Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pres. Obama signs new Chuck Close editions

Era Farnsworth in the White House Map Room with Chuck Close's tapestry Obama 2012 (II), waiting for the president to arrive. Photo by Donald Farnsworth.

Magnolia directors Donald and Era Farnsworth traveled to the White House recently to oversee the signing by Chuck Close and President Barack Obama of Close's recent print and tapestry portraits of the president. These editions, published by Magnolia Editions, were sold to raise funds for the president's re-election effort. Only official White House photographers are allowed to take pictures of the president in the White House, but Era Farnsworth sent these images and a first-hand account of signing prints with the nation's leader:

Hi friends and family,

It turns out there were no national emergencies and our meeting at the White House with Chuck Close and President Obama went extremely well.

We were picked up by Chuck, Sienna and Chuck's nurse at our meeting place, the Willard Hotel. Then we drove across the street to the White House, where we had to pass thru about 5 different security gates. At the first gate, Chuck's nurse was turned away: she couldn't even drive the van onto the grounds since she had not been previously cleared. So Sienna took over and we drove to the next gate, which was maybe 10 yards further. There a guard came out with a German Shepherd and walked a rotation around the van, the Shepherd sniffing it from all angles.

Chuck Close passing in front of the Treasury Department and one of the gates. (It's really cold in Washington!)

We passed the dog test and another gate slid down into the road, allowing us to drive through. At that point we were able to park with a number of other vans and SUVs, some of them with Obama stickers. We got out of the van into the DC cold, where we waited patiently at another gate while the guards checked our credentials once more. We walked down a path next to the Treasury Department and turned into another guardhouse, which then, after more checking of papers, scanning, etc, led directly into the White House.

Chuck and Meaghan, one of the people running the re-election fundraiser campaign, in a beautiful waiting room.

"Our" room is ready ("The Map Room").

Sienna, Chuck's partner, is an excellent photographer and talented artist. We were told in emphatic terms that we were not allowed to photograph the president in the White House.

After unpacking we had a bit of a wait until the great man arrived.

Don enthroned in a replica of a chair once owned by George Washington. They had some of the original chairs in the room; same red damask, slightly faded.

Manny, Chuck's right-hand man, and Chuck. Beth, Chuck's other irreplaceable assistant, had to hold down the fort in NY and could not be with us at the White House.

After a couple of false alarms ("We have movement; he's on his way" -- it turns out he was moving somewhere else), Obama walked into the room with a few secret service agents. Famous big smile, he seemed like an old friend. He greeted Chuck, whom he knows, and came over to me. I told him that we were from Oakland. He replied, "I love Oakland." Good response, but I bet he says that to all the home towns. I said everybody in Oakland and all of the artists, when I told them I might be meeting the president, said, "Give him a hug from me. We love Obama." He said, "Well, you better give me a hug, then." So I hugged Obama from all of you (in my mind, everybody who is receiving this update) and he hugged me back. Awesome!

He very efficiently signed all the prints he was supposed to sign and all of the tapestry labels. He made a couple cracks about the new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's signature and said Lew is going to have to do something about changing it. Obama has a great signature, by the way, and so does Chuck, so the signatures look wonderful on the prints and on the labels. They don't devalue them, as Obama has joked Jack Lew's signature might do to the currency.

Generally, a respectful silence was maintained while Obama was signing. It's difficult for anyone to try to field questions and carry on a conversation while signing a number of pieces which have to be signed perfectly. It was so tempting to pull out an iPhone and snap a photo. Too bad it makes that ostentatious clicking sound. 

After signing, I did manage to tell him that we drive a Volt which we power with solar panels. And Don mentioned that we have not filled up in over 2,500 miles, which is true. In fact, we have not filled up that car yet. I thanked him for the federal tax credits. He seemed pleased. Don told him that the artists loved him. Manny got a hug, too; something about his grandmother wanting to give Obama a hug. Apparently, this is the path to an Obama hug. Actually, Manny's grandmother wanted him to give Obama a hug and a kiss. Obama said he'd hug him, but declined the kiss. And that was it; he was out the door to his next important meeting or task. We found him to be absolutely charming. 

Didn't manage to get a photo of Don with Obama, but did get one of Don cuddling up to Bo, the family dog. This photo was taken right after Bo had been licking Don's face. So Don must have some Obama family DNA now.

We may get some photos from the official photographer. If so, we will certainly share them!

Love from DC,

Era and Don

Previously: Chuck Close Obama tapestries in the news

Prints and tapestries by Chuck Close from Magnolia Editions

Artwork by Donald and Era Farnsworth from Magnolia Editions

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hung Liu at Mills College Art Museum

Hung Liu in front of Music of the Great Earth II, a mixed-media mural with elements printed at Magnolia Editions, at Mills College Art Museum. Photo by Doug Duran/SJ Mercury News staff

Hung Liu's "Offerings" will be on display at the Mills College Art Museum in Oakland through March 17, 2013. The show is a companion to Liu's upcoming retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California (opening March 15, 2013) and features several large-scale installation works, including Old Gold Mountain (1994), a mound of 200,000 fortune cookies atop a crossroads of railroad tracks.

Jiu Jin Shan (Old Gold Mountain) by Hung Liu at Mills College Art Museum. Photo by Doug Duran/SJ Mercury News staff

The back room is devoted to Liu's installation of antique Chinese dou (food containers), Tai Cang (Great Granary), as well as a large-scale mixed-media mural and a suite of prints, both created by Liu at Magnolia Editions.

Hung Liu - Music of the Great Earth VI, 2008.
Pigmented inkjet on paper, 18 x 90 in. Edition of 20

The mural seen at Mills was originally realized in 1981 as Music of the Great Earth, a 50 foot wide painting in the Foreign Students' Dining Hall at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where Liu received her graduate degree. In 1978, the artist had attended an exhibition in Beijing featuring centuries-old musical instruments unearthed in a recent excavation in the Hu Bei province. In a 2,400 year old tomb, archaeologists had discovered a 125-piece orchestra and 25 musicians. The ensemble of Chinese string, wind, and percussion instruments on display included a set of Bian Zhong bells (visible toward the left hand side of Liu's composition) ranging in size from eight inches to five feet tall; the set of bells is so enormous that players must stand and strike them with large mallets. Liu’s studies and drawings of the Hu Bei instruments became the basis for Music of the Great Earth.

In 1993, when Liu revisited China, she found that the former Dining Hall had been relegated to storage space; her mural, neglected for years, sat silently behind stacks of chairs and tables. In later years, Liu was told that it had finally been destroyed.

Hung Liu - Music of the Great Earth III, 2008.
Pigmented inkjet on paper, 18 x 90 in. Edition of 20

Liu used the large-scale printer at Magnolia Editions to create a new mural based on her earlier design, Music of the Great Earth II, which she further layered with hand-painted, autobiographical elements. She also printed a series of smaller Variations, which introduce new passages of color, texture, and figuration to her 1981 composition, on Hahnemuhle cotton rag paper at Magnolia Editions in 2008. Music...II and all of the Variations series are included in "Offerings."

We highly recommend experiencing this show by Liu, hailed as "America's most important Chinese artist" and one of our favorite people!

Hung Liu - Music of the Great Earth Line Drawing, 2008.
Pigmented inkjet on paper, 18 x 90 in. Edition of 20

Mills College Art Museum visiting hours and information

More art by Hung Liu from Magnolia Editions

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Honoring David Kimball

David Kimball in the Magnolia Editions paper mill

Magnolia Editions co-founder David C. Kimball retires this year, after more than thirty years of sharing his expertise in the field of handmade paper with artists and artisans in the Bay Area community and beyond. 

A graduate of UCLA's Classics department with a Master's degree in Comparative Literature from San Francisco State, David entered the Ph. D. program in Comp Lit at the University of Oregon in the 1970s but was lured away by a young Bay Area papermaking enthusiast named Donald Farnsworth. Much like the 'patron saint of papermaking,' Dard Hunter, David's interest in paper grew out of his interest in books; initially, he recalls, he thought his experiments with paper might lead him to the field of letterpress printing or the production of literary broadsides.

Instead, he ended up co-founding Magnolia Editions in 1981 with Farnsworth and Arne Hiersoux, subsequently overseeing the studio's handmade paper mill as it relocated from its initial location in Kensington to the West Oakland warehouse location it occupies today. In the process, David became a behind-the-scenes collaborator on countless works of modern art. Many of Magnolia's early print editions either incorporated or were printed on handmade paper, such as Squeak Carnwath's Hand in Light lithograph series, which found Carnwath creating a unique effect by 'drawing' with raw paper pulp. Over the years, David created paper for editions by artists including Robert Arneson, Peter Voulkos, Joseph Goldyne, and Alan Magee; working with Farnsworth, he once used an eight-foot-long paper mold to create an enormous scroll of handmade paper for an ambitious print project by Judy Chicago

David Kimball gives a papermaking demonstration (video)

Magnolia has gained a reputation as a valuable source of papermaking supplies and knowledge, due in no small part to David's authority in the field. Recognized as a master papermaker, David has held demonstrations and classes for students and tour groups from all over the world at Magnolia's paper mill. Harlan Crowder's flickr features this photo set of a Magnolia Editions tour that includes several step-by-step shots of David demonstrating the papermaking process.

He has also hosted innovative programs such as the Combat Paper Project, which found Gulf War veterans recycling scraps of their combat uniforms into handmade paper. Meanwhile, he has been a valuable member of the handmade paper community at large, actively working to support the nonprofit magazine Hand Papermaking and at one point serving as its chairman of the board.

David Kimball and Robert Bechtle at Magnolia in 1982

David says the most rewarding part of his years at Magnolia has been the opportunity to create the substrate for a print or art piece -- to be a part of a team, serving a collaborator in the creation of a work of art. "It feels good," he says, "to know that I contributed even in a small way to, for example, Robert Bechtle's lithographs," popular editions on handmade paper which have long since sold out. He remains active in the handmade paper community and points to papermaker Timothy Barrett's recent MacArthur Fellowship as evidence of the medium's continued vitality. 

Kimball making paper at Magnolia in 2011

The staff at Magnolia Editions is proud and fortunate to have benefited from David Kimball's expertise, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Opening: Donald & Era Farnsworth at Red Barn Gallery

Bob Yogura is moved by 3-D prints by Donald and Era Farnsworth

Donald and Era Farnsworth's Specimens & Glass Houses recently opened at the Red Barn Gallery at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore Visitors Center in Pt. Reyes, California.

The glass houses of the exhibition's title refer to diatoms, single-cell organisms found in nearly every body of water on Earth that build delicate shells for themselves out of silica. Diatoms are major sources of oxygen in our atmosphere and are estimated to be responsible for 25% of the carbon fixation (conversion of carbon dioxide to organic compounds) in the ocean.

William Wiley with Donald and Era Farnsworth

By enlarging these microscopic life forms and rendering them using an eye-catching, stereoscopic 3-D process, the Farnsworths invite us to consider both the beauty and the ecological importance of these otherwise invisible creatures.

Mildred Howard, Margo Hackett, Bob Yogura and others enjoy the Farnsworth's 3-D prints

Specimens & Glass Houses runs from January 25 through April 1, 2013. Please visit the Pt. Reyes National Seashore website for visiting information.

William Wiley, Donald Farnsworth, and Hung Liu

Mary Webster with 3-D prints by the Farnsworths

Mary Webster, Barbi Anne Reed, William Wiley, Donald & Era Farnsworth (photo by Dallas Saunders)

Donald Farnsworth and Kevin Rowell with the irresistible Hung Liu (photo by Dallas Saunders)

More art by Donald & Era Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions