Art Watch: Jeff Long at JayJay

March 30, 2010 at 11:08 am (look)

Exploring Sacramento’s galleries every month, I rarely come across a show as striking as the one currently up at JayJay. Through April 24, the East Sac gallery is presenting the first Sacramento exhibit of longtime San Francisco-based painter Jeff Long, and it’s well worth a visit. (Long is paired with local artist Roger Berry, whose curved and twisted bronze sculptures are stunning feats of engineering.)

After years of paintings that were abstract yet still tied to concrete things, from boats to landscapes to temples in Thailand, Long’s current work has become “content-less,” in his words. The paintings, in a palette of blue, ochre, red and black, “have oblique references to design motifs, both Western and tribal, but really aren’t about anything in particular,” Long told me when we talked earlier this week. “My work has gotten lighter, more purely formalist.”

Translation: there’s no need for mental contortions to figure out what it all means. Just look at the paint. Jerry Saltz, the art critic for New York magazine, recently criticized the “idiotic academic proscriptions against visual pleasure,” and Long isn’t afraid to make paintings that are simply beautiful, the kind that you want to stand in front of for hours just because they are so good to look at. (Rex Ray, another San Francisco artist and master of shapes and patterns, offers similar visual feasts.) For a piece like Creek 1/Creek 2 (pictured above; at a combined size of 8’x6’, it anchors the exhibition), the fun is in letting a thin orange helix carry your gaze across a flat red backbone to a black and white curve that, like a water slide, deposits you into the subtle, textural layers of a neutral background. But even the backgrounds stay close to the surface in Long’s paintings. Despite the presence of shapes passing in front of or ducking behind others, or of overlapping forms taking bites out of their neighbors like Venn diagrams, the paintings avoid depth of field or indications of space.


With their interplay of sharp edges and organic, biomorphic forms, Long’s paintings draw from 20th century Modernism in both fine art and design, echoing the flattened geometry of Modernists like Mondrian along with the curves of a midcentury Eames chair.

“There was a playfulness that intruded into 20th century design at that point, with kidney-shaped pools and lava lamps and that kind of thing,” says Long. “It was a way of bringing ideas to the masses that might have originated in painters like the Surrealists and [Arshile] Gorky and the sinuous shapes he used.” Now, re-injecting design into painting, Long is completing the circle–and giving hippies a far better way to decorate their living rooms.

(Loopy 23)

With all the fluid curves on display from both Long and Berry, the whole show can leave you feeling a little loopy. But both artists balance verve with restraint, and the results are elegant. It’s another strong outing for JayJay, and an exciting Sacramento debut.


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Spanish Flashback

February 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm (look)

Today I’m starting work on a painting for a friend, and I figured it was about time I posted some pictures from the last series of work I did, based on Spanish architecture I saw during my Spring 2007 semester abroad. The 25 small paintings were for a show at 20th Street Art Gallery that ran Nov.-Dec. Here are a few highlights.

The bullfighting ring in Sevilla:

Houses in Granada:

The interior dome of a cathedral, city forgotten:

A graffitied wall in Granada:

A pillar in Parque Güell in Barcelona:

A bench, also in Parque Güell:

A cathedral in Sevilla:

The Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid:

Stained glass windows, all over Europe:

Who’s up for a vacation?

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Lindsey Vonn vs. the Tragic Nymphs

February 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm (look, watch)

In an article that appeared Wednesday in Slate, Hanna Rosin examines the fraught world of sexuality for female athletes. Her central comparison is between skier Lindsey Vonn, who recently posed for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and “pixie” figure skaters “whose notion of sexy involves sparkly outfits and blue eye shadow.” Among other conclusions, Rosin declares that, for women, the trope “assigned toskiers (female gladiator) is far preferable to the one assigned to skaters (tragic nymph).”

But throughout the article are a number of statements and arguments that left me wondering who ran over Rosin’s foot with a 1/8″ blade and left her with a grudge against skaters.

First, some thoughts about Vonn’s shoot. After looking through the pictures, my main reaction (besides that she kind of looks like Alicia Silverstone and that the high-waisted red flowered bikini was a questionable call) was that, despite the fact that Vonn fits the standard ideals of beauty, she looks noticeably–and nicely–different from most women you see in bikini shoots. She’s muscular, un-plastic-surgeried, and has the body that she does because she is an incredible athlete. Rosin says that “It’s appalling, really, that the poster girl for the U.S. Olympics team, a woman whose promise is compared to Michael Phelps’, should behave for all the world like a Playboy bunny.” But Phelps got a ton of attention for his body and willingly appeared shirtless on the cover of Sports IllustratedGQ, Men’s Journal and more, so it’s not right to say that Vonn is acting irresponsibly or getting sexist treatment compared to him. Also, athletes’ bodies are their instrument, so I don’t think we should be made to feel bad for wanting to see them in all their glory. Yes, we should care not because they’re hot but because they’re talented, but the side effect of all that training is often an amazing physique. And we’re only human.

But then begins the sexist treatment on Rosin’s part. After saying that at least Vonn’s sexuality is preferable to that of the figure skaters, she writes, “Watching pairs skating these last few nights has reminded me of what the figure skating narrative is all about: tender young fawns gliding to maudlin music, getting thrown around, and landing on frail ankles. The vibe is more Virgin Suicides than professional sports and is thus, from the teach-your-daughters point of view, problematic.”

I don’t have a daughter to teach, but here are a few lessons I think the young figure skaters could impart: grace under pressure, dedication to a goal (in an increasingly instant-gratification world), the power of dreaming big, and that beauty, femininity and physical strength aren’t mutually exclusive. Also, though Rosin is speaking to the narrative and not the facts, saying that the skaters are “getting thrown around” is downright offensive to these athletes, who have crazy muscle control and power, not to mention a risk-taking spirit. Plus, that description doesn’t hold up in individual skating, where the women are clearly their own driving force for those whiplash jumps.

Usually these glittering, whirling girls get attention galore. But part of the reason for all the hoopla surrounding Vonn is that “This year, for various reasons, the United States does not have a figure skating star who has captured the media’s heart.” Rosin does not expand on those reasons, but I think it’s an interesting question to consider. Why? Because there’s nothing tragic or nymph-like about Rachael Flatt, who won the 2010 US Championships and is the United States’ top medal contender. Her short program at the championships was bubbly and upbeat, and the New York Timesdescribes her as having “round, ruddy cheeks and uncontainable perkiness”—hardly Rosin’s “weepy heroine.”

In appearance, she is not nymph-like either. And here’s where things get complicated: Flatt didn’t do much for me when I watched the championships, partly because I found her lacking artistry–and I’d be lying if I denied that it relates to the fact that she seems larger than many skaters, and therefore doesn’t have the balletic lines of, say, tiny Sasha Cohen. So is Rosin arguing that Flatt hasn’t become a media darling because she’s too smiley and too solid? Because she’s not a nymph? I’m not sure, because Flatt isn’t mentioned in the piece.

In addressing a true media darling, Michelle Kwan, Rosin makes navigating the sexual trickiness of figure skating sound like a lose/lose situation. Girlish and weepy is no good, yet when Michelle Kwan, attempting to be more grown up, dressed as a sexy temptress to perform “Salome” for the 1996 world championships, Rosin says that “The resulting look is somewhere between little girls’ dress-up and Thai brothel. The photos look like they should be confiscated by the FBI.” So what should figure skaters do? They compete in a sport that highly favors young, small women. They may fit more naturally into a “pixie” image because they’re closer in size to Tinkerbell than to the 5’10” Vonn. But when they start to chafe against that image, it’s not fair to damn them for not looking young, sweet and girlish enough.

All of these questions are important because, Rosin argues, sex appeal is inherent in the sport: “One of the reasons skaters have enduring appeal is that they get to show their bodies.” Rosin takes them to task for their nude tights and short skirts. But skaters don’t show any more skin than track stars, swimmers or tennis players. And aside from skating in crazy shiny blue bodysuits, what are better options? The sport requires agility (i.e. non-restrictive clothing), and no male skater wants to get tangled in a long skirt as he twirls his partner into a complicated lift. Admittedly, they could cool it on the illusion netting. But be honest: unless you’re a die-hard fan, spangly, oddly cut-out costumes are half the fun of watching figure skating in the first place.

In defense of women like Picabo Street and Bonnie Blair, whom she feels are insufficiently honored, Rosin says that figure skaters “hog all the glory.” Is the ratio of prime-time figure skating coverage to coverage of most other sports off? Yes. But to give kudos to Vonn because she isn’t “an ice princess in a short skirt” is a slap in the face to women at the pinnacle of their difficult sport. I hope that Rosin plans to watch the women’s competition, which begins next Tuesday, with a more open mind and with more respect for the skaters.

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Cover Story Update

April 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm (look)

So, I finished my 50 paintings based on book covers (see post below) and the show opened yesterday! The opening reception is Saturday from 6pm-9pm, and you all (i.e. my several readers, none of whom live in Sacramento, but oh well) are invited. 20th Street Art Gallery in Sacramento, on 20th St. between I and J. 

In celebration, here are pictures of a few more of my favorites (the sequence number is in parentheses). On the post below and the various links within it you can see others.

Lolita (1)



The Fortress of Solitude (14)


Dangerous Liaisons (21)


The Bell Jar (28)


The Great Gatsby (31)


The Corrections (43)


The Giver (49)


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Cover Story

March 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm (look)

Ok. So clearly I fell off the face of the earth for awhile. But I’ve been busy! With work and painting, which is the reason for this back-from-the-dead post.




Since January 30, I’ve been participating in the 50-50 show for 20th Street Art Gallery. The conceit: 0ver 70 artists each do one painting a day (on a 6″x6″ panel) for 50 days. My original thought–that each painting would take about 2 hours–underestimated my perfectionism, drying time, and all that jazz, and turns out that it’s really time consuming to do a painting every single day. (Friend on a Friday night: “You’re leaving the bar at 9:30?” Me: “Sorry, I have to go paint!”)

But it is also really fun, and as I ever-so-eloquently said to my mom the other day, “I’ve done a shit-ton of paintings!” (41, to be exact.) Each artist has to have a theme, and my paintings are all inspired by the covers of my favorite books.

Other people have written about the show/my paintings, so instead of being repetitive, I’ll send you over to the blog of my lovely co-worker Jon: click here.

And to a local online newspaper: click here.

And to the art gallery’s website about the show: click here.

So, anyone in the Sacramento (or Bay) area, you’re cordially invited to see the show. It will be up from April 8-May 30 (though in May it will just be what hasn’t sold from April), with the opening reception on April 11 from 6-9pm.

p.s. the paintings above are for One Hundred Years of Solitude, Bel Canto, and Killer Cronicas, respectively.

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For a laugh

October 14, 2008 at 8:58 pm (look)

Here is a picture of me with Shaq when I interviewed him at a fundraiser for Kevin Johnson’s St. Hope organization. Shaq was the keynote speaker, and came out in a Afro and lipsyncing to a Jackson 5 song before getting down to business. 

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Knives, Cups, Buttons

September 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm (look)

In my freshman year sculpture class, we had one assignment that was to build something out of repeated units of a single material. One girl built a snowboard out of plastic knives; I built a violin out of caramel corn and Bazooka bubble gum (okay, I cheated and used two materials).


As a far, far better example of an artist who transforms everyday materials, check out Tara Donovan. She just won a MacArthur award (genius grant–DFW, RIP, won one years ago). She works with media like styrofoam cups, plastic cups, plastic straws, scotch tape, buttons and pencils, and I think the results are stunning.

This is Styrofoam cups.

This is buttons.

I’m dying to see her work in person…

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Paris Couture

July 4, 2008 at 10:57 am (look)

It was just couture week in Paris. Here are some of my favorite looks.

Armani Prive


First two Elie Saab, third Christian Lacroix

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Skinny Boys redux

June 15, 2008 at 12:24 am (look)

This is a self-referential post, but:

I recently discovered the “blog stats” feature of wordpress, which tracks how many views you get, how many people click on links, etc. It also shows “search terms people used to find your blog.”

What cracks me up is that the by far most common post searchers end up reaching is this one about skinny boys, found by the search terms “skinny male,” “skinny buff model,” “I like skinny boys,” “shoes skinny” (?–what were they looking for?) and more.

So to not disappoint anyone who stumbles upon this new post, I thought I’d better post more pictures! Sorry boys/girls like my sister who like muscle-y people.

(Hilarious bow tie!)

By the way, all these models are with Red Model Management. I think I should work there.

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Art Collector

June 8, 2008 at 12:26 am (look)

The other day I bought my first piece of art.

It feels sort of silly to buy art because A) I have no money and B) I do my own art. But clearly, other people do better art than me, so I just used some of my graduation money on a very small portrait.

20th St. Art, a local gallery, has a 50-50 show, where artists paint 50 paintings in 50 days. Most weren’t that impressive, but then I got to these gorgeous portraits. Turns out they’re by a 16 year old (15 when she painted them) named Sarah Croft, and she was the show’s top seller–she had sold 40 by the time I saw them. There was also an article about her in the Sacramento Bee.

I’ve done my fair share of painting and looking at painting, and can say that she’s damn good. This picture doesn’t really do it justice.

I was wishing she took commissions, so she could paint my portrait (vain, I know), but then I remembered that in my closet I actually have three portraits of myself from back from high school when I modeled a couple of times for a portrait-painting class. I don’t think they particularly look like me, but I like them!

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