Interviewsand Articles


From the Editor - w&c #10

by Richard Whittaker, May 2, 2005



Two years ago when I first saw the work of English photographer David Parker at the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco, I’d been amazed by it. Negotiations with the gallery for his address or phone number didn’t get far. Would they give me his address? No. Would they send a copy of the magazine to him? Sure. Would they let him know I wanted to interview him? Sure.
     No word came, but a year later, I crossed the Bay Bridge to 49 Geary and took the ride up to the fifth floor and, indeed, the photographer was there. Introducing myself, I wondered if he’d gotten the magazine. What magazine? But, as the interview attests, this awkward patch was overcome.
     Thinking about my conversation with Parker, and considering the additional material collected here in issue #10, the idea of odyssey came naturally to mind. Certainly Parker’s choice of “Sirens” as the title for his exhibit pointed the way. But in Parker’s story we get a glimpse of his own odyssey from diesel engineer to artist/photographer searching the world for landscapes which stand like doorways into other worlds, into the realms we meet in mythology. The journey we brush against here is an inner one as well as an outer one.
     I don’t think it’s assuming too much to say that all the odysseys represented here are passionate ones. What is it that the artist listens to? Is it something like the Siren song? Parker even states it as such.
     Readers can thank contributing editor and Oakland sculptor Mark Bulwinkle for the introduction of John Abduljaami and his work in this issue. We just crack the door a little on Abduljaami’s story. Getting to wander among the improvisational riches of Abduljaami’s carved sculptures was like being in a country of the imagination come to life. It reminded me how fortunate I am to be doing this work.
     Several months ago Robbin Henderson, director of The Berkeley Art Center, agreed to host a series of evening programs as a joint project with us. My conversation with Rue Harrison took place there in January. Readers will be familiar with Indigo Animal, but here is the story of how Indigo Animal came to be. Rue and I spoke about “Art and the Unconscious” and touched on some of the profound questions connected with artmaking as an interior journey.
     On a more concrete level, we have an account of contributing editor Katina Huston’s trip to this year’s College Art Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, a peek into “The World of the Academy.” As Huston puts it, “Once there, it is a joy to see the species (Art Academics) running with the pack and speaking the mother tongue.” With so many different groups, topics, panels, parties, etc., Huston’s experience had its ups and downs. Asked to identify herself as she joined a group connected with the magazine Leonardo, Huston replied, “I’m an artist/writer researching and documenting subcultures in academic art.” They laughed and “for a moment I belonged.” Huston returned safely, and here is her report
     I first met San Francisco artist Hadi Tabatabai about five years ago. His work, which called Agnes Martin to mind, intrigued me. At his recent exhibit at Soker Fine Arts, I had a chance to talk with him again. Not long after our conversation, I got an email from Hadi telling me that Agnes Martin had died a few hours earlier. His connection with Martin didn’t surprise me. He sent me an article about meeting her which he’d written for Likovne Besede/Artwords which we gratefully reprint here.
     If life is an odyssey, then reaching old age should be a form of homecoming. Can we look at it that way? When Brent Nettle first contacted me to tell me about his program Eldergivers, I had mixed feelings. Who would want to hear about art with elders living in nursing homes? My reservations are a sad commentary, but not unusual, I’m afraid. Fortunately, Brent was persistent. Here is another story of journey, of how a man with social conscience found a form for embodying it in action. Not an artist himself, Nettle, in a moment of insight, saw that art could become a means for crossing the divide of isolation separating elders from the rest of us. I’ve had a chance to meet others working with Nettle, and it’s an inspiring group. We will be running a series of articles in future issues about this work beginning here with an overview of the program and how it came to be. In subsequent issues, we’ll feature more specific stories from a variety of the people involved in this innovative program.
     And there is a little portfolio of sorts of the work of Tucker Nichols. It’s difficult to claim the work fits into our theme, although the photo on the inside front cover, “Return To Pangea” does strike a note of poetic affinity. The abbreviated selection of Nichols’ work fits, in a way, what might be called his Zen/Woody Allen sensibility. Featuring at least a little of Nichols’ work also satisfies my own need always, if possible, to pay some homage to a certain je ne sais qua
Welcome to issue #10. —RW

About the Author

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


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