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Weekend arts events: O'Keeffe and Moore, climate art and Mother's Day

 May 12, 2023 at 12:13 PM PDT

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. There's a new exhibit opening at the San Diego Public Library's Downtown Art Gallery that explores the environment and climate change. Here to discuss the art as well as a few other art and culture offerings in town , is KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , welcome.

S2: Hi , Jay. Thanks for having me.

S1: So I'm guessing that art about the environment means more than just nature landscapes. What kind of art can we expect to see in this show ? Good natured. Right.

S2: Right. So I think the first thing you'll notice is the range , because this is a group show. So there are 14 different regional artists and a lot of the pieces in the exhibit are on a really huge scale , So it'll feel really immersive as you walk through it. One of the artist , Timothy Murdock , has these hanging bright yellow PVC pipes that are sort of shredded and tangled as they pool on the floor. There's also Tatiana Ortiz Rubio , who has her huge charcoal cloud murals. So the work is really it's imaginative and it's also kind of playful , but it's definitely diverse. So there's textile works , there's sculpture , wood , digital things and some painting as well.


S2: And I think a lot of creative work like this is driven by whatever the artist finds unavoidable. And the climate crisis , the environment is definitely one of those things that's top of mind for a lot of people. Yeah.

S1: And you recently sat down with Tatiana Ortiz , Rubio and Bonnie Domingos , who run the arts program at the library to talk about how in some ways this art really is a form of activism.

S2: Right ? And I asked them about the same thing about the prevalence of the environment in art. And Bonni Dominguez , who is the curator of this exhibit , she said that this environmental crisis is one of those things that artists basically can't help but make art about. And here's an excerpt from that interview.

S3: We're defining this poly crisis , which includes ecology , economy , energy and equity. And I can't think of a more contemporary issue that is so paramount to everyone's lives and their futures. So I think environmental aspects are so critical into making and creativity that , you know , it's a hard subject to ignore for artists who deal with these aspects creatively and seek to process creatively.


S4: That's really the vein in my work. But it applies to the environment because just like Bonnie said , it is something that we can't ignore , that it's so present and thinking about the future , future of my children as a mother as well. The concept of time , thinking of so many ways it's been used , right ? How much time does it have left ? How much time do we have to fix something ? Are we running out of time ? So all these different ways of understanding time through nature and through ecology , I think that that's sort of where I fall into the discussion.

S2: Tatiana , can you describe your work that is in this exhibit ? Sure.

S5: This work is is a series of.

S4: Work that I created last year , and I was really focusing on the idea of what time is. And it's they're all drawings with charcoal and graphite with water. And I was in the process. I was exploring the experience of time passing. Yet I'm also thinking about time in so many other ways as I make them. So they're very intuitive , some of them. The title is The Moment that I finished them or started them , so it's very much about the time that I am in.

S2: And these these charcoal works to me , they look very much like clouds and it's it's a format that you're , you're known for.

S4: I should have mentioned about the clouds. It's funny because I think that the clouds began as an element that was very intentional and I was very conscious of what the cloud was as I was creating it , thinking of them as these perfect examples of the experience of time , something that is in constant change , impossible to define. Yet we do understand what it is , what it was before it became a cloud and what it will be when it stops being a cloud. So I've always been very interested in all the things that you can. I guess , apply to what a cloud is. It's so poetic and yet so literal in a way. But it also has allowed me to explore it in a more abstract way and given me freedom to to play with my materials.

S2: And how did these works in your eyes ? How do they connect to being an intervention about the climate crisis and how might that intervene for a viewer , someone who stumbles upon it ? Sure.

S4: I think that in several ways we can see them and we can interpret them in several ways through the climate crisis and what's happening with the environment. One big topic is the issue about the change in our inner weather , in the extremes that we've had. For example , in San Diego , the amount of rain we have this year and I was chasing clouds for months and just taking pictures and drawing and really aware of this change that is happening about cities and countries being swallowed up by the rising sea level. And so all of this is connected to how water clouds rain. All of this is changing throughout the the world right now. But also , again , I go back to the concept of time. It's it's how much time do we have left this exploring , this feeling of of time running out. We already know that as human beings were constantly aware of time running out , you know , that's always present in our lives in different things. But it's especially present , I think , in in the world today because of our of our climate crisis.

S2: And Bonnie , can you tell us about a few of the other works in this exhibit ? There's such a huge range sculpture and paintings.

S3: They're exploring an environmental cause or an ecological issue or an equity issue or economy issue. And the works are really addressing those fundamental themes in the exhibition. But some are having a paradoxical take on them somewhere literal. Others are more creative and imaginative and unruly. But it is definitely an immersive experience to the senses that really kind of ponders this question of how we act in this world when we are both the problem and the solution. And it gets us past this , you know , doom and gloom of talking about the climate crisis and all the intricacies of that. I hope the exhibition will kind of give us a catharsis , a way to engage with the topic , but in a playful and accessible way that brings us to the issue rather than creates this atmosphere of impossibility.

S2: I want to switch gears a little bit here. Tatiana , you're you're a muralist and murals are inherently public art regardless of who commissioned them or where they are. And this exhibit is at the San Diego Public Library. Can you talk about your relationship with public art and these public community spaces like libraries ? Sure.

S5: Yes.

S4: It has become just organically part of of my work , a very important part , which I have really loved. I think just being from Mexico , we have this idea of public art being essential to a culture. And so I think it it makes sense that I ended up doing it and being here in the community of San Diego and being able to show now in the in the library , I actually went to drop off my work and I guess this can summarize the experience. It just allows you , when you work publicly or show public in public spaces , it allows you to really engage with the community , not just through the artwork , but through just being there physically by like when I dropped off the artwork , I had to walk in. I waited outside as they open the doors and for example , the homeless people outside waiting. And this crisis we have in San Diego and just witnessing the service that it does , this beautiful service of this institution filled with knowledge and peace inside because you feel it right away when you go in. There's this peace , this quietness that people need in their soul. And just knowing that everybody's going to be able to access the artwork , it just feels like a fitting space to talk and have this conversation about the environment that affects all of us.

S1: Yeah , and something that she said that is so important , Julia is making art accessible and I think , you know , having art in these public spaces really does that , right ? Absolutely.

S2: Especially a place like the library downtown. Yeah.

S1: Well , how can people check this exhibit out ? Right.

S2: So it's on the. It's in the fine art gallery at the downtown library on the ninth floor. This beautiful space. The art gallery has slightly different hours than the public library , but it opens on Saturday and there's going to be a reception from 3 to 5.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hyndman. We're speaking with KPBS arts producer Julia Dixon Evans about what's going on in arts and culture this weekend. So , Julia , this one seems like a big deal. A major exhibit of work by artist Georgia O'Keeffe , shown alongside British sculptor Henry Moore at the San Diego Museum of Art. What's the connection between these two ? Right.

S2: So I think most everyone has known or seen Georgia O'Keeffe's works at least peripherally , and these evocative close up flowers and Southwestern landscapes. But I personally was not familiar with Henry Moore until hearing about this exhibition. He's a British sculptor and while O'Keeffe is an American painter. But they both lived around the same time. They were both similarly working in modernism , but their work has never been exhibited together until now. And what I love is the way that the pairing of these two shows off their use of natural forms like landscapes , but also the shapes of bones and skulls against landscapes. There's definitely flowers in this exhibit too. Of course , there's also a lot of figures and bodies , but then O'Keeffe's paintings and Moore has a lot of figure sculptures too. And just seeing all these works together , the the curves and the lines , it all seems really coherent , kind of like they were all made to be shown together in the first place. It's curated by Standing a Museum of Art's Anita Feldman , and it opens on Saturday. Then after it closes here , that'll be late August. It tours to a couple of other places in North America , including in New Mexico , where Georgia O'Keeffe made her home. Hmm.

S1: Hmm. That sounds really interesting , especially the idea of having bones and skulls against the landscape of flowers.

S2: A lot of people think of it as abstract art , but one of the things that I see in O'Keeffe's work is like idealism of human nature and also the environment. It's really beautiful.

S1: All right. In this weekend is Mother's Day.

S2: But there are a couple of actual family centered things at there , too. City Ballet is one. They're doing a kid friendly performance on Sunday of Alice in Wonderland. It's fully child friendly , but it's still classical ballet. With Tchaikovsky's score and the sets and the costumes on this one are really fun. They're recognizable for kids. From the Lewis Carroll story is that the Joan Kroc Theater in Orlando ? And all tickets are $25 and kids aged two and under are free. If they can sit on your lap and don't need them on seats. And there will also be a few pre-show and intermission activities to keep your little ones engaged.

S1: All right. And in visual art , the Museum of Contemporary Art , San Diego in La Jolla , they've got something special going on. Tell me about that.

S2: Yeah , it's like a mother's Day version of their free play day. So museum admission is free all day for anyone. Plus , if you have younger kids , there'll be some slingshot making activities. That's inspired by artist Griselda Rosas. She has these giant slingshots that are on display at the museum. And to tie it all together , Rosa's work is super informed by her own motherhood. She actually collaborated with her younger son on some of the pieces that are on display at the museum. So yay , moms. This is all from 10 to 4 on Sunday.

S1: I don't know if I should say thanks for that or what do you think ? And I.

S6: Don't know.

S1: Slingshots , just what the kids need to learn how to make. All right. Lots of great stuff happening this weekend , and I appreciate it , Julia. You can find details on all of these and more arts events at Arts. And again , Julia , thank you.

S2: Thank you , Jade. Have a good weekend and happy Mother's Day.

S1: Happy Mother's Day to you , too.

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An undated photo of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Pelvis with Distance" (1943). The piece will be on view at the San Diego Museum of Art through Aug. 27, 2023.
An undated photo of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Pelvis with Distance" (1943). The piece will be on view at the San Diego Museum of Art through Aug. 27, 2023.

The San Diego Public Library’s “Good Natured: Art & the Environment” exhibit is opening at their downtown art gallery this Saturday. It explores the environment and climate change.

KPBS/Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans speaks with Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio and curator Bonnie Domingos about what to expect from the exhibition. Plus, she shares other arts events happening this Mother’s Day weekend, including a new Georgia O’Keefe and John Moore exhibit.


Julia Dixon Evans, KPBS/Arts producer and editor

Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio, visual artist and adjunct faculty at University of San Diego

Bonnie Domingos, Library Arts & Culture Exhibitions Manager at San Diego Public Library