It’s that time of year when sunrise is after 7 a.m. and by the third week in December the dark early mornings come to a peak as we move to longer days again.
Though I’m not Jewish, I had the honor of celebrating Hanukkah back in October with a friend who is and she wanted to share the experience. Participating in her annual ritual of lighting these seven candles, we waited and watched until there was darkness.
As I’m checking Christmas lists I don’t want to forget that this was originally an ancient celebration of the turning of the seasons and the Spirit of Kindness. At least that’s how I like to look at it, yet easily forget.
This is a season about Light. Celebrating the Inner, Outer and Omniscient Light.
Her keen observations and agility with words were cultivated at an early age.
Sophia Green grew up in Massachusetts. Her parents had many friends who were writers, painters, and musicians. “In our household the arts were considered a legitimate career,” she said.
It was a close family friend and accomplished painter, Marilyn Powers, who gave her a formal introduction to creating Art. “One day she took me upstairs to her studio, set-up a small still life with a Mexican ceramic angel and instructed me to ‘paint what you see.’ I was nine years old. By the end of the afternoon I was hooked.”
To complete the lesson Powers handed her a book of Paul Cezanne’s paintings and said, “Study this and you will learn to see.” She still has the book.
When she was growing up, her father was an English professor at Boston University and read to her each evening before she went to bed. As soon as she learned to read she started to write.
“I wrote and illustrated an extensive series of storybooks detailing anything and everything going on around me from what I had for breakfast to the tugboats pulling ships through the harbor to my friend’s cat hunting imaginary giraffes. This love of words has never left me.”
Green originally moved to San Francisco to work as a computer game artist and animator. Landing first in SOMA, she was soon forced to move and found a home in Bernal in 1996. She’s been here ever since.
After college she worked as a waitress and saved up enough tips to travel in Europe on the $1 per day plan. “While in Europe I got to see some amazing art and was especially floored by the humongous painting, The Raft of the Medusa by Eugene Delacroix.”
Though she felt awe and admiration for the European classics, “My psyche was more attuned to art movements of the 20th century, particularly Conceptualism,” said Green.
It seems a natural progression that words and their meanings have found their way into her visual work.
She’s working on “a very pragmatic approach using words (with their living, shifting, and malleable meanings), to probe and reflect upon shifting and variable social trends and concerns. It’s a continuation of a project I began last year and included a video installation and group of oil paintings titled, The Surveillance Series. The paintings draw on the current cultural environment of obsessive ‘watching’ and explore ideas of what relentless and pervasive observation means in our day to day lives,” she said.
She calls her current work “Definitional Painting.”
February 10th is the last day of the Henri Matisse works on paper exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in mid-town Manhattan. This link takes you scrolling through parts of the show.
We have a talented paper cutout artist right here in northern California. Kurt Stoeckel lives in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco.
His paintings, photographs, sculpture and glasswork all look like paper cutouts. Now he’s creating LED lamps. One-of-a-kind ones.
An elongated glass panel stands 65 inches tall by 22 inches wide near a doorway in his studio. Etched into it is a line drawing that looks like a cutout of two people dancing under a cloud that has animal-like shapes inside of them.
The sandblasted panel has a background light that comes with the ability to change from red to green to blue or combinations those three colors using a remote control.
Dancing Under a Rorshach Cloud reflects the current fascination of paper cutout artist, Kurt Stoeckel.
“I’ve always liked indirect lights that are kind to the eye,” he said.
The elegance of his work reflects what he values. “I love the functionality and design of the Art Deco Era. Every product was designed to have some intrinsic value beyond its use.”
It was an era of “a conscious and universal attempt to make utilitarian items also pleasant to live around. For example toasters didn’t have to have all those deco designs and shapes. And because they did they were pleasant to live around and they also made toast. Making toast was secondary and the rest of the time it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s a generosity to all of us to live around the comfort of a pleasing design.”
Stoeckel grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His father loved photography and theater. “He trusted me with his cameras even after I dropped one. I appeared in every play requiring a child in a perambulator,” he said. His grandfather liked everything mechanical. “He taught me how to cut out metal shapes with a torch when I was ten.”
“That was my beginning, memorizing lines and welding things together.”
In 1994 he moved to Bernal Heights. “Painting had replaced metal sculpture.” He credits Bernal artist Toby Klayman as an influence. She taught painting at City College. He took her class and later became her teaching assistant.
He took lots of pictures. “I thought of myself more as a “What if” experimenter than a photographer creating compositions. Photography was one meditative roll of 36 exposures of film a week.”
“I still find joy and peace in a meditative walk with a camera. I now choose compositions that begin with ‘What If?’ I imagine turning a decade of photos into a ten day stop-action film.”
He considers himself now primarily a paper cutter. “I’ve made 10,000 of them while living here. I still paint. My paintings look a lot like paper cut outs.”
Since 2008 Stoeckel also teaches photography and theater technology classes in a local high school.
“I feel very fortunate to have a waiting list of collectors for my paintings,” he said.