Friday, December 7, 2012

San Francisco hotel features work by artist Lorena Ziraldo

For the last month, figurative painter Lorena Ziraldo, who lives in Canada, has worked on a series of paintings during her artist-in-residence at the Hotel California in San Francisco.
Ziraldo focused on her family life, with an emphasis on her teenage son, to create works delving into the themes of youth and impermanence. The hotel will host a closing artist reception for Ziraldo from 5 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8. 580 Geary St., S.F. (415) 441-2700.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos bring Spanish flair to the holidays with world premiere

Caminos Flamencos artistic director Yaelisa. Photo by P. Trapani.
With musical direction by Jason "El Rubio" McGuire—dancer, choreographer, singer and Camino Flamencos founder and artistic directorYaelisa, company dancers Fanny Ara and Melissa Cruz and guest dancer Manuel Gutierrez perform "10 Por Arriba."

This flamenco show also features guest artists from the disciplines of flamenco, jazz, opera and rock. They include tenor Ray Chavez, singer and guitartist Jose Cortes, cellist Dan Reiter, drummer and percussionist Joey Heredia and pianist and composer Vicki Trimbach.

Based in San Francisco, Caminos Flamencos strives to preserve flamenco dance and music with traditional and contemporary dance programs performed by artists from the United States and Spain. The organization also offers flameco dance and music training, for students of all levels, through its dance school.

8 p.m., Dec. 12-15 and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16. Tickets: $20-$40. On Sunday, Dec. 16: Admission is free for children six years and younger. ODC Theater, 3153 17th S., S.F. (415) 863-9834,




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Forgotten Stories, Remarkable Lives"

By Stephanie Wright Hession

Every year since the age of 12, Hector Dionicio Mendoza has painted a portrait of what he imagines his twin brother, Jesus, might look like at his age. Jesus died as a newborn, and recently, Mendoza created and dedicated an altar to his brother.

Mendoza is one of a group of artists displaying altars and installations for the exhibition, "Forgotten Stories, Remarkable Lives: Días de los Muertos 2012." It's part of the Oakland Museum of California's 18th annual Days of the Dead, which remembers deceased loved ones and celebrates their lives.

"I am doing my own version of an altar," says Mendoza, an Oakland resident who works as a visual and public art instructor at California State University, Monterey Bay. "I'm actually doing a site-specific installation that includes a small table - and it has an element that relates to the traditional altar - but I'm doing more of a contemporary view of what an altar would be."

A mixed-media piece incorporating wood and insulation foam, it centers upon the ebony-colored table, which acts as the canvas for the first painting of Jesus, depicting him as a crying infant and completed in the style of the Old Masters. Peering through a small, circular mirror placed on the floor beneath the table allows the viewer to see the second portrait, which Mendoza painted when he turned 21. Above the altar, vertical strips of vividly colored paper represent a modern take on papel picado, the traditional perforated banners used for Día de los Muertos.
Altar by Hector Dionicio Mendoza.  Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.

"I definitely wanted to do a piece that paid homage to my twin brother but also for the piece to be more open and dedicated to the los angelitos, the children who died young in life," says Mendoza, who was born in Uruapan, Mexico, grew up in King City (Monterey County) and earned his master of fine arts degree from the Yale University School of Art.

Intertwining elements of California history, "Forgotten Stories, Remarkable Lives" tells the tales of ordinary people and their contributions, which often go unnoticed. It also features the work of Adrian Arias, Cece Carpio, Brett Cook, Rob-O, Imelda Martinez and Jenifer Wofford, as well as community altars by museum docents and students from the Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland and Tennyson High School in Hayward.
Altar by Adrian Arias (above). Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.
Altar by Cece Carpio (above). Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.
Altar by Brett Cook (above). Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.

For their altar, artists Rob-O and Martinez focus on agricultural workers from the Bracero Program, which permitted temporary contract laborers from Mexico to work in the United States and ended in the 1960s. For the piece, Rob-O created an elaborate sugar skull embellished with fine details and crimson roses. Through her research, Martinez discovered that both sets of her grandparents participated in the program.
Altar by Rob-O and Imelda Martinez. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.

"In organizing the show, I wanted to honor people in the sense that they make up California. When thinking about that, the Oakland Museum's history collection is wonderful because it really tries to take history and personalize it," says guest curator Eduardo Pineda, the former museum educator for the Museum of the African Diaspora and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

"I find that's the way to understand history," he continues. "We all are making history every day."

Community celebration: noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Free with museum admission. Exhibition runs through Dec. 9. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Free-$12. Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. (510) 318-8400.

Monday, October 22, 2012


"Disney on Ice '100 Years of Magic' celebrates Disney storytelling"
To commemorate a century of Disney’s imaginative storytelling, Disney on Ice presents “100 Years of Magic," which focuses upon 18 enchanting fairy tales and contemporary stories. Produced by Feld Entertainment, it features more than 65 classic characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket and all of the Disney princesses.

Goofy, Minnie and Mickey Mouse lead the Mickey Mouse Club parade.
John and Gideon leading Pinocchio into trouble.
It also features characters from Disney’s 1994 film, “The Lion King,” from Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story” films, and from Disney/Pixar’s 2003 film, “Finding Nemo.”

Highlights of the evening:

Performances by Simba, Nala, Rafiki, Timon and Pumbaa from the“The Lion King,” Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story” and Nemo, Marlin and Dory from “Finding Nemo.”
Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki, Nala and Simba from "The Lion King" 
Jessie Woody, and Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story"

 Marlin and Dory from "Finding Nemo"

A waltz featuring all of the Disney princesses and their princes including Snow White and Prince Charming from the 1937 Disney film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” to Ariel and Eric from the 1989 Disney film, “The Little Mermaid,” to Jasmine and Aladdin from the 1992 Disney film, “Aladdin.”
Belle and The Beast from "Beauty and the Beast"
Skaters portraying the dolls from the classic Disneyland ride, “It’s a Small World,” holding lighted archways and wearing gorgeous, intricately detailed blue and white costumes representing the traditional dress of various countries. Lighted, iconic symbols such as the Eiffel Tower were also featured and Mickey Mouse arrived from the skies riding in the basket of an illuminated balloon.
Disney on Ice celebrates “100 Years of Magic,” Oct. 24-28, 2012. $20-$92.55. HP Pavilion at San Jose, 525 West Santa Clara St., San Jose.,
Photos courtesy of Feld Entertainment.

-Stephanie Wright Hession

Friday, July 20, 2012

Berkeley Playhouse presents an engaging and magical production of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”

By Stephanie Wright Hession
Arts and Culture Writer

Fans of Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," will delight in the Berkeley Playhouse’s engaging and magical production of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," based on this book.

Directed by Elizabeth McKoy, the company’s artistic director, the musical features wonderful performances by a cast with amazing energy. It includes the fabulous Vernon Bush (center, above as The Candyman and below as Willy Wonka).
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” weekends, through Aug. 19. Julia Morgan Theatre, 2646 College Avenue, Berkeley. $17-$35 plus $1.50 theatre improvement fee per ticket. (510) 845-8542,

Directed by Elizabeth McKoy. Music and lyrics by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. Adapted for the stage by Leslie Bricusse and Tim McDonald.
Photos by Larry Abel


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Former Life photographer Peter Solmssen exhibits work in "Brazil in the Sixties"
By Stephanie Wright Hession

Peter Solmssen captured this intriguing black-and-white image of two tuxedoed men eyeing a woman in 1960s Brazil. His works are on view at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Photos courtesy of the artist.

One day in Singapore in 1961, American diplomat Peter Solmssen heard an alluring song playing inside a record store. Curious, he stopped by and upon learning its title and composer - "Corcovado" by Antonio Carlos Jobim - he discovered bossa nova and one of the founders of this seductive style of Brazilian music. Solmssen decided that his next assignment for the State Department would have to be in Brazil.

Leaving New York in 1965 on board the liner Brazil, bound for the U.S. Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, he met a fellow passenger on the ship: Jobim.
"My grandfather and father both spent significant time in Brazil, but that had nothing to do with my going there. It was the music and, with my luck, it was in full flower at the time," Solmssen says. "It was of professional interest as well, since this music was actually the result of cultural exchange: Africa with Brazil, Africa with U.S. jazz, U.S. jazz with Brazilian samba, etc."
The diplomat and the prominent singer, songwriter and composer - who co-wrote "The Girl From Ipanema" - became friends. And Solmssen, a former photographer for Life magazine, documented the people, culture and characteristics of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Salvador during this time through his photography and films. His solo exhibition at 111 Minna Gallery, "Brazil in the Sixties," encapsulates five years through 25 photographs, as well as two films.
With his Konica Auto-Reflex camera and using Kodachrome, Ilford HP4 and Kodak Tri-X film, he set out to portray the nature of each place.
"I photographed Rio to record the beauty of the place and of the people. The Brazilians on the beach in Ipanema were so elegant that the picture in the show could have been taken yesterday" until you notice the very dated Americans way in the background, Solmssen says. "Rio is a riot of color; photographing it in black and white would have been a distortion of the amazing reality."

In one such work, a plane flies above Guanabara Bay, awash in soft, natural light, silhouetted by Rio de Janeiro and the 2,300-foot Corcovado mountain. Another captures the lively beach scene, with two young women wearing bikinis against a backdrop of turquoise water.

"São Paulo is higher, cooler and grittier. It feels more like Europe and has a heavily European population; moving there felt like going to another country, though it is only 200 miles away," he says. "Black-and-white seemed the obvious choice. I started to photograph what I saw for a book, because it is a major industrial center and at the time most people outside of Brazil had either never heard of it or thought it was in the jungle somewhere."
Among these works is an intriguing shot of two tuxedoed men at a party eyeing a woman with an ornate hairstyle, dramatic makeup and a tight pantsuit. In another work, a street bustles with throngs of people making their way across a section of a busy thoroughfare, crowded with clusters of VW beetles, all headed toward a chaotic traffic jam.

"The mere personal experience and history behind the idea and Peter himself were a unique opportunity for the gallery to collaborate with an artist who was offering an exhibit outside of 111 Minna's usual format, but still carried with it an attitude which we admire," curator Micah LeBrun says. "It possessed an honest documentation of an edgy and progressive culture, which was developing during one of the edgiest decades the world has known ... the '60s."
Through Jan. 28. Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri. 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna St., S.F. (415) 974-1718.