Saturated with Creativity

museum doppleganger

Today I rode the metro downtown to meet my friend Sarah for brunch, art and poetry.  Sarah is a copywriter, proofreader, screenwriter, fiction writer, and more.  But since I’ve read little of her work, I’ll just say that I love the conversations we write together in the air.  The last two days I’ve been solo, and it was a welcome return to human interaction.  Also, what better way to explore than with someone who knows the city. 

So, I found the red line, and took myself to RedBird on 2nd Street.  On the way there, I thought, the only thing missing in this day is a visit to a church or another spiritual building.  It turns out Redbird is a restaurant in an old Cathedral.  Score.  The modern mimosa uses clarified orange juice, and looks no different from straight champagne.  Try it.  And the bacon, best I’ve had in years.

After brunch, she took me to the Geffen Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA.  We walked over there, which was a feat in the pulsing sun.  But we got a two-for-one discount using our TAP cards. 

Unplanned, unsupervised, we wandered into the Kerry James Marshall Exhibit: Mastery.  The art was a stunning and unusual depiction of Blackness.  With paint, black characters were not the natural brown tint that we call black, but actually capital B Black.  The images, as I understood, were meant to reveal the invisibility and ever-presence of Blackness.  In a time of Sofia Coppola’s erasure of Black characters from a Civil War era film, I’m glad to have artists like Marshall showing Black culture, beauty, and mystery for all viewers.  In one painting called “Bang,” three young figures stand by a barbecue pledging allegiance to a flag over what looks like a long shadow or a black hole.  The docent informed us, however, that these were not shadows of the sun, but shadows of how people interpret the characters due to their blackness.  Another, called “Black Painting” is completely black, until you get close, when you notice tiny gradients of tint to denote a couple in bed at night.  Sarah and I agreed, we could stare at that for days.  But my favorite was called “School of Beauty, School of Culture.”  I found it to be the most realistic, and the most traditionally beautiful.  The women here were women I’d want to know, compelling, brave, characters beyond the composition itself.  In the foreground, a cartoon of a slanted white woman hovers, invisible to all but the children.  She is there, but the real women in this painting do not see her anymore.  Then, the last compelling part of the painting is the flash dead center.  Marshall puts the viewer in the painting, as if s/he holds the camera her/himself.  You can’t help but participate when you’re turned into part of the painting.  And if that weren’t enough, the last part of the exhibit had magazine cutouts people could actually move around, so the viewer in fact becomes participant. 

We spent so much time in the Marshall exhibit that we had to rush through the rest of the museum before heading out.  We quizzed each other and both did well.  I posed next to the giant Giacometti sculptures.  Sarah lingered in front of the Joseph Cornell shadow boxes.  We snagged an Uber, and headed to another neighborhood I didn’t know.  My friend Ginger was hosting a reading and salon at Alias Books.

I’ve heard Ginger Buswell’s work before because she came up to San Francisco to do a few readings.  I wrote about her for LitSeen at the One Lone Pear reading.  As usual, she didn’t disappoint.  She was gracious introducing Sarah and me to friends, and her prose was smart and insightful.  Other highlights were prose by Deenah Vollmer and Ryan McBride, poetry by Erin Mizrahi and Alan Hanson, and music by Johnny Houx and Yoko OK.  I particularly liked Deenah, Ryan for compelling characterization, and Erin for her split screen lyric.  But to be honest, by the time we arrived here, we were close to saturated with creativity.  So by the time it was done, I was happy to call another car and head to my temporary home.