Community, Make Things (Happen)

In Remembrance: Susan O’Malley

It is with immense sadness that I share that Susan O’Malley suddenly passed away.

Susan was an artist, curator, and member of the tight-knit San Francisco Bay Area art community. She was my friend and collaborator. She recently contributed to Make Things (Happen), and I last saw her at the opening reception on February 6. She was pregnant with twin girls, and almost due. Susan was radiant, and as characteristically good-humored as ever.

Susan’s positivity in person and via her artworks left countless people with brighter days. I aspired to be more like her: to embody more compassion, forgiveness, and kindness; to be magnanimous in my relationships and outlook; and to let go of what I can’t control.

I have always admired her work—an enthusiastic blend of relational and text-based practices—for its elegant simplicity, humor, and unabashed enthusiasm. It was borne out of her unshakable faith in optimism. She embraced the risk of being sentimental, trusting that sincerity is a virtue that redeems feeling self-conscious or ridiculous. All of us, Susan insisted, are capable of wisdom and love. She asked us to open our hearts to possibilities.

Many of us defend ourselves from the slings and arrows of everyday life with cynicism. Susan remained unapologetically affirmative, even in sustained grief as her mother endured a lengthy terminal illness. That fact speaks to the courage of her humanity.

I saw this in her work, One Minute Smile, when I was still fresh in the clutch of bereavement of my dad. Exemplifying her generosity of spirit, Susan shared an intensely personal, vulnerable moment with a room full of strangers and friends. As she made eye contact with us, we became more present and mindful. Together, Susan helped us acknowledge: Yes, we are fragile… and yes, we have yet-undiscovered reserves of resilience within us, too.

I’m grateful for Susan for sharing her light with me, and helping me and many others find more of our own. She will be dearly missed.

Susan O'Malley with her mobile billboard stating "You Are Exactly Where You Need to Be" in the Art Moves Festival in Torun, Poland, September 2012.

Susan O’Malley with her mobile billboard stating, “You are exactly where you need to be.” Art Moves Festival, Torun, Poland, September 2012.

Romer Young Gallery annoucement
Christian L. Frock, “Celebrating the Life of Artist and Curator Susan O’Malley (1976–2015),” KQED

Learn more about public memorials and a memorial fund for the arts:


Not because it’s easy, but because it often isn’t:

Susan O'Malley, One Minute Smile (participatory performance documentation), 2013

Susan O’Malley, One Minute Smile (participatory performance documentation), 2013 // Source:

It’s an invitation to us, really. To try to smile every day, even on the days when we least want to.

—Susan O’Malley
Community, Works

Susan O’Malley, One Minute Smile


Congrats Art Moves Festival Artists

Galeria Rusz has announced this year’s artists to be included in the Art Moves Billboard Competition in Poland. Congrats to all the artists!

Special congrats to Justin A. Langlois, who also contributed to Make Things (Happen) (Check out his five provocations). (Full disclosure: I was on the jury for Art Moves. Note that the jurying was blind—I had no inkling who the artists were.)

P.S. Last month, I mouthed off about how the People’s Climate March Design Competition asked for free speculative work for their marketing campaign, and I linked to NO SPEC! Then I agreed to jury Art Moves. Why would I object to one and support another? Both call for print-ready images for reproduction in advertising spaces, and offer slim chances of remuneration. I tried to write a compare-and-contrast, but it’s probably rationalization: I’m just biased against advertising and for small artist-run organizations. That’s my nineties values for you. So NO SPEC! if you want, and decide what art competitions are right for you. (Not sure where to start? Try here.)

Art & Development, Community

A Week in Review: Seven Days in My Art World

Art and art experiences from the past seven days.

So I haven’t been to the Whitney or MoMA lately. Does that mean I’m taking living in NYC for granted? Possibly. But over the past eight days, I’ve experienced art and art dialogues in lots of ways….

  • Self-organized studio visits among Bronx AIM participants (Margaret Inga Wiatrowski, Didier William, Tatiana Isotomina, and Anna Ablogina). The cohort’s practices are quite developed; members ask very thoughtful questions; and we stay fueled up on candy and snacks. There’s a lot of mutual goodwill and I’m so thankful to be part of it.
  • A few Chelsea galleries off the beaten path. Making a highly-edited list on forced me off my usual four-block slither…. Killer charcoal drawings by Robert Longo at Petzel—an art school fundamental, executed to perfection. Peter Dreher painted the same glass of water, over and over (Koenig & Clinton); hardheaded persistence seemed winsome to me. Insignia intermixed with Thai embellishments by Jakkai Siributr at Tyler Rollins Fine Art…. My list exceeded my time; yet to see the shows by Justin Matherly, Lisi Raskin, David Maisel, Kristen Morgin, Josephine Mekseper, and Adam Pendleton. [Funny, all but one of these artists I have worked with, or handled their artworks, or heard them speak. This makes me think that Chelsea is less predictable than I usually give it credit for, or galleries are putting their best foot forward for this month’s fairs. Or maybe I’m just getting around more.]
  • Artist’s talk at a Parson’s undergrad class.* Under-slept and over-caffeinated, I delivered a zippy talk about my work, opinions on the art world, and professional strategies.  Seeing the students sprawled out on the model plinths, half-broken stools and paint-splattered floor made me a little nostalgic for art school.
  • My studio. Finishing up a new ribbon text—actually a translation of an existing text—for a forthcoming billboard overseas. (Details will be announced soon.) Starting a new project—the hardest part. I remembered the art school assignment to do 100 drawings—it’s still a great way to declare a no-judgment zone, overcome self-critical inertia, and get to work. Patti Smith’s descriptions of her and Mapplethorpe’s passion for getting lost in creative activity in Just Kids helped too.**
  • LMCC’s Open Studios. Visited one of the strangest settings for art—an entire semi-reconstructed floor of a corporate high-rise in the financial district. Lots of great artists in this highly competitive studio program. I was also very moved by an interactive play-in-progress by Aya Ogawa.

*Thanks, SAS, for inviting me!

** Thanks for the book trade, CLF.


But Crafter-Hours is also a way to give credit where credit is long overdue. Every art show relies on the labor of many people, including interns, staff, and fabricators. The work depends on far more than just the (usually singular) artist credited with its authorship. Crafter-Hours is one opportunity to trouble the convention of rendering that labor invisible.

—Lisi Raskin, with Roxanne D. Crocker, Kate Fox, Lydia Enriquez, Sean Gerstley, Misha Kahn, Kim Charles Kay, Brittany Mroczek, Lisi Raskin, Jon Rider, Katie Stout, Recuperative Tactics at Art in General through May 31.

Lisi Raskin addresses Invisible Labor through Crafter-Hours

Art & Development, Community, Works

My Imaginary Group Show

A few weeks back, I posted about an assignment for artists to describe their own dream group show.

I came up with one version of my own dream group show—it’s local, site-specific and combines numerous interests. I was so excited by all the projects and artists, the only way I could keep my presentation under the six-minute limit was to read out a script of only keywords, and that’s what I’ll include here. Enjoy! And consider coming up with one of your own—it’s a fantastic, liberating exercise.

1,000 Single Steps

For Jeremy Deller,

art isn’t about what you make
but what you make happen.


Jeremy Deller, Ed Hall, (Banner Maker), Procession, 2009

Jeremy Deller, Ed Hall, (Banner Maker), Procession, 2009

Manchester Int’l Festival.
Manchester History.
Industrial Revolution.
Workshop of the World.
Birthplace of Socialism.
Textile Mills.
People’s History.
Tradition of Banner-making.
Contemporary groups working with a banner maker.
Crown of french fries.

Even the emo teens.

Participants. Jeremy Deller, Ed Hall (Banner Maker), Procession, 2009

Participants. Jeremy Deller, Ed Hall (Banner Maker), Procession, 2009

Proposed Site: The Queens Way

Summer of public programming as grand opening.

Map of the Proposed Queens Way. // Source:

Map of the Proposed Queens Way. // Source:

• 3.5-mile portion of the abandoned Rockaway Rail Line
• community-led effort
• current status: feasibility studies

Present conditions of the Queens Way. // Source:

Present conditions of the Queens Way. // Source:

I am not a natural optimist.
Anxiety and rumination, humans’ natural states.
Exercise, surefire mood-elevation.
Importance of access to clean, green open space.
For Physical health.
For Psychological health.
A society where women can go for a run in their own neighborhoods without fear.
Improve quality of life for generations.


Artists and Projects

Susan O’Malley, Community Advice, 2012.

Susan O’Malley, Community Advice, 2012. // Source:

Susan O’Malley, Community Advice, 2012. // Source:

Susan O'Malley, Community Advice, 2012. // Source:

Susan O’Malley, Community Advice, 2012. // Source:

Classmate, friend.
Based in California.
Site-specific variation on project.
100 participants.
2 questions.
What advice would you give your 80-y-o self? 8?
Collaboration with printmaker.
Wood type posters
Posted in the community.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Transchromie Mécanique 1965, 1965

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Transchromie Mécanique 1965, 1965 // Source:

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Transchromie Mécanique 1965, 1965 // Source:

Immersive phenomenological optical installations.
Like Eliasson, but earlier.
Like Turrell, but happier.
Shadows underneath elevated tracks.
Transformed to spaces of light and color.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lunch Painting, 1965

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lunch Painting, 1965 // Source:

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lunch Painting, 1965 // Source:

Arte Povera.
Transition from gallery oriented art object to direct social engagement.
Seminal work.
Blue-chip artist.
Museum collections.
Do not touch.
Proposed exhibition copies as public sculptures.
Please touch.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party, 2011–ongoing

Bob and Roberta Smith, The ArtParty Conference, 2013 // Source:

Bob and Roberta Smith, The ArtParty Conference, 2013 // Source:

Artist mostly known for twee sign paintings on junk.
Recent years’ increasing activism.
Reaction to Tea Party.
Opposition to cuts in Art Education in UK.
Paintings, installations, videos, events.
Defense of accessibility of art education and therefore art.
Art is not elitist.
Everything is made.

Agnes Denes, Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space—Map Projections, 1979

Agnes Denes, Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space—Map Projections, 1979 // Source:

Agnes Denes, Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space—Map Projections, 1979 // Source:

Proposed billboards.
Artist mostly famous for wheat field in Lower Manhattan.
Beautiful drawings of world maps.
Cube, pyramid, donut.
Love diagrams.
Queens demographics.
Always changing.
Always diverse.

Michael Jones McKean, The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms, 2012

Michael Jones McKean, The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms, 2012 // Source:

Michael Jones McKean, The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms, 2012 // Source:

Artificial rainbow.
Water hoses.
Unpredictable results.
Depends on weather.
Makes it even better.

Fourth of July 2012: San Diego Pyrotechnic Accident

san diego 2012 fireworks display

San Diego 2012 fireworks display

Not art.
Curatorial influence of Jenns Hoffmann.
Contemporary art alongside historic art and artifacts.
Contextualizes art practice in wider cultural production.
7,000 fireworks in less than 60 seconds.
Holiday ruined?
Or expectations exceeded.
Grand Finale.


I also recently learned about this other spectacular fun-but-relatively-safe disaster, which I love for the same reasons as the fireworks display:

1986 Cleveland accidental 1.5 m balloon release. // Photo: Thom Sheridan // Source: Gizmodo

1986 Cleveland accidental 1.5 m balloon release. // Photo: Thom Sheridan // Source: Gizmodo







Ripple effects of negative affects and positive actions from the San Francisco Bay Area.

[GOOD] Finally, a critical mass of media attention on San Francisco’s tech-boom/gentrification crisis


[BAD] …which means constantly hearing news that is sad (or bitter, angry, antagonistic, mournful, etc.)… and sometimes relating to that news:

“People ask me, ‘Aren’t you going to miss the Bay Area?’ And I say that I already do. It’s not the same Bay Area it once was before.”

—Walter Robinson, as quoted by Christian L. Frock, “Priced Out: San Francisco’s Changing Values and Artist Exodus,” KQED Arts, April 3, 2014.
Edward Ruscha,  OOF, 1962, Oil on canvasDimensions, 71 1/2 x 67" // Source:

Edward Ruscha, OOF, 1962, Oil on canvasDimensions, 71 1/2 x 67″ // Source:

[GOOD / GET EXCITED] There seems to be a funneling of energy into thinking about art as it relates to economics. Get excited for this:

Michele Bock // Source: I am an artist.  This does not mean I will work for free.  I have bills just like you do.  Thank you for understanding.

Michele Bock // Source:

Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum
April 19, 2014

…ARC will present Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. This event will include a series of artist-led workshops that develop exercises, prompts, or actions that engage questions of art, labor, and economics; it will also include a series of commissioned writings by critics and researchers whose work focuses on artistic labor and cultural economies. …ARC will host artists, curators, and writers from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, to stage an intimate yet wide-ranging exploration about art and labor, about alternative economies in the arts, and about strategies for working in ever changing “art world” landscapes….

I’d totally go to this if I were in the Bay Area… In fact I’m sort of kicking myself that I’m not there for this. But alas, I’ll make do with reviewing the materials online at the special issue of Art Practical, and on the forthcoming Compensation Foundation,

“a public, online, open-source platform for collecting, sharing, and analyzing how contingent workers are compensated.”

Bay Area Art Workers Alliance.

And…. I’m thrilled to help promote the Bay Area Art Worker’s Alliance‘s call for participation, for preparators, art installers, and art handlers  to contribute to an exhibition in YBCA’s Bay Area Now triennial. These invisible roles in the making of art exhibitions, which are on-call, part-time, financially and sometimes physically precarious, are finally getting some much-needed recognition from this institution. Deadline: May 15. Spread the word!