CW at the Magritte by Hannah Duane

On the last Monday of September, Creative Writing made its way to SFMOMA to see the exhibit of Magritte’s late work. We met, excited in the lobby. Many students among us had already seen the show, were quick to tell us it was fantastic.

In the first two weeks of school, Creative Writing builds community by going on many field trips. Some of these excursions are purely enjoyment, such as our ritual swim in aquatic park, however many connect CW with the culture and art happening in our city. This year, we went to SFMOMA to see Selves and Others, a collection focusing on modern self portraits, as well as the De Young to see a Judy Dater photography show, and attended a reading at Booksmith to hear Thomas McBee, and finally, back to SFMOMA for the Magritte. After two weeks of talking about art and learning to further develop our vocabulary, this final show was our chance to take the art in on our own. Most of the Creative Writers went through slowly, and by themselves or with a few friends, talking about their opinions with each other, and occasionally stopping to write.

The show was set up across many rooms, each focusing on a different period in Magritte’s life. I very much enjoyed seeing his progression, and beginning to understand the themes and motifs Magritte found most interesting. As a writer, it was intriguing to see how these same techniques are applicable across art forms.

Magritte’s exploration scale, light, and weight most affected me. In the final room displayed a painting of a rock suspended over the sea. In this image, entitled “Clear Ideas,” the rock is the same size and shape a cloud above it, asking the eye to equate the images. However, while a cloud is light, and in its whiteness does not connote danger, the rock is menacing. It nearly represents rain, and yet the light coming from the position of the viewer illuminates the rock as quite solid.

I also enjoyed the way he captured light in the painting “Evening Falls.” This piece features a sunset behind a window frame with the fractured glass strewn around the floor. Though the glass, in reality, would show what is newly behind it, the shards depict the sunset as well. This surrealistic image invites the reader to question representation, and merge past and present visions.

I left the exhibit inspired to write surrealism and explore what themes I am drawn to in my own writing. It is easy, at a school full of artist to attempt to find clear lines between the different disciplines, however in reality, art is far more fluid than that, with a variety of forms in conversation.

Hannah Duane
Class of 2021

Soundtracks, by Huck Shelf

Recently, I attended the Soundtracks exhibit at SFMOMA along with the rest of the Creative Writing department. The show brings together works of art by a variety of artists that work with sounds and music. While CW makes it a habit to regularly go off-campus to see different art and cultural events, we went to this particular exhibit because we had been doing a unit based around music and writing.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a video installation called The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson, which lasted about forty-five minutes. In this piece, a band, scattered throughout different rooms in a Hudson Valley mansion (each shown on a different, life-sized screen), play a long interconnected piece of music, made up of three or four repeated phrases. As the song comes to an end, a cannon fires and the musicians join together and make their way outside the out where they continue to sing as they walk offscreen. I felt that thematically and conceptually, this work was very interesting, but I would’ve appreciated a slightly less repetitive musical procession.

There were other surrounding exhibits, all playing off of the idea of sound in modern art. One particularly interesting piece was a cloud of red wires. There were headphones hanging on the wall next to it, and anybody walking into this room put a pair on and turned it on. As you walked around the cloud, different industrial sounds would play. This made it seem like the cloud was a sort of conduit to some mechanical entity, or even just to technology.

The field trips are one of the coolest aspects of Creative Writing. We are exposed to art we wouldn’t otherwise see, and are able to experience it and discuss it in our tight community, Even if this particular exhibit didn’t grab me as much as some have, it was still an interesting art installation and a positive experience.

syn·es·the·sia by Arin Vasquez

Written in response to the CW trip to the new SFMOMA

a confusion of the senses. the painting looks like a song called taxi cab, like the sound of metal clinking against teeth, like what I wish I looked like from the inside.

splattered. new. it’s art in its most basic form – as many colors as will fit onto a single canvas, smudged and smeared and blown together and apart, a paintball fight, someone shutting their eyes and relaxing. color is an exceptional thing.

I sometimes meet colors that are anxious, sometimes ones that are angry. I have noticed that colors on their own are never happy. I think, maybe, my brain is trying to tell me something in that confusion, in that sensory experience.

don’t let yourself be alone. you will be so much alone, but never quite happy. that’s what the colors say.
calm, yes, excited. but never joyful.

that comes in patterns, in the way the paint is splattered onto this canvas, in the way my imagination sees joy in one hundred complementary colors that dance together, in the way a hummingbird’s wings sound like the smell of baking brownies.

home lives in color. that’s what entrances me most about art.

in the end, all it is is music on a canvas

all it is is a place to live in brightness

all it is is childhood and paint-smeared fingers and color, color, color

color everywhere.

by Arin Vasquez

Bruce Connor: It’s All True by Ren Weber

“I am an artist, an anti-artist, no shrinking ego, modest, a feminist, a profound misogynist, a romantic, a realist, a surrealist, a funk artist, conceptual artist, minimalist, postmodernist, beatnik, hippie, punk, subtle, confrontational, believable, paranoiac, courteous, difficult, forthright, impossible to work with, accessible, obscure, precise, calm, contrary, elusive, spiritual, profane, a Renaissance man of contemporary art, and one the most important artists in the world. My work is described as beautiful, horrible, hogwash, genius, maundering, precise, quaint, avant-garde, historical, hackneyed, masterful, trivial, intense, mystical, virtuosic, bewildering, absorbing, concise, absurd, amusing, innovative, nostalgic, contemporary, iconoclastic, sophisticated, trash, masterpieces, etc. It’s all true.”
–Bruce Conner

It’s All True at the SFMOMA is a collection of Bruce Conner’s work over fifty years as a Bay Area artist. It’s an almost overwhelming exhibit: a combination of experimental film, photographs, collages, paintings, etc. My vivid recollection of this exhibit is due not only to Conner’s ability to stretch far across many genres and medias, but also how well he carried it out.

His first film, A MOVIE, is a twelve-minute edit of old newsreels. The non-narrative film is similar to others in the collection: incorporating a washed-out, hazy black and white style and also having no story, rather a collection of images or one long shot. CROSSROADS, made in 1976, is an extremely slow-motion replay of an underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The intense slow-mo gives the audience room to capture every detail as the mushroom cloud descends towards the camera, expressing a deliberate destruction. Conner, who is clearly a fan of replaying and rewinding clips, includes this in BREAKAWAY, my favorite in the exhibit. The five-minute movie is a black and white rendition of Toni Basil (known for “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine”) dancing to her song, “Breakaway.” The entire film is made up of very quick shots of Basil, rapidly changing from close-up to far away, all moving quickly so she looks feathered and a flurry of white against the black background. When the song is done the clip and track rewind, becoming an eerie, indistinguishable gurgle.

Besides the films, Conner showcased his paintings and assemblages, which often include different textures created with netting or fabric layered on photo collages. These pieces as well as his ink drawings have a distinct color scheme: monochrome, dusty brown, or beige. The exhibit has a wall dedicated to punk rock show photos, appropriately gritty and faded, and in the next room the “angels,” gelatin silver prints of human silhouettes with hands outstretched towards us. These collections of photographs, as well as his avant-garde films, relay a signature style of white figures against a black background.

With many artists these days, I feel there is an underlying fear of “stretching oneself out too thin” in art. At SOTA, with separate departments, the idea is furthered that we should hone one art. However, if anything, Conner’s art disproves this in a way. His work is a full, vivid, synchronized range of art that surpasses the limitation of genres, blurring the lines and filling the gaps between them.

Ren Weber, class of 2018