2013 Exhibits

Community Creates 

The Palo Alto Art Center’s Fall 2012 Opening Exhibition
Exhibition Dates: October 6, 2012—April 14, 2013

Angela Buenning Filo, The Palo Alto Forest 2012, photographs on glass, wood, wire, acrylic.
Photo: Jim Filo

Susan O'Malley, Community Advice, 2012. Woodblock letterpress on paper.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an engaged group of Palo Alto community members lobbied intensively to ensure that the former Palo Alto City Hall building re-open as a center for the arts. Created by the community, for the community, the resulting Palo Alto Art Center has been successfully serving thousands of audience members every year since its opening in 1971. With the re-opening of the Palo Alto Art Center in a newly transformed facility, we have a unique opportunity to re-engage with our founding mission and our success in serving the community with meaningful arts programs. This exhibition will celebrate the Palo Alto Art Center’s unique institutional history and our ongoing commitment to the community.

 Community Creates will partner eight contemporary artists with community members to create installation projects in the new Palo Alto Art Center. The exhibition will create an enriching experience for visitors by presenting compelling contemporary installations in a wide variety of media created by important emerging and established Bay Area artists. At the same time, by including community participation, the resulting artworks will offer viewers another level of meaning and engagement, through the stories and voices of their own neighbors, friends, children, and colleagues.

Video: Community Creates Video

Participating Artists

Artist and educator Kathy Aoki will create TeenScapes, an art installation that explores the daily life of teens through the artistic mediums of painting and installation. Working closely with local teens, Aoki will develop environments that speak to their physical and emotional surroundings. The resulting imagery would be viewed through an inviting—but also mysterious—peep-hole format that will enhance the visual intensity of the scenes. Kathy Aoki’s artwork frequently addresses gender issues and the role the media plays in the lives of girls. Aoki received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and her M.F.A. in printmaking from Washington University in St. Louis. Her work has been exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions at venues such as the San Jose Museum of Art, Swarm Gallery in Oakland, and the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. She is currently an Associate Professor of Studio Art at Santa Clara University.

 Anthony Discenza will create an installation of approximately two dozen aluminum street signs that will be placed throughout the grounds of the Palo Alto Art Center. Source material for the signs will be culled from responses to the question: “ Please describe, in one sentence, what someone visiting here 100 years from now will be seeing” posed to the Palo Alto Art Center community. By using the ubiquitous vernacular of street signage, the work will function as both a humorous and ominous cross section of our hopes and dream for the future. Anthony Discenza has a graduate degree in film and video from California College of the Art and an undergraduate degree in studio art from Wesleyan University. His work is directed by a preoccupation with interrupting the flow of information in various formats, primary in video, but also in other media such as computer-generated sound, text, and imagery. His video work has been screened widely nationally and internationally.

 Palo Alto-based photographer Angela Buenning Filo’s The Palo Alto Forest asks the community to consider the question: How do the trees that surround us impact our lives? The project began with an open call to community members to photograph and write a six-word story about a tree in Palo Alto that is meaningful to them. With approximately 300 photos and stories collected, the resulting artwork will allow viewers to experience the Palo Alto canopy in a community context. Since 2000, Buenning Filo has been creating photographic documentation of the changing Silicon Valley landscape, which have been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Jose Museum of Art, and through the public art program at the San Jose International Airport. She has also turned her camera on Bangalore, India, focused on the way the global technology boom has transformed the landscape there. She received her B.A. in human biology from Stanford University and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

 Paz de la Calzada will create an engaging sculptural installation featuring plant-like sculptures that appear to be growing directly out of the gallery wall. The sculpted ferns will be crafted by community members out of wire, glue, and patterned fabrics sourced from the community. Over the course of the exhibition, this artificial fern garden will continue to grow and expand, showcasing the relationship between humans and the natural and artificial world, as well as the role patterns play in nature and textiles. San Francisco-based de la Calzada finds inspiration in the proximity of nature to California cities and her work often incorporates elements of the urban, suburban, and natural world. She received her B.F.A. from the University of Salamanca, Spain, and her M.F.A. from UNAM, Mexico City. Her work has been exhibited in the Bay Area, Spain, and Mexico, including a recent projection in San Francisco at the Luggage Store.

Palo Alto-based interdisciplinary artist Mel Day and Jeanne C. Finley will present a two-channel media-and surround-sound installation that explores communal, contemplative, and transitional experiences through the effects of light, sound, sight, and imagination. Threshold brings together voices of members of the Threshold Choir—an a capella group trained to sing at bedside for patients in hospice and palliative care—with voices from residents at Palo Alto’s Lytton Garden’s Senior Community. Jonathan Abel, Consulting Professor, and Michael Wilson, a graduate student at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, processes the singer’s recorded voices to simulate the reverberant quality of a performance in Stanford’s Memorial Church. Through these transformed sounds of song and a video installation that includes a time-lapse sequence of the changing light in the Church sanctuary from sunrise to sunset, Day and Finely’s Threshold transports the residents of Lytton Gardens and memorializes its residents who have passed away. Mel Day’s work has been included in exhibitions throughout the Bay Area, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Southern Exposure, and internationally in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Toronto. She received an M.F.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and is represented by Peak Gallery in Toronto. Jeanne C. Finley, a Guggenheim Fellow and Media Arts Professor at California College of the Arts, has exhibited at the MOMA, the Guggenheim Museum, and in the Whitney Biennial. Her work is represented by the Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco. Day and Finley would like to acknowledge the support of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University.

Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice project intends to gather Palo Alto’s collective wisdom and then reflect it back to the community. O’Malley will work in residence in the community to ask people of all ages two simple questions: “What advice would you give to your eight-year old self? What advice would you give to your eighty-year old self?” Excerpts from the resulting responses will be translated into a series of ten woodblock text posters that will be displayed throughout the community and in the Art Center gallery—blurring the boundaries between art and daily experience. Susan O’Malley’s entire body of work focuses on people, language, and optimism. Based in San Jose, she received her B.A. from Stanford University and her M.F.A. from California College of the Art’s Social Practice program. As both an artist and a curator, she has participated in programs and exhibitions at Southern Exposure, Mission 17, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Lab.

Describing his work as a collision of pop culture and cultural heritage, Carlos Ramirez will mix the histories of Mesoamerica and the Silicon Valley to create his interactive ceramic installation. Inspired by imagery from the community, Ramirez will create clay molds for 10 in. by 10 in. tiles. Visitors to the gallery will help to create the tiles, then use them to decorate a monumental structure in the gallery inspired by Mesoamerican architecture. Over time, the installation will transform as the unfired tiles will begin to dry, crack, and chip. Oakland-based Carlos Ramirez received his B.F.A. from California State University Chico and his M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. His work has been exhibited at Southern Exposure in San Francisco, the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona and the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art at the California College of the Arts.

Weston Teruya will work with the community to explore the history and future of Palo Alto, by working with the public to create paper models of objects significant to them. The resulting installation will recall elements of our built environment, encouraging new perspectives on our surroundings, as well as embedded social interactions and histories. Weston Teruya’s work has been fueled by the interest in the way social interactions shape our built environment and the narratives and histories hidden within it. He received his B. A. from Pomona College, his M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing and his M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from the California College of the Arts. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco and Pro Arts in Oakland and was recently included in Bay Area Now 6 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Lava Thomas and Bay Area veterans will co-create contemporary portraits that explore how the war experience has shaped the veterans' image of themselves. Utilizing interviews, photographs, video and veteran's written descriptions as source material for drawings and paintings, and prints. Berkeley-based Lava Thomas works in a variety of diverse media to explore the body and its connection to identity, cellular memory, and pathology. She received her B.F.A. from the California College of the Arts and studied at the University of California Los Angeles School of Art and Practice. Her work has been exhibited at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, the Riverside Art Museum, and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

Water Lilies by Judith Selby Lang: A site-specific installation

Exhibition Dates: April 2012—August 2012 

Water Lilies installation at Palo Alto Baylands, April 2012.

"As a mixed media installation artist, I am exploring the personal and global impact of detritus. Through my art, I hope to bring awareness to crucial environmental issues and enliven public space. Plastic is my primary material because it's free, it's ubiquitous, it's archival, and, like diamonds, it is forever." 
-- Judith Selby Lang

Water Lilies is a temporary site-specific installation created by artist Judith Selby Lang from more than 1,000 recycled single-use plastic bottles. While the volume of bottles in this sculpture is significant, it represents only a small fraction of the more than 37 billion plastic water bottles Americans use every year. To create this artwork, Judith Selby Lang found inspiration in the water lily paintings of Claude Monet. Through the use of the clear plastic bottles and through the careful application of mirrors, the artist replicates the shimmering and reflective quality depicted in Monet’s water lily paintings. You can find Water Lilies near Byxbee Park at the Palo Alto Baylands, at the location indicated on the map.

About Plastic Pollution and How You Can Make a Difference

Only 23% of plastic bottles get recycled. The rest end up in landfills where it takes hundreds of years before they even begin to decompose. Americans are the world’s biggest drinkers of bottled water, consuming 7 billion gallons nationally. This consumption is astonishing considering that in most parts of the United States, tap water is not only perfectly safe, but even more tightly regulated than its bottled counterpart. Selby Lang encourages us to all, when thirsty, just say “TAP!,” because all you need to do is turn it on! The City of Palo Alto has demonstrated leadership in the reduction of single-use plastic bottles, through their ban on their use in City operations and events.

Water Lilies is presented by the Palo Alto Art Center as part of the Center’s On the Road initiative. The installation is made possible, in part, from support from the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. Water Lilies is co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Public Art Commission. In addition to our sponsors and co-sponsors, the artist and Art Center would like to thank Green Waste, the Santa Clara Water District, the City of Palo Alto Division of Open Space and Parks, the California Association of Museums, and the North Bay Corporation—the Unicycler, for their participation in this project.

Video: Water Lilies Installation at Palo Alto Alto Baylands by PA Weekly

Lawn Bowls by Judith Selby Lang: A site-specific installation

Exhibition Dates: February 2012—August 2012

Judith Selby Lang with one of the Lawn Bowls, February 2012.

 "As a mixed media installation artist, I am exploring the personal and global impact of detritus. Through my art, I hope to bring awareness to crucial environmental issues and enliven public space. Plastic is my primary material because it's free, it's ubiquitous, it's archival, and, like diamonds, it is forever." 
-- Judith Selby Lang

Artist Judith Selby Lang explores the global impact of plastic pollution in her mixed-media artworks. In Lawn Bowls, she takes inspiration from the game of lawn bowling. Consisting of 16 large bowls created from more than 10,000 single-use plastic bags, the installation is intended to appear as a game in progress, as if some giant players had just left the scene. These colorful sculptures provide a compelling example of a playful reuse of what might be considered trash. The creation of Lawn Bowls involved a community effort. Plastic bags used for the artwork were collected from a variety of sites throughout Palo Alto. Workshops with the public, conducted in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, provided the community with an opportunity to help create the sculptures. Working together, participants gained pride in crafting something bigger than they could accomplish individually.

About Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are especially harmful to the environment because they break down very slowly and endanger wildlife. The City of Palo Alto has been proactively addressing this issue by educating the public, distributing reusable bags, banning single use plastic bags in larger grocery stores, and considering further restrictions. You can help by bringing reusable bags whenever you shop! We hope that Lawn Bowls will contribute to this effort in a fun and eye-catching way.

About the Game of Lawn Bowling

Lawn bowling is an outdoor game that is related to boules, bocce, and petanque. The objective of the game is to roll slightly asymmetrical colorful balls (or bowls) so that they stop close balls (or bowls) so that they stop close to a smaller white jack. With historic is to roll slightly asymmetrical colorful roots in the 12th and 13th centuries, lawn bowling is now enjoyed in more than 40 countries throughout the world.

Visit the Palo Alto Lawn Bowls Club website for more information.

Lawn Bowls is presented by the Palo Alto Art Center as part of the On the Road initiative. The installation is made possible, in part, by support from the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. Lawn Bowls is co-presented by the Palo Alto Lawn Bowls Club and co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Public Art Commission. In addition to our sponsors and co-sponsors, the artist and Art Center would like to thank Avenidas, Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, the East Palo Alto Boys and Girls Club, for their participation in this project.

Clear Story by Mildred Howard: A site-specific installation

Exhibition Dates: August 2011—August 2012

Mildred Howard and detail of Clear Story 2011, King Plaza, Palo Alto City Hall 

Berkeley artist Mildred Howard has received international recognition for her bottle houses—which she creates as small-scale sculptures and large-scale installations. Originally inspired by bottle house traditions from the American South, in which bottles were intended to protect against bad spirits, these bottle house sculptures evoke a range of associations, from domesticity to transparency, containment to loss. For Howard, bottle houses are part of a centuries-old tradition and reflect her career-long interest in respecting and honoring her ancestors.

Clear Story is a monumental bottle house, temporarily installed at the Palo Alto City Hall King Plaza. The structure features thousands of intimately scaled clear glass bottles, fused together into brick forms (each one containing more than 500 bottles), as well as large glass bottles, all assembled into a wood frame. Inspiration for Clear Story came from the iconic Eichler architecture visible throughout Palo Alto. Howard appreciates architect Joseph Eichler’s interest in providing modernist architecture for everyone and his aesthetic of bringing the outdoors into the home. Like all of Howard’s bottle houses, Clear Story explores the unique quality of glass to reflect and refract light, drawing on the artist’s experience as an art and science educator at San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

Mildred Howard views the role of the artist as that of a storyteller. In telling her stories, she draws upon images and objects that are shaped by "memory, history, family, identity and place," often using found objects, photographs, as well as personal memorabilia. Howard’s bottle houses also suggest numerous narratives, both private and public. We often hear that "houses tell stories," and question what might happen, "if walls could speak." Clear Story reminds us of the power of buildings to contain and elicit, hide and reveal memories and stories.
A Bay Area native, Mildred Howard was born in San Francisco in 1945 and moved to Berkeley two years later. Her parents’ antique business and political activism helped to shape her artwork, teaching and community involvement. Howard is an accomplished artist whose work has been featured in exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC and the New Museum in New York, and is included in the collections of the Oakland Museum of California, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, and the San Jose Museum of Art.

Clear Story is presented in conjunction with the Palo Alto Art Center’s On the Road program during the Center’s renovation. On the Road programs are supported by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation through an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant. Detailed architectural drawings of the artist’s concept have been contributed by Anderson Anderson Architects, San Francisco. This project is co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Art Commission. Clear Story is presented courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco. The artist would like to thank Tim Yarish for his dedicated work on this project.

Video: Documentary film of the Mildred Howard Installation at King Plaza

Palo Alto Art Center Exhibition History 1971—2014

PDF: Palo Alto Art Center's Exhibition History.

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