The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

Moments of Transcendence: an interview with Danielle Peters

Posted by on July 29, 2015

Peters Moment of Transcendence image by GarciaYou might think you just climb stairs to the 3rd floor of the MAH.
But what if you thought about it like transcending?

You’re going up. You’re in between two phases. (Those phases might be the 2nd and 3rd floor, but c’mon, they’re still phases.)

Those are the kinds of moments Danielle Peters drew from when creating Moments of Transcendence. It’s a paper sculpture that welcomes you upward to the 3rd floor of the MAH. The sweeping forms of paper are made up of many collected moments of transcendence from her Boys and Girls Club students and MAH visitors at 3rd Friday: Beyond Borders.

Find out more about the sculpture here, and read an interview Danielle Peters did with former Exhibitions intern Emily Corbo below.

EC: You work in several different mediums.  How would you define your work as an artist? Do you have an overall intention for the work you create? Is there a relation between the different mediums you work in?

DP: Whether drawing or creating sculptures, costumes, and installations, I am typically manipulating paper in some way. Paper is practical for someone working within a modest budget, but it is also a very affective and transformative material. You can literally take a material people throw away everyday and give it new life.

EC: What inspired this piece? What was your intention in creating it?

DP: I have gone through many transitions since moving to Santa Cruz five months ago and have met the most inspirational people during this time. I have never felt like I belonged so much to a community. I wanted “Moments of Transcendence” to be an open conversation between the broad spectrum of people that make up the Santa Cruz community, but to also feel like an intimate conversation between friends. My intention was to learn more about each participant’s unique experience, but also to highlight our shared human experience. We all go through moments of extreme suffering and bliss, and we are changed by these moments.

EC: Can you elaborate on the title and the materials? Why Moments of Transcendence?
This piece is composed of the personal stories of others. Where did you source your content from? Can you provide some examples of the content created when making this piece? Do you have any particular “moments of transcendence” that stood out for you?

DP: I worked on the elements for this piece alongside members of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz and participants at MAH’s Third Friday event, Beyond Borders. I was surprised by what people were willing to disclose, and grateful for each participant’s willingness to share their stories with me.

The initial stages involved spreading out drawing materials and large rolls of paper for groups of people to work on side by side. Through offering space, material, and springboard questions, I wanted to create a platform for sharing these stories. I wanted people to feel comfortable and like they were part of a team when creating this piece. I also wanted there to be a balance of self-expression and anonymity present as participants wrote or illustrated their experiences on paper. I am always amazed by the events that people consider transformative. The kids at BGC wrote and drew pictures of happy times in their lives, like baby brothers and sisters being born, rollercoaster rides, learning a new skill, or moving to a new home. More often than not older participants recalled moments of struggle rather than joy. Life events that seem capable of destroying lives often end up being the most meaningful. Cancer came up a lot. I think it is empowering to find that even in the worst situations we get to be the ones to choose whether we are built up or broken down by these events. I am always shocked by the limits people surpass when faced with something that seems as insurmountable as heartbreak, cancer, the loss of a job, home, or a loved one. It is very empowering to hear these stories.

EC: You have several sculptures made from cut pieces of paper. Can you elaborate on your method of constructing sculptures through paper? Where did this concept develop from? Why paper?

DP: I enjoy the malleability of paper, it changes shape and meaning so easily. Working with paper allows me to turn nothing into something; garbage into something beautiful. I like finding value in things with little to no monetary value. I enjoy being the one who dictates an object’s worth. I think that is what I enjoy about art, dance, and music, it is really hard to stick a price tag on that kind of value.

I started making these sculptures in graduate school at the University of Georgia. My professor, Eileen Wallace, had taught me how to make my own abaca. I loved the way this fibrous paper looked, like skin or fingernails. It made me want to create sculptures that similarly combined plant and animal characteristics.  

EC: What is the process of creating a collaborative piece and installing it? Can you elaborate on how the content for the piece was collected? When installing the piece, is there a mapped out design or does the design of the sculpture shift as the project is installed?

DP: I am very much influenced by the space. When talking to Stacey [Garcia MAH Director of Community Engagement) in the initial stages about how I wanted to contribute to the Beyond Borders event I knew that I wanted to focus on the psychological aspect of borders. I wanted to create a piece that communicated some kind of ascension, so we were thinking of places in the museum like the elevator or areas around the stairs. I drew out 3 or 4 ideas and let the curators decide which design and location would work best with the other events happening in the space. They ended up choosing the most ambitious plan, both in scale and location. Fortunately I had the help of friend and artist, Leigh Erickson, in the installation stage, as well as Stacey and my mom, Terri Peters. I don’t know what I would do without my friends and family, they play a large role in everything I do in art and in life. I owe so much to them!

EC: Where do you turn for your inspiration?

DP: Everything inspires me: dance, surfing, hiking, conversations with strangers, and other artists. Everything I read, everyone I meet, everything I see in society and nature; it all works its way into my work in way or another.

EC: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who are interested in collaborative work?

DP: Don’t be intimidated by the people you admire and don’t underestimate your talents. Approach people who inspire you, even if they do something completely different than yourself. Your talents could be equally as inspiring to them and useful in a collaborative setting.

No Comments »

Artifact of the Month: Bringing the Town Together, Catalyst Poster from 1966

Posted by on June 10, 2015

In MAH collection-land, the 1960s are big—huge, in fact. Recently I’ve accepted a few wonderful donations from this decade. It was a pivotal time in Santa Cruz County’s history. And locals are ready to open their closets, storage sheds, and trunks to share part of this history with us.

Santa Cruz became a cauldron of cultural experimentation, neighborhood activism, intellectual exploration and environmental protection in the 1960s and 1970s. This progressive shift was one part university students, one part community activists, one part hippies with alternative lifestyles.

Located in the old St. George Hotel, the original Catalyst Coffee House and Delicatessen was the downtown gathering place for artists, politicians, students, and professors. The hotspot opened in 1966. Patti DiLudovico, a folk singer, chose the name “the Catalyst” to foster a welcoming atmosphere where ideas flowed with the beer and wine. Patti and her husband, Al, ran the Catalyst. “[UCSC administrator] Byron Stockey came to us one day, saying ‘We need a place where we can bring the University and the town together, ‘” Patti said.

Catalyst Poster, 1966. Artist: Doni Tunheim

Catalyst Poster, 1966. Artist: Doni Tunheim

A few months ago, I met Holly Harman, author of Inside a Hippie Commune. Packed with photos and stories, this book describes the counterculture in Santa Cruz County. Holly told me that Patti reminisces about the Catalyst days. She wanted the MAH to have 3 original posters advertising the opening of the deli. These posters are amazing works of art, in a flowing art nouveau style. Local artist Doni Tunheim painted these beauties in 1966. My favorite is the one featuring a seated woman. Her red hair winds around the deli’s moniker and “coffee,” “pastries,” “art shows.” That sounds pretty great to me.

While thumbing through Inside a Hippie Commune, I noticed Stanley Stevens’ name. Stan is Librarian Emeritus at UC Santa Cruz and amazing local historian. He comes in every week to the MAH archives and works on indexing some of our collections. Stan was part of the co-op Catalyst. In fact, he was the treasurer. And you think you know a guy…

Stan says that he was also in charge of filling up the huge pickle container for the Catalyst. He got the pickles from somewhere in San Francisco. He used to drive there once a month to attend ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) meetings. I showed Stan another recent donation to the MAH. It’s an original menu from the Catalyst. Stan said, “Oh yes, Carly [his wife] made the chocolate crazy cake. She’d bake some in the morning, and by the afternoon, the Catalyst had sold out of it. Now I have to get that recipe.

2 Comments »

Artifact of the Month: Of Cheese and Dairymen: Scaroni Ranch Photograph

Posted by on February 4, 2015

My family has a soft spot for dairies. My husband was born and raised on a dairy ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. He loves telling boyhood stories about growing up among the bovine, milk, and the regular occurrence of calf birthing. We almost got married at the old barn.

 

A Barn at Scaroni Ranch

A Barn at Scaroni Ranch

Here’s a photo of another old barn closer to us. This barn was part of the Scaroni Ranch, a huge dairy operation situated along the North Coast of Santa Cruz. Pio Scaroni came to Santa Cruz from Gordola, Switzerland in 1868. He was a successful dairyman. The ranch prospered for many years. It’s now part of Wilder Ranch State Historic Park.

 

The North Coast of Santa Cruz County has a rich dairy history. “There was a time when the lowing of thousands of cows mingled with the lofty screams of the seagulls, starting in the early 1800s,” wrote Santa Cruz columnist Wally Trabing in 1966. Dairies dotted the coast—from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay.

 

When you think dairy ranch, you think milk. But this is a cheese story. The Scaroni Ranch took their turn at cheese in the early 20th Century, making the Fancy Flat cheese. These delectable cheddar rounds weighed 24 pounds. Cured for up to three weeks in warm cheese houses, the rounds shipped to Santa Cruz or San Francisco. At the height of production, the Scaroni Ranch produced 300 pounds of cheese a day.

 

Many dairies along the coast took up the cheese making business. But by 1933, it was all over. Changing laws forced the ranchers to quit the cheese and take up solely milk production. But that dried up too, due to the take-over of larger California dairies. For more information about our dairy history, check out www.santacruzredwoods.org. We might not be able to snack on slices of Fancy Flat, but we can do our part to protect the land of milk and cheese.

3 Comments »

Don’t Forget to submit to History Journal #8

Posted by on January 8, 2015

History Journal No. 8 – Article Solicitation The Forgotten People of Santa Cruz County
The History Publications Committee of the Museum of Art & History is pleased to announce that History Journal No. 8 will be devoted to the history of the people of Santa Cruz County. But not just any people, not the famous, or wealthy but forgotten or under-represented people.

The journal will be dedicated to local historian Phil Reader (1940 – 2014). Phil was a champion of the under-represented and disenfranchised. He researched, documented, and shared their history.

In the words of the historian and UCSC librarian emeritus, Stanley D. Stevens:

Phil was one of the most generous historians, focusing on Santa Cruz County and the underrepresented people that other historians chose not to write about, or deferred to Phil, knowing that he was developing “the” definitive history on that subject. His writing and research included African Americans, Outlaws, and Prostitutes. His “To Know My Name — A Chronological History of African Americans in Santa Cruz County” is a classic that reflects Phil’s attention to detail and accuracy. . . His wit and gracious presence will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him, or those who he has touched by his spirit. Many of his essays (327 items) may be read on the Research Forum website, hosted by the Museum of Art & History.

In the spirit of Phil Reader this journal will capture the previously untold stories of the people who have not yet been written into Santa Cruz County history.

Below is a partial and preliminary list of those whose stories might be included in the journal. Some of these may take the form of major articles, while others may be short sidebars or presented in an appendix.

Unsung Heroes
Minority Communities
Quiet Philanthropists
The Defenseless
Servants of the Community
Those who Served
The Enslaved
The Frail and Vulnerable
Those Taken Advantage of
People who made a Difference
Thinkers
Unrecognized Craftspeople
Planning for History Journal No. 8 has already begun, and the Committee is soliciting proposals for contributions. Authors of articles will be asked to submit their finished contributions in September 2015, with publication expected the following year.

Guidelines for authors are available on the MAH website under Learn— History Publications— Guidelines for authors.

Please submit your suggestion in the form of an article abstract, by March 1, 2015, to the Chair of the Publications Committee, Lisa Robinson at lisaar@yahoo.com, (831) 338-4152, or to Marla Novomarla@santacruzmah.org, Santa Cruz MAH, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz, CA 95062.

Sincerely,
The History Publications Committee

1 Comment »

Dance like you never have before– inside a kaleidoscope.

Posted by on October 13, 2014

As part of our ongoing Participatory Performing Artist-in-Residence Program (PPAIR), choreographer Karl Schaffer (click here for more info) will co-create a kaleidoscopic video involving dance from visitors and dancers at GLOW on Digital Art Night, October 17th

For our participation in MAH’s GLOW: A Festival of Light we’ve been working on expanding our work with “video tessellations,” mosaic designs created from live video of dancers and audience members. Using three cameras set up around the MAH Atrium, we’ll feed the video images to software by mathematical software designer Kevin Lee, which then forms them into colorful kaleidoscopic video projections on three screens. Visitors will be invited to play with their own kaleidoscopic designs and create dance movements of their own as part of the event.

karl1

Karl testing out his video tessellations with Arts Council Santa Cruz in the MAH Auditorium

The video tessellation dances have been popular in performances over the past several years. This time around, we wanted to find ways for audiences to play with the software and projections while also allow our dancers to use them in new ways. To that end, we have been working to create three new short dances using a camera hung about ten feet above the floor and pointed downwards. The dances, currently titled “Wiggle Room,” “Java Jive,” and “Tripeds” are set to varied recorded scores and incorporate humorous effects. We will perform them every thirty minutes during the three-hour event, interspersed by audience interaction with the digital effects. Dancers are Jane Real, Lila Salhov, Saki, and Laurel Shastri. We’ve been creating them in my home studio, but finally had a chance to try them out in the Atrium space last weekend, with a camera hung from the wires crossing the atrium space. This was a tremendously helpful rehearsal session, in which we tested camera and projector placement and lighting– all of which are crucial for the work.
The work has benefited tremendously from a number of meetings with MAH’s Director of Community Engagement, Stacey Garcia, who has helped plan our participation in the event and provided us with extensive museum resources. We have been able to test the software at several events recently. Vi Hart, a “mathemusician” whose math videos have recently become an internet sensation has been holding monthly math-themed parties in San Francisco with colleague Andrea Hawksley, who’s also involved in artistic mathematical work. In July they held a “Kaleidoscope Party,” and we set up the video tessellations at the party. We observed that those more willing to stand and move in front of the camera were mostly women, while men seemed more interested in interacting with the software. This led us to contact Kevin Lee, who kindly revised the software to make it easier for audiences to modify it on the fly, and to allow us to save settings from one session to another. Laurel Shastri, who will perform with us at GLOW, also pointed out that we should not discount as audience interaction those who simply watched in fascination!

 

Karl testing out his video tessellations with Arts Council Santa Cruz in the MAH Auditorium

Karl testing out his video tessellations with Arts Council Santa Cruz in the MAH Auditorium

A second event allowed us to introduce the software effects at the monthly teaching artist gathering organized by Sarah Brothers with the Arts Council Santa Cruz, held in the MAH auditorium. At this event we did a longer (45 minute) introduction to symmetry, involving much movement and movement composition in groups, useful for the classroom, then worked for about 25-30 minutes with the video tessellations. The symmetry intro gave these artists a quick background in the mathematical concepts used in tessellations. We used recordings of Zambra’s songs for the video tessellations. Those attending were a little reluctant to then get up again and move into the cameras, but did eventually and played for awhile. We did not have the 1-page handout for manipulating the software, so they did not try that. They seemed more comfortable moving the colorful scarves and clothing items we brought, and did stare at the screen. The screen hung at right angles to the camera line (so a monitor placed beside the camera would be helpful at GLOW). We observed that colorful clothing does show up better. At the end of the event, after I turned off the music and others were standing around talking and getting ready to leave, one participant who had not wanted to move during the earlier session did get up and played in front of the camera. This suggest that less “center stage” placement of camera(s) might be encouraging to museum attendees. Also, not many people played with the one laptop using its own camera and screen; so placement of laptops, and perhaps use of larger monitors with them, maybe even obvious cameras, might be more important than we had realized. Fortunately we have now been able to borrow a total of five laptops to run the software, and will use the extras with their own built in cameras for audience interactions.
Another shorter visit with Scott Kim and his family gave us some ideas about how children interact with the software, as we observed his young daughter, around age seven, stand in front of the camera and play with the tessellation designs non-stop for about a half hour.
We’re looking forward to performing for and with audiences during GLOW, though we still have a lot of preparation work – and one more rehearsal – coming up!

No Comments »