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The Music Issue features | David Molina (Art) | Dan Dion (Art) | Michael Musika (Literature) | Afterlife (Style) | Vacation SF (Style) | Old School Cafe (Dine) | Urban Bedrooms (Design | Home)| Foggy Notion (Design | Home) | The She’s (Music) | Emily Jane White (Music) | Divisadero (Community) | Pinball Museum (Beyond SF) | Bakesale Betties (Beyond SF) | Rose Gold (Feature) | Vinyl Peddlers (Feature)| Om Records (Feature) | Karaoke Masters (Feature) | BART Musicians (Feature) | Radio Habana (Nightlife) | Nightlife Photos | Bells (Music) | Judgement Day (Music) | Silver Swans (Music)

Artist Profile: Sita Bhaumik

Technology allows us to exchange pictures of our caloric intake with the rest of the world with a few clicks, swipes, and use of a snazzy filter. Specifically, in San Francisco, a cosmopolitan place brimming with an incredibly diverse population, it’s relatively easy to experience food from a seemingly vast array of cultures. Whatever you want, San Francisco probably has a place or a person that could lead your nose and taste buds to something that will satiate you. Art offers a very similar experience. With our collective compulsive nature to share photos of things we can’t even taste or smell speaks to our collective desire to be connected. While food nourishes us, it also activates our creativity. Cooking and eating is a way to let others into the particulars of what we allow into our bodies. What happens when food is used to describe the relationships we have with ourselves, our history, culture, or our ethnicity? What happens when food becomes the medium of an artwork? Or when it goes beyond the sense of sight and envelopes you in a completely multi-sensory experience? Food provides us with a lot of information about who and what we are. Think about an ornately covered wall dusted in nothing but curry. Imagine a room filled with the aromatic smell of cinnamon. Contemplate the use of ice cream and edible inkjet prints. This makes up only a fraction of the artwork created by Bay Area installation artist, Sita Bhaumik.

As an artist, writer, and educator, Bhaumik does an extraordinary job at explaining the intricacies and constructs around weighty topics such as identity, culture, gender, and ethnicity, yet in such a whimsical, dynamic, and sometimes comical way. She manages to showcase her extreme wit and intelligence and makes history, cultural observations, and art digestible (pun intended). As a writer and scholar, Bhaumik re-invents the way in which we react to and contemplate food. She mentions in her writing, “Whether we’re in front of the television or at a museum, we arrive with tummies rumbling, ready to consume. On the one hand, food is a necessity. On the other, food is a luxury, trend, marketing opportunity, movement, and social-justice issue”. As much as food is a necessity, there are varying levels of accessibility and openness to scents and tastes that appear unfamiliar. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and chili powder on paper are only some of the ingredients Bhaumik uses to communicate something deeper about thought processes and perceptions of ourselves and others. Her work investigates and serves as a brilliant metaphor for the way in which we encounter someone outside of ourselves. Not only is her work elegant and meticulously done, it is an ingenious way to have people foster a different relationship with food as well.

With the wide array of fusion foods and cuisines that make up the Bay Area, it certainly is a place for the creative intellectuals to whet the community’s appetite with innovative ways of seeing and experiencing art. Bhaumik’s workis certainly a testament to the creativity and the diverse art practices found in San Francisco. As we enter into the Fall months, Bhaumik already has her schedule filled with events and a residency! She will be participating on a Scholar’s panel entitled, Food in Focus: Asian and Latin American Cross-Cultural Cooking, for the Asian Culinary Forum. As the upcoming Bathroom Resident at 18 Reasons, Bhaumik’s inaugural show for the residency will open in October. Her work is certainly an experience. So, the next time you consider playing with your food, you want to think what Bhaumik may do given those same ingredients.

To learn more about artist Sita Bhaumik, visit her website here

Originally posted to Asterisk SF Magazine + Gallery site, please view here 

Curatorial Statement 

Art serves as reflection. It mirrors what has come before, what exists, and gives inspiration to what may follow. Art is also a conduit to introspection. It raises questions about the relationship between culture, tradition, and location. In the exhibition, Querida Calle 24 | Dear 24th Street, installation artist Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik takes memories and experience to pay homage and gratitude to the well known 24th Street in San Francisco. With the increasing traffic and popularization of the Mission District, Bhaumik seizes the opportunity to form of a visual and a multisensory love letter to the stretch of urban landscape.

The sweet smell of cinnamon leads the viewer to a patterned wall that will please even the most obvious retinal sense. Yet, the longer one stands and observes the walls dusted in the familiar spice and platters enrobed in gold candy wrappers, the senses will subtly shift back and forth to engage in something that can only be experienced. Observation will become delectable and crisp sensations will tickle the nose upon a deep inhale. Impressions will go beyond the gallery walls and storefront. The viewer will be greeted by a Twenty Fourth Street that refuses to be forgotten and remains ever present through its distinct scents and visuals. As a show made with a myriad of parts, it intricately meshes culture, tradition, and history into sensorial consumption. Bhaumik provides an exhibition of the past, present, and future. Our collective recollections and thoughts made into the tangible and the tasty, this artwork will waft and flirt and begs the senses to devour, digest, and reflect.

~ Yours Truly

Artist Bio

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles to Indian and Japanese Colombian parents. After receiving her B.A., Cum Laude, in Studio Art from Scripps College, Sita moved to the Bay Area where she holds an M.F.A. in Fine Art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. She currently teaches photography and portfolio development at RayKo Photo Center. Sita has collaborated with organizations such as Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, SOMArts, 18 Reasons, 826 Valencia, Whitman College, and Cal-State Fullerton. She has been the art features editor for Hyphen magazine, a writer for Art Practical, and Kearny Street Workshop board member. She also spends as much time as possible in the kitchen.

Johanna Poethig
Johanna Poethig, Artist Feature in Asterisk SF Magazine

Imagine a bright-blue-eyed four-month-old baby girl traveling with missionaries to the Philippines. Picture her growing up and attending an alternative school in Manila filled with many friends who encourage her to engage in the vibrant art community. In her teenage years, she returns to the United States to learn as much about muralism as possible in Chicago, later venturing to the West Coast and settling in the Bay Area. Now, this is not romanticized fiction. It is the colorful and extraordinary life of artist Johanna Poethig. With over 25 years of experience spanning public art projects, murals, installation, performance and video, Poethig remains a prominent female figure in contemporary muralism.

During her early adult years spent in Chicago, she was inspired and mentored by well-known muralist William Walker. After spending time learning about the history and significance of muralism, Poethig was determined to make a career of the discipline. She thought back to her days in Manila and yearned for familiarity; her desire to reach a larger Filipino community is actually what brought her to the Bay Area. But over the years, she faced setbacks. Among these challenges, she was forced to navigate building permits and policies, changes in building ownership, and even her murals being painted over.

Yet Poethig remained determined to create artworks in public space. “I always saw mural practice as a way to do community art or social practice. You have these huge canvases! Not only is it a way to do something for a community, but it is fun as a painter to learn about history and to put it out there for the people,” she says. Despite teachers and professors discouraging her from becoming a muralist, she was steadfast in her passion and knew that San Francisco’s strong mural movement would help solidify her goals. One of the most interesting aspects of murals is the unpredictable nature and politics that go into their conservation and preservation. New media efforts are constantly being developed to address digitization of public artworks. As Poethig explains, “There’s nothing that takes away from the material and paint, but new technologies are new technologies, and I’m grateful that there is a solution to preserving the image and the idea of the image. … If it’s a new-media projection, it’s a good thing. It’s all about occupation of public space and who is going to occupy it.“

“In my mind, being a muralist is extremely important to do. Otherwise, all of our big spaceswould be taken up by advertising, and that would be a travesty to have all of our big, best walls in the city be advertisements. The more public space where creative artistic images can be placed, where the space is not about commodity, consumerism or trying to sell you something, is a victory but it’s difficult to do.”

Art in public space is not just a physical marker. It places an individual within a specific location and provides a rich context of the environment, the people and the culture within that space. On sunny days, native San Franciscans and tourists alike flock to the vibrant murals of the Mission District, yet many historic and iconic public works—from the I-Hotel mural in North Beach to the Statue of Liberty mural on the side of the South of Market Multi-Service Center—tell the stories of San Francisco history. Poethig’s work tells these stories of San Francisco history, proving her continued importance in the Bay Area mural and visual arts movement. Her work speaks fervently about what it means to actually be present and aware of one’s community. It encapsulates a strong desire to draw, quite literally, people into public space in a way that makes them question their experiences and reflect on their own histories.

Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here to view

Hella More Funner, Artist Feature in Asterisk SF Magazine

Information overload is all too common with today’s readily accessible images, text, and video. Even language reveals our dependence on the Internet, with the word google not only referring to a company but also being used as a verb in lieu of search. The Internet and social media have become ubiquitous in our daily routines. Need an image of a dog? A cat? Or how about a dog holding a cat? You will probably find what you’re looking for. As a matter of fact, you will probably find over 1 million images and more.

Ask artists Sam Fuchs and Adam Gray— commonly known by their moniker, Hella More Funner—about this deluge of images. The art duo has incorporated this constant stream of communication, imaging searching, indexing and everything we feed the Internet as fodder, inspiration and the basis for their large-scale collages. The resulting artwork looks at the current generation and how it’s inundated by data, immediacy, gratification and a voyeuristic obsession of viewing ourselves and others.

Since 2007, Hella More Funner has created works based on re-appropriated imagery of culture. When asked about their studio practice and creative process behind their artworks, they noted, “Obsessiveness is the key; we are connoisseurs of Google Image search, aficionados of Flickr and buffs of Wikimedia Commons. We copy and cut and compose images by the thousands without concerning ourselves with trivialities such as the subject’s historical origins, owner attribution, or a perfect and direct connection to the theme of the piece. And it’s not just us. Our process reflects our peers. … We start with an idea, decide on categories of images that relate to that theme, and build an archive. The archive serves as a trail of breadcrumbs for us and building blocks for the collage.”

As visual archaeologists, they showcase our relationship to popular culture through large-scale works such as “Cielo” or “Beachy Head,” which entice the viewer with bright and audacious colors. Standing in front of one their works, it is easy to find one familiar image after another. Even with unfamiliar images, the massive collection of photos meshes and blurs together to create what looks like a mythical creature, being, or landscape. Much like our own experiences in sifting through email messages or virtually stumbling and clicking on morning headlines, Hella More Funner has taken familiar behavior and created collections for the viewer. The longer we look, the more we realize the amount of information we take in, and it may lead to a sense of anxiety and angst. Either way, the work provokes the viewer to perceive far more than the tiny images that make up the whole.

Whether the work appears as a meditation or effrontery to the senses, Fuchs and Gray show what they have coined as a “garbage culture.” The collective defines this particular phrase as “anything that serves to distract or delay any real and unmediated experience—a connection with another person, for example. It is in everything that promises happiness and youth, every product that promises the bikini babe, every ripped athlete selling a cheeseburger. Garbage! You know it when you see it.”

However, is the viewer able to give up looking at some point? Hella More Funner’s phenomenal, meticulous, and labor-intensive compositions aim to make contemporary art, well, hella more funner. At first glance, the works may be more than you can visually handle but, let’s face it, you know you want the cute kittens, the six-pack abs, the beautiful women, football players dancing in clouds, dolphins midflight, rain-soaked flowers, and angels fighting demons, because it’s all present and ready for consumption. It’s all there for you and your viewing pleasure.

Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here

Artist Feature on Jonathan Barcan in Asterisk SF Magazine

At Workspace Studios off Folsom Street, visitors can expect a breathy climb up brick-colored stairs to a maze of artist studios. One of those studios belongs to artist Jonathan Barcan, who during a studio visit shared insights on his printmaking, drawing and painting practice. In looking at his work, it is easy to see the precision that goes into his etchings and prints as well as the experimentation and the unpredictability of materials in his drawings and paintings. Organic materials such as wine, spices, sand and metal form beautifully articulated lines and figures. Although his Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo afforded him opportunities to exhibit work in Philadelphia, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto, and Florence, San Francisco is home.

Using physics, science, the natural world, and the notion of the human soul as inspirations for his art, Barcan has a highly meditative quality to his work. His prints serve as observations of and responses to our contemporary world, combining older technologies such as printmaking with more modern sciences and digital advances, all in an effort to identify people’s relationships to society and culture. As a longtime printmaker, Barcan works diligently toward understanding the unexpected nature of the craft and its medium. Working with acids and metal surfaces is no simple task, yet his works comprise natural lines, organic forms, and fluid motions that seem impossible to replicate. From colorful to monochromatic pieces, his work envelops the viewer in an imaginary space where words are unable to express the breadth of the human experience.

“We are clearly becoming other types of people because of the rapid rate of technological progression. We understand information and the substance of a person so much differently than we did 100 years ago,” says Barcan.

His specific visual language includes erratic, bold, non-tentative lines that aim at investigating human intricacies and understanding humanity at the intersections of art, technology, and science. Despite the depth of content, his images become familiar and accessible to the viewer. “It’s seductive,” he says of drawing. “It is so important for me to show the artist’s hand in my work. I like the messiness. When fingerprints and dirt on the paper show, there is a history. There’s also a tension in the drawings. I also like to observe people. For me, the drawings are the easiest way for me to communicate my observations. It’s immediate, in some ways. But the seductive quality comes from convincing people the work is immediate, but that’s not true. There is a lot of work and rework that takes time. The seductive part also comes from how people project how I make these things and me knowing the actuality of the creation.” His work is dynamic, connected and provocative. It inspires introspection in its dealings with the separation, integration and presence of the soul or the self within society and culture. With the swarm of interactive devices, data streams and codes that riddle our transactions, books, magazines and billboards, the artist and his physical work are rare but imperative. Despite the multiplicity of subjects in Barcan’s work, each is unique, much like the smudges and fingerprints of the artist’s hand. His work serves as a meditation, both on how we live and what we choose to leave behind.

Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here to view