SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE
California Handmade: State of the Arts exhibit highlights the DIY craft
By Michelle Mills
June 5, 2015
Crafting and do-it-yourself projects are big moneymakers today. There are television shows, websites and apps dedicated to the to the art movement, and now there’s a new exhibit.
“California Handmade: State of the Arts” at Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for the Arts and Crafts in Alta Loma opens June 7 and will feature sculpture, furniture, textiles, jewelry and decorative arts created by more than 80 artists.
It was inspired by the triennial “California Design” show, which was held at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the physical site of the USC Pacific Asia Museum, while its collection is at the Norton Simon Museum) from the 1950s through 1976.
“The beauty of those shows was that they were able to incorporate this range of objects that were being created by artists in the state at that moment in time and we felt like that energy is still very much alive today,” said Emily Zaiden, director of the Craft in America Center in Los Angeles who co-curated “California Handmade” with the Maloof’s John Scott.
“We wanted to revive the spirit of those shows and showcase the incredible range and talent that artists in California have today,” she continued.
The exhibit focuses on the materials, processes and techniques employed in creating today’s handmade items, and Zaiden said she hopes to demonstrate that people are still making relevant things by hand.
“It’s a huge survey and it’s a lot to take in. Each piece has so many layers to it. Most pieces have stories behind stories behind stories. So the more people are able to go, the more they will see,” Zaiden said.
Christine Lee of Oakland specializes in wood and makes furniture and sculpture. Her coat hangers will be on display in the exhibit.
“The objects that have become invisible but make up our visual world are fascinating, sometimes more than the paintings that get to hang on people’s walls,” Zaiden said. “Sometimes these objects, like a clothing hanger, say more about our culture in any one moment in time than anything else.”
Zaiden’s favorite piece in the show is by San Diego-area furniture maker Jennifer Anderson. It is a typical folding chair, but cast in mud so it makes an interesting statement as it’s both delicate and enduring.
“Is it a piece of art? That question of where art, craft and design all fit together is something that I hope people will think about from this show,” Zaiden said.
She is also partial to the “fascinating and conceptual” pieces by glass artist Hiromi Takizawa.
Born and raised in Nagano, Japan, Takizawa now lives in Santa Ana. She has a master of fine arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and has been a faculty member specializing in glass at several colleges, including Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and Cal State San Bernardino.
Takizawa was drawn to glass because of its transparency and fluidity. For “California Handmade” she decided to challenge herself by making small glass rocks and focusing on their details rather than creating a large installation piece. She incorporated the traditional Italian technique of murrine to create the tiny dots that can be seen on the stones. She also treated the rocks’ surfaces with a sandblaster to soften the appearance of her work.
Takizawa sought to emphasize the importance of handcraft and craftsmanship by creating something precious and tiny. She picked up a couple of rocks while visiting a river in her hometown last summer, which became inspiration for her pieces — not only with their shapes and patterns of color, but also the memories they brought back to her.
“Curiosity, experimentation, narrative and materiality are the core concepts that I investigate in my work. Being a Japanese person and living in the West, the experience of being in dual cultures influences a larger part of my work, that becomes my narrative,” Takizawa said. “I am also an identical twin, and I explore the twinships in my work as well.
“Handmade/crafted objects can enrich individual and community where we can learn about the process and stories that come with the objects and get to know the artist.”
The Craft in America Center partnered with the Maloof for “California Handmade: State of the Arts” and will present a separate show and programming focused on 12 artists July through October. The venue is planning to use this exhibit as a stepping off point for a series of shows similar to the “California Design” sequence, each highlighting a different discipline, beginning with wood and furniture next year.