2012 Stars of San Diego
By Mark Hiss
WHEN CLYDE TURNER was a teenage busboy at the Chart House, he jumped at an opportunity to create some furniture for the eatery.
“[The owner] came in and said, ‘Hey, any of you guys want to make the tables for the restaurants? Because it’s the same technology as fixing your surfboards,’” says Turner, a lifelong San Diegan. “It was making wooden frames and pouring resin … and we made thousands and thousands of those things to the point where you know, OK, I’ve had enough of huffing these fumes.”
From those humble beginnings, Turner, 54, launched a career as an entrepreneur and craftsman, and is now owner of CTT Furniture, a workshop that has been producing furniture, cabinetry, and millwork pieces for 25 years. Specializing in Japanese design elements and interiors, including sliding shoji and fusuma screens and doors, he revels in incorporating unexpected products and out-of-the-box thinking — from techniques like laser and water-jet cutting of metal to unique materials like 40,000-year-old wood culled from a peat bog in New Zealand.
Turner’s leap from producing novelty restaurant tables to embracing elegant Japanese style was facilitated by a great uncle who lived most of his life in Japan. A State Department employee who later published books on Japanese art and architecture, he offered his visiting nephew entrée to a world that few native-born Japanese could access.
“He knew everybody in Japan who were the living national treasures, the sculptors and the weavers and the potters and the woodworkers,” says Turner. “He would say, ‘What are you interested in?’ I’d reply, ‘I’m interested in stone carving,’ and he’d go, ‘Okay, now get on the train, go down here and see this guy in Shikoku and he’ll put you up for three or four days, and ask him all the questions you want.’ … If I had been Japanese I would have been at the bottom of the totem pole; I would have never been able to even speak to these sort of guys.”
Turner clearly took the wide-ranging mentoring to heart and built a business that is notable for its ability to produce just about anything a client desires.
“The general precept of business, if you’re going to make a profit, you limit your offering and you do what you do best,” he says. “And the truth is, what we do best is the strange and unusual and the things that pretty much nobody else wants to do because they’re just not versed in the material.”
An avid off-road motorcycle rider who leads semiannual excursions through the jungles of Southeast Asia, Turner also has strong feelings about the use of exotic woods that come from places such as Cambodia.
“A lot of the deforestation that’s happening is mainly slash and burn for crops and agriculture,” he says. “So you know timber is not the big offender and using big exotic pieces of wood is not an offender. … If you’re going to say, ‘Oh no, I won’t use this rainforest wood,’ you know it’s like anything else — look a little deeper because, man, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned it’s there’s always two sides to every single story.”
Points Of Light
Clyde Turner studied traditional tea house construction in Japan.
His company’s furniture and millwork has been featured in publications such as San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles, House Beautiful and Architectural Digest.
He crafted buildings for the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park (and serves on the board of directors) and the Phoenix/Himeji Sister City Tea House and Garden.
Turner has created specialized architectural millwork for projects internationally, from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to Jakarta, Indonesia.
He built private tea houses in Cape Cod, MA, Palo Alto, CA, and Reno, NV.
By Phyllis Van Doren
Jewelry In Thrall Of Nature
The topic of inspiration — on both a personal and macroscopic level — puts metal smith and jeweler Helen Shirk in a reflective mood.
“There is urgency in me to cherish each scented breeze, each bird cry, each unexpected find as I walk my outdoor path,” says the San Diego State University professor of art emerita.
She retired in 2010 after 35 years of teaching and 15 years as head of SDSU’s Jewelry/Metals department.
Meanwhile, she’s been concentrating on jewelry, doing a lot of photography and, “collecting samples during my walks and distilling this resource material into the intimate scale of jewelry.”
One of her recent series is called Traces.
“Awareness of the increasing degradation of the earth and foreboding about the capacity of humanity to restore it to health have embedded a layer of melancholy into the Traces series.” she says.
For Shirk, moving to San Diego almost 40 years ago to teach was exotic, living with the contrast of desert, mountains and ocean. It became a source of freedom and motivation, unlike the Western New York and Midwest climates where she grew up and studied.
Early encouragement for her craft came from mentors: Earl Pardon at Skidmore College; Alma Eikerman during Shirk’s graduate study at Indiana University.
Her first study-abroad experience in Demark (on a Fulbright scholarship) solidified her desire to pursue work in jewelry and metals. Work from this period was more sleek and polished, a style she abandoned in favor of the nature shapes she discovered in the deserts of Southern California.
And in 1993, while living in Australia for six months, the “character and intimacy” of the landscape became a lasting influence.
Jewelry gave way to patinated bronze and copper vessels, acid etched and with colored pencil added to the quirky pod and blossom shapes.
In the last two years, with time to think and concentrate on work/development of jewelry in her home studio, she is rejuvenated with creativity. Now, new friends and new places present themselves through travel to lecture and teach workshops.
“The sense of intimacy and preciousness that jewelry imparts, as well as its long history of botanical imagery, seems central to my reflection on the natural world that our children will inherit,” Shirk says.
Her jewelry and vessels, both thoughtful and inspirational, commemorate and celebrate the resilience and infinite variation of the natural world.
Points Of Light
Helen Shirk received a Fulbright Grant in 1963, and NEA Fellowships in 1978 and 1988.
She participated in a faculty exchange to Western Australia in 1993.
Shirk was elected Fellow of the American Crafts Council in 1999.
She cherishes: “The professional achievements of the students I have taught over my 35 years as a teacher.”
Her work has been included in public collections in: Canberra, Australia; Pforzheim, Germany; Kyoto, Japan; London; Museum of Art and Design, New York City and at least 17 other museums in the United States.
By Mark Hiss
Humor That Skewers Consumerism
JEAN LOWE INSISTS SHE IS NOT FUNNY. In conversation, bon mots and Dorothy Parker-style one-liners do not come zinging forth from her at stand-up comedian speed.
Yet her work is often acerbically, laugh-out-loud funny. Particularly amusing are the sculptural papier-mâché “books” she creates, featuring mocking self-help titles like Torture Preparedness, Foreclosure Etiquette, and Achieve and Maintain a More Powerful Delusion.
While these pop confections may bring a smile to your face, they can also deliver a punch to the gut. Indeed, Lowe’s work has been compared to social satirists ranging from 18th-century painter and printmaker William Hogarth to pundit parodist Stephen Colbert.
A comedic touch, Lowe says, allows her to begin a dialogue with the viewer that might not otherwise take place. “Being too obvious about my position can just be a turn-off,” she says, “but humor and approaching things obliquely I think opens an avenue for conversations.”
Her most recent target has been consumerism, and the skewering has resulted in paintings that juxtapose palatially baroque interiors with 99-cent store merchandise. Based on photos she has taken in both grand European settings and schlocky discount retailers (Lowe reports being thrown out of several stores for her photographic transgressions), her commentary on cultural decay is apparently not so far-fetched.
“I’ve been told some of these interiors look like actual shopping places in Moscow,” she says.
Lowe also is known for her environmental tableaux, installations that she likens to “giant exploded paintings.” She has slyly reproduced a psychiatrist’s office, dubbed The Loneliness Clinic, an imperial French salon, and more recently she created site-specific pop-up shops where she hawks one-of-a-kind artworks masquerading as mundane consumer goods. Of course in this Lowe’s store, you’ll find items like “gently used toothbrushes” and “tear-stain remover,” as well as a product that will make you look 20 years younger — but, the signage cautions, you must be at least 21 years of age.
Growing up, Lowe was very engaged with drawing and painting, and was attracted to the works of artists such as Claes Oldenburg and Wayne Thiebaud, as well as the narrative sculpture of Bernini. A career in art, though, was not something she expected or was encouraged to pursue.
“I went first through pre-med, then architecture as an undergraduate before accepting my pre-written fate,” she says.
It was graduate school at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) that provided her epiphany.
“The environment at UCSD was really challenging,” says Lowe. “It challenged my preconception about what I was capable of doing. I knew [art] was what I wanted to do, I just didn’t have a handle on it. And being in that kind of really rigorous environment, it was like giving myself an ultimatum to sink or swim.”
Lowe, 51, resides and works in Encinitas, where she and her husband and fellow artist Kim MacConnel have expansive studios, as well as a unique living space they built with architect Ted Smith. She left a teaching gig at her alma mater several years ago and now concentrates full-time on her art, working on a new batch of books and paintings on wood panels — all with her trademark humorous social critique.
“I’m not interested in making work for myself,” she says. “I’m interested in making work that’s accessible and entertaining and still has layers of meaning.”
Points Of Light
Jean Lowe was a UCSD lecturer from 1992 through 2008.
Lowe is a two-time recipient of Western States Arts Federation/NEA fellowships.
She is a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant recipient.
Honors awarded to her include the CalArts Alpert/Ucross Residency Prize, the Alberta duPont Bonsal Foundation Art Prize and the San Diego Art Prize from the San Diego Visual Arts Network.
Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the San Diego Museum of Art and The New Children’s Museum among others
By Mark Hiss
A Poignant Pioneer
As a DOWNTOWN ART RENEGADE in the 1980s to a respected University of California San Diego lecturer today, sculptor Jay Johnson has traveled a singular path through the San Diego art scene. A Northern California native who has been here for nearly four decades, Johnson, 57, is a skilled carpenter who creates work that is by turns elegant, playful and poignant.
He has been referred to as a storyteller who weaves psychologically enigmatic tales, and borrowing a page from suspense filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Johnson even goes so far as to acknowledge the use of a MacGuffin.
“MacGuffins are things you add to a story to change the twist of the road,” he says. “It might take you down some side road that ends and you kind of wonder, ‘Why did the creator or the artist or the writer do that to me?’ So it gets you thinking.”
Something Johnson is not interested in is preaching or pontificating, maintaining his pieces never quite have a moral or even a meaning. “Magnetism,” he says. “That’s what I’m striving for. If you can get someone to stand in front of something you’ve made for more than 30 seconds I think you’re succeeding.”
Following his years as an art student at San Diego State University, Johnson became part of the first wave of artists to open alternative spaces in downtown San Diego during the early 1980s, prior to Gaslamp Quarter gentrification.
“It was mainly boarded up storefronts, porno shops, dive bars and a few winos sleeping in doorways,” says Johnson. “It was rough and no one wanted to be there, so rents were cheap for large interesting spaces.”
He has fond memories of the camaraderie and thrill of exploring unlocked buildings that hadn’t been touched since the 1930s, and claiming the surreal landscape as a creative playground.
“It was really exciting and everyone knew each other in short order. We’d all kind of hang out together and plan our events, so it was sort of a family of poor artists that had an energy there for a while, and kind of worked together and played off each other. We had our own little world down there; we were left alone,” he says.
In addition to his teaching position at UCSD, Johnson is currently working on a commission for the county of San Diego, constructing large wall displays at the new Operations Center in Kearny Mesa. Collecting county archival material — from tools and laboratory devices to documents and maps — is a project that is not only satisfying his artistic curiosity, but also filling a curatorial void.
“I hired a team and basically we went on our own, with security clearance and all the stuff we had to go through, from office to office and contact to contact, actually looking in drawers, in cubicles, in files, in rooms that hadn’t been opened for years,” he says.
While the resulting pieces are informative, they are not meant to be seen as museum installations but as art. “Instead of trying to instruct the viewer, these things just perk your imagination,” he says.
“Most of it,” he adds, “would have gone in the dumpster.”
Points Of Light
Jay Johnson was awarded a 2011 San Diego Art Prize from the San Diego Visual Arts Network.
He is currently a UCSD lecturer.
His sculptures were commissioned for Qualcomm’s executive offices and he was recently commissioned to do work for the San Diego County Operations Center’s Artifacts Display Project.
Johnson’s solo exhibition was displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 1997.
He is a downtown San Diego art-scene pioneer.
By Neal Matthews
Working Glass Girl
ARTIST/INVENTOR SUSAN HIRSCH recently concluded that her work was getting too designy. Her elegantly warped fused-glass panels contained kinetic patterns of color and texture, not to mention steel rods, fittings and cables, which had won awards in art competitions from the very first piece she made in 2007. Her maturation as an artist had progressed over the previous 20 years before she started making art, and by 2010 she achieved a clarity of vision that takes most artists decades of obscure toil.
“There’s a lot of strength in being more pure with your aesthetic,” she says. “I want to move to cleaner lines, a slightly more simple dynamic.”
Hirsch was standing at her work table near her custom-designed kiln at her warehouse studio in San Marcos. Before her was a wedge of green glass that was part of an entry that won Best in Show at the American Art Glass Association of Southern California members’ exhibition in Balboa Park last fall. Technically, this piece is a “seven-percent chartreuse,” meaning seven percent of the fine-glass pebbles known as “frit” that she melted in a wedge-shaped mold to form the artwork were tinted that color. A second, light-blue wedge that completed the piece was tinted five-percent royal blue. Solid, light, heavy, strong, fragile. The simpler Hirsch’s designs become, the more eloquent the glass.
She found her artistic voice in a deceptively short time. After graduating in 1975 with a BFA from the John Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, Hirsch went on to a successful career in graphic design and as a creative director in the fashion and advertising industries. She freelanced as an art director for Neiman Marcus and Cole Haan. In 2006 she thought she wanted to start making kiln-fired glass sinks so she bought a kiln. “Then I found that making things terribly utilitarian isn’t very profitable, so I decided to make art glass.”
She went to study at Bullseye Glass Company with renowned glass artist Catharine Newell, in Portland, Oregon, the glass art mecca. She chose kiln-formed glass over furnace firing, the method that produces the bulbous shapes favored by glass maestro Dale Chihuly, because you could make larger pieces in the kiln, and the ingenuity required in the “cold work,” shaping and edging the glass after it has cooled, appealed to her. Her first few creations won awards in glass art competitions, and soon after that she was working on commissions for glass works in new homes. Her work is constantly on display at the Contemporary Fine Arts Gallery in La Jolla, and now she gives occasional workshops for the AGA. She runs firefusionstudio.com so potential clients can see her online portfolio.
Hirsch’s specialty is smithing long, thin rectangles of glass, with as many as five layers fused together, and then bending them in the 1,500-degree kiln into arcs. “I like the movement of the bows,” she says, studying the graceful curve of one of her gleaming panels. Arrayed neatly around the studio are her tools, some so specialized she had to invent them, like a special bin for holding flat glass panels upright for edge grinding. Diamond-bladed saws and buffing wheels stand at the ready. How could all these weapons of glass construction coalesce so quickly?
“I knew my direction immediately,” Hirsch says. She sees her works as integrating into contemporary architecture. “What are the two main elements of contemporary architecture? Steel and glass. That’s where I started as an artist.”
Points Of Light
Susan Hirsch is the vice president of the Art Glass Association of Southern California.
In 2007, she won first place in the Emerging Artist
Category at the annual AGA juried show.
In 2011, she won the Best of Show Award at the 30th annual AGA juried show.
Hirsch offers workshops through the AGA.
Her works are featured at Contemporary Fine Arts Gallery in La Jolla.
By Eva Ditler
It’s been more than thirty years since nonconformists woke quilts up from their cozy beds to take them to their new destination: the wall. Pushing aside long-accepted patterns, techniques and fabrics, these quilters gave the traditional craftwork new status as fine art.
Meet La Jolla quilter Gillian Moss.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1959, Moss has a Master’s Degree from the Glasgow School of Art. Originally a successful jewelry artist, she joined her first quilting association, the Irish Patchwork Society, after she married and moved to Dublin.
“With the change of lifestyle and environment, I wanted to explore larger scale work,” says Moss. “I did my jewelry for five and a half years at school, then another seven years as a business. It is small work where you are bent over. My back was sore, my eyes were getting strained — it was hurting my health.”
One of her first contributions to the society was for the guild’s fund-raising opportunity quilt, which is made up of 12-inch-by-12-inch blocks sewn by members. When the squares are completed, a professional jury is called in to determine which of them will be sewn into the quilt.
“The theme was tile in Dublin,” says Moss. “I chose tile from a tobacconist shop. I didn’t do it as it was in the grind; I abstracted it. During the judging, when my number came up, the juror, who was making comments, said, ‘Who made this block? Please stand up. What were you thinking? Do you not have any measuring tools? Where are the right angles? There are no right angles.’ ‘God,’ I thought. ‘This is so embarrassing.’ In the end, the jury decided they liked the block after all and they included it, but that block was a definite indication that I wasn’t going to follow the rules and regulations of the other quilters.”
Today, Moss is contributing far more than blocks to the world of art quilt. Since immigrating to America in 2001 with her husband and two children, her quilts have been exhibited in Texas, Ohio, California and abroad. She belongs to several associations, and in 2008 founded a monthly critique group through Visions Art Museum in Point Loma.
“With the critique group,” says Moss, “you bring a piece of unfinished work that you’re bored with, or the piece where you’re stuck — you don’t know what direction to take it in, you don’t know if the colors are right, etc. We share our opinions and give feedback. It’s incredibly helpful.
“Sometimes [as quilters] we’re working in a vacuum, in a bubble, not aware of what’s going on, so the group is a networking thing, too: did you know they are looking for submissions, did you know about this new book, a new gadget, a new thread. It’s funny, but we get very excited about things like new thread.”
Beth Smith, executive director of Visions has seen Moss’ work in a variety of sizes and approaches.
“When I look for something interesting in an artist that we are going to present to the public,” says Smith, “I’m always intrigued by something I haven’t seen before, a new idea or a new way of doing things. That’s what I like about Gillian’s work. She’s not afraid to take risks, to experiment with different techniques, materials, fibers and fabrics.”
One of Moss’ latest quilts, Second Chance, was a top choice of 38 quilts selected from 230 entries for the Visions Art Museum exhibit “Interpretations 2011” (on display through Jan. 22).
“Gillian is an up-and-coming San Diego fiber artist who we’re going to be on the lookout for,” says exhibit juror Jamie Fengal. “There’s a lot of playfulness in her work and I find it very intriguing that she uses a variety of fabrics — linens, flannels, leather, silk organza. It’s a challenge to use all those fabrics together. It adds interest and texture.”
Moss hopes her quilts will spark the viewer’s emotions, memories and imagination. She says there’s also a little bit of humor in her work and she likes to think that her quilts will evoke “some kind of laugh.
“Quilting is what makes me who I am. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. A day that I don’t do something with fabric is not as good a day.”
Points Of Light
Gillian Moss’ first quilt was hand sewn in 1990 for her husband’s office; English paper pieced, 6 feet by 6 feet.
Her work has been exhibited locally at the Visions Art Museum Gallery, Front Porch Gallery and Fallbrook Library and internationally through the International Quilt Festival Show.
Her memberships include Canyon Quilters, Seaside Quilters, S. California Studio Art Quilters Association, Vision Art Museum and the Vision Art Museum auction committee.
She is the founder of the Vision Art Museum Critique Group.
Moss teaches art quilt classes through Bravo School of Art.
By Thomas Shess
Welcome To The Jungle
There is a pattern of passions in Fred Gemmell. He speaks with the enlightened energy of Julia Child; listen long enough and Gemmell might have you salivating over shapes, colors and exotic materials.
A passionate painter and a nascent gallery owner (his gallery participated in Art San Diego 2011), Gemmell is an engineer by degree, an architect by training, a furniture maker by trade and a legendary commercial and residential interior designer.
He grew up in Panama, constructing jungle tree houses 60 feet up in the canopies of mahogany trees. He moved to the United States in 1968 to study marine engineering at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kingspoint, New York.
During his time at the military academy, Gemmell sought his jungle refuge in art. He began to paint. Using broad strokes of violent color against backgrounds of lush and layered filigree, his paintings capture the movement and breadth of the jungle of his youth.
“The jungle is larger than life and full of action — darts of light streaming down through tall canopies and birds flashing through the rich foliage,” he says. “The interaction of speed, light and movement create the magic in my works.”
Out of college, Gemmell moved to San Diego to buy a yacht to sail around the world. But in the process he fell in love with boat building, and that segued into high-end furniture fabrication and a design career. Over the next 15 years Gemmell became a master custom furniture maker, running a shop of 20 craftsmen, with projects to his name such as the distinctive lobby of Helmut Jahn’s One America Plaza, combining intricately worked Karelian burl panels and stainless-steel detailing.
Gemmell took his love for design and hands-on engineering expertise and dove into interior design, establishing Matrix Design Studio, built on his solid reputation as an innovative designer with technical know-how.
“I’ve worked with the best interior designers in town, including six years with legendary Arthur Porras,” he says. “The attention to detail and sophistication in Arthur’s designs taught me a lot.”
After years of partnering with San Diego architects to create masterful interiors, Gemmell base-jumped forward into his original passion for architecture.
This year, Matrix is in high demand with exciting projects on the docket, including an oceanfront bachelor pad replete with a glass-bottom, roof-deck pool and a rotating hydraulic garage ramp specially designed for sports cars. Another project, on a 2-acre canyon hollow, has indoor hanging gardens and a floating lap pool.
Two years ago, Gemmell surprised everyone when he held a show at Jett Gallery to view the vibrant paintings he had been creating after hours.
“My business life is all about teamwork, which I really honor, but my painting is the one thing I do alone,” he says. “I am very humbled that the paintings I do at night for myself also speak to other people’s awe of nature and craving for the wild.”
Points Of Light
Fred Gemmell’s work has been shown in San Diego and New York.
He went to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kingspoint, New York, for marine engineering and studied at the School of Architecture at the University of Arizona.
His Matrix Design Studio specializes in high-end custom residential and commercial projects.
Gemmell has collaborations with a list of top architects and designers that includes: Bill Hayer, Arthur Porras, Ken Ronchetti, Dean Meredith, House and Dodge, Guy Drier, Manuel Sierra and Joe Manno.
The Gemmell philosophy: “Respect your teammates, solve problems and never pass up an opportunity to hold a baby.”
By Thomas Shess
Metal, Mettle, and Medals
BASILE STUDIO IS “IN.” Owner/designer Paul Basile is cool, hip and on a major roll with his designs of San Diego’s trendiest new restaurants.
The proof comes in the form of buzz, and a couple noteworthy awards. In October at the 2011 Orchids & Onions award ceremony (sponsored by the San Diego Architectural Foundation), Basile got two Orchids, including the top local prize.
His Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant project was noted in the category of Interior Transformation. The eatery was lauded by the judges for: “… eclectic, yet tasteful use of both rustic and industrial materials.”
But the 2011 Grand Orchid went to another Basile collaboration, bar/restaurant Craft & Commerce. One judge called it: “… an amalgamation of tried-and-true populist design moves that still manages to maintain its own personal, and innovative, identity.”
Basile Studio also completed design elements for a new restaurant that opened in November 2011 at Fir and Kettner streets in Little Italy, called UnderBelly. Among its many innovations, the new beer/wine and noodle house includes an original design for a window that, when open, serves as a table uniting indoor/outdoor seating.
In sports, coaches implore players to succeed by “staying within yourself.” Basile may be taking that to heart. In the past three years, he ended his flirtation with being a restaurateur to focus on what he knows best.
He’s gone from over-diversification back to his roots as designer, fabricator and sculptor. He’s working hard at rebranding his career. Yes, he’ll do project work with architects and designers like he did in the past, but 95 percent of his work now involves clients coming directly to the firm to have their projects produced in-house.
This downtown creative spirit is a self-taught craftsman, who began his career by building furniture from scrap rebar. His simple and sturdy metal designs sold quickly, which inspired him to open a downtown furniture and art gallery.
“Word got around to architects in town that I was good at custom metal work, so for the next few years I ended up creating metal staircases for home and commercial projects for others,” Basile says.
Looking back at some of his early commissions, he laughs, admitting that after accepting many custom jobs he had no idea how to begin.
“Like coming up with a 50-foot Chinese fire-breathing dragon for one of Tom Fat’s restaurant operations in Sacramento,” says Basile.
But it’s all about the challenge, he says.
Asked if he fears failure, Basile talks freely about closing Guild Restaurant, despite once winning an Orchid for it.
“It was the best thing for me because I learned I had no business being a day-to-day restaurateur,” he says. “It forced me to refocus on creating the growing success I have now.”
Looking ahead, he wants to pursue more large-format art.
“Sculpture has always been an interest of mine,” he says, “and now I have 12,000 square feet of design space to play around with.”
Points Of Light
Paul Basile won the Grand Orchid for the design of bar/restaurant Craft & Commerce in the 2011 Orchids & Onions awards program, sponsored by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.
He won a 2011 Orchid award for the “Interior Transformation” of Bankers Hill Bar
He opened (and closed) Guild Restaurant, which also won a 2007 Orchid award.
He’s gone back to his roots as a designer, fabricator and sculptor.
Basile Studio is based downtown at 840 Eleventh Avenue.
By Phyllis Van Doren
Lisa Albert and Mark Holmes
The Art of Seduction
LISA ALBERT AND MARK HOLMES are a very modern couple, really not living in the past, though they can replicate stencil and fresco and trompe l’oeil techniques and motifs used centuries ago. Through the resources of their decorative art, design and fine art studio, Albert & Holmes, they are weaving the past into the modern home, borrowing from the past and making it current.
Albert and Holmes bring unique, complementary and individual skills into their La Jolla studio, where they have lived and worked for 21 years. From color consulting to a special finish for a piece of furniture, to murals and frescoes and landscapes, they can bring out the best in the architecture of a home, pulling it together with the interiors through color and painting.
“I love color, texture and pattern. My two favorite things are interiors and architecture,” says Albert. “The work I do is the element that marries the two. I studied the latter, and art, and art history. So I just love my work.”
Albert has been nationally recognized for her hand-painted ornamental design and hand-painted pieces of furniture that grace homes across the country. She recently added couture pillows made of exceptional textiles to her repertoire.
The residential projects Albert and Holmes take on, start to finish, usually last at least six months to a year. When you have several such projects underway, obviously it takes a team under the guidance of Albert and Holmes to bring the vision to completion. Their lead artist, Joshua Benz, who has been working with them for 14 years and is like a son to Albert, is a valued member of the team.
Holmes brings a background of management, scenic design and plein air painting to their business. “Though probably we are most known for working in a decorative style considered Old World European, we could be doing a Scandinavian-inspired ceiling one week, painting an Australian landscape in a dining room the next, with an Italian frieze on a simultaneous project thrown in for good measure,” says Holmes. “Sometimes it is European-inspired design adapted for a modern environment. Variety is what makes what we do never boring.”
Holmes paints almost exclusively in oils when doing his landscapes of scenes throughout San Diego. When they are doing murals for clients, they usually work in acrylic. Albert’s two favorite painters are the contemporary South African artist William Kentridge and John Singer Sargent. Holmes favors the artists of the Hudson River School, and Edgar Payne, Maurice Braun and George Inness, Corot, Pissarro and Sargent.
Albert and Holmes do their history homework, bringing the past to terms with today. After all, finishes in a room ultimately are the art of seduction.
Points Of Light
Lisa Albert founded Mise en Scene Art Studio in Dallas.
Albert’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Veranda and Traditional Home, and on three San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles’ covers.
Her work has been featured on Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators.
Mark Holmes is a member of the American Impressionist Society, California Art Club and others.
Holmes was the lead artist and managing artist for Peter Wolf Concepts and TW Designs.
He has worked on Broadway productions of The King and I, The Wiz, Mame and others.
By Ron Donoho
When Worlds Collide
WE GATHER OURSELVES INTO FACTIONS and groups, and wear the labels of our political, social and religious affiliations. But how each of us filters and defines the world is ultimately an individualistic task. To that notion, no recent artistic undertaking better exemplifies the “no-two-snowflakes-are-alike” philosophy than the “100 Worlds Project,” a sculptural essay gaining international attention.
Ron Miriello spent years conceiving and collaborating on the project, amassed in an unheralded part of downtown San Diego.
Physically, “100 Worlds” is a diverse collection of 50 globes. Most of the designs came to life out of Miriello’s myriad sketchbooks. But he allowed an array of craftspeople to interpret the ideas. And ultimately the project came to include spheres made of:
Maple veneer, die cut paper, aluminum, urethane foam and moss.
Repurposed game boards and playing pieces.
A boat propeller.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the globe as a metaphor,” says Miriello, who, since 1982, has presided over graphic design and brand development for Miriello Grafico.
In 2007, the Coronado resident and New Jersey-born son of Italian immigrants moved his business to Barrio Logan.
Barrio Logan? Isn’t that the sketchy part of downtown, east of East Village, slow to gentrify and not on any of the tourist maps? Maybe so, but don’t disparage the ’hood in Miriello’s presence. He’s indirectly become a local spokesperson, and has worked with the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau on showing off the area to visiting dignitaries.
Miriello Grafico has done branding strategies for a slew of big-name and corporate clients: Nordstrom Menswear, Sotheby’s, Adidas, Callaway Golf, Hyatt Regency Hotels, General Electric, Hewlett Packard and Qualcomm among them.
“My job is to help give shape to dreams,” says Miriello. “We help companies communicate with their customers. I can think from a business perspective and then I can jump into the right side [of the brain] and be curious and playful. And join the two together.”
Professionally, he blends commercialism and craftsmanship. But the “100 Worlds Project” was a purely creative endeavor, and was an artistic outlet Miriello clearly has savored.
It started when he began envisioning the globe as a canvas. He began working on the concept on his garage floor.
“I did a couple,” he says. “I had two or three. It wasn’t driven by commerce. I purposefully didn’t want to know where it was going.”
Eventually, he began to see the collection as an exhibition.
“But I didn’t tell anyone,” he says. “It was all about the doing.”
He started getting other craftspeople involved. Miriello also invited photographers to shoot the pieces, and to interpret them in their own way. Many of the photographs were sold, and profits went to the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation.
Ask Miriello what the “100 Worlds Project” is about, and watch him smile.
“People can make their own assumptions about it,” he says with an air of mystery. “It’s about the creative process; see how many versions you can make of the same idea. It’s about speaking a language that everybody can understand and play with.”
You’d also like to know why it’s called “100 Worlds,” but the collection consists of half that many globes.
“I thought I’d make a hundred, but 50 was enough,” he says, grinning. “I’m not going to make the next 50. I don’t know what the show wants to become. But it’s a game everyone can play.”
He sighs, and continues: “You know, I’m used to having a budget, and knowing how to solve something … I think the show is going to go places, and I’m really comfortable not knowing where. There’s nothing else in my life like that.”
Points Of Light
The “100 Worlds Project” premiered in February 2011 at the Jett Gallery in Little Italy, and recently was shown at the Keller Art Gallery at Point Loma Nazarene University.
“100 Worlds” has been featured on local TV newscasts, numerous websites around the world and in the Chinese Vogue.
A hardcopy book version of the project is available at: 100worldsproject.com.
Miriello Grafico has created brand campaigns for Qualcomm, Hyatt Regency Hotels,
Nordstrom Menswear and scores of other corporate clients.
Ron Miriello’s office building is in a former marine supply warehouse in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of Barrio Logan, which is evolving into a creative community for San Diego architects, designers and craftsmen.