Cathy Breslaw's Installation

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

“Working Backward From Crazy: Implementing a Vision” An Interview with Susanna Peredo Swap, Founder and CEO of Vanguard Culture

“Working Backward From Crazy: Implementing a Vision”
An Interview with Susanna Peredo Swap Founder and CEO of Vanguard Culture
Article by Cathy Breslaw
Susanna Peredo Swap
Last week I sat down to interview Susanna Peredo Swap. My association with Peredo Swap began when she curated an exhibition I had at the San Diego International Airport in 2011. Now, as a writer for Vanguard Culture, I have seen first-hand, the organic and exciting growth of this socially conscious organization and media entity.

Blessed with a large extended family filled with professional musicians, actors, dancers and architects, it is no surprise that Susanna Peredo Swap followed tradition. Having been raised between Tijuana and Mexico City, she also travelled to Europe, having received a scholarship from the Royal National Theater in London and studied Art History and Video Art History at the Sorbonne and Ecole du Louvre in Paris. A professional actor in musicals and community theater, while in her mid-twenties, she created and sang in a jazz band. While Peredo was living in New York City, 9-11 happened – an event which she says “changed everything” for her.  Armed with her experience and knowledge in the performing and visual arts, and her BA degree in Humanities from San Diego State University, Peredo-Swap discovered her calling - which she describes as ‘finding purpose in giving back and making an impact in the San Diego community’.

For five years Peredo-Swap worked for the Old Globe Theater doing marketing, community education and teaching classes. She went on to work for the city of National City where she worked for four years, creating arts inspired programs and managing their public art program. In a city with financial and social challenges, Peredo-Swap worked hard to convince the community of the importance of the arts in the lives of people. She advocated for an arts center as a way of inspiring young people, getting them off the streets and out of drugs, crime and gangs. Though it took several years, National City has redesigned and renovated the ‘old’ library and it is now an arts space for dance, music and the arts.  Peredo-Swap is very proud that she helped create this active and vital community center. It is now thriving thanks to it being inhabited by A Reason to Survive, an organization using arts to underprivileged youths. Having been on several arts committees and boards, Peredo-Swap moved on to work for the San Diego airport where, during over five years, she curated and coordinated music programs and over eighty exhibitions. 

As a result of her over fifteen years experience, Peredo-Swap realized she had amassed several hundred contacts and relationships with the arts community in San Diego. She commented that she would receive over 300 emails per day of happenings all over the region, and realized that there was no one outlet or organization that filtered or shared all of this information.  Ready to make the jump to beginning her own project, the seed was planted in Peredo’s mind, and with that, Vanguard Culture was born.

What began as an idea, about three years later, is now a newsletter of over 4000 subscribers and over 2000 social media contacts. In developing her vision and strategic planning, Peredo says “Start with ‘crazy’ and work backward – she asks “How do we get there from here?”.  All big dreams start someplace and Peredo-Swap began by building upon her relationships in the community.  She contacted bloggers and media folks to write about the events they attended which began the online newsletter. This helped shape the mission of Vanguard Culture which is: “an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals searching for unique visual and performing arts experiences while making a difference in their community”. Vanguard Culture now has six cultural correspondents/writers who report on arts events, four advisory board members and two interns.

Peredo-Swap has developed several ‘real life’ off-shoots to the online newsletter. One of her goals has been to bring the various facets of the arts and cultural community together for an interchange of ideas and possible collaborations. This is how ‘Foodie Soirees’ began. For the past three years, evening food events have taken place quarterly, mixing the arts with the local culinary world.  These culinary events take place in private homes of artists, art collectors and other arts lovers where food, drinks, entertainment and fun prevail. Another fascinating smaller gathering inspired by Peredo’s experience while living in Paris is  “An Artist @ the Table series” which is an intimate dinner, pairing a noteable person from the arts community with nine ‘strangers’ , inviting them to share a four course dinner prepared by a known chef at a lovely private home. These smaller dinner events are geared to raise money to continue building Vanguard Culture. In keeping with bringing awareness to the needs of the community “Cause of the Quarter” began – every three months a different cause is featured in the newsletter, which helps publicize and provides links for donations to fund the organizations selected.

Another recent amazing event which took place for the first time in June was the ‘Avant Garde Costume Gala’ held at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park. Peredo commented that this was a huge financial risk but she believed in her ‘over the top’ vision and it proved successful. Over two hundred people attended an event designed for ‘creative and sensory pleasure’ – ‘guests were asked to wear their wildest, most unique or thought provoking costume or accessories”. The event featured food, custom designed drinks, and entertainment from The California Ballet, The Patricia Rincon Dance Collective, Priscilla the Empress of Pop, The Animal Cracker Conspiracy” and an Avant Garde Fashion Show by Shawn Michael. Live body painting, Henna Body Art, stilt walkers, and a photo station were also included. Peredo plans this as an annual event and fundraiser for the organization.

Peredo-Swap, CEO and Founder of  Vanguard Culture has built upon a synergy taking place in the San Diego region.  The unexpected downturn in the economy beginning in 2008, has required the many moving parts of the arts communities including boards, organizations, businesses and individuals to work together to accomplish their aims. With all that Peredo-Swap and her team have accomplished in only three years, it will be exciting to see what crazy and wonderful projects will emerge and grow while giving back to this diverse and growing region.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Generation: Young Chinese Artists - Revealing Glimpses Into Life in China at Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach CA

My Generation: Young Chinese Artists
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach CA
On View Through October 11

Article by Cathy Breslaw
Chi Peng    Sprinting Forward 4         C-Print      55" x 81"          2004

It is a remarkable fact that the work of contemporary artists can be a powerful tool for understanding a culture, its’ people and their challenges. Having visited China several times for both business and pleasure, this exhibition made me realize how little is understood by visitors, only scratching the surface of a complex country that since the end of Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution, continues to undergo tremendous industrial, technological, political and social change. My Generation: Young Chinese Artists, curated by Barbara Pollack, represents the work of over 25 artists who were born after 1976.  Pollack, an arts journalist covering the Chinese art scene since the 1990’s, interviewed over 100 young artists from every region of China who have grown up in relative freedom and with opportunities of a rapidly expanding economy. They have been exposed to a global dialog and art movements via the internet and by historical comparison, a liberalized education at China’s art academies. The show comprises a range of painters, video artists, installation artists, photographers, and artist collectives addressing issues of alienation, identity, the effects of rapid and largely unregulated industrialization, and massive movement of the population from country to urban landscapes. In artist Ma Qiusha’s video From No.4 Pingyuanli to No.4 Tianqiaobeili, 2007, we learn about being a product of the ‘one child policy’ China enforces. In the video, Ma Qiusha stands alone in front of the camera in face to face confessions to the viewer. Through stories told in a dispassionate manner, she describes her conflicts with personal, parental and societal pressures to be successful as an ‘only child’ while holding a razor blade on her tongue. Her piece is a psychological portrait as well as a performance. Video
Flying Blue Flag by Hu Xiangqian is a light-hearted somewhat humorous yet poignant story of a young man
soliciting votes to be leader of his town, showing residents business development plans, ‘bribes’ with cigarettes, while listening to the advice of elders. Though it is a ‘false’ election on his part, folks think he is actually running for office and he manages to receive many votes. This video could be a parody on an election in any democratic country where the vote is up to its’ citizens.  Painter Qiu Xiaofei’s Utopia, an oil on canvas 118” x 157”, (2010), portrays a headless statue rising from a cluster of empty high rise buildings, desolate and devoid of people, commenting on the destructive and alienating aspects of the ‘new’ urban landscapes. In keeping with alienation of the urban landscape, photographer Chi Peng’s Sprinting Forward 4, 2004 is a C print of a naked young man in the distance, standing on stairs with his back to us, in front of a large complex of glass buildings while red birds swirl and fly above.  Another photographer Liu Di’s series of Animal Regulation C-Prints,  deal with conflicting relationships between nature and human society in the urban environment generated by rapid industrialization. Fearless, a humongous complex mixed media wall tapestry 124” x 253” (2012), by Xu Zhen, contains a combination of Chinese imagery as well as western images of political cartoons, a portrait of Nietzsche, and the head of Medusa, pointing to influences of the west on China as well as the west’s preconceived notions about China’s cultural identity. These descriptions are only a small selection of the over 100 works contained in this richly constructed exhibition.  These young artists are technically sophisticated and are among this generation’s celebrated Chinese artists helping to define and converse, and to wrestle and identify with the challenges and progress being made in a globally aware culture with multi-dimensional concerns.
Liu Di    Animal Regulation No. 4    C print      23" x 31"     2010
    Qiu Xiaofei    Utopia    oil on canvas    118" x 157"    2010

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pipe Cleaner Sculptures, Drawings and Paintings:Don Porcella's 'Shapeshifter' Exhibition at Low Gallery in San Diego

Low Gallery, San Diego
Don Porcella:  Shapeshifter

Article by Cathy Breslaw
"Smoke 'em if you Got em"   pipe cleaners and mixed media   104"x80"x66"

On the surface, Don Porcella’s art conjures up playful memories of childhood, with his use of an array of brightly colored and shimmering textured pipe cleaners and drawing materials we all used in art class. He has incorporated these materials along with chicken wire for structure and transformed many of  them into conceptual sculptural works, paintings and drawings that are his own take on American culture – TV shows, products we use, consumerism, as well as his reflections on personal identity. We are struck by his whimsical humor as in Porcella’s mixed media drawings related to Star Trek, and a fantastical drawing of a strip mall. His works are reminiscent of folk art with a disarming simplicity, humility and straightforwardness, yet thoughtfully well crafted and sophisticated in their conceptual intent. Porcella’s pipe cleaner shoe works and packaged pipe cleaner ‘products’ poke fun at our consumer –oriented culture while sculptural works “Earth Monster”, “Blue Medusa”, and “Beast of Burden”(and others) are cloaked in fantasy as they speak to an underlying human condition. Alongside these works, is a second and unique set of works that are connected to Porcella’s experience living and working in a home previously inhabited by an artist named Harvey Matthews. Switching gears and using materials found in this space, these works appear to give homage to this unknown deceased artist and in reaction to him. Porcella has created an abstract installation with a selection of small black and yellow boxes, paintings of people on found wood, gas can, signage, nails, and other articles found in Matthew’s studio are included. It is as if Porcella created these works to document this artist’s life, giving voice, meaning and a personal connection. Porcella’s exhibition of 60 works is on view through July 16th at 1878 Main Street, San Diego.

(From left to right) Star Trek Fan Club   Klingon Language Institute   Pocket Pool
mixed media on paper  each 8.5" x 11"

Stoner,  Assorted,  Protesters,  Road Crew,  Sucker,  Corney,  
pipe cleaners and hand-made packaging   each 12" x 7" x 3"

(Wall Works,Left to right)  Harry's Friends,  mixed media on found wood  35" x 11"
  Harry's Other Friends,  mixed media on found wood   37" x 12"
Landscape with Cactus See Jim, Original paint on metal  13.5" x 24"
  Nailed It,  nails on wood   15" x 11"