Interviewsand Articles


Editor's Introduction Newsletter #38: From Russia with Love

by Richard Whittaker, Sep 14, 2016



Alexander Lokshin by Tatyana Apraksina, oil on canvas, 1987

Each feature in issue #38 is like a chapter in a separate book. In October of last year I got an invitation with the following description: “After many years in a private collection in Germany, eighteen historic paintings and drawings by Tatyana Apraksina were recently returned as a gift to their author. All these works were created in Leningrad in the 70s and 80s. These visitors from the past will be on view at T. Apraksina’s studio….” The exotic air of the invitation along with the studio address near the Oakland estuary intrigued me. A little further research on the Internet only increased my interest, and I decided to attend.
     It was indeed a look into a different world and it’s tempting to embark on a description of that evening. Instead, we offer Apraksina’s dramatic account of her experience of meeting Russian composer Alexander Lokshin and painting his portrait. It’s a journey to another place.
     In the early 1980s, I went to a few workshops offered by the Friends of Photography. It was still located in Carmel and it’s where I first heard Linda Connor’s name. She’d gone to RISD where one of her first photography teachers was Harry Callahan. Later she studied with Aaron Siskind and met Imogen Cunningham who, when Connor moved to San Francisco, became an important friend. In 1969 Jerry Burchard hired her to teach a beginning photography class at the San Francisco Art Institute; she’s taught there ever since and is now one of the venerable figures at SFAI.
     I have to thank independent curator Anne Veh for an introduction to Linda a couple of years ago. We hit it off, and when I proposed an interview, she accepted, which was flattering since she’s not a fan of talking about herself or her work. And how does one find the words that are commensurate with the deepest experiences that move one in the making of art? The interview is a gift.
     We don’t usually publish reviews of art exhibits, but Abe Burickson’s reflections on the Renwick Gallery’s “Wonder” at the Smithsonian is an exception. As he pondered the show’s title he wondered, “What kind of curatorial tour de force could justify such a choice?” After seeing the exhibit, as he writes, he stepped outside as a motorcade was passing by carrying Vice President Biden. “He’s going to lunch!” shouted a man from his bicycle. Abe pondered the vice president “eating lunch, maybe wiping a spot of mustard off his pants and wondering if his holding that job for the past seven years had meant anything.” It’s just one of the unexpected turns in Burickson’s essay.
     I met Peter Kalmus at a Servicespace [] event in Santa Clara. I don't often get to talk to scientists who devote themselves to environmental study so I jumped at the chance to chat with him that evening. It wasn’t a big jump to ask him for an interview. Kalmus began his career in astrophysics and switched to atmospheric studies. He now works for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Early in our interview he describes a formative experience: “I remember in high school, I went for a walk in the evening. In every house, there were blue flickering lights going in synchrony because everyone was watching the same TV show. It was a quiet night and I was alone, just walking with the sound of the freeway and the blue flickering lights. And what had seemed normal to me my whole life suddenly seemed strange.” It’s a wide-ranging, fascinating conversation.
     The last piece is an excerpt from Enrique Martínez Celaya’s new book Art and Mindfulness. It appeared in issue #31 of our print magazine, works & conversations. The book is a collection of quotes from Celaya’s summer painting workshops at Anderson Ranch in Colorado collected by artist Irene Sullivan. I’ve always felt that the opportunities that have come our way to share some of the thought and work of this singular artist is good fortune. As Celaya writes in his afterword to this volume, “if someone is an artist today it does not mean this will be true tomorrow. The flame that fuels the artist is not solely a function of talent, but is fed by the friction between talent and character. …There are always threats to the integrity of an artist. Nothing has changed about that—or in the challenge that faces artists who seek truth in and through their work.”
     May you find the material we’ve collected here nourishing…


About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine.


A Man Impossible to Classify One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a ... Read More 721525 views

The Dumpster      “We can’t use these. They look like ... Read More 141234 views

Cotton and Silk Vorbeck quilt, detail I’m working on the last panel of a pair of ... Read More 8389 views

Say Grace I am deeply delighted to live on a planet that is so big and varied that I can ... Read More 5569 views

A Conversation with Silas Hagerty I met Silas, a young man in his twenties from New England, at a ... Read More 61397 views


A Man Impossible to Classify One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a ... Read More 721525 views

Interview with Bill Douglass—Jimbo's Bop City and Other Tales At the time I'd first gotten to know the widely respected jazz musician Bill ... Read More 363680 views

Greeting the Light It was thanks to artist Walter Gabrielson that I was able to get in touch with ... Read More 294026 views

Interview: Gail Needleman Gail Needleman teaches music at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. ... Read More 189020 views

Interview: Stephen De Staebler John Toki encouraged me to interview his old friend and mentor, sculptor Stephen ... Read More 150429 views