special event:     Roadworks, a Steamrolling Printing Festival, Saturday, September   22, noon to 5 p.m. on Rhode Island Street between 16th and 17th Streets, free,     

San Francisco Center of the Book offers over 300
 classes annually in a wide range of topics
 related to bookmaking. 

(Photo from SFCB website.)
The San Francisco Center for the Book is a cobalt blue building in Potrero Hill, just south of the Design District. Their goal is to foster the joys of books and bookmaking, which they do exceeding well through exhibitions, free community events and over 300 workshops annually. Their Roadworks Street Fair, on Sept. 22, is a day-long printmaking showcase, presented along with food and craft vendors as well as a three-ton construction steamroller making large-scale prints using Rhode Island Avenue as the letterpress bed. Take a mini-workshop at SFCB during the festival, so you can get a taste of their more in-depth classes in binding, printing, and all sorts of book-making arts, including calligraphy, image transfers, trace monotype, journals and accordion books.

This is also a good opportunity to wander around the Potrero Hill neighborhood and discover a part of San Francisco you may not know well, with amazing home décor and antique stores, funky eateries like Source, “A Multi-Dimensional Diving Experience” and the California Culinary Academy.

San Francisco Center for the Book, 300 De Haro Street #334  San Francisco, (415) 565-0545, Sat. noon to 4 p.m., for catalog of classes
Source (restaurant), 11 Division Street at Deharo, San Francisco, (415) 864-9000, Sat & Sun 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.