The Work of Art is a podcast series of conversations with leading writers, musicians, photographers, artists, performers and others, discussing their creative process and their creative lives. You can subscribe to future interview episodes via RSS, iTunes or email.
A conversation with photographer Paulette Tavormina about her stunning, moody still lifes shot in the style of Old Master painters. She discussed learning the importance of authentic detail while making movie props (such as recreating Nixon’s resignation letter), why it can take as long as a week to stage a single photograph, the differences between painting and photographing the same scene, and the surprising satisfaction of social media as a venue to show her work.
Paulette began her career photographing works of art for a major auction house and working as a Hollywood food and prop stylist. Her own fine art photos have been shown across Europe and the United States, and her first solo museum show is this year at the Academy Art Museum in Maryland and travels to Notre Dame University’s Snite Museum of Art later this year. Her book of still life photographs, Seizing Beauty, was recently published by Monacelli Press.
A conversation with photographer and activist Brittani Sensabaugh about “the power of melanin” and her 222 Movement. She talks about using photography to document and celebrate an oppressed culture, mixing art and activism, and teaching young people not just creative skills but psychological strength. Brittani lives in Oakland, California, and travels to cities around the country documenting “communities that have been forgotten and people who feel they have no voice.” In the past year she has had solo exhibitions on both coasts. Her work has been covered by the PBS Newshour, Teen Vogue, and nearly every major Bay Area periodical.
A conversation with visual and sound artist Shawn Feeney about building a creative community in small towns and large cities, working with crime victims as a forensic artist, how his pumpkin carvings landed him a gig on a reality TV show, the relative benefits of attending art school versus learning on the job, and much more.
Shawn earned his BA in Music from Harvard and his MFA in Intermedia from the University of Auckland, and also holds Certificates in Forensic Facial Imaging from the FBI Academy. As a visual artist he has worked at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic and for the Suffolk County police department in New York. As a musician he has composed for the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge Mass, and toured as bassist with Regina Spektor. His work has been presented at MOMA in New York, the De Young Museum in San Francisco, and many other institutions around the world.
A conversation with artist Alexa Meade about turning three dimensions into two, painting as a performance in front of thousands, avoiding the “uncanny valley” when making portraits, the publicity advantages of social media over traditional media, and how being helpful and handy can be the path to a woman’s heart.
While Alexa works with traditional brushes and paints, her artistic process is unusual: she paints portraits ON her human models, taking a three-dimensional scene and making it look like a two-dimensional painting. Other current projects include a residency working with scientists at the Perimeter Institute, exploring emerging virtual reality tools, designing toys, and turning her own home into a full-size funhouse. She is based in Los Angeles, and she gives lectures and has done residencies and exhibitions across the United States and Europe.
A conversation with classical composer Nathaniel Stookey about writing for children and adults, how to fight loneliness with artistic collaborations (and lots of time in local bars and cafes), finding joy in urban planning and other areas outside the arts, and bringing humor to the classical music world.
First commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony when he was 17-years old, Nathaniel’s best known work is “The Composer is Dead,” a collaboration with the children’s book author known as Lemony Snicket, which has become one of the most widely performed classical works of the 21st century. He has had works commissioned by Frederica von Stade and the Kronos Quartet and spent several months at the San Francisco city dump’s Artist in Residence program, where he wrote the music and created instruments from discarded trash for the work he titled “Junkestra“.
A conversation with theater artist Charlie Varon about the differences between storytelling and solo performance, artistic bravado versus artistic bravery, how writing and playing different characters helps him see the world better through others’ eyes, the “necessary narcissism” to create works of art, and much more.
Charlie is a playwright, performer, director and teacher. One of the driving forces at San Francisco’s solo performance theater The Marsh, some of his best known shows include “Rabbi Sam,” and “Rush Limbaugh in Night School,” which won 2 Bay Area Critics Circle Awards and the American Theater Critics Association’s Osborn Award. As a director, he has shaped hit shows including Dan Hoyle‘s “Tings Dey Happen” and “The Real Americans.” He teaches workshops on solo performance and writing for the theater, and he is currently working with cellist Joan Jeanrennaud, formerly of the Kronos Quartet, on a new work, “Duet for Cello and Storyteller.”
A conversation with novelist and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias about the different pleasures in writing for the page versus the screen, growing up in a family of writers, the importance of patience, the best sources of input for revising one’s own writing, and why he considers autobiographical fiction more deeply honest than memoir.
Rafael is a novelist and screenwriter for feature films and television. He is the author of ten novels, including his most recent, The Wisdom of Perversity. His previous novel, A Happy Marriage, won the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.
As a screenwriter, he was nominated for a Bram Stoker award for his screenplay for the Johnny Depp/Heather Graham thriller “From Hell.” Other screenplay adaptations he has written include Roman Polanski’s movie of Ariel Dorfman’s stage play “Death and the Maiden,” and the 1998 film of “Les Misérables,” starring Liam Neeson. He is currently a writer and executive producer of the NBC television series “Aquarius,” starring David Duchovny.
A conversation with Ian Boyden, a visual artist who works in painting, sculpture, land art and other media. He has a background and degrees in art history as well as East Asian studies and has spent years studying, making and exhibiting his art in Asia, much of it in Suzhou, China. He was recently named Executive Director of the San Juan Islands Museum of Art.
We discussed art, Buddhism, living in China, the environment, nirvana and much more. His art made about and from the remnants of the Tripod Fire in the Cascade Mountains was featured here.
We discussed how he uses his own limitations as a source of creativity, how to encourage oneself to take artistic risks, the value of old fashioned tools as well as social media to build community, and how to keep one’s art fresh and original. He even made a new blackout poem to reflect the conversation.
We discussed why women artists are better role models for maintaining work-family balance, how to raise creative children, the value of sales and other business skills for artists, and the difference between creation, curation, and criticism. He even made a new blackout poem to reflect the conversation.
A conversation with photographer Travis Jensen, a well-known San Francisco-based street photographer who also shoots a wide range of editorial and commercial work. Other photographers Travis mentions in this interview include Brad Evans and Rasta Dave 52.