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Meeting Travis Somerville

Travis Somerville, Dedicated to the Proposition - Exhibition Catalog

It’s the end of the weekend and it’s been over a week since I first took on the WordPress postaday2011 challenge. I’m finding myself gaining some major writing momentum and finding new content. Obviously, there will be days I post formal and analytical write ups and other days where I’ll just want to tell you, dear friend, something that’s been on my mind. Or, something that’s happened to me. Good and bad. I’m hoping more good than bad stories will be shared this year as well as taking part in a greater dialogue with other bloggers, art lovers, writers, artists – anyone interested in joining the conversation. I think the most challenging aspects of maintaining a daily blog are, but certainly not limited to, finding the daily motivation and obtaining interesting content.

For today’s post, I wanted to reflect on meeting one of my favorite artists, Travis Somerville, at an art opening at the Catherine Clark gallery (located in San Francisco, CA). I learned of Mr. Somerville’s work in a drawing classes I took the UC Berkeley Extension. His work often comes up when discussing how art can play an integral role depicting and recording history. Art can provide and, probably more so now than ever, social commentary. Contextually, his art focuses on American history, experiences with racism, and identity. Although his method is predominantly painting, his installation works prove to be all the more powerful and engaging when incorporated with his two-dimensional work. With the opportunity to speak with him, I brought how well he uses typography in his paintings. This is extremely difficult to execute without looking completely contrived. Much of the authenticity one may feel behind the work probably has to do with his willingness to see where the ideas take him as well as gathering his experiences and speaking from his perceptions and knowledge versus giving an audience what they may like or expect to see. He’s unapologetic and straight forward but one of the most down-to-earth and remarkably sincere artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and talking to. Of course, I had a fantastic conversation with him but since it wasn’t a formal interview, I won’t bother trying to recall the details but just know, it was one of the most amazing art nights I’ve had. Actually meeting and talking to an artist that inspires me to write and have my own art practice is a pretty incredible feeling. I was happy, that’s for sure. Art writing is a passion because there are artists who are passionate about their work; I love capturing, in words, how such intense work both fascinates and motivates me to see how I, too, can affect change.

I couldn’t get a way without asking Mr. Somerville who inspires him. He was gracious and shared the name Vik Muniz with me. After viewing Mr. Muniz’s work, it’s easy to see how Mr. Somerville stays motivated.

A quick note about the above photo, it’s the catalog from Mr. Somerville’s exhibition at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA). I was ECSTATIC to receive one and he signed it,

Dorothy –

with respect and gratitude

Travis Somerville

Yes, I was seeing hearts and stars afterwards…still seeing them. 🙂

By Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos (b. 1978) is a Filipina American writer, artist, and educator whose academic and research interests include feminist media histories, critical medical anthropology, race and technology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is a Ph.D. student in Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a Eugene V. Cota-Robles fellow. Her work as been exhibited at Ars Electronica, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the GLBT Historical Society.

Her writing appears in art21, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, Ars Technica, Vice Motherboard, and SF MOMA’s Open Space. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture. She is a co-founder of REFRESH, a politically-engaged art and curatorial collective and serves as the program manager for the Processing Foundation.

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