A serendipitous walk in Montreal's Rosemont La Petite Patrie neighbourhood recently introduced me to the work of Portuguese artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto). The striking mural on the corner of Avenue de Chateaubriand and Rue Belanger shows Vhils' bas-relief carving technique, which makes the work part of the wall, and the wall integral to the work. I highly recommend a good look at Vhils' work on his website, starting with this excellent video from his recent 'Fragment Urbains/Decombres' exhibition at Galerie Danysz, Paris. Wish I had been in Paris to see it.

Free play

I recently read 'Free Play - Improvisation in Life and Art' by Stephen Matchnanovitch, an improvisational violinist, author, computer artist and educator. Published in 1991, it's not a new book, but the right book at the right time for me. Much resonated. Two of many sections highlighted: "One of the many catch-22s in the business of creativity is that you can't express inspiration without skill, but if you are too wrapped up in the professionalism of skill you obviate the surrender to accident that is essential to inspiration. You begin to emphasize product at the expense of process." And on patience with one's work and process: "If we operate with a belief in long sweeps of time, we build cathedrals; if we operate from fiscal quarter to fiscal quarter, we build ugly shopping malls."

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In heavy rotation: Bonobo's Sweetness.

I didn't know this album when it first came out way back in 2002. But I'm listening to it a lot right now. Highly recommend it.



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Stress test

When I began working this year with matte duralar, a translucent plastic film, I wanted to embrace the material, to let it move and breathe, be immediate -- and not mount it under glass.

I am working with laser image transfers to the duralar using acrylic medium. There is likely a chemical bond between the plastic particles in the laser toner and the acrylic medium, and between the acrylic medium and the duralar.

To be sure the combined material and process are robust and stable, I stress tested the work. I took a discarded piece, applied two thinned coats of fluid matte medium, then once dry cut it into two pieces. One piece stayed inside as the control and the other spent over a week outside in very hot, intense sun as well as some full days in the rain. The result? The two pieces match up and look exactly the same: no stretching, fading or chipping. 

I have mounted the work in white shadow boxes with no glass. The duralar pieces are hung by white ring nails 1/4" away from the back of the boxes so they float in their frames. See In Transit and Between.

Sidewalk art

Always there, underfoot.

Richard Serra's 'Sequence'

Recently I experienced Richard Serra’s Sequence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I loved it. What an amazing and wonderful thing it is to be able to walk inside -- to be inside -- this work of art.

Best explained by the wall text at SFMOMA:

“Serra was raised in the Sunset District of San Francisco and worked in East Bay steel mills as a teenager. Throughout his career he has investigated both the physical impact of sculpture on the surrounding space and its psychological impact on viewers. Of his large-scale works, Serra has noted: ‘I found very important the idea of the body passing through space, and the body’s movement not being predicated totally on image or sight or optical awareness, but on physical awareness in relation to space, place, time, movement.’

Sequence consists of two vast, torqued steel ellipses connected by an S-shape to create a winding path through which we experience the sculptures’ massive leaning walls and graceful curves. It was made in a German steel fabrication plant that has worked closely with Serra for nearly twenty years to develop machinery and manufacturing spaces capable of achieving his complex forms. The first artwork to be placed in the new SFMOMA, Sequence was installed here in spring 2015, and the unfinished gallery’s exterior walls were built around it.“

The houses of Shasta Hanchett Park

A few weeks ago, we packed up on very short notice, game for an adventure in California. We dropped in from the sky with just carry-on bags and landed in a house in Shasta Hanchett Park, San Jose.  All a little surreal.

The neighbourhood - separated from downtown by train tracks and the elevated 101 - has a storybook feel about it. The houses seem cozy and well loved. Some a little prim, some more relaxed. All are built on a human scale - not ostentatious, but clearly not inexpensive.  There are lots of big trees, as well as lemon, orange, lime, and yes, palm trees. People were warm and friendly, everyone said hello - even teenagers (!). Altogether very nice.

And yet I felt a sense of unreality about it. Was it almost too perfect? Or maybe it was just me, in a strange state of disconnection.

Corner stores

I like these old-school corner stores in San Jose - so much more personal and interesting than Mac's or 7-Eleven.


Last week I saw ‘Beauty’, the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial at the San Jose Museum of Art.  

Divided into seven themes -- extravagant, intricate, ethereal, transgressive, emergent, elemental and transformative – it is a thought provoking feast. Three standouts for me:

PolyThread Knitted Textile Pavilion by Jenny Sabin. Polythread yarn can absorb and collect light during the day and deliver it at night. It is a stunning structure, wonderful to walk in and around, to look at up close and far away. Exciting and uplifting to think of where this could go. Transformative indeed.  

Also in the ‘transformative’ section of the exhibition were 3D-printed glass vessels with lights suspended above on pendulums.  When the lights move, the light patterns change. These were ethereal, exquisite, transfixing. As it was put to me that day, what is the art: the vessels or the light patterns they create? by Neri Oxman + MIT Media Lab Mediated Matter Group.

And last, Tuomas Markunpoika’s powerful piece ‘Cabinet’, part of the ‘ethereal’ section. From the wall label: "In honor of his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, Markunpoika created his Engineering Temporality (2012) series by welding hand-cut rings of tubular steel over a traditional wooden cabinet. He burned away the cabinet, leaving behind a shell of blackened metal rings, a ghost or shadow of the original form." Intensely moving.

The exhibition is on until February 19, 2017. I highly recommend it.

Diridon Station

I have a soft spot for this station. It feels at once nostalgic and of today. The central passenger rail depot for San Jose and a major transit hub for the South Bay area, it is still somehow mellow and friendly: both the place and the people. Maybe it's the sunshine. Or maybe it's the fact that people taking the train are NOT stuck on the freeways. 


Ah the gesso stage, happy, wide open, all potential. Love being on the edge of new.