by Ben Wood
Published on January 7, 2020One of a number of concepts demonstrating the potential of media and art to create an empowering dialogue with the historical Life of Washington murals.
News from Ben Wood Studio
This year was another one of dedicated proposal making, forging ahead with creative plans for site-engaged projected artworks here in San Francisco. While some of those proposals won't yet be realized, I am grateful for believers who have the imagination and determination to envision old buildings brought to life through new art.
I am hopeful that some of these proposals will yet evolve into a fully realized artwork.
The Mission Dolores mural was recreated as street mural (above) in 2011 on Bartlett Street and was demolished in 2016 (below) following a fire that destroyed the historic indoor market building.
Mission Dolores Mural Visual Presentations
Following the publishing of an article about the history of the 18th century Mission Dolores mural I gave two visual lectures about the mural in San Francisco at the venerable Other Cinema series in the Spring and again in September at the San Francisco Public Library during Latin American Heritage Month.
2021 will mark the 230th anniversary of the old Mission Dolores chapel and the painting of the mural in 1791. Following the demolition of the recreated Mission Dolores street mural on Bartlett street a few years ago, I would like to have a new street mural painted that will again make the San Francisco's oldest mural available to view. I am actively looking for a public wall space in San Francisco to recreate it again for all to see. Please let me know if you have any tips or are willing to help
Photographing an 18th Century Adobe Mural in Santa Fe
Last year I was fortunate to photograph another 18th century wall hidden from view since 1798 behind the altar screen at San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico that dates back as early as 1709. While the decorative motif isn't as well preserved nor as visually interesting as the Mission Dolores mural, it is another rare example of a painted adobe altar screen used during the early Spanish colonial contact period. I hope to continue to work with the Chapel to learn more about this valuable fragment of colonial history. View the photo composite HERE
Revisiting Honolulu video mural "Wisdoms of the East and West"
A highlight this year was participating in a symposium at the East West Center in Honolulu, in which, a live performance of Wisdoms of the East and West, my 2010 work with Michael Schuster, was reprised with musicians Annie Reynolds and Made Widana. I gave a presentation about the work for the occasion of a symposium honoring, Michael Schuster for his 15 years as curator at the East West Center Gallery. During this visit I was also introduced to the Lisa Reihana's epic video artwork, "In Pursuit of Venus" which I've since visited 5 times during its recent run at the De Young Museum here in San Francisco.
"Life of Washington" Mural Controversy
Last August San Francisco's Board of Education voted unanimously to cover 83 year-old murals depicting the, "Life of George Washington" located at George Washington High School in San Francisco's outer Richmond neighborhood.
The board has sadly not considered alternatives to obscuring of the murals. During the past few months I have been working on a range of proposals that would keep the murals in view while addressing this troubling past. My focus is on a civil approach to creating a discourse and acknowledgement by finding a dynamic, inclusive and empowering creative response. The following concepts are my effort to open the conversation towards empowered ways to interpret the murals that will keep them in public view by using media art in an affirmative way without adversely affecting the historical murals. View my concept renderings HERE
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
I continue to work for the Parks Conservancy, helping to connect the general public with our natural landscape and historic sites situated around the Golden Gate. During the past year it has been a pleasure to become embedded within the parks and getting to know, support and work with the Conservancy community and partners. I remain excited for ways this may inform and inspire future creative work and practice.
I continue my hands on efforts, passionately making new creative ideas and plans. Stay tuned with what I'm up to on Instagram #benwoodstudio or via my website @ www.benwoodstudio.com
My best wishes to you for a creativity filled 2020 that will exceed your expectations.
by Ben Wood
Published on February 8, 2019Journal of the West Article Ben Wood and Jonathan Cordero, 2019.
Engaging Sites with Art, History, & Imagination
During the past 12 months, in spite of creative setbacks and bureaucratic obstacles, I've forged ahead with passion and tenacity. Through my dedication, I've made significant breakthroughs - some which I've been working toward for well over a decade.
I'm deeply grateful to be able to share these accomplishments.
Newly Published Article about the Mission Dolores Mural
It has been 15 years since I first stood above the altar screen of San Francisco's Mission Dolores, lowered a camera and began an effort to record the hidden painting. This sacred artwork dates to the early years when the Spanish colonized indigenous California.
This month an article that I've written about the historic artwork with Jonathan Cordero, Ph.D., a sociologist and descendant of San Francisco peninsula Native Californians, has been published in Journal of the West.
Together we have written a history of the artwork, described its most likely painters, and the invaluable history of those who preserved it. Our article, California's Hidden Sacred Mural: The History of the Painted Adobe Reredos at Mission Dolores, is published in the Fall issue, Vol. 57, No. 4 of Journal of the West. You can purchase the issue here.
In anticipation of the article release I made a new website with more up to date information on the project. See the new Mission Dolores Mural website here.
I will be giving a 12 minute mini presentation about the deep-history of the mural on March 16th at Other Cinema at 992 Valencia Street in San Francisco. I will present as part of the broader "San Francisco Psycho-Geography" show. Showtime at 8:30pm.
My Path to Citizenship
In April at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland I made an oath and became an American citizen. It was the end of a journey that I began 19 years ago. With my new responsibility as a citizen I will strive to follow my artistic compass as I continue to search for my own ways and approaches that reflect the story and meaning of being a US Citizen. Here is my video reflection of my journey to citizenship.
This year I had the unexpected but unique experience of working in the Alcatraz Cell House. Over a period of 9 months, I guided tourists on the infamous island, and within the cell house, sharing the stories of inmates, correctional officers, child residents, and others. As a culmination of this work residency I created my own video tour guiding viewers through spaces and stories of Alcatraz which I presented at another historic and venerable San Francisco institution itself, Other Cinema.
I've now made it to dry land and I'm working in an old US Army post at Fort Mason.
I was honoured in early November to revisit the site of my video installation, at the historic Haas-Lilienthal house. During the Past/Forward conference put on by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a group of "Young Preservationists" convened for a special event at the house, where I shared my work among a supportive and engaged group of peers, talking about "cultivating creativity" in a preservation context. I'm excited for potential opportunities with some of the inspiring people that I met.
I continue my hands on efforts, passionately making new creative ideas and plans. Over the past months I've submitted a number of imaginative proposals, which I hope will shortly evolve into fully realizable projects.
by Ben Wood
Published on December 24, 2017
During the course of this year my ongoing efforts to preserve the Mission Dolores Mural were included in a couple of recently published books. Photographer Dick Evans chronicled the Bartlett Street recreated (and sadly now destroyed) version of the mural in his book, The Mission published by Heyday Books.
Also in celebration of the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library I wrote an essay for their book 50 treasures of the Archive-Library about my ongoing efforts to record and preserve the story of the hidden mural.
In this new year I will be completing a short book about the mural with Jonathan Cordero, PhD who I have been working with over the past couple of years to ensure the legacy of this important early California artwork is not forgotten.
In May I was in New Mexico doing photography at one of America's oldest churches. I hope to share more about this project over the coming months.
Working as an Artist
This year I've been very fortunate to work with Marty Nemko, educator, coach and KALW radio show host, who has brought wisdom, ideas, tools, and strategy never shared with me in the world class colleges where I was a student. Listen to my interview with Marty on his show "Work with Marty Nemko" which aired on KALW 91.7 in September.
by Ben Wood
Published on November 15, 2017Photograph of Haas Lilienthal House Projected Artwork by Ben Wood, Photograph courtesy of Scott Hahn.
An animated video artwork illuminates the front windows of the Haas-Lilienthal house at 2007 Franklin Street in San Francisco with an after-dark projected installation.
Windows of the house are transformed into a unique motion-picture album sharing the life of the family over the decades of the Haas-Lilienthal family and their descendants. The projected artwork includes rare photographs and film from the family archives that have never been shown to the public.
A 15 minute looped-video will be on display each night from 5:00pm to 9:30pm and viewable on the facade windows outside the house at 2007 Franklin Street in San Francisco. The projection will run thru the last week of November.
This project was created by Ben Wood with help from San Francisco Heritage staff members and funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and David Wessel.
by Ben Wood
Published on April 25, 2017Puffin Foundation Grant
I am delighted to receive a small grant from the Puffin Foundation towards an ongoing project making accessible an endangered and important piece of American history. The foundations mission is "continuing a dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people". This work is emblematic of this special once endangered bird and the foundations goal is to preserve artistic forms of expression that are threatened or forgotten.
by Ben Wood
Published on April 21, 2017Portrait of Ben Brians, grocery store clerk as projected in "A Portrait of Mendocino"
Earlier this month I presented my new artwork embedded as an after dark projected video onto the facade of Moody's Coffee bar in the northern California village of Mendocino
This was my humble project to present citizens in their small towns and neighbourhoods being active and engaged within their communities through their work. This isn't a masterpiece, but my hands on attempt to create an artwork that engages a local community with meaningful questions and issues.
Last night I was reminded of Harvey Milk's words, "the American Dream starts with the neighborhoods" when I was fortunate to hear the Gay rights activist and icon Cleve Jones at Bookshop West Portal. He talked of the meaning that each of us can find within ourselves and our work that will unify and empower those we agree and disagree with. His, The Names Project, a patchwork quilt memorial of the victims of AIDS, was an idea that people laughed at and thought it would never be accepted, and with commitment and work it became the largest community created folk artwork in the world. To the only child in the room, he said, don't listen when you're told something can't be done.
I've recently been very fortunate to work with Marty Nemko, educator, career coach and KALW radio show host, who in the space of weeks has brought wisdom, ideas, tools, and strategy never shared with me in the world class colleges where I was a student. Marty has encouraged me to create work that is accessible to a larger audience that highlights and is inclusive of a spectrum of backgrounds. He has reminded me that no matter how small a group, that you can use your talents and power to bring meaning to peoples lives.
This project in Mendocino was a first step in that direction. Something that I could create and accomplish with my own hands, with next to no budget, at a human scale, in a small town where people need to be respected and included. It is a prototype which in the long term I hope to share as new works in small towns in the United States.
by Ben Wood
Published on Feb 27, 2017
Great news for the project! the Mendocino Fringe Festival Committee reviewed, discussed and made a recommendation to fund $2,500 towards the production of "A Portrait of Mendocino".
Also many thanks for donations so far from Paul Douglas, John Osborne, PhD, Susan b. Wood, Mary Charlebois, Pat Scott, Elizabeth Fu and in kind donation from Marty Nemko, PhD., Eric and Elaine Wing Hillesland
The completed artwork will be presented during the inaugural Fringe Festival on Friday April 7th and Saturday April 8th, at sundown. Location to be announced - stay tuned!
by Ben Wood
Published on Feb 20, 2017
He proposes to present image sequences as time-lapses, cycling through portraits of the town's citizens, its artists, actors, musicians, book sellers, librarians, tour guides, historians, merchants, servers, inn-keepers, shop keepers, gardeners, cooks, residents and tourists in their spaces. People will be featured in their physical setting as animated portraits briefly carrying out their activity.
The artwork will focus on the local community members, it's quietly dedicated citizens and workers who comprise a vital source for preservation of the towns identity and the village itself as a vibrant West Coast destination of natural, cultural and architectural heritage.
It will be a contemporary animated portrait of Mendocino village presenting visually dramatic moving portraits and landscapes to be embedded as an after dark projected artwork onto the facade of a building in the village for the upcoming Mendocino Almost Fringe Festival on April 7, 8. Specific projection location is yet to be determined.
The artworks goal is to embody the uplifting ideals of Mendocino as a town where people can get to work in their neighborhood, livelihoods and within their community to repair the world.
Much gratitude to Art Center Exhibitions Coordinator Dana Hall for motivating a new project with the town especially for the upcoming festival.
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by Ben Wood
Published on December 20th, 2016
With project partner San Francisco Heritage I have won a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to animate the windows of the historic museum, San Francisco's Haas-Lilienthal House with after dark projected-art work.
The Moe Fund, is a special program of the National Trust that encourages state and local preservation organizations to envision and test creative, "break-through" ideas and strategies. The fund encourages members of the National Trust's Partners Network to undertake new initiatives that have a demonstrable impact on their work or their community.
The project will take place some time in 2017 at the Haas-Lilienthal House. - Stay Tuned!
Ben Wood is the middle of a set of triplets, the others being Bryan (identical) and Richard (fraternal) When the Wood Triplets were born, they were the first triplets to be born in many years at Southlands Hospital in West Sussex, United Kingdom. Ben weighed the least at a little under 2 llbs. He is one of six boys.See news from 1980.