Tag Archives: California

Artist Feature: Vernell Anthony Davis

Vernell Anthony Davis

Response is the feeling you get once your moment of reflection hits and many times you catch yourself jotting ideas for that next project or tweaks to make your craft better.

– Vernell Anthony Davis

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at? 

VAD: I was born at Oakland Kaiser and raised in between Berkeley and Oakland for the most part of my life. I have a gigantic family and a majority of them reside in Berkeley so most of my days were spent being exposed to all walks of life and being influenced by different cultures and ways of living. I grew up going to Church, Jewish Synogugoes, Toast Masters and doing various activities because my parents believed in exposing us to the world and letting us build our own story. We made our mark in Berkeley by owning one of the best Barbeque restaurants in the East Bay called KC’s Barbeque. I don’t come from your typical city boy background. We’ve really taken on this whole western style meets city life by having a southern style barbeque restaurant and owning an entire ranch with horses, pigs and chickens. Once I graduated from Berkeley High School I made my way down to Los Angeles where I lived for almost seven years while also traveling to various countries like Spain, Morocco, India & Sri Lanka. I recently found myself back to the familiar streets and neighborhoods that started it all for me. Berkeley will always be home for me but I’ve found myself longing to venture out into the unknown once again.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

VAD: My definition of reflection is everything that has influenced and gotten me to the position I’m in today. Reflection is my DNA, my purpose, meditation, my peace and joy. Reflection is the gathering of thoughts and mapping out a plan of pursuit.

After reflection naturally you respond and build on the inspiration. Response is everything thats impacted your life and caused things to transpire the way they do. Response is the feeling you get once your moment of reflection hits and many times you catch yourself jotting ideas for that next project or tweaks to make your craft better. Hearing certain instruments and notes in a song can really strike a chord in you. You can’t help but respond to good music.

How does your song Lavish fit in with that definition?

VAD: I recently wrote a song titled Lavish. I was sitting in my friend Sam’s room having never written in my life and he says, “hey start singing to these chords” and proceeds to pick at the guitar. The feeling was pretty weird. The song is just a reflection of my feelings on paper. I was so accustomed to singing songs by other artists and portraying how they felt but once you write your own it brings you that much closer to the music. I found that I enjoyed the writing process and I learned that so many things can come from it. I anticipate writing more.

Lavish is a song about your current or future love. I want my wife to know that she’s the one I was destined to be with and the one I vow to love forever. I don’t want her to feel as though she’s alone on the journey but to know that I’m going to lavish her with love every day of the rest of my life. I know many partners in relationships may carry doubts that their significant other really loves them or if they’re just going with the flow of things until a better opportunity springs forward. This is a song to reassure one’s love and to encourage that person to walk in confidence. You are loved.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Sydwox

Sydwox

Like “Indra’s Net” or a spider’s web full of dew drops, each dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops, in a game of infinite reflection, we are all connected. Response is the act that we’ve chosen, (whether physical, mental, or verbal) to communicate with one another.

– Sydwox

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

S: I go by my undocumented moniker Sydwox, but most of my artist friends call me Wox. I was raised on the central coast of California in a small surfer beach town called Los Osos. I currently reside in San Francisco, and have been in love with the Bay Area ever since I moved here in 2004. After studying visual effects for film at Gnomon (a Hollywood based private school), I turned my back on the digital world to pursue my true passion of painting surrealism and graffiti. Although I am constantly influenced by my technical background, there’s nothing better than getting your hands dirty and the fresh smell of tiny aerosol paint molecules colliding with the wall without permission. 🙂

Sydwox - Over Creation

Sydwox – Over Creation

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

S: Reflection for me means looking within oneself to find that we are all just one reflection of each other, beneath the surface differences, one organism revolving through space on this craft called Earth. Like “Indra’s Net” or a spider’s web full of dew drops, each dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops, in a game of infinite reflection, we are all connected. Response for me is the act that we’ve chosen, (whether physical, mental, or verbal) to communicate with one another. Using all our senses we perceive what exists outside ourselves and depending on how a particular vibration resonates within us we choose a way to answer to our perceptions.

Sydwox - DaVine Apprehension

Sydwox – DaVine Apprehension

How does your piece “DaVine Apprehension” fit in with that definition?

S: In “Davine Apprehension” a vandal barely escapes injury or arrest when his artistic depiction of nature comes alive and constrains the institutional enforcer trying to stop him. This piece for me was a fun way to reflect on several experiences I had dealing with the authorities for the way I chose to respond to social issues through public self expression or “street art.” The creation of this painting helped me release a lot of anger while making light of the age old game of cat & mouse.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

S: I just started working on my first canvas after a two year break where I focused entirely on murals and wheat pasting. I didn’t plan on taking this long of a break from my paint brush but I’m very excited to see what results from two years of built-up inspiration and life experience. Looking ahead, I’m working on a series painted entirely on rusted found objects and I am in the process of lining up several live-painting sessions at various venues in SF as well as a few music festivals in 2015.

Sydwox - SF Hands

Sydwox – SF Hands

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Joanna Poz-Molesky

Joanna Poz-Molesky

JUNTOS addresses the need for human connections to inspire one another to create positive change and simultaneously to heal suffering…By using community outreach in art, I hope to offer expression, inspiration, healing, sharing, and most importantly, love.

– Joanna Poz-Molesky

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

JPM: I was born in Berkeley, California and currently reside in Oakland. Although I spent most of my life there, I’ve also lived in Guatemala and New York City. 

I recognize that as artists, we all share part of our story and message. I was born into a bi-cultural household – my father a Maya from a rural village in the Guatemalan highlands who finished high school, my mother an ex-nun with her Ph.D from a middle-class San Francisco family. I realize that as a bi-cultural woman, life presents me with wonderful opportunities to experience the richness and understandings of various heritages as well as offers me possibilities to communicate with these cultures. I recognize art as my way of celebrating my heritage as well as sharing my knowledge, especially with those living in isolation.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

JPM: I really do believe that if anything has a chance to create a more peaceful world, it’s art. We don’t decide to be artists: we are called. Our voices are all so different – each stemming from past experiences, how we view our environment, time we share with individuals, and cultures we are surrounded by – but each voice speaks to its own truth. We have a responsibility to respond to hate, violence, and pain we humans bring this world. If we use our varying voices to speak to these issues, we shine light that becomes truth and beauty. I have come to recognize artists as therapists for the soul, spiritual versions of chiropractors. Art is healing and we are its vessel. Sometimes, we too are the ones that are in need of this healing and when we create and share, we gain strength and knowledge.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

JPM: My work is not an individual piece of art. I founded and direct JUNTOS Collective – a non-profit dance company that empowers individuals and inspires community building across national boundaries with a strong focus in Latin America through teaching, learning, and exchanging dance.

JUNTOS Collective

JUNTOS Collective

JUNTOS addresses the need for human connections to inspire one another to create positive change and simultaneously to heal suffering. It is the first collective comprised of university students at various competitive dance conservatories dedicated to creating community across international borders through dance. In partnering with various communities in Central America and the United States, JUNTOS introduces an innovative method in which participants maintain and strengthen national and international relationships while encouraging individuals to become persons serving others. JUNTOS recognizes the many problems humanity faces and attempts to reconcile differences, offering a new method to create change.

JUNTOS Collective

JUNTOS Collective

By using community outreach in art, I hope to offer expression, inspiration, healing, sharing, and most importantly, love. Being in love does not consist of loving everything; being in love with life and with what you do exerts kindness, imagination, drive, how you live your life and can lead to a compassionate and honest world. I propose to offer a piece of this love with my company. I hope to inspire others to share love, weave communities, people, and differences together to create a more peaceful world.

JUNTOS Collective

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Danny Lubin-Laden

Danny Lubin-Laden

I have always been fascinated by the power of having a [brass] band that is able to play on the street with no amplification and have such a moving effect on the audience.

– Danny Lubin-Laden

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

DLL: I grew up in Berkeley California, and I’m currently living in the Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland, California. I spent about 6 years living in New York, where I was studying music and working. In July I moved back to the Bay Area.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

DLL: I think Reflection and Response are very interrelated in the field of arts. Reflection as a musician and composer is super important to artistic growth. I look back frequently at songs and sketches of songs during my time with Brass Magic and really try to dissect the song, identifying my original voice and separating it from my attempt to recreate a sound that I had heard elsewhere. Both are super important to tap into. I’m always reflecting and analyzing and using those perspectives as a basis from which to respond by pushing forward. I’m always looking to hone my craft and achieve a more original sound. Luckily with Brass Magic, we function more as a collective, so we are able to bounce ideas off each other.

How does your piece Continuous Movements fit in with that definition?

DLL: Continuous Movements was one of the first songs I wrote for Brass Magic. I’ve revised it many, many times but I think it is a super solid example of the sound the band was developing. It is a prime example of how reflection and response has been important to what we do. When I first wrote the song it had somewhat of a New Orleans brass band feel. Over time I have tweaked it so much that it no longer sounds anything like that. It’s still definitely danceable, but the horn writing is completely different from something you would hear in New Orleans. I feel as though the most important thing in music for me is to try and build off the music I love and not to repeat or recreate it. This has been why Brass Magic continues to evolve.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

DLL: Brass Magic is currently working on putting out another EP. This will most likely be something we just put out online. We printed our first CD in September 2013 and since then we have really focused on writing a whole new songbook for the band. I feel as though the sound of the band is the strongest it’s ever been. We have really dissected what we are doing and what we want to be doing more of.

In addition to playing with Brass Magic I have also been working on music with Kaila McIntyre-Bader, the awesome singer in the band Big Tree. She is such a talented songwriter with such a terrific voice, that I’m having a great time writing songs with her. Hopefully we will be putting out songs this year. We are still trying to come up with a band name that fits the music we make.

Who or what inspires you?

DLL: I am inspired by a wide variety of things. I grew up studying jazz and that became my whole world. I was blown away by the power of improvisation and its ability to transform a song and take it to the next, highly idiosyncratic level. We are still trying to integrate the aspects of jazz that we value into Brass Magic. Although jazz was once dance music, some of its danceability has been lost over the years. We are trying to capture some of those powerful rhythms in our music.

I also love brass band music, whether it be all of my favorite New Orleans bands or the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. I have always been fascinated by the power of having a band that is able to play on the street with no amplification and have such a moving effect on the audience.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

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Artist Feature: Annie Rigney

Annie Rigney

[As a dancer] I enjoy putting myself in physical situations where I’m not sure how my body will respond. For example, allowing myself to be perpetually off balance, no matter how subtly,  in order to be in a constant state of fall and recovery, where each action that follows is a response to the previous one.

– Annie Rigney

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: I grew up in Berkeley, California on sunshine, meyer lemons, and an infinite number of ballet classes. I majored in dance performance and choreography at SUNY Purchase, in New York and after graduating, moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, to follow my dreams of dancing with the Batsheva Ensemble. This led me to a contract with Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, the following year, with whom I had the opportunity to tour and travel the world. We performed in theaters in Israel, Norway, Macau, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Japan, Malta and the U.S.. After almost 4 years abroad, I’m finally back living in Brooklyn, New York, a place that is home to many of the people I love.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: I think that reflection and response are the essence of the artistic process. An artist reflects on his or her experiences and feelings, and then funnels them through whatever medium he or she chooses, be it music or paint or movement, in order to create a piece of work: a response.

What interests me most about this question, is understanding the ways in which I use reflection and response in my body when I dance. When I think of the word “Response”, I think of my nervous system and my sensory system and how they respond to stimuli. How this response of the nervous system creates an instantaneous action; a movement. I’m interested in making myself available for things to happen to me when I move– for my body parts to affect and respond to each other. For example, if I rotate my forearm far enough, the rotation of the shoulder and the twisting of my spine are both almost inevitable responses. It’s a chain of events that happens out of necessity. I enjoy putting myself in physical situations where I’m not sure how my body will respond. For example, allowing myself to be perpetually off balance, no matter how subtly,  in order to be in a constant state of fall and recovery, where each action that follows is a response to the previous one.

Similarly, “reflection” can be a look back or a processing of something that has already occurred, but it has another meaning–it can be an echo. The act of reflection in sound is when a sound wave bounces off of a surface and returns. Movement can behave in the same way. It can create an echo. I’m interested in riding this echo; listening to the memory and resonance of an action in my body and allowing my whole sensory system to process it. I often ask myself “What does the movement feel like?” while I’m performing, to help keep me in the moment. Cold, tense, empty, sweaty, or powerful, these are all physical sensations that have abstract connections to emotion. I guess the ultimate point of it all in dance, is that an audience gets an emotional response to viewing the physical events happening within the body of the performer. Ideally, it makes the viewer feel something. Feel alive.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AR: I’m in the very early stages of a solo for myself…it’s untitled at the moment.  After becoming so deeply embedded in the community and aesthetic of Israeli modern dance, I now find myself back in New York, with an ocean separating me from the dancers and people who formed and defined most of my professional career thus far. Now I feel I can begin the real process of reflection. From this distance, I can decide what in my dancing I want to hold on to and take with me. What was someone else’s vision of me, and what is my own? I think in the research for this solo, I’m trying to understand myself in this new context of NYC. How will I chose to move, now that I am filled with  knowledge that I didn’t have 4 years ago, last time I was New York? It will be a solo about sorting and searching and re-searching. Unwinding myself and my habits or familiarities. The time I’m spending in the studio is really just an exploration of how I want to move now. I hope that the solo will be some sort of  response or answer to the questions I’m posing for myself. But we’ll see! I’m more interested in what I don’t know yet…

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

AR: I’ve been working as a practitioner in a method of therapeutic bodywork called the Ilan Lev Method. I am very excited to introduce the Ilan Lev method to New York as it’s mostly being practiced in Israel and is fairly unknown over here. I fell in love with the work during my time in Israel, and I find it to be revolutionary in the way that it can help people who are suffering from pain, as well as being a source of never-ending inspiration for my work as a dancer and choreographer.

Annie Rigney - Ilan Lev

In the method, we use gentle movement to create a rich and thoughtful dialogue between the patient and the practitioner. In this way, new maps and pathways are formed between the body parts and movement is restored to parts of the body where communication was cut off or blocked, due to pain, injury, or emotional obstacles. From Ilan, my teacher, I learned that the body has immense capabilities to heal itself, that pain is not an enemy but an indicator that there is a problem, and that movement can surpass physical limitations, break down emotional barriers and undo old patterns or habits. The possibilities are endless when you learn to let go, and when you release yourself into mess (“Ballagan” in Hebrew) and chaos. From chaos we can find the things we didn’t even know we didn’t know; a possibility will arise that wasn’t there before, a possibility that is usually the solution to the pain. The method has also taught me the value of laziness—something that many years of dance instruction was specifically designed to combat. Now I understand that laziness is a wonderful tool we possess to actually become more efficient. To do less, and with less effort, and to get bigger results. It’s something that’s very important to hold on to and remember in a city as busy and hectic as New York.

I recently started dancing for LeeSaar the Company, and I’m happy to see where it will take me. Lee Sher and Saar Harari are a couple of Israeli choreographers who started a dance company in Israel, and in 2004, brought their company here to New York. Beginning to work for Lee and Saar has made many things in my life come full circle. I left New York immediately after graduating to dance with the Batsheva Ensemble, where they train in Gaga- a movement language rooted in sensation-based improvisation, with no mirrors and no pre-determined form. When I joined Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, the work took me into a different direction entirely. Pinto and Pollack’s bizarrely imaginative and magically twisted aesthetic allowed me to explore my theatrical side. I found parts of myself hidden in mysterious characters and ways to stretch my body’s ability to tell a story. Working with LeeSaar feels like a sort of strange homecoming. I’m coming home to the States, where I can speak the language more fluently, and I’m returning to the movement language of Gaga: the raw and textured aesthetic that first grabbed my imagination and ripped me quickly away from the world of ballet. It’s a welcome comfort for me in this new chapter to wake up each morning and begin the day with an hour of Gaga- or a meditation on my bones, my flesh, and my groove.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Erica Hellerstein

Erica Hellerstein is a Bay Area-based journalist who we’ve known since attending high school together back in the day in Berkeley. She has contributed to and published stories from around the globe, from Central California to Chile. She highlights the importance of Reflection in her craft as the ability to find universal themes within circumstantial details of a story. She exhibits this approach in a current piece on cervical cancer in South Texas, exploring central ideas of womanhood and resistance. Throughout our dialogue she discusses various other projects including an investigative narrative piece exploring the use of the abortion pill misoprostol, and a radio documentary about Curanderas in the Bay Area. We’re excited to have an engaging talk with this craftswoman tough on her grind! 

Erica Hellerstein

Reflection is the process of distillation. It’s the opposite of reflex, of the reactive tweet or the fiery text. Reflection forces me unpack my impulses. As a journalist, it’s probably one of the most important and satisfying muscles that I can exercise.

– Erica Hellerstein

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

EH: I was born and raised in the Bay Area, in a trendy, club-friendly corner of the East Bay called Kensington. After High School, I moved to the East Coast , where I stayed for several years. It was terrible. Everything was grey and frigid and even the wind howled more despairingly. Now, I’m happy to report that I’m finally back in California, wrapping up a graduate program at UC Berkeley.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

EH: I like this question because I’m sure I would have had answered it very differently had you thrown it my way a year and a half ago. I think that reflection and response will mean different things to me at different times. Right now, I am in a transitional period, and have genuinely no idea what I’ll be doing five months down the road — which makes the process of mindful reflection difficult. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get bogged down in the uncertainties and transience of my life, and this maddening tendency I have to beat myself up over matters I can’t control. When I’m constantly on the go, sometimes I forget to stop, look around, and relish the volatility of it all.

So for me, reflection is the process of distillation. It’s the opposite of reflex, of the reactive tweet or the fiery text. Reflection forces me unpack my impulses. As a journalist, it’s probably one of the most important and satisfying muscles that I can exercise. Without a process of reflection, my pieces wouldn’t have depth or universality. For me, it takes careful reflection and contemplation of the human spirit, to understand the stories that really pack punches. The ones that transcend time, place, identity, gender, nationalism, and religion — these are the pieces that endure and connect people across virtual bridges. Certainly it’s my aspiration as a writer and a journalist to tell universal stories. I think that reflection is the vantage point through which I can suspend my complicated identity and simply observe.

Now response, that’s easier for me. As you can probably tell, I’ve always been a talker. To me response feels natural, it’s what I do. Response means telling a story. It’s reflection digested — and I love to eat.

How does your writing fit in with that definition?

EH: Sometimes I view writing as a birthing process. I’ve created some deeply embarrassing babies — think angst-ridden college memoirs and romanticized articles about revolution in Latin America — so it’s hard for me to go back  to stories I’ve already produced and analyze them through the prism of reflection and response. Instead, I’m going to flip this question around and talk to you about a piece I’m working on that embodies this definition. Just to keep you on your toes, Peter.

So right now I’m writing a story about incredibly high cervical cancer rates in South Texas. It sounds like a terribly depressing story, and in some ways, it is. Or it would have been if I hadn’t reflected on the real story, which isn’t a doom-and-gloom piece about cancer. The real story is about women. And resistance. About a fascinating and inspiring group of of educators who are driving from slum to slum in South Texas, teaching women about their bodies and how to prevent cervical cancer and other reproductive health problems in spite of family planning clinic closures.

There are certainly elements of this story that are unsettling, raw, and unfair. There’s a community that has been forgotten by our health care system, and a group of women who are suffering because of that. There are children who are losing their mothers because they can’t afford to get regular check-ups, and there are families who are moving back to dangerous border towns in Mexico because they can’t get their health care needs met here.

But this is exactly where reaction and response came in. From afar, I thought it would be an incredibly sad and terrible story to work on. But when I got to South Texas and shadowed the health educators, driving from home to home on dusty, unpaved streets, I realized that my preconceived notions about the community and situation were completely wrong. It wasn’t depressing. The women couldn’t change the cards that they were dealt, but they were absolutely changing the ways that they played the hand. They were responding, reacting. The health situation there is still dire but they don’t think about it in a fatalistic way.  It was humbling to for  me realize just how wrong I was about the situation. Those are the moments that make me want to continue doing this work — when I realize how much I have left to learn. 

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

EH: I’m working on a lot of projects right now. First off is my master’s thesis, which is a long, investigative narrative piece about the use of the (in some countries, illegal) abortion pill, misoprostol, in South Texas, where all of the abortion clinics have shut down. In many states in the US, it’s not legal to take this pill to induce your own abortion. It’s really a profile of this pill — an exposition of its lifeline. It has a fascinating history, it was discovered by women in Brazil in the ’80s to induce abortions and became wildly popular. My story follows the pill around the world and is rooted in Texas, where there are these parts of the state without abortion clinics that have basically turned into these pro Roe v. Wade wastelands. It’s rumored that misoprostol is sold illegally in South Texas flea markets, and I went undercover at the markets in search of the pill. You’ll have to read the piece to see what ultimately ended up happening.

I’m also working on a 30-minute radio documentary about Mexican folk healers, or Curanderas, in the Bay Area. There’s a really vibrant movement of female healers in the Bay that have all coalesced together in recent years. Nobody quite knows how it happened, but my documentary explores this group of healers and how they integrate their ancient practices with the modern. It also follows the story of a young woman who recently found out that her grandmother was a Curandera in Mexico, and is sort of exploring her own past by learning more about this tradition.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Valerie Wilson

Valerie Wilson is a visual artist and educator based in San Francisco. We first met when she was working with students at Alchemia, an arts program for adults with developmental disabilities. In our dialogue, she comments on the conscious and subconscious nature of Reflection, and the unique uses of these Reflections that each person chooses as their Response. Valerie chooses to reflect through art as a “healing interpretation,” of her world, as she describes with her print, The Royal Rooster, dealing with mixed emotions of a past relationship. Check out Valerie’s ideas in more detail below and snapshots from her printmaking process!

Valerie Wilson

Either consciously or subconsciously, people are processing their surroundings, their past, present, & future every single moment of the day. What one does with their reflection(s) is completely subjective, but unanimously response is a direct reaction to reflection (and visa versa).

– Valerie Wilson

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

VW: I’m originally from Sebastopol, a small town in Northern California infused with wine, liberals, and art.  In 2005 I moved to San Francisco, and have set up a semi-permanent fort there.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

VW: Either consciously or subconsciously, people are processing their surroundings, their past, present, & future every single moment of the day. What one does with their reflection(s) is completely subjective, but unanimously response is a direct reaction to reflection (and visa versa). Reflection and response are symbiotic with each other, for every action there is a reaction, creation is what happens when these two work together (which is all the time).

Valerie Wilson - The Royal Rooster

Valerie Wilson – The Royal Rooster

How does The Royal Rooster fit in with that definition?

VW: I’m incredibly detailed oriented and love symmetry, but besides that, my artistic process is very lackadaisical erring on the side of intuitiveness. My most complex pieces have surfaced during equally complex life events. Without a doubt I’d say that my work is a creative and healing interpretation of my world & existential well-being. My art is interchangeable between Reflection and Response, and is definitely fueled by both concepts. The Royal Rooster is the romanticization of a past partner. In the spring of 2011 I started carving and designing this bird after a breakup with someone I truly respected but equally despised. He (the rooster) is so tall and proud and beautiful while simultaneously reiterating his haughtiness and unattainability. Of course, I come to realize this only retrospectively, but see this piece as an obvious phoenix rising from the ashes of a failed (but cherished) relationship.

Valerie Wilson - The Royal Rooster (Process)

Valerie Wilson – The Royal Rooster (Process)

Valerie Wilson - The Royal Rooster (Process)

Valerie Wilson – The Royal Rooster (Process)

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Marc Stretch

Marc Stretch is a renaissance man based in Oakland, California that we were fortunate enough to meet through producer Wax Roof, a recent Feature Series contributor. Marc has been an important player in the Bay Area music scene for some time, and he’s currently involved with several groups including Foreign Legion, Big Willie Dynamite, Handclap Technicians, and a bunch of other dope projects. In addition to being a masterful craftsman of the art of rhyming, Marc keeps the dance floor crackin’ as a video DJ throughout the Bay, and is expanding his repertoire with more video and photography projects in the future. Marc’s perspective on Reflection centers on the idea of returning equal energy that comes your way, while Response is a more developed and better articulated plan of action. Check below to see how he approaches R & R in his music and Reflects on the evolving nature of his work.

Marc Stretch

Marc Stretch | Photo by Leo Docuyanan

Reflection is returning the same energy to a situation that is aimed at you…Response is what happens when you take the energy of a situation, take a moment to think over the possible repercussions of options that you have, and articulate a plan and put it into action.

– Marc Stretch

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MS: I’m originally from Ft. Dix, New Jersey (born in Huntsville, Alabama) but I’m currently resting my sneaker collection and bacon addiction in the lovely city of Oakland, California.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MS: To me, they’re opposite sides of the same coin. Reflection is returning the same energy to a situation that is aimed at you. If somebody directs anger towards you, you respond with anger. If a situation directs peace towards you, you direct peace towards the situation. Response is the other side of that. Response is what happens when you take the energy of a situation, take a moment to think over the possible repercussions of options that you have, and articulate a plan and put it into action. That’s response to me.   

How does your music fit in with that definition?

MS: I feel like all the music I make is the result of inherited reflections and informed responses. I am a result of every thing that has happened to me, every person I’ve met and every word I’ve ever heard. Sometimes, that means that you’re going to get the instinctive Reflection side of me in a song. Those songs tend to speak to where we’ve been or where we are in the moment. Sometimes, I’ll make the Response which is usually focused on where I feel we need to go.

Traditionally I’m known as a goofy rap guy or a battle MC, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the opportunity grow and express myself in a more mature and honest way. Not saying that the party MC wasn’t me, because I’ve torn down plenty of stages and wrecked plenty of hotel rooms. It’s just that the older I get, the more I realize that the “goofy rap” box is just way too small for me.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MS: Man…. Quiet is kept, I’ve been pretty busy. I just released the 2nd album for my group, Big Willie Dynamite along with my brothers Mondo and raysthebar. It’s called Joes vs. Pros and we’ve been rocking shows to support it. We’re currently finishing up our next album (untitled at this time) and working on the visual side of that. I’m also working with Prozack Turner on our next release as Foreign Legion. We’re getting ready to shoot a video that I’ll be co-producing and co-directing. We’re considering releasing a limited edition 45, for all the vinyl heads. Next, I’m working on a solo record with production from myself, Rice4Ever, Unjust, Flight 27, raysthebar and a few other friends. I’ve got some guest appearances from people that I’m close to like Danjres Will Robinson, Ariane Mitchell, Mondo, and Lowbrow The Hypnotic. The record is tentatively being called Marc’d for Def.

Oh… Just for the record, I tend to only work with people I actually know and like. The way music is now, it’s not really to your advantage to work with somebody just cause they are hot. It doesn’t matter. Make good music. Speaking of good music, I’ve got an album done and waiting to be mastered with the indomitable G Koop called Instruction Manual. Together we’re known as Handclap Technicians. Most recently, I’ve started working on a project with my dude Wax Roof and I’m crazy excited to get that done and get that in the hands of the people. He’s a young dude that is super talented and hungry to make great music. He’s definitely one of the best kept secrets in the Bay. He doesn’t know but we’re gonna call the album Paisley Paint Job and the group is going to be called The Corduroy Boys.

In addition to all of the recording that I’ve been doing, I’m also rocking live monthly with the G Koop and O-man Band on the first Friday of every monthI’m also Video DJing for my night on Second Saturdays called #FUTURESHOCK along with Deejay Saurus and DJ Halo as well as some one-off gigs around the Bay. Both of these gigs happen at Prozack’s place, The Legionnaire Saloon.

I also caught the photo bug from my girls Adza Adrienne and Araya Diaz, which is kind of a return to my roots since my Dad was an amateur photographer and I used to work with him. I was in charge of developing the film, back when you actually had to develop film to make pictures. I’ve been refining that in my somewhat spare time.

On top of aaaaalllll that, I’ve been flexing my athletic prowess by playing adult Kickball for WAKA. Yes…. I said kickball. I’ve won more than a couple local championships and even went to the Nationals, in Las Vegas.

What am I working on next?  Well, along with the audio projects, I’m really excited to be working on more video projects. I’ve already done a comedy film with Prozack (shot by Tim Nolan and Dave Medina) called Night Moves and I’ve shot some music videos with the likes of Roy Miles and Behn Fanin. I recently shot my own video for a song called Ready2Fly and that was really when the video bug bit me. I’m working on videos for some songs for my solo record and starting treatments for a Foreign Legion joint and some of the Corduroy Boys songs too. I’ve also been talking to Nightclubber Lang from Boom Bap Project about a cooking variety show. We’re both culinary enthusiasts and feel like we can bring something to a younger generation of viewers.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Perry Young

Perry Young has been a dope actor and performer since we met back in Berkeley during our high school years, and he continues to tear up the stage in NYC and around the country, having recently performed as part of the musical In The Heights. Perry talks with us about the consciousness of reflection that leads to awareness in the present, while he views response as one’s intuition to get where they want to be. The Coming World, another one of his recent works, locates its characters in deep Reflective dialogue and Responsive action as they traverse difficult circumstances. Moving forward, Perry is also looking to work on an original web series dealing with his reality of moving to NYC as an artist. Check out the interview for more insight and info!

Perry Young

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

PY: Born and raised in Berkeley, CA. I’ve had the pleasure of living and performing in several cities and countries, as well as touring all over the US with the musical In The Heights. I’m currently growing my mustache in Brooklyn, NY.

In The Heights

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

PY: Reflection to me has an inherent feeling of the past, a look back on where I was and where I am today. There’s an almost meditative quality to reflection, a consciousness that you are aware of where you’re at in the world and how you got there. Response is your own gut feeling to where you are, where you want to be, and the steps you’re taking to get there. They’re both equally important – reflection being the potential energy and response the kinetic.

How does your work in The Coming World fit in with that definition?

PY: I recently worked on a play entitled “The Coming World.” The play largely dealt with the in-between – the words on the tip of your tongue that you just can’t seem to utter, and the actions that we lay awake at night thinking about but never take. It followed three characters and how they responded to the weight of their circumstances when they were pushed to the edge of reason. What are they willing to fight for, what do they regret about what they’ve done and how do they cope with loss? In that sense, the show very much can be broken down into Reflection and Response. There was a very reflective quality to the play as the characters dealt with certain tragedies that arose and their own responses/feelings of responsibility for what has happened in their lives.

The Coming World

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Max Nelson

Max Nelson is a Bay Area based web designer and visual artist. He has worked with various aspects of design including illustration, logos, and image layout. Max discusses the interconnected nature of Reflection and Response as the feedback loop between the brain and the images we encounter. He discusses the role of Reflection and Response in his piece Talking Type, and showcases a handful of other works from his archives.

Max Nelson

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MN: Berkeley, CA is where I was born and raised. Still basically just crushing it in the city of B-town…I need to GTF outta here.

Max Nelson - "Watercolor Fingertips"

Max Nelson – “Watercolor Fingertips”

Max Nelson - "Turquoise Gemstone"

Max Nelson – “Turquoise Gemstone”

 

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MN: Well a reflection is an aspect or image of a thing, cast onto another thing. A response is essentially a directed reaction. The two combined remind me of  like, a brain with an image projected onto it from like, a projector. The image is like a volcano or something.

Max Nelson - "Swept" (Click the image to check out the piece in full)

Max Nelson – “Swept” (Click the image to check out the piece in full)

How does your piece “Talking Type” fit in with that definition?

MN: I’ll choose the typographic guide ‘Talking Type’ – I did the marker version one night in college. It was probably about 3am, I’d been studying a shitload of typography, and with all that in my system (reflection), I busted that out in sharpie in like 15 min. (response). Years later I found the pages and liked them and decided to type them out in Photoshop.

Max Nelson - "Talking Type" (Click the image to check out the piece in full)

Max Nelson – “Talking Type” (Click the image to check out the typographic guide in full)

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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