Archive for January, 2008

A line is a line…

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

In my past artistic life I was a photographer. I transitioned to painting after many years as a commercial product photographer… a career that ultimately turned me off to working creatively in the field. Recently I re-visited some of my photographic work and made the realization that my first paintings were actually photographs. I completed a series of work in 1997 before graduating college entitled “The Central Freeway Project.” These photographs documented a stretch of freeway in San Francisco prior to its demolition. It was an empty battle scarred stretch of asphalt that ended abruptly and unceremoniously around Fell Street and disappeared soon after I completed the series. I’ve always loved these photos and can now see them as being as much a series of paintings as they are photographs. It’s always nice to look back at old work and find that not only do you still like it, but it holds true to your current vision. Here are a few photos from the series…
Center Divider, C-Print,1997
Center Divider, C-Print, 1997
Asphalt, C-Print,1997
Asphalt Marker, C-Print, 1997
Overlook, C-Print,1997
Overlook, C-Print, 1997

Welcome to Studio A.K.M…

Monday, January 28th, 2008

I love artist’s studios… they often contain eclectic and quirky personal collections curated by the artist to inspire oneself while working. Or to amuse oneself while procrastinating. They also contain a lot of junk, clutter and strange bits that are often not otherwise allowed in the house by significant others… or more importantly stuff that might pose a significant hazard to one’s pets or children. Or guests. More than anything, they become a sanctuary where everything from vintage buttons to trash bin furniture to hoards of expired film can coexist. My studio has been evolving over many years and many locations. It’s absolutely brimming with stuff… each piece hand picked and carefully stored, displayed, and adored over the years. I also have many small gifts that my friends have bestowed upon me knowing my affinity for curious artifacts. I wholeheartedly admit to an unabashed love affair with my studio that is not expected to end any time soon. I’m too entrenched and committed at this point. My only lament is the need for more space. and heat. sigh… someday. Since I’m always fascinated by other artist’s studios, I’ve decided to offer a glimpse into my own by listing 10 things it contains every week (or so). This should take a while…


1. old button display card
2. rock
3. shell
4. teapot
5. dried pods
6. box of ENTO PINS
7. mineral
8. dried rosette-like plant pods
9. shell from the ocean near my house (gift from artist teresa norris)
10. part from an old lamp

Pastels & Ochre love…

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Many of you know that I make a lot of my own pastels in my studio. Below is a photo of my last batch featuring raw pigments I purchased in the old ochre mining town of Roussillon, France. I hiked through one of the town’s retired ochre quarries which was admittedly something of a religious experience for someone like me. Walking in pigment, surrounded by pigment… leaving footsteps in pigment. The village surrounding the quarry is completely bathed in its signature ochre. It’s absolutely stunning.

In ochre stained shoes, I hand carried small jars of these pigments across Europe and back to the California coast where they illuminate my studio shelves and drawings… still radiating their original energy . These small glowing jars of powder form the foundation of my handmade pastels featured in so much of my work. With minimal fillers, they are as close a I can get to drawing with the source.

A bit about pastel making and my work:

I hand form a variety of shapes that lend themselves to different types of mark making. The triangular ones are particularly useful when I want a line with a hard edge. The small oval ones have my own forefinger and thumbprint impressions moulded into them that make them particularly comfortable to use… especially for filling in large areas of color and long drawing sessions. I make batches that include many values of the same color by introducing increasing quantities of white to the base pigment. This can quickly create a substantial palette from just a few core colors. The ability to customize every detail is one of the great advantages of making my own pastels and choices made in their formation ultimately influence the ease and fluidity at which my hand moves over the page.

“I’m not lost, I just forget sometimes…” 2005
I’ll return to pastel making in another post but for now, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the beautiful French ochre mining town of Roussillon… I have a feeling I will have a studio here someday.
above: one giant pastel! (note: colors have not been enhanced)

Fun fact: the great Samuel Beckett lived for a time in Roussillon and even mentions the village in “Waiting for Godot” …  Vladimir says to Estragon, “We were together in the Vaucluse. We did the vendenge for the Bonnelley’s at Roussillon.”

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Lots of things in the mix for the new year… I’ll be participating in some great shows all over the country as well as here in San Francisco so check back for upcoming dates and openings or sign up on my mailing list to have invites mailed to you.

Lately I’ve been working on many small works created for specific shows. It’s a lot of fun and often a challenge to have to work with someone else’s predetermined constraints rather than the free for all that I enjoy in my studio every day. But they’re great creative exercises… and they often lead to unexpected surprises that might turn out to be the beginnings of something more.

This past month has been all about small scale works… much smaller than I usually work with. Here’s a glimpse at what I’ve recently made and sent out to various shows:
Nest, 2007magic_1_web.gifheart_web.gifcrush_web.gifhelium_web.gifburn_web.gifhole_web.gifscribble_web.gifyellowonion_web.gifuntitled_lab_small_web.gifuntitled_lab_web.gif

The works above were from a small series I made for The Lab’s Post-Postcard 11 annual show in San Francisco. I titled the series “these small things…” and considered them studies or warm-up drawings for a large body of work I’m about to begin. They’re all roughly postcard size or smaller. I’m particularly fond of “nest” and “magic”. I did a larger version of “magic” for Artist’s Space Night of 1000 Drawings in NYC last month.

The following little piece was created for a show called “Sustaining our Environment” coming up at the WCA (Women’s Caucus for Art) conference in Fort Worth Texas this year. The theme of the show is postcards made out of recycled materials. They will be auctioned off to benefit the UN. My work is a collage made entirely of used coffee filters, old tea bags, and discarded tea bag string. I fell in love with this little piece and had a hard time parting with it as so often happens with art. I couldn’t help but embed my initials with stitching in the lower left corner of the work.

All images and content © 2004 - 2011 Alexis K. Manheim

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