Adrienne Skye Roberts has a note on her messenger bag that says "Nothing is yours until you pass it to another." She laughs when I notice it, and mentions in an embarrassed voice that only after she completed the lettering did a friend point out that she was issuing an invitation for someone to steal her stuff. That might be the case, but the mantra describes her creative practice perfectly.
Roberts, a former graduate student at the California College of Art, has been working as a writer, curator and educator in the Bay Area for much of the last decade. Born in San Francisco and raised in the North Bay, the first real amount of time she spent away from the Bay was in 2006, when she worked as a volunteer in Katrina-ravished New Orleans. The experience made a lasting impression, and this weekend we all get to benefit from it.
Instead of allowing the memory of her time as a volunteer to fade into the background, and with the help of an Alternative Exposure grant from Southern Exposure, Roberts is passing it along in the form of a weekend-long art exhibition and film screening centered around questions about home: how to define it, and how we know when we belong. There are forty Bay Area artists participating from a variety of backgrounds, and the diversity is great to see. Even better is the location -- the exhibit takes place in two Mission District houses that have been turned into de-facto galleries, with a film screening at a third location on Friday.
Artist: Hilary Schwartz
The show was in installation-mode when I visited with Roberts on Wednesday night, but the depth of her thinking on the subject of home was apparent as I interviewed her, and I'm excited to re-visit the living rooms and bedrooms of 951 Shotwell and 3352 24th this weekend to see the exhibit in the flesh.
In the meantime....
D: Where did you get the idea for "home" as a subject for an art show?
AR:It was on my trip to New Orleans that I started thinking a lot about home, and what home is for my generation. A lot of it has been an investigation of my own position as a young white person of a middle class background. In New Orleans, I was volunteering in neighborhoods previously inhabited by people whose families had lived there for generations, many of whom had been forced to leave even as other groups (like the volunteers) were making the choice to come. Here in the Mission District, I'm aware yet again that my presence is a double-edge sword. It's important to me that I stay accountable to that.
Artist: Claire Kessler-Bradner
D: Was there a sense of conflict between volunteers and locals while you were in New Orleans?
AR:It was below the surface, for the most part, but I definitely saw some outbursts that I think were related. For the most part, the volunteers and activists were of an entirely different demographic, many of whom appeared -- all of a sudden -- to be living comfortably in somebody else's space. There wasn't really enough of a conversation about how we got there, and that we had the choice and mobility to be able to do so.
D: What do you think you gain by having the show in a house, instead of a gallery?
AR:First of all, there's the act of having to enter a private space. I like that it blurs some of the ideas we have about the boundaries between public and private. I also think about it in relation to the law of eminent domain, and the idea that the government can repossess land for "the public good." The definition of public good is so vague. It can mean building firehouses and police stations, but at the same time it's loose enough that it incorporates things like widening the streets for cars. It's the reason that the Fillmore district looks the way it does. I wanted to focus on what renters can do on their own to assign value to a property, or what people in the neighborhood consider "the public good."
Artist: Cindy DeLosa
D: I like the diversity of artists represented. It feels like a living room conversation between neighbors, and a group of neighbors that don't necessarily share the same background. How did you go about curating the show?
AR:First of all, the artists had to be local to the Bay Area. I also knew that I wanted as wide a spectrum as possible, on all levels -- meaning medium, age, and professional background. I tried to be really conscious about who I sent the call to. For instance, I made sure to contact places like the Mission Cultural Center and Precita Eyes. I'm excited about the range.
I think home is a fascinating theme for a show because it's able to travel so universally. It's inherently very personal, and at the same time, political. It functions on so many realms -- I think that's why it's held my attention for so long.
Home is something I carry with me will last through Labor Day weekend only. Opening: Friday, September 4, 4-8 p.m., 3352 24th Street and 951 Shotwell Street. Film screening: Friday, September 4, 9 p.m., 348 Shotwell Street. For more information visit Mission Mission.