One day, some months before my residency began at the de Young, I was walking through the museum. I was on my own, thinking about the ideas I would be working on during the residency. I knew that I would be representing my studio as a place where I’d be working and thinking about where I’m from – but I was thinking about other people, too. After all, I thought, everyone is from somewhere. When we meet someone, we ask ‘Where are you from?’ My head was full of ideas about this but, as I was walking through the lobby, I began to hear the voices of people walking past me. They often had distinctly regional accents or different languages from my own. There were people not only from various parts of this country but various parts of the world. For a moment, the museum lobby seemed almost like an airport. Then I remembered the world maps you sometimes see in airports, showing flight trajectories criss-crossing the globe, and it occurred to me that I could make a map of the world describing where I and other people are from. We could make images of remembered places or people and connect them to that place in the world. I pictured a map that tells stories of places and people who converged for a time in a room at the de Young museum, leaving images and lines to describe the place where they are from, like trajectories of memory.
So I drew the map of the world on a large canvas, leaving a margin for myself and others to add an image in pencil, and included it in the installation. Many people have since drawn images with flight lines to show where they’re from. In the evening, after everyone has gone, I look at the images and follow the lines. There are many surprising images and the lines lead to many different places. These, I think, are flights of the imagination.
The theme of my residency at the de Young is the studio as a place of imagining. In this case it’s about where I’m from. It involves a reconstruction of my studio, unfinished, as if it is still being built. I transported my studio furniture, work in progress and a lot of my stuff to the museum for the installation, so it feels like my ‘real’ studio, even though it isn’t. Sitting at my drawing table, painting, in the reconstruction of my studio and thinking about where I’m from, I sometimes forget where I am. Then, I look out at the trees in the Concourse and I remember. It’s quite a view!
As the de Young Museum is closed on Mondays, I decided to head back home to Santa Cruz, where my real studio is. I needed some things from my studio and I wanted to touch base. I thought about going into the studio. The door to the studio is closed and I found I had mixed feelings about entering. My real studio is almost empty and nothing that’s there is in its place – I had boxed everything up and left in a hurry. It was a mess. Eventually, I found what I needed and headed back to the representation of my studio at the de Young. As I drove back on Highway 1, looking out at the ocean, I realized I could not wait to get to work. In fact, I thought, I was already at work and that the ‘studio’, whether real, reconstructed, or in the imagination, is as much a state of mind as a real place.
Andrea and Christopher (de Young) came to visit my studio on the day of Astrid’s first public press conference. We rented a professional table, comfortable seating, bought new light bulbs, and borrowed several cameras. I showed them around and they filmed us as we filmed her.
Many days later, Christopher recalled their visit to downtown Oakland in an email: “The land there is greatly confusing, consisting of concrete surfaces twisting through a strange metropolis. There were not many creatures about. Perhaps they had diurnal habits and became animated with the rising star on the horizon.”
Michael wanted to make good eye contact during his appearance in the video. In Astrid’s words: “The sounds you hear were composed and performed by Exray’s, a contemporary group of musicians who were inspired by my research and have provided me with free audio assistance for many years. Much to my delight, they have not only believed in Vessel XII, but have dedicated their music to the elucidation of its emotional trials. Since I have never received direct funding, you must understand that I will be forever indebted to them.”
As I prepare for my residency project about mapping Golden Gate Park with recycled paper scraps, I have been thinking a lot about the historical perspectives that informed the development of the park. Planning a big urban park in San Francisco not only offered public access to nature, but established the city’s claim as one of the nation’s great cities, aiming to compete with New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Lincoln Park. In 1870, when construction of the park began, San Francisco was already suffering from several decades of rapid growth, and the park was to provide an escape to an idealized view of nature. The influence of Romanticism loomed large here, as did older pastoral visions, and I have been interested in trying to better understand that background, however disconnected it might have been from the reality of the park site itself.
The scraps of toile wallpaper samples that have been floating around my studio seemed relevant and I have started preparing my own ‘Golden Gate Park Toile’ as a backdrop for one area of the gallery.
Were you one of the lucky few to hear Ted Purves talk about Steven Leiber’s basement and the enigmatic and delightful artist J H Kocman? My curiosity about Kocman was peaked and the hour we spent talking about him wasn’t nearly enough. I could only imagine locking myself in the archives and uncovering all of its quirky treasures.
Before she left, Streetcolor yarnbombed a bike rack. The entire process took four months from spinning the wool, knitting the pieces, and then assembling it together onto the rack. Like its fellow street art, the yarn changes the way we see an everyday place/thing. It will remain in front of the de Young museum as long as nature allows.