The Painter Directs: Julian Schnabel And The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

December 29, 2007

I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly the other night. I couldn’t wait to sink my eyes into what I knew would be a visual extravaganza by painter Julian Schnabel. Film is a great medium. It’s such a new art form, still licking the placenta off its ears, compared to others. But I’m a tough audience — after most movies I just want my money back. But to have someone already established in the Grande Dame of painting, and Julian Schnabel no less, I just knew I was going to be in for a ride.


Installation of Paintings by Julian Schnabel

And I was. It was touching, frightening, gorgeous and exhilarating. He creates a billowing parachute of visuals and delicately holds it down with the pins of narrative and physical transformation. The movie is about Jean-Dominique Bauby, AKA “Jean-Do,” a high-flying editor of French Elle, who– in a freak health catastrophe– finds himself paralyzed but for his brain and a single blinking eye which he uses to communicate. The entire story is told from the eye and brain, what it sees, what it says (spelling letters by blinking) and what it imagines.

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Movie Still

As a painter, I recognized his aesthetic finger prints all over the celluloid. The way his beautiful nurses, Henriette and Marie (Marie-Josée Croze and Olatz Lopez Garamendia, respectively), repeatedly said the letters of the alphabet for the “locked in” Jean-Do to spell by blinking. Another director might have shown it once as an expository device, but Schnabel weaves it throughout and becomes a mesmerizing leitmotif both visually and auditorially. In between relearning how to communicate are surreal visual escapades where Jean-Do leaps out of his body and the former bon vivant‘s past appears even less prominently than the imaginary world he has been forced to create for himself.
Artists especially owe it to themselves to see the movie. And people who see the movie should familiarize themselves with his work as a painter if they are not already.

“Amor Misericor” Oil on Linen Julian Schnabel

This is Julian’s third film after Basquiat and Before Night Falls. At which point did he cross from being a painter who made films or a filmmaker who paints or was he always both? I believe the film world is finally giving him is due recognition as a director. My painter friends and I whisper that it’s about time.

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Movie Still

It’s a difficult dance, being taken seriously as an artist in more than one medium if the medium’s are not exactly related to each other (e.g: writer/director). When I was a kid, my father, a surgeon, used to tell me that if you met someone at a party and they couldn’t answer what they did for a living in one sentence, then they were probably full of it. Since he told me that he’s become a best-selling author on topics totally unrelated to surgery. I guess what he meant was that if you have to use more than one sentence, you better be damn good at both.

“Allen – Cordial Love” Julian Schnabel

The Wonderful World of Kirsten Hassenfeld

December 15, 2007

First Person Artist is a weekly column by artist Kimberly Brooks in which she provides commentary on the creative process and showcases artists’ work from around the world. This week’s artist in the first person is New York’s Kirsten Hassenfeld.
It’s “Christmas Time” here in America and there is such an intoxicating burst of creative energy from so many people at the same time you’d think the earth might flip on its axis. We get out our scissors and paper, make decorations, spontaneously burst into song, string colorful lights all over our trees and houses, strange sculptures sprout on our lawns, drink too much and stay up too late trying to get it all done– gosh, it’s like finals at art school!


Untitled (Branch), 2007 [detail], Kirsten Hassenfeld, Paper, polystyrene board, acrylic, pipecleaners, light fixture, Approx. 88 x 53 x 53 inches. Commissioned by Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photograph by Nash Baker,, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York

I myself love the neo-pagan ritualism of winter festivals, so you can imagine my rapture when I discovered the work of New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld. With her magical paper sculptures, she takes the idea of decorating to a whole new level, something that might occur if you handed the task of decorating the Christmas tree to the offspring of Mandelbrot and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
Kimberly Brooks: I bet you have the most insane Christmas tree in New York City.
Kirsten Hassenfeld: I don’t have a tree! I think also that all my decorative energy is poured into my work, I think non-artists usually have much better Christmas trees etc because they are using all their creative juices for that. We don’t even have pictures on the walls in our house!
KB: You’re not the first artist to say that to me. How do you see the relationship between the holidays and your work?
Well, the most recent installation incorporates imagery that connotes archetypes of femininity, and ideas of chivalry. I keep coming back to these Ye Olde gender roles and the primary stories (myths, fairytales) that inform western identities. I think I am fascinated by all this because I am surprised by the grip it all still has on my psyche, in my assumptions about roles in relationships, physical appearance, etc. It’s all so fragmented at this point, there are bits of the traditional DNA scattered throughout the work, amongst other, stranger forms and parts of thoughts. In the end, I hope it comes across as a unified whole, maybe a snapshot of the confusion inside me.

Installation view, Dans la Lune, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas, 2007.
Commissioned by Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photograph by Nash Baker,, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York

KB: In some ways, your sculptures remind me of fantastical fractal jelly fish, because they have a weightless quality… Do you ever get inspiration from jelly fish?
KH: Yes, I do look at some sea-life, in the book Art Forms in Nature, an amazing book of drawings of all kinds of primitive life forms from the 19th century by Ernst Haeckel. I think it’s so amazing that symmetry, so essential to natural structures, also informs much of what we regard as beautiful in buildings, design and people. I use this overlap between the structures that exist in the natural world and the highly abstracted/aestheticized version of nature found in design.

Installation view, Dans la Lune, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas, 2007. Commissioned by Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photograph by Nash Baker,, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York

KB: What inspired this series in the first place?
KH: I moved into a loft in downtown Brooklyn in 1999 across from a strip of pawnshops and check-cashing stores. They made me think about how many New Yorkers are living in the “second economy,” and the desperation these storefronts represented. It was a depressing reality. In response to the view out my window and the incredible noise from the traffic, I made “Viewing Screen,” my first paper sculpture. I was “solving” the problems I saw out my window by decorating them.
KB: I think a lot people are trying to do that with their Christmas trees right now. Tell us about your work’s latest evolution.
KH: My most recent body of work, Dans La Lune, is the articulation of an interior landscape. I have been attempting for the past seven years to allow the decorative to run amok and overtake whatever I am building, resulting in the effect that decoration is being decorated. The result is a constantly shifting sense of scale, an onion dome might be an earring, a cluster of crystals might also be a building. This work is almost entirely translucent paper (except for the armatures) which makes the work appear ghostly.

Horn of Plenty, Kirsten Hassenfeld, 2004, Paper with mixed media, 60 x 24 x 24 inches.
Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York.
KB: How do you go about making them? Do you have to plan much of what you create?
KH: I make a lot of really intricate bits, and then assemble them in a really unplanned way. Many people assume that my work is very mapped out, and that I must measure and cut meticulously, but its really not the case. I find ways to avoid taking the surprise out of the process.
I am really not thinking about the end effect when I am working. I have a set of forms I am interested in working with, like a vocabulary that is constantly shifting, and materials that I typically use, and I might have some vague goal like “horn of plenty”, but I try not to think so specifically about the end impact. That said, I do enjoy when my work is evocative of over-the-top-excess and of a certain kind of decay, or culture crumbling back into nature.

Peter the Great Fabergé Egg

KB: What work of art or object has most inspired your work?
KH: I take most of my inspiration from decorative arts, 18th and 19th century ceramics and glass for instance (Meissen figures, essentially the precursors to Hummel figures are a big source for ideas). Fabergé eggs were hugely important to me when I first began to make this work in, as icons of the most ludicrously luxurious objects imaginable, toiled on by countless workers and enjoyed by very, very few.
Kirsten Hassenfeld’s work has been the subject of three solo exhibitions since 2000, most recently in Dans la Lune at the Rice University Art Gallery, Houston. Her work has been included in numerous prestigious group exhibitions at locations such as PS1/MoMA, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, White Columns, and an exhibition organized by the Public Art Fund in Brooklyn. She has received grants from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Dieu Donne Papermill, and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation. Her most ambitious set of installations to date are on view at the Rice University Art Gallery in Houston through December 9th. View more of Kirsten’s Work at The Bellwether Gallery.
Come back every Saturday for more from Kimberly Brooks. Read all First Person Artist interviews and essays at

From Miami Basel with Love

December 8, 2007

Right now, there is a giant pulsing orb of a fair going on known as Miami Basel singeing most artists’ arm hairs. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it was started only five years ago as a sister fair to Art Basel Switzerland and has since mushroomed into an extravaganza with over 20 satellite fairs and numerous insane parties and festivities to go along with it. I’m not there, but some of my paintings are, and I have no arm hairs left to speak of.
A Sculpture by Uri Nir who has a film at the Pulse Fair in Miami. ABS and Stainless steel.
Image Courtesy of Braverman Art Projects.

During the life of this column I’ve been asked how I select artists to interview. I’m not an art critic and I don’t view that as my role. Rather, I’m an artist sitting on a hill with a megaphone. Sometimes, as an artist/creative spirit/thinker, I have something to say–the editors here tell me they wish I had more things to say– but most of the time I hand it to another artist. Artists, in my opinion, should be interviewed more about their own work. And it should be everywhere not just the art magazines. Since at any given time there are only, say, a couple gazillion artists with a show to promote, I pass the megaphone around. (The contradictory nature of making art and promoting oneself is a whole other subject.) So, in addition to being a part of the art community and frequent midnight art expeditions on the web looking at other artists’ work, I also ask every artist I interview to suggest artists that they think should be featured.
One of our recent featured artists who is at the fairs is painter Liat Yossifor. She turned me onto some artists that I wanted to share with you:
Roni Horn at Miami Basel Fair
Roni Horn. Cabinet Of 2001 36 C-prints. Image Courtesy of Hauser Wirth .
Roni Horn. Puff (1) 2002 C-Prints / cymbolic light jet. Image Courtesy of Hauser Wirth.
Uri Nir at the Pulse Fair
I heard about this from other artist friends, too. He had a dark room with three projections that looked like film noir, all black and white; one video was of an injection of blood to a jellyfish– it was very abstract, like an underwater flower, something between extreme beauty and pain.
Stills from the Installation at the Pulse Fair. Uri Nir Image Courtesy of Braverman Art Projects
Keren Cytter at Pulse
These are film stills from a film about relationships and gender– a modern update of a Greek drama with a European twist. It does not suffer the fate of some art films which look like it should be done better and on TV. It actually works as a complex and visually layered works of art.
Keren Cytter, French Film, 2002 12′ digital video, color-b/w
Image Courtesy of Noga Gallery, Israel.

Bari Ziperstein at the Pulse Fair
He makes sculptures that look like modern furniture with an artists’ intervention.
Bari Ziperstein. Untitled (Chandelier). 2007 Chandelier, plaster over foamcore. Studio Installation View
Bari Ziperstein. Untitled (Bathroom) 2006 Light jet print (edition of 5) 30 in. x 40 in.
Images Courtesy of Bank Art Gallery.

Liat Yossifor herself exhibited at Pulse

Liat turns the surface of the paint into fine sculpture and light on it subtly changes was you change the viewing angle.
Liat Yossifor 15 x 18 in. Oil on Panel.
Liat Yossifor Installation paintings Oil on Panel. Images Courtesy of Noga Gallery, Israel.
Laurent Grasso from Nada Fair
Video that was digitally manipulated entitled “Palaiv”. In lieu of that image which we don’t have we show an installation of his creating sun in the night.
Du Soleil dans la Nuit 2006 Vue de l’installation Nuit Blanche
Image Courtesy of Galerie Chez Valentin

Kimberly Brooks at Aqua
This is what happened to the canvas I wrote about in my column about the creative process. My gallery saw it half-complete and insisted I finish so they could take it with them– it was still wet when it left the studio.
Kimberly Brooks “No 7” 32 x 46 in. Oil on Linen.
Kimberly Brooks “No 7” 32 x 46 in. Oil on Linen. Detail.
Image Courtesy Taylor De Cordoba

Ara Peterson at the Nada Fair
She makes paintings that seem like sculputre and are based on music. She also experiments with retinal mixing where her use of color mixes in the eye and changes depending upon the viewers angle of viewing.
Ara Peterson. Impervious Vibes, 2006. Latex and acrylic on pine slats 60 x 85 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches
Ara Peterson. Impervious Vibes (details), 2006. Latex and acrylic on pine slats.
Image Courtesy Ratio3 Gallery.

If you’re at the fair, please turn us onto some of the artists or observations that struck you in the comments section of the post.

First Person Artist- New Column by Kimberly Brooks

December 1, 2007

I was walking down Rose Avenue in Venice the other day and the sky sparkled a fantastic shade of blue above a row of rumpled clouds and faded buildings. I rushed to get my camera to take a picture of the way it was playing out. But you just can’t capture that sort of thing on film. As a painter, light and instinct are the currency of my work. I work on many paintings at once and face the ones that are drying against the wall. When I turn them around I look at them afresh and try and let my gut guide the next move.
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Defiant Iranian Painter Abelina Galustian

December 1, 2007

One step forward. Two steps back.
It has been six years since the U.S. congratulated itself for “liberating the women of the Taliban”, and one week since a nineteen-year-old girl and gang-rape victim was ordered the penalty of 200 lashes in Saudi Arabia for the act she allegedly caused because she was caught sitting in a car with a man who was not her relative.


“The Whole Story” Oil on 16 Canvases. Kimberly Brooks.

As an artist and woman growing up in the West, one of the towers that fell on 9-11 was my view of what it meant to view and create art. After the cascade of news stories that brought front and center how my sisters throughout the world live in what I consider to be oppressive misogynistic cultures, I thought deeply about what it must be like where there is no visual representational art, where women are covered from head to toe and not allowed to be seen let alone depicted in any form, where billboards also have the female entirely blackened in silhouette and western art history text books are considered “pornographic”. The closest I’ve come to the Middle East is relatively progressive Dubai–the UAE has just made a deal with the Louvre Museum in Paris to build a branch in the tourist-driven area. And even though you can find a forty foot high image of Paris Hilton in the Guess Jeans store at the United Arab Emirate’s Mall (this is progress!), outside the mall there’s not a painting or photograph of any woman in sight except for the framed photographs of the men who rule the country and some abstract designs in all the hotel lobbies. It’s really really strange.
Suddenly late 20th century notions that say, figurative painting was dead, or that women were finally breaking though the glass canvas of the art world, seemed quaint. So for me as an artist, the act of painting figures, nudes – especially women – takes on another meaning and also an act of defiance.
One step forward. Two steps back.
In 2003, an underground feminist art exhibition entitled “Women Talking Back” featured work for and by women showed in Tehran. One of the artists in that exhibition was Abelina Galustian. In her series of paintings entitled The Veil Series, she depicts women wearing lingerie and high heels along with the burka. The curator of the show was briefly imprisoned and all of the paintings were confiscated permanently. Shown here are photographs of the paintings which are all that remain.

Abelina Galustian, Photographs of confiscated paintings from “The Veil Series,”
oil and acrylic on canvas, 2003

In her recent series entitled Womansword, Galustian looks to classic 19th Century Orientalist painters. She recreates detailed photorealist paintings reversing the gender. In doing so, she undermines the traditional dynamic of the male gaze and the viewing process while pointing to contemporary issues of representation, and the neo-Orientalism rampant in the cultures the western world seeks to “liberate”.
Kimberly Brooks: Where did you come of age, and when did you start to question what women were and were not allowed to do?
Abelina Galustian: I was born in Tehran, Iran. I am of Armenian ethnicity and moved to the U.S. after the Iran/Iraq war. In the beginning of third grade in Tehran, my best friend, Rama, and I would eavesdrop on women’s private conversations [about their Hymen]. I was too young to understand why young, single women gave the intactness of their hymen such great importance. They shared naughty stories about their rendezvous and extracurricular activities as if they were talking about a sport – how they finally made the “touch down” without being “touched down.” These types of “coffee conversations” continued in almost every circle and age of women I sat with in my cultural context.
I now live in the United States. During my last visit to Iran a few years ago, I was sitting with a group of very wealthy, educated, single women who said the same things I heard during my eavesdropping days. I still couldn’t understand why they were all [still focusing on acting like virgins.] My reaction to this hypocrisy was communicated with the Veiled Series. It was a way of telling women to stop interrogating a woman’s worth by the intactness of her hymen, as it only leads to daughters performing virginity and sons who only accept virgins (or at least they think they’re getting virgins) for wives.
KB: What was the spark that led specifically to the Womansword series?
AG: In February 2000, I was in a New Haven bookstore in Connecticut. I noticed a center display of books about the Middle East. One book in particular caught my eye with its painting by Jean-Leon Gerome entitled “The Slave Market.” Although I had seen Gerome’s painting on many different occasions since studying art in America, it was at that point when I noticed for the first time, the message Gerome intended in his composition. Gerome who is a hyper-Realist and a stickler for correct proportions, painted the hand of the nobleman who is purchasing the slave girl, about three times bigger proportionally. I was so appalled by Gerome’s symbolism that I decided to give a critical response to this painting.

Left: Jean-Leon Gerome, The Slave Market, 1867, oil on canvas.
Right: Abelina Galustian, The Slave Market: Womansword 2000, oil and acrylic on canvas.

AG: I purposely chose the Orientalist style and Gerome’s painting by reason of its immediate encroachment to the senses. It was necessary for this particular body of work to retain a direction of communication that would be recognizable, distinguishable, and straightforward. The Womansword series of paintings counterclaim some of the socially ascribed roles through the switching of gender roles, a switch that may at first be read as subtle but actually acknowledges a female’s ownership of her body and debunks its male control.

Left: Stanislas von Chlebowski. Purchasing a slave, oil on canvas, signed and dated 1879 (36.75 x 28.50 in). Right: Abelina Galustian Purchasing a slave: The Womansword, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2002 (5 x 6 ft).

In nineteenth-century orientalist works, one theme that was given an encore was the captive woman. The harem and slave-market themes were exploited by various artists. The most distinguished and famous of the Orientalist paintings is Jean Leon Gerome’s “The Slave Market” which shows how easily Orientalism of the day could be combined with the taste for violated innocence and female subjection. Since these chosen depictions are almost iconic, quoting from them with alterations that are explicitly construed as political, generates a double-take and immediate scrutiny from the viewer.

A close-up detail from Galustian’s Purchasing a slave: The Womansword, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2002

KB: What do you seek, ultimately, from your viewers?
AG: As a feminist artist, I seek to expose seemingly archaic beliefs that are only loosely hidden behind the mask of political correctness. Works that are tacitly looked upon as classic works of beauty and truth in the artistic canon, interestingly enough, become works of irreverence and perversity once the genders are switched.
KB: As an artist who also deals with female/male issues, I find myself not wanting to be known solely as a feminist painter, yet you claim it prominently in your description of yourself. Do you ever worry about being ghettoized as such?
AG: No. Being “ghettoized” for being a feminist artist is not an issue for me. Everything that revolves in and around my work stem from women’s issues. But Middle-Eastern feminist awareness is not always parallel to the West’s understanding of feminism. In my work, female is not just gender but location, therefore, when talking/painting about the female-feminine and male/masculine I’m also talking about the East and West. At the end of the day, it is my work that speaks, not my label.

Artist Abelina Galustian

Born in Tehran with family roots in Tabriz, Abelina Galustian immigrated to the U.S. after the Iran/Iraq War. Here, she earned her MFA in studio arts at Cal State LA, her MA in art history at UCSB, and she is also currently pursuing her PhD in art history at UCSB. Galustian’s work has shown in solo and group exhibits internationally and domestically. Likewise, she has been a featured artist and lecturer featuring her own work and topics such as transnational identities, Neo-Orientalism, and performing culture in Toronto, Dubai, and California.

Wayne White

November 24, 2007

My friends Liz and Paul have a Wayne White landscape above their bed with block letters spelling “Good Looking People Having Fun Without You” off into the distance like a petrified fear hanging above their pillows. It’s so wonderfully absurd it makes me laugh every time I see it.


Gracie, Liz an Paul’s daughter, jumping on the bed in front of the painting
Good Looking People Having Fun Without You by Wayne White

I know another couple who has a large diptych of a man biting a woman’s nose above their headboard. Since there’s an obvious chance that bedroom-hung art might seep into the subconscious or reflect something more personal than normal about the collector, I thought I’d take this opportunity to interview the artist and ask him, among other things, that very question:
Kimberly Brooks: So what painting hangs in your bedroom?
Wayne White: A painting I did of a man riding a red rocket up through the sky. Yippeee!!! No kidding. It’s classier than it sounds.

ROCKET Acrylic on
canvas 32″x 40″

KB: You paint on ready-made thrift store paintings and turn them into great art. How did you come upon this idea?
WW: In the late nineties I was making American History paintings. I bought thrift store landscapes just to use the frames. One day, as a joke, I decided to use the ready-made landscape as well. Its space suggested a long row of something–Words! Thus, Human Fucking Knowledge, my first word picture was born.

Human Fucking Knowledge Wayne White, 1999

KB: Tell me about another piece and what inspired you to make it.
WW: My wife and I had a tacky slang contest and this little song was born: “Heinies and Shooters with Hotties at Hooters.” It went right into a painting.

Heines and Shooters with Hotties and Hooters, Wayne White, 2000

KB: What about your creative process? Are there any routines you may have that might be unique or curious?
WW: I draw on tracing paper over the landscapes. It’s always improvised. Sometimes it’s simple and sometimes a gnarled mess. I’m a sign painter with no boss.

They’re Onto You, Wayne White, 2007

KB: We should all be so lucky. What mood you seek to impart to your viewers when they see your work?
WW: I aim to puncture. DOINK! It’s funny.
KB: Is there a work of art that inspires you?
WW: “Sullivan’s Travels” by Preston Surges. It’s about humor as dalvation. I really like that notion.

KB: Thanksgiving just passed. What are you thankful for?
WW: I’m thankful for the big stuff of course-my family, health, human kindness. But I’m also thankful that I don’t have to work for Hollywood anymore.
Wayne White was born in Chattanooga,Tennessee in 1957. He received his BFA degree from Middle Tennessee State University in 1979, and moved to New York City shortly afterwards. He has had three solo shows at Clementine Gallery in New York and two solo shows at Western Project Gallery in LA. He’s also had one-man exhibitions at Texas State University, Mark Moore Gallery LA, Middle Tennessee State University, and Changing Role Gallery Naples, Italy, along with several group shows, including “The Fifth Annual Altoids Curiously Strong Collection.” In the Spring of 2006, White’s large-scale sculptural piece, “You’re Supposed to Act all Impressed” was exhibited on the plaza of Rockefeller Center as a part of Art Rock 2006.
In addition, White has maintained a successful career as a production designer, cartoonist, animator and puppeteer. He has won three Emmys for art direction on PeeWee’s Playhouse, an MTV Award for designing The Smashing Pumpkin’s video “Tonight, Tonight,” and The Billboard Award for Peter Gabriel’s video “Big Time.” Wayne White lives and works in Los Angeles, California where he resides with his wife, writer and cartoonist Mimi Pond, and their children Woodrow and Lulu. For more, please visit

Joel Tauber

November 16, 2007

When the sight of plastic bags twirling in the wake of our cars is commonplace, when thick orange sunsets become ever more fantastical and people in Georgia are fined for watering their lawns, man’s impact on nature becomes less and less deniable, even by the crazies. Yet, we forge ahead, not wanting to be inconvenienced by the truth (thanks, Al), nor denied access to all the amenities of the American Dream. And the ever growing sheaths of concrete and box stores continue to expand to afford us just this. According to the NY Times, urban sprawl consumes 9000 acres a day in this country.
In Joel Tauber’s latest series, “My Lonely Tree,” he falls in love with and cares for, a tree. Yet unlike the sad polar bear sitting on a diminishing icecap, his images are right in our backyard, something we might drive around and miss otherwise. She may be losing the war, god we hope not, but to see this series is to instantly share Tauber’s rapture for Nature’s triumph in one tiny battle at the Rose Bowl parking lot.


My Lonely Tree, 2005 Color Photograph. Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

KB: What was the moment that inspired this series?
JT: I have fallen in love with a tree in the middle of a gigantic parking lot. I cannot really explain how this happened, but love is a hard thing to explain. The tree is not something that most people notice, except as a source of shade for their cars. Yet, somehow – on a beautiful summer day in June 2005 — I was drawn to the beauty of this forsaken California Sycamore tree, stuck in the middle of Rose Bowl parking lot K. I was touched by how lonely it was, and I was outraged by the many indignities it suffered.

July 30, 2007: The Tree is Protected by a Boulder Barrier!, 2007.
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

KB: What did you do about it?
JT: I have taken it upon myself to try to rectify the many wrongs that this tree has suffered. Since August 2005, I have been watering the tree with large water bags. In October 2005, I built and installed tree guards in order to protect the tree from cars. I spent many months lobbying the City and the Rose Bowl to remove the asphalt beneath the canopy of the tree, so that the tree would get more of the water and oxygen that it desperately needs. In September 2006, the Rose Bowl removed 400 square feet of asphalt beneath the tree and replaced it with mulch. And, on July 30, 2007, the Rose Bowl placed a permanent boulder barrier around the tree. These boulders will protect the tree from cars and provide seating for people to contemplate the beauty of the tree.

February 16, 2007: The Tree Babies Have Arrived!!!, 2007.
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

KB: What are some of the ways you made this project larger than the saving of the one tree?
JT: I gathered many seeds from the tree, and I am thrilled that 200 tree babies are now growing happily with the help of the Theodore Payne Foundation. I am also working with LA>2007-11-16-brooks4.jpgThe Tree Adorned with Earrings (central image of a triptych).
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter
Los Angeles Projects

KB: What message do you seek to impart to your viewers when they see your work?
JT: I want the work to raise questions about our relationships to our environment. Why don’t we notice the trees stuck in our parking lots? Why don’t we give them the care and respect that they deserve? What does it say about our culture and our future if we treat our cars better than we treat our trees?

Laying with the Tree (Self-Portrait of Artist).
Color Photograph, Joel Tauber
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter
Los Angeles Projects

Joel Tauber received his MFA from Art Center College of Design, and he teaches video art at USC. His work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions and solo exhibitions at a number of locations both locally and internationally. His current projects include “Sick-Amour”, a series of films and public interventions at the Rose Bowl. As part of LA>artist’s website and will be featured in the following galleries and museums:
-November 30, 2007 – April 13, 2008: “Seven Attempts to Make a Ritual” in the exhibition “The New Authentics: Artists of the Post-Jewish Generation” at the Spertus Museum, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605. The show then travels to the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.
-December 12, 7:30 – 10:30 pm: “Sick-Amour” at the smart@house with LA>here), GOOD Magazine, and Million Trees. The smart@house is located at 1319 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice Beach, CA.
-January 24: Opening ceremony for the permanent tree baby installation in front of the USC School of Art, LA, CA.
-Opening in January: “Sick-Amour” in “Systems Theory” at the Torrance Art Museum 3320 Civic Center Drive Torrance, CA 90509.
-Spring 2008: Solo exhibition at the Adamski Gallery For Contemporary Art, Strausberger Platz 3, 10243 Berlin, Germany.