Cathy Breslaw's Installation

Cathy Breslaw's Installation
Cathy Breslaw's Installation:Dreamscape

Thursday, August 29, 2013

'Poke: A Series of Provocations', Debby and Larry Kline - Exhibition at Mesa College, San Diego

Review by Cathy Breslaw
'Poke: A Series of Provocations'
Mesa College, San Diego
August 26 - September 29th

The Age of Enlightenment (installation detail)
When we walk into an exhibition space we don’t expect to see a store with items for sale. Debby and Larry Kline want to mess with us by taking things out of context.  They present us with beautifully crafted objects – shiny, cute, funny, odd, kinetic, and nostalgic. Just when they reel us in with lightness and humor, we are hit with the question “Wait a minute, what is all this and what does it mean?” At the Mesa College exhibition space they have packed in a lot of punches – from a motorized carousel and ferris wheel made with pharmaceuticals, to a large installation called “The Age of Enlightenment”’ consisting of several large white greek-style columns with relief vignettes of historically significant religious imagery. Included are colorful glossy ceramic containers made partially from ground down pharmaceuticals displayed on the wall, an installation called “The Candy Store” which includes items that poke fun at medications and the healthcare industry and small teddy bears crafted from real tobacco reminding us that cigarettes, regardless of the health risks are marketed to children.  There is also a video and series of photographs related to the Klines ongoing project called "Dinner With the Klines", documenting their restaurant visits with creating small table sized sculptural works entirely made from items from their meal. Immediate and performative in content, the series of short clip videos are entertaining and engaging to any audience. The Klines who are married and long time collaborators, offer us a provocative mix of topical works posing questions we can ponder.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Debby and Larry Kline, Collaborative Artist - Provocateurs Talk about Themselves

Debby and Larry Kline are in love – their marriage and relationship is at the core of their collaborative art projects.  Having been together for over 25 years, and working closely on the art they create, the Klines finish each other’s sentences and converse like a well choreographed dance.

Born and raised in Indianapolis Indiana, the Klines were introduced by a friend while both studied at Indiana University.  They immediately connected and as they describe it, they began to talk in “twin babble” – with a remarkable sense of mutual understanding of one another. Both studied painting, and talked of all night painting stints until they were kicked out of the university studio by a security guard. They noted one professor, Steve Mannheimer as mentor during their college years.  Described as a tough but brilliant teacher, Mannheimer would rip up student drawings and paint on their paintings, constantly questioning their intent and teaching the Klines to more clearly understand their artistic process and goals for their work.

The Age of Enlightenment (detail of installation)
Both Klines worked at the Indianapolis Museum of Art during and after college, though Larry left for graduate school at the Maryland Institute of Art.  It was during this time that Larry’s work shifted from painting into sculpture. Having broken his right hand, he was forced to draw and paint with the left, and though he became good at rendering with his left hand, he began experimenting with using found objects to create sculpture, and would use ‘throw aways’ from other student work and incorporated those into his painting and 3-D work. During this time frame, Debby stayed working at the Indianapolis Museum of Art as an Assistant Registrar, handling the insurance, legal, shipping, safety and security of art works in the collection and works shown at the museum. After receiving his MFA, Larry returned to Indianapolis to work at the IMA doing photography and teaching classes.

Faced with college debts and the recent death of her daughter,Jill, from Leukemia, Debby left her art behind for a time, and received a good offer to be Associate Registrar for the Museum of Contemporary Art in  Chicago, and she and Larry decided to move there.  Both Klines sited Joe Shapiro, one of the founders of the Museum of Contemporary Art as a mentor.  A generous teacher and major art collector, Shapiro taught the Klines that collecting art is do-able – and that collectors are “caretakers” of their art.  He also emphasized the importance of selecting art that is not a ‘quick read’ – art that requires more than one viewing to understand. After five years in Chicago and paying off debts, the Klines were ready for a new challenge. Debby floated her resume at one of the national museum conferences and was hired as Deputy Director of the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. During her time there, Debby also handled the Registrar position and was Co-Acting Director for a time. Faced with budgetary and management issues, there were major staff cuts and the Klines looked for new jobs. The Klines currently teach 3-D Design and Perspective and Rendering at the Design Institute of San Diego and Larry also teaches 3-D Design  at Grossmont College. They also lecture widely on subjects ranging from the nature of creativity to the art of the Holocaust.

Dinner With the Klines (detail of book)

Since they have lived in San Diego County, the Klines have developed a rich and engaging collaborative studio practice.  Their process involves a lot of brainstorming of ideas and ‘play’ as part of their art-making- often keeping a sketchpad in the car for bouncing ideas around on  long trips. They have a strong belief in experimenting with materials and learning self taught new skill sets – sometimes on youtube, as part of each project. They often seek out equipment at garage sales – for example, they found a ceramics kiln for $75  and free molds for their installation works. In order to develop their projects, they hold ‘business meetings’ with each other in order to plan and determine practical decisions about each of their individual responsibilities.

The Candy Store (detail of large installation)
Self described ‘'Provocateurs”, the Klines use beautiful object making and humor to reel people into challenging their own preconceptions about subjects as wide-ranging as healthcare, religion, politics, and commercialism. Their work is as unique as their relationship – They have similar aesthetic sensibilities and share the goal of wanting to help people think differently.  A prime example is their project “The Electric Fields of California” which is an environmental work exposing the powerful Electromagnetic fields surrounding power lines by illuminating fluorescent sculptures without direct hook up to a power source.  This and more of their projects past, current and future can be viewed at: www.  In 2013, they won the San Diego Art Prize. They will have several booths at the upcoming San Diego Art Fair in November, 2013. Their show "Poke:A Series of Provocations by Debby and Larry Kline" opens Thursday evening, September 5th, 5-7 pm, lecture to follow, at Mesa College, San Diego.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bill Bell, Triathelete, Marathoner, Aircraft Executive - Story about the Power of the Human Spirit

Bill Bell's story is one of the power of the human spirit, about the ability to see past our own boundaries, our own limits, to achieve things we thought were not possible - Isn't that what art is about?  Stretching ourselves into previously unknown places within and outside ourselves? To test new avenues, new ways of thinking about subjects, objects and philosophies? And, to keep going even when we fail over and over to create our desired results? Then, sometimes, creating something fantastic?

Bill Bell dragged himself on hands and knees across the finish line at the Kona Hawaii Ironman competition. It was midnight - 2 minutes and 41 seconds past the 17 hour deadline, completing a day of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running a full marathon – 26.2 miles all consecutively. Though disappointed he didn’t finish in the allotted time, Bell commented “I didn’t see it as a failure, only a setback, adding “Finishers are winners.” What makes this event even more poignant is the fact that he did this race when he was 77 years old. In 2000, the following year, he earned the title World Champion, finishing first in the 75-79 year old age group.

Bell, who started competing in these races at 59 years old, has completed over 300 triathalons of varying lengths, including 32 ironman, and 41 half Ironman races. He placed first in five Kona Ironman races in his age bracket. He has also competed in races in Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany and New Zealand. His race experience extends to having completed 158 marathons, and 3 ultraman 3 day triathalons, which consists of a 6 mile swim, 250 mile bike 52.4 mile run, placing first in his age group in two of those races.  In a race called the “World’s Toughest Triathalon” held in Lake Tahoe, Bell finished first in his age group 3 times – at 6500’ altitude, where he swam 2 miles, biked 100 miles and ran18.6 miles. 

It’s plain to see that Bell is a driven man - his tremendous spirit and determination is born from a
childhood of many challenges.  When we met for this interview, Bell told me story after story of a family in LA in the 1920’s with no money - how his father was a professional gambler who was often away and how they moved often because of problems meeting the rent each month. When he was a boy, his mom would save up the 10 cents needed for a quart for milk. Bell described his mother as the person whose strength knit his family together.  She taught him and his brother solid values and supported the family by working long hours as secretary to the president of the Brown Shoe Company. Bill's mom had children late in life, and at 60 years of age, had a tough time finding work.

Though the family was poor, his mother made sure he and his brother learned an instrument.  Bell learned the trumpet and his brother the saxophone. They prayed at the Baptist church nearby and were enrolled in Boy Scouts.  The skills they learned with instruments earned them gigs in Hollywood Legion Bands, and they were sometimes hired as extras on movie sets. Bell also worked several paper routes. His father died when Bell was 14 years old so the need for money increased which meant he had to work more hours and wouldn’t be able participate in high school sports.

Bell tried to become a pilot in the military several times but was denied because of various issues with eyesight and blood pressure.  He went to work for Douglas Aircraft and Lockheed who were hiring during the war years. Bell also took classes at UCLA and LA City College at night in math and engineering, subjects he was interested in and ones that he thought would earn him better jobs.  At Lockheed, Bell designed tools and fixtures to manufacture aircraft parts. Simultaneously he got jobs in bands on movie sets – even working with famous screen actors like Betty Davis and Jack Benny. When he was 22 years old, Bell met Margie, his wife-to-be, and they were later married and had 3 daughters.

As his skills in designing and engineering metal parts increased, Bell became more ambitious and represented several aircraft parts companies as a Sales and Marketing Engineeer. He also worked for Northrup and Hughes Aircraft. Eventually he worked toward having his own company with partners. As the years went on, Bell designed fasteners, bolts, pilot seats and other equipment for the airline industry and worked with NASA durng its early beginnings in the 1960’s.   He and his wife built a home in Palos Verdes where they raised their family and he also sold real estate. He retired in 1989 when he and his partner sold their company to IPECO, an international company making pilot seats and other products for the airline industry.

Bell has approached his athletic career with the same spirit and persistence as his work career. He attributes his success to his mother who instilled in him a ‘can do’ attitude and advised ‘never give up’. He got into running when he was in his early 50’s and his doctor told him he had an irregular heartbeat. The doctor’s advice was for him to jog 40 minutes a day three times a week. He enjoyed it so much, and with his doctors approval, he began to train for marathons. While returning from a marathon overseas and a stopover in the Waikiki airport, Bell met a man with an ‘Ironman’ t-shirt. When Bill asked what that was, the man told him about it and said ‘get a bike and start swimming’. He took that advice to heart and has never stopped since – that was over 30 years ago.  As a result of all his triathalon successes, Bell has been featured on many news and talk show programs over the years including ESPN, CBS news, Tom Snyder, Rosie O’Donnell, Bill O’Reilly and Conan O'Brien.

Bell’s training regimen is highly disciplined.  He gets up daily at 4:00 am, and runs, bikes and swims in some combination everyday. He also works out with weights and performs core exercises. At the peak of his training for Ironman races, Bell was swimming 6-8 miles per week, and biking 200-300 miles per week. He commented that his goal was always to finish and with the hope that sometimes he’d cross the line in first place – and that he did.  In addition to the races already mentioned, Bell also placed first in several Rough Ocean Water Swims, and eight times for his age group in the ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ 1.5 mile swim, 20 mile bike and 14 mile run and participated in two ‘ Four Man Bike Across the USA” events, each achieved in 7-9 days.
Bill finishing the Carlsbad Triatthalon, July 14, 2013

Today, at 91 years of age, Bell admits that training for triathalons is a challenge and that though he doesn’t do as many races as he’d like, he will continue to finish as many as he can. In 2012, Bell received the All American Award for the 2012 Triathalon Races from the USA Triathalon Association.
If you want to follow Bill's progress, his next triathlon is September 8th in Malibu. September 8th is a special occasion for Bill as it is his 67th wedding anniversary - he lost his wife this past year.

Bill Bell has set the bar very high for the rest of us – his example challenges us –with faith in the power of possibilities, self discipline and an elevated human spirit, we can all cross that finish line.

Article written by Cathy Breslaw:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

LA Art Association Executive Director, Peter Mays Interviewed by Cathy Breslaw

Peter Mays, Executive Director, LAAA

Peter Mays is the Executive Director and Board Member of the Los Angeles Art Association and Director of Gallery 825 which is the exhibition space for the association. Since I am a past member of the LAAA, I can speak first-hand in saying that for emerging artists the association and gallery is fertile ground for artists to develop their work, tap into the LA creative art community and to link to contacts for galleries. Mays  seems to seamlessly navigate between artists, curators, board members, collectors, and the community to achieve the organization’s mission - to provide opportunities, resources, services and exhibition venues for Los Angeles artists. Originally founded in 1925, the gallery found its home in 1961 when benefactor Baroness Helen Wurdeman, a long-time arts advocate and writer for Art in America bought the building at 825 S. La Cienega Boulevard.

Gallery 825, Gallery Opening 
Mays hasn’t always lived in LA.  He was born and raised in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  His father and brother are engineers but Mays naturally found his way into art and began drawing and painting when he was 5 years old.  In school, he found that he was good at rendering objects and people and often got the approval and praise of teachers and peers. He received a B.A. in Studio Arts from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to get an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Indiana University in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  His art combines printmaking, etchings and lithographs which encorporated highly rendered images with an expressive style. In graduate school Mays gained experience with curating shows, working alongside his professors as well as with community arts associations.  When he graduated, Mays worked as Gallery Director at a Pittsburgh gallery which exhibited a mixture of traditional fine art and where he gained experience managing the gallery and curating shows.  Encouraged by a family friend/mentor, Mays moved to Los Angeles in 1993. His mentor helped him learn the business and leadership side of the arts.  His first job in LA was working as a product designer for a giftware company and after he realized it wasn’t a great fit for him, he went on to pursue non-profit management.  At the Tierra del Sol Foundation in Sunland, California, Peter oversaw an expansive arts program that served the needs of hundreds of developmentally disabled adults. In his 5 years there, Mays launched fundraising campaigns, wrote grants and managed the program that sometimes included working with individuals in the program. While consulting for the Electronics Art Academy, a federally funded program for children, he helped develop the curriculum. He also began working for the Galef Institute, another non profit that pursued grants for educational programs at community centers. Part time at first, Mays was asked by the CEO to take over the job as the Director of Development and Supplemental School Services where he did fundraising, oversaw school contracts and curriculum development in the arts.  In 2005, board members of the LAAA asked Mays if he was interested in becoming the Executive Director of the association.  After a six month process, he was formally offered the job.

Annual Auction Night, 2010
In his 8 years as Executive Director of LAAA, Mays sites several areas where he has made contributions.  He has implemented cultural exchanges with Switzerland (Basel), Korea, Germany and China, initiated collaborative programming with institutions like Harvard, MoCA and Otis, as well as with artists Tim Hawkinson and Lita Albuquerque, and secured  well known curators to jury LAAA exhibitions. He also enlarged the  LAAA's career development programs and created LAAA's public art program which was selected as one of the top public art works completed in 2010 by Americans for the Arts.  He implements the annual fine art auction which is the association’s biggest fundraiser as well as developing a mentoring program for member artists. Mays believes that perhaps one of the greatest developments he has seen over the years is the close knit friendships, and in some cases, married couples that have met at LAAA and the overall community of artists that has grown and been nurtured over time. One thing is certain – if you want to meet and talk to Peter, you will always find him at one of the monthly Friday night openings at Gallery 825.
Auction Night, Out Front - Gallery 825