ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Connoisseur’s quest—13th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 23-4, 2019

Farm tour participants at Tomales Farmstead Creamery, learning all about dairy goats and cheese-making.  This year, nine farm tours are offered at the California Artisan Cheese Festival.   In Tour E,  “Farm Forward, ” Farmstead Creamery will showcase their new Daily Driver SF venture by providing a gourmet brunch to participants.  This tour starts out Saturday morning at Tamara Hicks and David Jablons’ Toluma Farms dairy in West Petaluma, where guests will meet “the kids.”  Afterwards, it’s off to historic Tomales to Jan Lee’s AppleGarden Farm, where grazing pasture has been transformed to an orchard where apples are dry-farmed for cider. The tour wraps at the Marin French Cheese Company, the country’s oldest continuously operating cheese company.  All along the way, there are bites, drinks, and photo ops. Photo: Kelly J Owen

It happens every March—people from round the country gather for the California Artisan Cheese Festival and a weekend of cheese and all it can be paired with.  Tickets are on sale now for the two-day festival, which turns 13 this year, and is now headquartered at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa.  If you are interested in a farm tour, buy your tickets now.  Who wouldn’t be?  Nine wonderful tours kick off this year’s festival on Saturday morning and they all include an upscale lunch as well as lots of interaction and sampling.  You get to meet innovative local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats in bucolic abodes, as well as sample and learn about artisan delicacies that pair well with cheese.

Back in town, at the Flamingo Hotel, the festival offers five interactive seminars with bestselling authors, cult cheesemakers, and luminaries of cocktails, ciders and craft beers.  On Saturday evening, a new event, “Cheese, Bites & Booze!” at the Jackson Family Wines Hangar, promises nonstop fun as cheesemakers, chefs and cheesemongers compete to create the best cheesy bite.  Regional artisan wine, cider, spirits, and beer are on the house!

Get up early Sunday morning for a scrumptious brunch, at Saralee & Richard’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, featuring cheese in every course and a live cooking demonstration by chefs/owners Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire of Michelin Guide awarded Backyard Restaurant in Forestville.  The weekend concludes with the renowned Artisan Marketplace which brings together leading artisan cheesemakers, authors, and dozens of specialty food, beer, wine and spirit producers for a final round of cheese and shopping.  This year, the marketplace will be serving specialty cocktails too.  And did I mention samples galore?  The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability.

For those of lucky enough to live in the heart of cheese land, this is an event that is too good to pass up.

Details:  California’s 13th Artisan Cheese Festival is March 23-24, 2019 at various cheese country locations in Sonoma and Marin counties. Tickets for all festival events—farms tours, seminars, Saturday evening “Cheese, Bites & Booze,” Sunday morning “Bubbles & Brunch,” and Sunday’s Marketplace—  are all sold separately online.  All events take place, rain or shine.

Click here for full information. Chick here to go to Eventbrite to purchase tickets.

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February 3, 2019 Posted by | Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proud Mary! Mary Fassbinder’s National Park Project has its reveal at Petaluma Arts Center— artist talk Thursday, January 31

Petaluma artist Mary Fassbinder at the opening of “National Parks Plein Air Project by Mary Fassbinder,” at Petaluma Arts Center.  She visited all 60 U.S. National Parks, painted a plein air landscape at each one and then built exquisite frames for each work.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

“It’s been the road trip of my life,” said Mary Fassbinder at Saturday’s opening of her “National Parks Plein Air Project” exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center (PAC).   Fassbinder’s epic 72,000 mile, 3.5 year journey to every U.S. national park is captured in 60 vibrant plein air paintings, one for each park.

“Inspiration is the thread that runs through the entire project,” said Fassbinder at Saturday’s crowd-packed opening reception at PAC. “Set a goal and follow through.  Don’t let anything get in the way.  You have to own your goal, that’s what keeps that thread of inspiration alive.”

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN #29,” May 2016, oil, 10 x 13inches. Photo: Mary Fassbinder

The Petaluma artist is well-known for her light-infused expressionistic landscapes, which capture Sonoma County’s rustic beauty.  She’s also a renowned picture framer.  She created all the frames for the 60 paintings at PAC.  The paintings sales and frame commissions helped finance this large-scale project, which she broke into 12 separate excursions.  Just last summer, Fassbinder turned the framing business over to her daughter, Nicole Carpenter, so she could devote her full attention to painting and finishing the parks project.

“Lake Clark National Park, AK #48,” August 2017, oil on panel, 13 x 10 inches. Photo: Mary Fassbinder

“I’m happy to be home but happiest on the road and shockingly very comfortable with just myself,” said Fassbinder, who turned 59 at Yosemite, her 59th national park.  Actually, Fassbinder made the epic journeys with Charlie, her beloved used VW Westphalia, that she picked up in Ohio at the beginning of her journey.  Charlie appears in several photos on display at PAC.  “She had some rust but she took me up into Canada where she got strip searched at the border.  I miss her.  I had to sell her so I could get to Alaska, where I painted at each of those eight epic parks.”

Normally, Fassbinder created a single painting at each park.  Upon entering the park, she would ask the park ranger where the best spot was and “make a beeline” there.  Sometimes, she spent the night, and, on several occasions, she hit two parks in a single day, never varying her method.

“I am out there in nature, slopping that paint around, trying to get what I can get, when I can get it.”  Mary Fassbinder

“Yosemite National Park, CA #59,” May 2018, oil, 27 x 9 inches. Photo: Mary Fassbinder

In May, 2018, she lingered in Yosemite National Park,  #59, where she created five oil paintings.  Her portrait of Yosemite Falls, captures its majestic 2,425 foot vertical drop.  The 27-inch-long composition stands out for its long narrow shape; most of the other paintings in the park series tend to be more or less proportional rectangles. Painted from the trailhead, looking through towering pines at Yosemite Falls, Fassbinder captures a group of tourists, mere dabs of bright colors so expertly applied we sense them looking up and taking in the magical booming rush of water.  While she loves all the paintings in the parks series, this one is special— “It’s my heart and soul.”

At the time, Fassbinder thought Yosemite, the 59th park, was her last park.  With a surge of energy, she applied her wonderful sense of color and texture to her jeans jacket and hand-embroidered it with a Half Dome scene.  To her surprise, when she returned home to Petaluma, she learned that Gateway Arch, in St. Louis. MO, had become the 60th national park in February, 2018, necessitating yet another road trip.  “To me, that was St. Louis trying to get federal funding to get their city park re-built,” said Fassbinder.  Off she went in June 2018 to capture Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri.

Fassbinder hand-embroidered her jeans jacket with a Half Dome scene.  At the time, she thought Yosemite, #59, was her last park.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Later last fall, while visiting Yosemite, Fassbinder showed her National Parks project portfolio to the manager of the renowned Ansel Adams Gallery.  She was offered an exhibition.  Details/dates to follow.  “This is such a critical time for our national parks,” said Fassbinder.  “It takes an act of Congress to establish a national park; it takes the power of the people to protect and preserve.”

Upcoming Events:

Thursday, January 31, 7-9 pm:  An Evening with Mary Fassbinder and Davis Perkins, conversation in the gallery, Petaluma Arts Center (Click here to pre-register; $12 non-members, $10 members)

 

Also at Petaluma Arts Center:  Davis Perkins landscapes exhibit:  California landscape painter Davis Perkins is also at PAC with an exhibit featuring his landscape paintings from around the world.  Perkins has had an adventurous career as smokejumper, firefighter, and paramedic.  He spent several of his winters attending art school and received a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Oregon.  His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Alaskan State Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Air & Space Museum and one hangs in the Pentagon with the United States Air Force Art Collection. In 2015 he was selected as a Signature Member of the Oil Painters of America.

Details: “The National Parks Plein Air Project by Mary Fassbinder” and “Landscape Paintings by Davis Perkins” are at Petaluma Arts Center through March 23, 2019.  Petaluma Arts Center is located at 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma in the train depot between East D and East Washington Streets.  Hours: Tues-Sat, 11 am to 5 pm.  Closed Sunday, Monday and holidays.  $5 General admission, $4 senior, student, teacher, military.  PAC Members free.

For detailed information about Mary Fassbinder’s National Parks Painting Project and a chronological list of parks painted, visit Fassbinder’s website:  https://fassbindergallery.com/

Fassbinder’s gallery and painting studio is located at 900 B Western Avenue, Petaluma 94952.  (707) 765-1939  By appt. only.

January 30, 2019 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your must-see list for the Legion of Honor’s luxurious jewelry show, “East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from the Al Thani Collection,” through February 24, 2019

The Nawanger Ruby Necklace sums up all the themes of the Legion’s Al Thani Collection exhibit.  Made in London by Cartier in 1937 for the Maharaja of Nawanger, the necklace has moved between East and West and male and female and has dazzling stories associated with it.  When the young Maharaja came to power in 1933, he inherited an enormous trove of jewels and began modernizing their traditional settings, deepening the relationship his connoisseur father had formed with Jacques Cartier.  The necklace’s 116 Burmese rubies came from the Indian Royal treasury while Cartier supplied the diamonds and the Art Deco design.  The Maharaja wore the necklace with pride.  By Western taste, it would have been worn only by a woman.  When heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post saw the necklace, she immediately commissioned Cartier to make a sapphire and diamond version of the necklace for herself.  After Indian independence in 1947, the Maharaja’s necklace was returned to Cartier and it was worn by style icon Gloria Guinness at Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball of 1966.  Image: ©The Al Thani Collection

A visit to the Legion of Honor’s jaw-dropping jewel exhibit, East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from the Al Thani Collection is pure delight.  It features more than 150 exotic treasures—gems, pieces of jewelry, jades, and objects—made in India or Europe and associated with Mughal emperors (1526-1857), maharajas (1858-1947), and their courts.  The Al Thani collection is owned by 30-year-old Sheikh Hamad bin Abudullah Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.  The sheikh’s love of Indian jewelry was itself inflamed by a museum visit to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum where, in 2009, he saw its wonderful Maharaja show.  He began collecting Indian jewelry in 2010.  It took a few years, but he nabbed the exhibition’s accomplished curator, Dr. Amin Jaffer (who by then headed Christie’s Asian Art division) and went on to amass one of the world’s finest collections of Indian gems,  jewelry. and artifacts.  An avid collector, the Sheik keeps adding to the roughly 6,000 works of art in his encyclopedic Al Thani Collection, housed in Qatar.

The Al Thani Collection’s Indian jewelry has toured widely, from Beijing to Venice.  The savvy San Francisco iteration, co-curated by FAMSF’s Martin Chapman and Dr. Amin Jaffer, emphasizes cross-cultural exchange between India and the West and gender.  It closes on February 24, 2019.

At the press conference, it was made known that the Sheik especially loves the Legion of Honor building.  When Beyond Extravagance, the Al Thani Collection’s first catalog of Indian gems and jewels, was launched in 2013, it was at the original Palais de la Légion d‘Honneur in Paris, making our Legion of Honor the perfect West Coast venue for the exhibition.

Here’s your must-see list:

Opening Gallery:  Maharaja of Patiala portrait and necklace, Queen Alexandra portrait

Vandyk, “Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala” [wearing the Empress Eugénie diamond necklace], 1911, from glass plate negative, original size 12 × 10 in. Photo: ©National Portrait Gallery, London.

Upon entering the exhibit, you’ll encounter dazzling display cases of jewels.  After you’ve ogled the Newanger Ruby Necklace, described at the top of the article, head further through the golden arches (crafted in Rome by artist Giuliano Spinelli) to the blown-up portraits of Indian, European, and American rulers and aristocrats, male and female, all sporting their jewels.

Look no further than the 1911 photo of the Maharaja of Patiala for a lesson in “more is better.”  In matters of jewelry, it was the Indian men who showed Western female style icons what extravagance really was.  To confirm their prestige and stature, India’s male rulers covered themselves jewels.  In addition to numerous ropes of exquisite pearls, the maharaja wears a diamond necklace created for France’s Empress Eugénie, which includes the Potemkim diamond, formerly owned by Catherine the Great of Russia, as a pendant.

The wearing of pearls starts out with the men of India and the Middle East and is appropriated in the 20th century by women in the West.  An adjacent wall photo of Queen Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII, speaks volumes.  Taken in 1902, on the day of her husband’s coronation as King of England and Emperor of India, she has draped herself in fashionable ropes of pearls, just as the Maharaja of Patiala.  She wears the famous Indian diamond, the Koh-i-Noor, in her crown and an exquisite dress that was embroidered in India.  Many of her jewels were given as tribute by Indian princes and were originally intended to be worn by men.

The re-worked famed Patiala necklace.  The original necklace disappeared after the1947 fall of the British Raj and resurfaced in London in 1988, stripped of its largest jewels. Cartier restored the necklace using zirconias, topazes, synthetic rubies, smoky quartz, citrine. Photo: Vincent Wulveryck, Cartier Collection ©Cartier

The 1928 Maharaja of Patiala necklace, made for wearing at court, represented the largest commission made by Cartier at that time. Originally, the necklace comprised 2,930 diamonds, set in platinum and cascading in five tiers around the exquisite 234 carat De Beers yellow diamond, roughly the size of a golf ball.  The Maharaja bought the diamond following its display in Paris in the early 1920’s and brought it to India.  When he commissioned the necklace in 1925, he sent an overflowing trunk of precious stones, including the yellow diamond, and jewelry to Cartier in Paris with a note requesting him to create a ceremonial necklace worthy enough for a king.  It took three years.  The necklace also had a rare 18 carat tobacco colored diamond and a number of Burmese rubies.  The Patiala necklace at the Legion has been re-worked.  Cartier restored the necklace using synthetic and lesser value stones.

Gems: Engraved Imperial Spinel Necklace

Imperial Spinel necklace, North India, spinels, 1607-1608 and 1754 -1755. Spinels, pearls, emerald, and modern stringing. Length 20 3/8 inches. Image: @The Al Thani Collection

While diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires and emeralds were prized in India, the deep red spinels of Central Asia were most valued at the Mughal court.  Don’t miss the huge translucent watermelon-colored spinels found on the Imperial Spinel Necklace.

Engraving detail, Imperial Spinel Necklace. Image: ©The Al Thani Collection

They bear multiple dynastic inscriptions, including to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, as well as to his father, Akbar the Great, under whose rule the Mughal Empire tripled in size and wealth.  Akbar had so many unmounted precious stones that by the 1590’s, one of his 12 treasuries was reserved solely for these loose jewels, the most valuable of which were spinels.  These blood-colored gems were associated with vitality and wearing them was believed to enhance life force and stamina in battle.  Dynastic inscribed gemstones of this size and quality would have originated in the Mughal Imperial Treasury where they were prized not only for their material value and physical properties, but also for their distinguished provenance.

Idol’s Eye Diamond

The Idol’s Eye Diamond, a 70.21-carat light blue diamond from India’s Kollur mine in the Golconda region.  2.6 x 2.8 x 1.3 cm.  Modified brilliant-cut, VVS2 clarity. (The legendary Hope Diamond, also blue, is a mere 45 carats.) ©The Al Thani Collection. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

Romantic unsubstantiated stories are often attached to prized diamonds.  Legend has it that the 70.21 carat Idol’s Eye, the largest cut blue diamond in the world, and the largest diamond in the exhibit, was so named because it was torn from the eye of Hindu deity venerated in a temple in India.  The Idol’s Eye does have a mystical pear shape.

Diamonds, like many gems, were considered talismanic in India.  A 6th-century Brhat Samhita text promises:  “He who wears a diamond will see dangers recede from him, whether he be threatened by serpents, fire, poison, sickness, thieves, flood, or evil spirits.”  Large diamonds in Mughal India were cut into talismanic shapes, often an amulet (ta’widh), a form that would maximize the volume of stone.  Unfortunately, few diamonds have survived in their original cuts as the taste for diamonds in the West was different.  And, as cutting technology advanced, these prize gems were cut and re-cut to reflect contemporary taste, resulting in lost carats but maximizing brilliance and color.  The Idol’s Eye was once owned by Philippine despot Imelda Marcos and it was likely purchased it with the billions of dollars of public finds embezzled by her or her husband, Ferdinand Marcos.  It has passed through the hands of leading diamond dealers Salmon Habib, Harry Winston, Robert Mouawad and Laurence Graff.

Jahangir’s Jade Wine Cup

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s Wine Cup, dated AH 1016 / AD 1607-1608, mottled grey nephrite jade, Height 5.7 cm, W 5.4 cm.  Image: ©The Al Thani Collection

Emperor Jahangir’s wine cup is the earliest dated jade artifact that can be linked without question to a Mughal emperor.  In the Mughal court, jade was thought to invoke success in battle and was used for daggers.  It was also believed that jade could detect the presence of poisons, so there were many jade drinking vessels.  Jahangir’s cup is magnificently incised with Persian and Arabic calligraphy. The central band, carved in sols script, has a royal dedication announcing that the cup was made for Jahangir.  The upper border, in Nasta’aliq script, confirms it was the emperor’s personal cup and that it was made in the second year of his reign, therefore between April 1607 and March 1608.  Persian poetry also adorns the cup, including some contemporary 17th century poetry.  The Mughals of this period were very influenced by Chinese ceramics and jades and this cup’s shape is exactly that of a Chinese tea cup of this period.  The mottled jade used in the cup also reflects the Mughal affinity for Chinese bronzes and their mottled surfaces.

Jewel-encrusted Rosewater Sprinkler

Rosewater sprinkler, North India, 17th century base, late 18th century neck. Gold inlaid with rubies, emeralds, pearls. Height: 10 1/8 inches.  Image: ©The Al Thani Collection

The bottom of the rosewater sprinkler has an inscription and weight identifying it an as Imperial treasury object.  Image: @The Al Thani Collection

An entire section of the exhibit explores the opulence of the Mughal court at its height, during the 17th century.  At public court, a ruler would receive ambassadors, petitioners, nobles, returning generals, etc.  These were great events where the ruler was richly attired and the way in which he presented himself, completely adorned, was much like how a deity in a Hindu complex would be presented, as an ascendant divine being.  The ruler was normally on a textile throne and when supplicants came, there was an exchange of gifts and perfume and sometimes condiments.  This jewel encrusted rosewater sprinkler would have been used for a splashing of the hands.  It is of extreme importance because on its underside it has a Mughal imperial weight which identifies it as an Imperial treasury object.  It also relates to a group of three similar 17th century sprinklers in the Hermitage Museum which came from the loot of the Mughal treasury when the Mughal empire collapsed in 1738.

Upcoming events:

February 2, 2019: Docent Talk: “All That Glitters: The Jewels of the The Al Thani Collection,” docent Marsha Holm, John and Cynthia Fry Gunn Theater, Legion of Honor, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Free after general admission.

Paris, Spring 2020:

The Al Thani collection has found a home in Paris—the historic Hôtel de la Marine on place de la Concorde in Paris, the original warehouses of the French royal art collections.  Following an agreement signed last fall with France’s Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN; National Monuments Centre), the government body which manages the 18th-century property, the Al Thani collection will be exhibited in a dedicated gallery over a 20 year period.  The inaugural exhibit is due to coincide with the reopening of the Hôtel de la Marine in spring 2020 following a €100m refurbishment.

Details: East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from the Al Thani Collection,” ends February 24, 2019 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor.  Tickets:  FAMSF members free; $28 general admission; $25 (65 and older); $19 students, $13 (6-17). Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays.  Closed Mondays.  For more info, visit: www.famsf.org

 

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Art, Legion of Honor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Straight from Ai Weiwei’s Playlist—“Turn It On,” docs related to SFMOMA’s China exhibit you can stream at home for free or catch at SFMOMA

A still from Zhang Bingjian’s 2009 documentary, Readymade, screening January 24 at SFMOMA and free on Kanopy as part of SFMOMA’s Turn It On: China on Film, 2000-2017 series.  The film captures the lives of two middle-aged Mao Zedong impersonators in the PRC: Mr. Peng Tian, a 46-year-old farmer from Mao’s home town in Hunan Province who walks into the Beijing Film Academy one day in full Mao dress to study film acting; and Chen Yan, a 51-year-old housewife from Sichuan Province and the only female Mao impersonator in China.  Zhang’s coverage of her life, both onstage and off, reveals the struggle she has with her husband and daughter who disapprove of her impersonating Mao and refuse to support her.  The film tackles the continuing cult of personality of Mao Zedong as a cultural icon, and the mixed feelings stirred up in different generations when they are confronted with him “alive” again through his impersonators. Image: Zhang Bingjian

SFMOMA’s groundbreaking China exhibit, Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World has entered its final month; it closes Sunday, February 24, 2019.  Bracketed by the end of the Tiananmen Square student protests of 1989 and the Beijing Olympics of 2008, the exhibit showcases 100+ works by more than 60 artists and collectives that anticipated and reacted to China’s sweeping and turbulent transformation to a global superpower in the new millennium.   Through documented performances and socially engaged projects, paintings, photographs, installations, and videos, the exhibit explores how artists such as Cao Fei, Huang Yong Ping and Ai Weiwei acted as catalysts for change, critically questioning the massive changes all around them.  The exhibit, which caused such a stir at the Guggenheim due to three artworks which outraged animal rights activists, has been accompanied by a number of special programs at SFMOMA.

The film series, Turn It On: China on Film, 2000–2017, is exceptional.  Curated by Ai Weiwei and filmmaker Wang Fen, the series had its genesis at the Guggenheim, NY.  It was suggested by Ai Weiwei to the Guggenheim exhibition curator Alexandra Munroe as a means of helping people further understand China and the history and current state of its contemporary art.  Weiwei invited documentary filmmaker Wang Fen to collaborate.

A still from Wang Jiuliang’s 2016 doc, Plastic China, about China’s plastic waste industry through the eyes and hands of those who handle it.  After visiting a huge recycling plant in Oakland and learning that the US and many other developed countries, even in Asia, export their plastic waste to China, Jiuliang wanted to understand what happens to imported plastic waste once it arrives in China.  Six years in the making, his film documents the dirty downside of China’s capitalist surge as it explores a gnarly plastic recycling facility in a small town, dedicated to the business of processing plastic waste. The facility, one of 5,000 unregulated recycling plants operating in that town alone, is operated by two families in a tense relationship—the family of the owner and a family of employees.  Eleven-year-old Yi-Jie works in squalor alongside her parents while dreaming of attending school.  She pulls enticing ads, toys and everyday items from the trash to eek out a secondhand life. Kun, the facility’s ambitious foreman, hopes for a better life.  Screens: Saturday, January 26 at 3 p.m. at SFMOMA’s Phyllis Wattis Theater.

 

Turn it On Screenings remaining at SFMOMA:

Since January 10, SFMOMA has been screening selections from this film series at its plush Phyllis Wattis Theater for free (each film requires an RSVP).  There are five screenings remaining and all are in mandarin with English subtitles:

Readymade, Thursday, Jan 24, 6 p.m.  This 90 min film is part of SFMOMA 101, an going SFMOMA free program which invites local thinkers to the museum for a stimulating conversation about art with an introduction by a SFMOMA curator.  At 5 p.m., Abby Chen, curator and artistic director at the, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, will speak.  She will be introduced by Eungie Joo, SFMOMA curator of contemporary art.

Falling from the Sky, Saturday, Jan 26, noon (film runs 145 min)

Plastic China, Sat, Jan 26, 3 p.m.  (film runs 82  min)

Prisoners in Freedom City, Sun, Jan 27, noon (film runs 36 min)

Garden in Heaven, Sun, Jan 27, 1 p.m. (film runs 200 min)

 

Free Streaming of the series via Kanopy:

How exciting that SFMOMA has partnered with Kanopy, the library streaming service to host 16 films in the series for free online viewing through February 24, when the exhibit closes.  Anyone who has library card from one of the thousands of public and university libraries Kanopy partners with can stream the films for free.  I used my Sonoma County Library account.   To sign up for a Kanopy account, and more information about Kanopy, click here.

Some films in the series are long, so we can be especially thankful for the chance to view them at home.  Ai Xiaoming’s engrossing Jiabiangou Elegy: Life and Death of the Rightists (2015) about the persecution of inmates at the Jiabiangou Labor Camp where 2,000 died, is split into six segments and runs 409 minutes.  Xu Xin’s Karamay: Memories of a Terrible Tragedy (2010) about the fire that claimed 323 lives at a theater performance in 1994, runs 356 min.

Ironically, no films in this series were made between 1989-2000, the critical years the exhibit covers.   All films are from 2000-2017.  In a 2017 interview for China Film Insider (click here), Wang Fen explained this is because “very few people had access to equipment back then. The rare few who had access were people who worked for state-owned film & TV studios. These people had very little interest in making the type of documentaries that couldn’t be distributed and wouldn’t be backed by their studios. Around 2000, home video cameras suddenly became available and affordable, which led many young filmmakers to start making films on the subjects they care about.”

Details:  Turn it On: China on film 2000-2017 runs through Sunday, January 27, 2019 at SFMOMA.  Screenings are free but require RSVP.   The series also can also be streamed free on Kanopy.

Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World runs through February 24, 2019 at SFMOMA.  Free entry with general admission. Tickets: free for SFMOMA members; $25 adults; $22 65 and older; $19 19-24 years; free 18 and under.  Save time and buy tickets online before coming to SFMOMA.

January 23, 2019 Posted by | Art, Film, SFMOMA | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tree Talk”—artist María Elena González’ scores for the player piano from the markings on birch bark, at Mills, Saturday January 26, 2019

María Elena González, Skowhegan Birch #2, 2014. Player piano roll.

Inspired by her time in nature and exploring translation between the physical and the acoustical, Cuban-American artist María Elena González’ exhibit, “Tree Talk,” opens at Mills College Art Museum on January 26, 2019.  “Tree Talk,” a series of work developed over 10 years, investigates the unexpected visual parallels between the bark of birch trees and cylindrical player piano rolls.  In 2005, when González spent the summer as a resident faculty member at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, she often spent time taking in the beauty of the trees.  After creating rubbings from several birches, she began to zero in on the bark’s striations which resembled notations.  Using a digital scanner, she scanned the patterns from the flattened bark of three birch trees found at the Skowhegan school and laser cut the resulting score onto a player piano roll.  Each tree yielded unique “compositions” for the player piano.  These are sculptural works that combine graphic art, musical composition and performance.  On February 7, a live performance will take place featuring Mills music students using drawings of the tree bark as graphic scores.  The exhibition also features related drawings, prints, videos, and sound installations, demonstrating González’ interest in both representations of sound as well as sound as a sculptural material.

Saturday, January 26, 2019:  Opening Reception: Tree Talk

5-7pm, Mills College Art Museum
Facebook Event  Join MCAM and María Elena González  in celebrating the opening of this exquisite exhibition. Refreshments will be provided.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019:  Performance: Tree Talk: Variations on Impression

7pm, Mills College Art Museum
Facebook Event

Marc Zollinger, John Ivers, and Dirt and Copper will perform works generated from María Elena González’ birch tree rubbings.  In collaboration with González, the composers translate the visual, gestural, and topographic data found in the tree rubbings into scores that will be premiered at the event.  This transmission of information from optical to aural entails synesthesia: the phenomena by which the stimulation of one sensory receptor, such as vision, activates a secondary sensory reaction, such as hearing.  Each re-composition approaches the visual material in a variety of ways, from strict graphical interpretations to differing conceptions of growth-time.

About the Artist:
María Elena González is a Cuban-American artist best known for her sculptural installations informed by architecture and personal experience.  In 1999, she received widespread acclaim for her site-specific sculpture “Magic Carpet/Home,” commissioned by the Public Art Fund that took the floor plan of a Red Hook apartment building and transformed it into a wavy flying carpet, with playground surface material. In a 2002 installation at the Bronx Museum of Art, titled “Mnemonic Architecture,” she did a full-size recreation of the layout of her childhood home from memory, creating a sculptural dialogue with the architecture of her memory.  She has been a visiting critic in Sculpture at the Yale University School of Art, a resident faculty member at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and a visiting artist faculty member at The Cooper Union.

Currently, she is Chair of the Sculpture Department at the San Francisco Art Institute and on the Board of Governors at Skowhegan.  She is also the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, the Prix de Rome, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Details:  “Tree Talk” is January 26 – March 17, 2019.  Mills College Art Museum is located at 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland CA  94613.  Hours: Tues-Sun 11am to 4 pm, Wed 11 am to 7:30 pm.  Closed Monday.  Admission is free for all exhibits and programs, unless noted.  For more information:  www.mcam.mills.edu

 

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to reset your GPS to EPS (Esa-Pekka Salonen), SF Symphony’s new music director designate

Esa-Pekka Salonen, taking in the love Friday evening at his inaugural concert as SF Symphony’s new music director designate.  Concertmaster Sasha Barantschik is on the left while associate principal cellist, Peter Wyrick, is on the right. Photo: Geneva Anderson

What great fortune to have a front row seat last night at Esa-Pekka Solonen’s inaugural concert as San Francisco Symphony’s new music director designate.  Davies Symphony Hall was packed and the audience was excited, rapturous, rising to their feet several times to applaud the 60-year-old Finn who will take the helm as SFS’s Music Director in September 2020.  He succeeds MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) who, in 2020, will have been at the helm for a quarter of a century.

Esa-Pekka Salonen. Photo: Geneva Anderson

What a wonderful way to start things off with Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s mysterious tonal poem METACOSMOS, composed in 2017.  It stuck just the right tone with an audience eager to hear something that had obvious meaning to Salonen and ready to embrace a female composer, which we haven’t had much of at Davies of late.  METACOSMOS had a Nordic feel and was both modern and  romantic, taking us on a short speculative journey down into a deep dark hole, the murky unknown of the consciousness, where epic battles ensue between forces of light and darkness.  It was followed by Also sprach Zarathustra, Richard Strauss’ grand tonal poem, from 1864, which was inspired by Nietzsche’s ideas about the course of humankind.  With moments of emblazoned flare, EPS coaxed a glorious sound from SFS.  Sitting just feet from his podium, I caught the fluidity and grace of his hands as well as the serenity in his face.  This is a man who is expressive, passionate, and in deep conversation with his musicians and his heart.  Musically, he knows exactly what he’s doing and it comes across in every gesture.

The evening closed with Sibelius’ Four Legends from the Kalevala, another tonal masterpiece, from 1895, which weaves the powerful Finnish epic Kalevala myth into four movements.  Again, a multi-sensory piece with wonderful contrasts and rich melodies, showcasing various sections of the orchestra throughout.    English horn player Russ deLuna and cellist Peter Wyrick were on fire.   What a journey we have ahead.  Experiencing the magic in person will cement memories for years to come.

Details:  There are two remaining chances to hear EPS conduct SFS this weekend: 8 p.m. Saturday, January 19 and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 20.  $50-$225. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-864-6000.  Tickets: www.sfsymphony.org

 

 

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scoop: Two new January programs for OMCA’s “The World of Charles and Ray Eames,” featuring members of the Eames family, telling their wonderful stories

“The World of Charles and Ray Eames,” a must-see for those with an interest in modern design, has been extended at OMCA until February 18, 2019.  With special programs, interactive multi-media installations, films, rare prototypes, photography, furniture, toys, products, as well as personal letters, drawings, and artwork; the imaginative world of this dynamic design duo is brought to life. Photo: ©2018 Eames Office LLC.

As the well-traveled exhibit, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, moves into its final month at OMCA (Oakland Museum of California), it has been extended through Monday, February 18.  Two special programs have also just been added: Through the Lens: The Films of Charles and Ray Eames (Sun, January 20) and Inspired by Eames: A Conversation with Bay Area Innovators (Sat, January 26) which include members of the Eames family and some of the Bay Area’s most inspiring creators sharing stories about the Eames and their magical world.

Llisa Demetrios, artists, granddaughter of Charles and Ray and registrar of the Eames Collection, beaming beside an Eames film projection at OMCA.  This is a shot of a sand dollar, highlighting the couple’s delight in the artistry found in nature. “We all have great stories of spending time with them.  I loved watching them work.  Ray came at it from painting and Charles from his architecture training but they both loved the design flow that sprang from practice and experimentation.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Sunday, January 20, 4–5:30 pm:

Through the Lens: The Films of Charles and Ray Eames

If your conception of Charles and Ray Eames is limited to magnificent furniture design, this program will broaden your view.  They were prolific filmmakers, creating over 100 films.  The exhibit includes well-known gems such as the their 1977 short documentary, Powers of Ten, which explored the size of things in the universe, and lesser known films such as Glimpses of the USA (1959), commissioned by the United States Information Agency (USIA) for the Moscow World’s Fair auditorium.  Spectacular in its conception, this 13-minute film projected more than 2,200 still and moving images, all about ordinary American life, onto seven 20×30 foot screens that were suspended within a huge Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome.  It captivated audiences and conveyed what no lecture could about the fabric of American life.

This special program screens two of the Eameses’ most notable films.  Following the film screenings, join Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles and Ray and Director of the Eames Office; Llisa Demetrios, granddaughter of Charles and Ray and registrar of the Eames Collection; and exhibition curator Carin Adams in conversation to learn more about the iconic pair’s work in film and design.

After the conversation, stay for a special book signing of Eames: Beautiful Details (2012), An Eames Primer (2013), and Essential Eames: Words & Pictures (2017) with author Eames Demetrios.

The museum closes at 6 p.m. on Sundays, so plan on arriving before film screening to enjoy the special exhibition The World of Charles and Ray Eames and OMCA’s galleries

Saturday, January 26, 2–3:30 pm:

Inspired by Eames: A Conversation with Bay Area Innovators 

Moderated by Helen Maria Nugent, Dean of Design at California College of the Arts, this panel discussion examines how the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames has influenced Bay Area-based artists, designers, dancers, and innovators.  Learn what inspires them, how they prototype ideas, and their visions for the future of their work. Panelists include Kristin Damrow, Kristin Damrow & Company (KDC); Liz Ogbu, Founder and Principal of Studio O; Bryn Imagire, Pixar Animation Studios; and Elger Oberwelz, Executive Design Director at IDEO Palo Alto.  Get a sneak peek on OMCA’s YouTube page with a special series of interviews.

The museum closes at 6 p.m. on Saturdays, so plan on arriving before the panel discussion to enjoy the special exhibition The World of Charles and Ray Eames and OMCA’s galleries.

Details:   Program and general admission:  $19.95 adults, $14.95 seniors and students, and $10.95 for youth. Members and children ages 8 and under receive free admission. Tickets include access to The World of Charles and Ray Eames and OMCA’s galleries.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames is on view in OMCA’s Great Hall through February 18, 2019. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.

More information:  museumca.org.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Art, Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bernardo Ruiz’s “Harvest Season,” introduces the unsung Latino and Mexican-American heroes of Napa Valley’s wine industry—world premiere Saturday, MVFF41

VanessaRobledo

Vanessa Robledo, a Napa viticulturist, is profiled in Bernardo Ruiz’s documentary, Harvest Season, which was filmed in Napa and has its world premiere Saturday at MVFF41.  Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz, Producer Lauren Capps and subjects Vanessa Robledo, Maria Robledo, Angel Calderon, and Gustavo Brambila will be in attendance. Image: Roberto “Bear” Guerra

Two Latina viticulturists from Sonoma, Vanessa Robledo and her mother Maria Robledo; long-time activist for affordable farmworker housing, Angel Caldero; H-2A temporary worker from Michoacán, René Reyes Ornelas; and Napa winemaker Gustavo Brambila, all co-star in Bernardo Ruiz’s new documentary feature Harvest Season (2018), which has its world premiere at the 41st Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF41) on Saturday, October 13, 2018 and then will be shown again on Sunday, October 14, 2018.  The film is part of the festival’s ¡Viva el Cine! line-up which showcases 15 award-winning Latin American and Spanish language films during the course of the 10 day festival which kicks off Thursday evening.

“The big impulse for the film,” said Ruiz, speaking from his office in New York, “is that I love wine and I love Northern CA.  It took three years to make this and the film is really a love letter to immigrant Napa and the generations of people who have been working the field picking grapes and, through hard work, become entrepreneurs themselves.”

Bernardo Ruiz, director of Harvest Season. Photo courtesy: Bernardo Ruiz

This is Ruiz’s third feature documentary, following Reportero (2012), about violence against the press in Mexico for reporting on drug trafficking and government collusion and Kingdom of Shadows (2015), a front-line view into Mexico’s drug war from the perspective of three workers dealing with its fall-out.  The two-time Emmy® nominated filmmaker is also heavily involved in documentary television. When we spoke, he was hard at work on a series he was producing for documentarian Alex Gibney.

“There are so many films out there about rock-star vintners, high profile people in the industry,” said Ruiz.  “We’re trying to highlight and celebrate the behind-the-scenes players, often small producers whose roots are tied to working these fields or, in Angel’s case someone dedicated to improving the lives of workers.”

Ruiz cites two films as highly inspirational: Morgan Neville’s Oscar winning 20 feet from Stardom (2013), which focused a long-overdue spotlight on the contribution of back-up singers to musical hits, and John Else’s Sing Faster: The Stagehand’s Ring Cycle (1999) which presents Wagner’s Ring Cycle from the point of view of the stage hands at San Francisco Opera. Harvest Season tells four stories to shine a light on the hard-working individuals in Napa’s wine industry who have often propped up the rock stars and recently stepped out into their own ventures.

Ruiz was born in Guanajuato Mexico (central Mexico) to an American mother and Mexican father and moved New York when he was six and has lived there ever since. “I’m very interested in stories about immigration and the relationship between the US and Mexico.  A number of news outlets have done broad profiles of the Mexican-American and Latino vintners and, slowly, we’re starting to see more reporting about that.  Mexican-American vintners are the underdogs in the huge Napa constellation and I wanted to explore that further, bring their stories forward.

Ruiz began researching the film and doing a little shooting in Dec 2015 but the bulk of filming took place during the harvest in the summer and fall of 2017.   He filmed during the fires, which is a thread in the story but doesn’t overwhelm the film.

“I actually had an interview scheduled the 8th of October and went out to Napa and, just like everybody else, witnessed the devastation.  For the next two weeks, with various crew members, I filmed—destruction, shelters and did lots of interviews.  What impressed me was the way people mobilized so quickly, pulled together, and how particularly devastating this was to the community I was documenting.”

Vanessa Robledo, Maria Robledo

Vanessa Robledo (seated) and her mother Maria Robledo.  Image: Art & Clarity/Janna Waldinger

 

Ruiz interviewed Vanessa and Maria Robledo during an early scouting trip. “Here were these two women running a Napa vineyard. Vanessa is an accomplished entrepreneur, but she is genuine and passionate about the wine business and that passion gives her a quiet power.  They are a tiny but growing operation and tell the story of small women producers who are doing something very interesting.”

Vanessa Robledo, founder and CEO of VR Wine Business Consulting, was born in Sonoma and is a fourth generation grape grower.  As president of the Robledo Family Winery, started by her father Reynaldo Robledo, she took the winery from a 100 case producer in 1997 to a thriving 20,000 cases by 2007, over 80 percent of which was direct to consumer.  She then went on to become majority owner of the successful cult winery, Black Coyote Chateau, where she doubled the company’s production and sales.

Maria de la Luz Robledo, Vanessa’s mother, was born in Michoacán, Mexico and followed her husband, Reynaldo, to California in 1973.  She and Reynaldo worked in the fields, raised nine children, bought land, planted their own vineyards and started their own winery, opening the first tasting room in the US run by a former Mexican migrant vineyard worker.

The two women joined forces following a divorce that left Maria reeling and a desire on Vanessa’s part to get back to the land and grapes.  They began improving quality, replanting, and renegotiating contracts and are really enjoying collaorating.

Angel Calderon

Angel Calderon. Image: Roberto “Bear” Guerra

Harvest Season also explores the lifestyles and needs of vineyard workers through the stories of Angel Calderon, who has been active on the housing front for two decades and René Reyes Ornelas, an H-2A temporary worker from Michoacán, Mexico.

One of workers’ main concerns is affordable, safe, and convenient permanent housing.  Costs continue to rise in Napa County— the median rent is now $2,750 per month and the median home price is roughly $800,000, while many workers are paid $15-$25 an hour.  As the labor market shifts from a migrant to a year-round workforce, affordable housing is more critical than ever.  Angel Calderon immigrated to the US in 1980 and worked as a cook at Silverado Country Club and Meadowood and, even then, affordable housing was an issue.  Calderon manages River Ranch Farm Workers Housing (three housing centers) in St. Helena which provides no frills housing at roughly $14 day for farm workers and is vital in ensuring that workers needs are met.

René Reyes Ornelas

René Reyes Ornelas. Image: Roberto “Bear” Guerra

While documenting the Mahoney harvest in Napa, Ruiz met René Reyes Ornelas, a 41 year-old Mexican farmworker who became one of his central characters.  California employs about one third of the nation’s roughly 2.5 million farmworkers. With immigration raids occurring across the state, growers and labor contractors are increasingly relying on the H-2A, or guestworker program, which permits the importation of foreign nationals into the U.S. in order to fill temporary agricultural jobs.  This was René’s second harvest in Sonoma.  The nine months he spends away from his wife and two daughters is burdensome but, in the wine country, he earns in an hour what he earns in a day driving a truck back home in Michoacán.

Gustavo Brambila

Winemaker Gustavo Brambila. Image: Roberto “Bear” Guerra

Gustavo Brambila is a Napa Valley winemaker who was one of the first Mexican-Americans to earn a degree in fermentation science from UC Davis.  If the name Brambila is familiar, Freddy Rodriguez portrayed him in the famous film, Bottle-Shock (2008).  Brambila was at Chateau Montelena in 1976 when the famed “Judgment of Paris” blind tasting took place that pitted the some of the finest wines in France against unknown California wines.  It was a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay created by Mike Grgich, who was then the chief winemaker at Montelena, that beat out the French white burgundies.  After the big win, Grgich branched out on his own and Brambila followed to work as winemaker and general manager for Grgich Hills. After 23 years, in 1996, Brambila created his own label Gustavo Wine.  By 2002, he had started his own winery and vineyard management company.  He does things a little differently: officially, he is based in Napa’s Crusher District and leases vineyards to get the grapes and his son runs the vineyard management company that cares for them.  This allows Brambila to operate with more freedom, less regulation and at much less cost than actual land ownership.

Ruiz is excited about the world premiere at MVFF.   “This is an indie film and, like a boutique winery, we make limited editions of things, no mass production.  It means a lot to premiere at Mill Valley, where many in the audience will be personally connected to the people we’ve profiled.”  Ruiz, so far, has invitations to at least three other film festivals, (he’s embargoed on mentioning names until Oct 10); there will be select screenings in New York and California and then the film will be broadcast nationally on PBS in spring 2019.  “We’re very interested in showing the film all over Northern CA.”

To read ARThound’s article about MVFF’s wonderful  ¡Viva el Cine! programming, with film recommendations, click here.

DetailsHarvest Season has its world premiere and screens twice at MVFF41: Saturday, Oct 13, 2 pm at Sequoia Theater and Sunday, Oct 14, 2:45 pm at Larkspur Theater.  Purchase tickets here.

October 10, 2018 Posted by | Film, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MVFF41 starts Thursday—¡VIVA EL CINE! showcases 15 award-winning Latin American and Spanish language films with many special guests

Special guests make a film come alive.  Cuban actor Héctor Noas will attend MVFF41 as part of ¡Viva el Cine!  Noas plays Russian cosmonaut Sergei Asimov in Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s drama Sergio and Sergei, set in 1990 Havana, and based on a real incident.  Photo: Ernesto Daranas

The forty-first edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF41) kicks off Thursday (Oct 4) with two big opening night films—Matthew Heineman’s bio-pic, A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike as tenacious Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin and Peter Farrelly’s drama, Green Book, which takes us on a tense 1962 concert tour in the American South with Mershala Ali (Moonlight, MVFF2016) as black jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, and Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lipp, his Italian-American chauffeur and bodyguard.  Starting full force Friday and running for 10 days, MVFF41 delivers an exciting line-up of the very best and latest in American indie and world cinema, with more than 300 guests in attendance. Special events—Centerpiece and Closing Night Presentations, Spotlights, Tributes, Special Premieres, the Mind the Gap Summit, Behind the Screens Panels  and intimate parties and receptions—bring the films to life, fostering engaging discussion about issues and art.

The festival’s wonderful ¡Viva el Cine! series, programmed by MVFF Senior programmer Janis Plotkin with the help of Claudia Mendoza Carruth, turns five this year.  The line-up has doubled to include 15 award-winning Latin American and Spanish language films and there’s even a new ¡Viva el Cine! Launch Day that brings a fiesta to the Smith Rafael Film Center.  With films from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and the US, the series’ spellbinding storytelling and special guests make it an increasingly influential forum for the exploration of history, culture and identity.

¡Viva el Cine! Launch Day: Sunday, October 7

Coco / Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios

 

It all begins Sunday morning at the Smith Rafael Film Center with a family-friendly fiesta with live mariachi music, Day of the Dead face painting, fresh churros and hot chocolate. At 11 am, on Smith Rafael 1’s big screen, is the first Marin-ever screening of Coco, the Oscar-awarded, Pixar family favorite in Spanish with English subtitles, so that all children attending can both listen and read it.

Running concurrently in Smith Rafael 3, is the acclaimed coming of age drama, Too Late to Die Young (Tarde para morir joven), directed by Chilean Dominga Sotomyer, who will be in attendance.  This is Sotomayer’s second feature film and its set in 1990 Chile, with three main characters, ages 10, 16 and 16, who experience the pain of unrequited love and begin in their own ways to relate to the complexities of their parents’ world, all against the back-drop of a society reeling from Pinochet.

In Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Museo, Gael Garcia Bernal, plays thirty-something veterinary student, Juan Nuñez, who takes a job at the Anthropology Museum in order to support his marijuana habit.  He learns enough about the museum to come up with a plan to rob it with the help of his best friend. Image: Courtesy Alejandra Carvajal

At 2 p.m., Mexican Director Alonso Ruizpalacios will be in attendance for the screening of Museo, an art heist thriller with Gael García Bernal, based on the 1985 robbery of more than 100 Mesoamerican and Mayan artifacts from Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology.  Winner Best Screenplay award at the Berlin International Film Festival.

At 8 pm, Argentinian director Luis Ortega’s fourth feature, the engrossing biopic, The Angel (El ángel), presents a dramatized true story of angelic-looking, baby-faced young sociopath, Carlos Robledo Puch, aka “The Death Angel,” who in the 1970’s embarked on a murder spree across Argentina.

Centerpiece:  Roma,  Monday, October 8

A scene from Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Image: courtesy MVFF

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, his first film shot in Mexico, since Y tu mamá también (2001) is a meditative masterpiece on the meaning of family that screens as the festival’s Centerpiece.  Cuarón will be in attendance for an extensive on-stage conversation about this film, awarded the Golden Lion in Venice for best film and Mexico’s foreign language Oscar submission.  Set in 1970’s Mexico City, Roma follows the life of a quiet live-in indigenous housekeeper, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), and the upper middle class family that employs her.  Through a series of small moments, both humorous and poignant, there’s a slow build to mounting crisis for both Cleo and her employers.  Gorgeously shot in black and white.  Every scene and every woman seem steeped in personal memory and deep reflection.  Roma is Cuarón’s follow-up to Gravity (2013), awarded Academy Awards for directing and editing.

Harvest Season: World Premiere, Sat, October 13

Napa Valley Latina viticulturist, Vanessa Robledo, is profiled in Bernardo Ruiz’s Harvest Season.  Image: Roberto “Bear” Guerra

¡Viva el Cine! also includes films produced in the U.S. that are relevant to Latinos’ experiences here.  Benardo Ruiz’s documentary, Harvest Season, set and filmed in the Napa valley, has its world premiere at MVFF41 on Sat, October 13.  Through four stories, the film addresses the Latino and Mexican-American entrepreneurs and activists involved in the production and harvest of the grapes that go into premium California wines, small players with fascinating insights.  Shooting began in December 2015 and continued during the 2017 harvest, one of the most dramatic grape harvests in decades.  Filmmaker David Ruiz, Producer Lauren Capps, and subjects Vanessa Robledo, Maria Robledo, Angel Calderon and Gustavo Brambila will be in attendance. Screens: Sat 10/13 and Sun 10/14.

 

6 must-see films:

For recommendations, I went to Claudia Mendoza Carruth, who helped program ¡Viva el Cine!  She is well-respected for initiating and running the Sonoma International Film Festival’s Vamos Al Cine  and she regularly attends Havana’s Festival Internacional del Neuvo Cine Latinoamericano (or Havana Film Festival). (Read ARThound’s review here)  This year, she brought some of the best films from the Havana festival to MVFF and is especially excited to screen the Cuban film Sergio and Sergei with Cuban actor Héctor Noas to MVFF for an audience discussion.

“I’ve always marveled how Cuba, with all its limitations can produce such incredible cinema,” said Carruth. “It’s always been thought that it was difficult to impossible to bring Cuban films and actors here.  It’s not easy, but my attendance every year at the Havana Film Festival has enabled me to see the immense scope of films that come out of this island and the region and make connections.  I hope to really help develop MVFF’s programming.”

Sergio and Sergei

In Sergio and Sergei, Cuban actor Tomás Cao plays a ham-radio buff and downtrodden professor of Marxism in Havana who unexpectedly makes a connection with a Russian cosmonaut stuck in space. Image: Ernesto Daranas

One of the first films to come out of Cuba that has outer space effects, Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s Sergio and Sergei, is a story of human communication between Earth and the Russian Mir space station.  The engaging and very funny satirical drama is set in 1991, during a period of economic hardship for both the unraveling USSR and Cuba. Sergei (Héctor Noas) is stranded satelliting Earth on Mir space station, unable to descend and, by chance, communicates with Sergio (Tomás Cao), a ham-radio buff and professor of Marxism in Havana who is unable to support his family. A friendship forms as both men realize they share feelings of geopolitical isolation.  The film is shot in Havana.  Héctor Noas in attendance.  Screens:  Tues 10/9 and Wed 10/10.

Los Adioses

Mexican actress Actress Karina Gidi plays feminist writer Rosario Castellanos in Natalia Beristáin’s Los Adioses. Image: courtesy MVFF

Mexican filmmaker Natalia Beristáin’s second feature, Los Adioses, is a superbly acted portrait of Rosario Castellanos, one of Latin America’s greatest 20th century writers.  A poet, novelist, and essayist, Castellanos was an early supporter of women’s rights in postwar Mexico when the society was extremely patriarchal.  Her style was vulnerable, revealing, self-searching.  She struggled with balancing how to be happy in a love relationship, how to be a mother and, at the same time, how to work and assert her thoughts about the struggles of being a woman into her work.  Actress Karina Gidi, who plays the older Rosario, took home the Best Actress trophy at the Ariel Awards, Mexico’s equivalent of the Academy Awards®.  Screens: Tues 10/9 and Thurs 10/11

Virus Tropical

In Virus Tropical, Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist Power Paola takes ownership of her life story, working with Colombian director and artist, Santiago Caicedo, to adapt her 2011 graphic novel to an animated film with exquisite, emotive black and white drawings. Image: Courtesy of Timbo Estudio/Santiago Cacedo/Powerpaola

Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist and Power Paola (the pen-name of Paola Gaviria) is well-known for addressing themes of sexuality, feminism, family and personal identity in her graphic novels (Por Dentro, Todo Va a Estar Bien).  Her animated autobiographical film, Virus Tropical, is an adaptation of her 2011 graphic novel of the same name.  This coming- of-age tale, set in middle class Quito, Ecuador, and Cali, Colombia, is focused on family dynamics from the perspective of Paola, a very self-aware young girl, who is the youngest child in a close-knit family of three girls.  There are intimate scenes from family dinners where she is picked on, moments of pain and loss as she confronts the shock of her father’s suddenly moving back to Colombia and reflective moments such as her sister’s wedding.  It took Paola roughly five years to create the 5,000-plus detailed black-and-white line drawings that comprise the novel. Video artist and animator Santiago Caicedo, who previously worked with Paola on the short film Uyuyui! (2011), has beautifully transferred these to the screen.  Filmmaker Power Paola in attendanceScreens: Sat 10/13 and Sun 10/14

Amalia, the Secretary

Colombian actress Marcela Benjamin in a scene from Colombian director Andrés Burgos’ comedy, Amalia the Secretary (Amalia, la secretaria, 2017).  Image: courtesy MVFF

Colombian Director Andrés Burgos has hit the sweet spot with his comedy Amalia, the Secretary (Amalia, la secretaria, 2017) played to pitch perfect rigidity by Marcela Benjamin.  The story is about Amalia, who runs the office by taking passive-aggressive swipes at everyone who crosses her path until she meets Lazaro, a maintenance temp who so intrigues her that she creates more and more work for him by breaking things. “It’s so rare in Latin America to have a very well-crafted comedy that has people doing belly laughs,” said Claudia Mendoza Carruth. “One of my favorite scenes involves Amalia, this very very rigid woman, attempting yoga.  The way her character evolves and she asserts herself in almost every situation is really special.”  Director Andrés Burgos in attendance.  Screens:  Thurs 10/11 and Fri 10/12

 

Birds of Passage

A still from Birds of Passage. Image: Quinzaine

Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano), a crime epic, co-directed by frequent collaborators Cristina Gallego and Ciro Gallego, portrays the slow and steady destruction of a close-knit native family who gets caught up in the marijuana export business in the 1970s, and the beginnings of Colombia’s burgeoning narco-trafficking industry. The film, selected as the opener for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is a bit of ethnographic thriller as well introducing the Wayúu, Native Americans who live in North part of the country, in the deserts of the north-western Guajira peninsula, that many people, even native Colombians, know very little about.  At its heart, this is a family story that involves power, legend, culture, money, greed and the difficulty of honoring ancestors and customs in an increasingly modern world.  Cristina Gallego has accolades as a producer and this is her directing debut, while Ciro Guerra has global acclaim. His Embrace of the Serpent, co-produced by Guerra, (2015, MVFF38) won the Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes and was the first Colombian film to be nominated for the foreign language Oscar.  Screens: Wed 10/10 and Thurs 10/11

 

Ernesto

Japanese actor Joe Odagiri as Japanese-Bolivian medial student, Freddy Maemura Hurtado, in a scene from Junji Sakamoto’s biopic Ernesto (2018), screening twice at MVFF41. Photo: @2017 ‘Ernesto’ Film Partners

It’s a rare that one encounters a portrait of Che Guevara from a Japanese perspective.  Junji Sakamoto’s biopic Ernesto (2018), a very rare Japan-Cuba co-production, tells the story of idealistic Japanese-Bolivian medial student, Freddy Maemura Hurtado (Japanese superstar Joe Odagiri), who travels to Cuba in 1962 to become a doctor but instead joins Che Guevara’s guerilla army.  He becomes a very serious revolutionary who idolizes Che and becomes vehemently anti-war and outraged with American aggression in the Cuban missile crisis. The films traces Hurtado’s life from the time he sets foot in Havana in 1962 to his violent end in the jungle. Shot mainly in Cuba.  Screens: Thurs 10/11 and Fri 10/12

 

Details:

For full descriptions of ¡Viva el Cine!, click here.  MVFF41 is October 4-14, 2018.  For full schedule and to purchase tickets, click here.  Advance ticket purchase of films is essential as they sell out.

October 3, 2018 Posted by | Film, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ursula von Rydingsvard’s “MOCNA,” up at Stanford’s Denning House

Ursula von Rydingsvard’s “MOCNA” at Stanford University’s Denning House. Photo: Geneva Anderson

“Mocna” means strong in Polish.  Yesterday morning, as I was driving by Stanford’s stunning Denning House, which will house a new art collection, I caught my first glimpse of Ursula von Rydingsvard’s newly-installed 17-foot-tall bronze sculpture which lives up to its name.  With its gnarls, ripples and lace-like pierced openings at the top, “MOCNA” reminded me of the latticed Banyan trees, at Ta Prom, Angkor Wat, which have taken hold of the temples with a fierce, intractable grip and integrated themselves into the stone itself.   The piece is prominent but, because of its naturalistic look, in certain light, it might easily be mistaken for a large tree trunk.  At 10 a.m., a few people had stopped to photograph “MOCNA” and a worker lay on the ground installing lights along the path leading up to Denning House.  The view from here is “great,” he said, adding that the installation process had been “intense.”

Ursula von Rydingsvard, 76, a Brooklyn-based artist who was born in Germany to Polish and Ukrainian parents, is known for her monumental works which are in the permanent collections of over 30 international museums and on view in multiple public locations across the country.   Several of her artworks are titled in Polish.  I was first introduced to her at the 2015 Venice Biennale, where six of her magnificent sculptures were installed at the Giardino della Marinaressa, a public park set on the main route between the Giardini and Arsenale, which has a marvelous view across the water to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.  This was her first exhibit in Italy and her majestic works evoking rippled old tree trunks were integrated into the natural canopy of trees in the park.  Three were assembled from actual cedar beams; two were cast bronze sculptures; and one was a work in ice-blue resin cast from cedar.  Her works are easily recognizable.  In recent years, she has tried to move away from pure cedar, instead creating bronze and resin casts from cedar originals.

“MOCNA” was commissioned as the inaugural work in Denning House’s art contemporary collection, which plans to acquire one piece every year from emerging and established artists poised to make a lasting impact in the arts.  Denning House and its art collection were enabled by a gift from Roberta Bowman Denning and her husband, Steven A. Denning, MBA ’78, past chair of the Stanford Board of Trustees.  Denning House will serve as a hub for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars as they pursue their graduate work in departments across campus.  Ennead, the architectural firm behind Bing Concert Hall and the Anderson Collection building, designed the building.

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program is largest fully-endowed scholars program in the world, named for alumnus Philip H. Knight, MBA ’62, philanthropist, American businessman and co-founder of Nike Inc., and former Stanford President John L. Hennessy, who served as the university’s 10th president from 2000 to 2016.  Knight-Hennessy Scholars receive the full cost of a graduate education at any of Stanford’s seven schools. The first cohort of scholars will begin graduate studies in fall 2018.

While “MOCNA” is the first commissioned piece in the new collection, Denning House has also acquired two works by the artist Trevor Paglen: “Matterhorn (How to See Like a Machine) Brute-Force Descriptor Matcher; Scale Invariant Feature Transform” (2016) and “Lake Tenaya Maximally Stable Extremal” (2016). These dye sublimation prints consider the ways that machines understand images, and the gap between recognition and understanding.

Paglen’s work is displayed on both floors of Denning House and can be seen on one of the monthly tours of the building, which will begin in the spring.  MOCNA can be viewed anytime on the north side of Denning House.

Von Rydingsvard will visit Stanford next month for  “MOCNA’s” formal dedication and will gave a talk about her work.

 

September 18, 2018 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment