Selecting finalists for this year's Masterminds was no easy task. We received around 70 submissions, almost all from local artists with great talent or promise. But members of the Weekly's editorial staff were charged with narrowing the field, and that's what we did. Below is the list of finalists we settled on. About half the submissions we received were in the visual arts category, which is why visual artists are disproportionately represented. We are inviting the people on this list to display their work at the March 27 Artopia event at Mojito, where we will name four winners who will each get $2,500 grants. So, without further ado, here are the finalists:
Eric Araujo (Visual)
Araujo's sculptures explore the complex relationships between organic life and technology. He is also interested in the issues surrounding marginalized populations, particularly the homeless. Araujo lives in Oakland and has an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
An aficionado of cartoons and horror movies, Bacon boasts that his work has inspired descriptions such as "John Waters meets David Lynch." Bacon himself describes his work as "colorfully morbid," and says he tries to expose society's double standards in his work. The Berkeley filmmaker says he's mostly self-taught, although he did study film for two years at San Francisco City College.
Bad Unkl Sista (Fashion)
Anastazia Louise (aka Bad Unkl Sista) combines fashion with performance to create vivid-looking characters who resemble extras on the set of a Mad Max movie. "In my design work, I focus on the extraordinary, bizarre and surreal aspects of couture costuming and always offer its presentation as an otherworldly performance extravaganza," she says.
Tibora Bea Girczyc-Blum (Visual)
Oaklander Girczyc-Blum lucidly exposes what she describes as "the interface between earth and man" in her photography. Her depiction of that interface makes the mundane — a plant springing up in the space between the curb and the street or a piece of wood hanging from a electrical wire — seem extraordinary.
Chris Hansen and Phil Lang (Literary)
Hansen and Lang are members of folk-rock band Bloomsday Rising. In addition to writing songs, they can write stories. Hansen's short story, "Like Throwing Stones," about a reality-TV show cameraman who falls for a contestant, is inventive and clever. Meanwhile, Lang's story about a chance encounter in a museum reminded us of Before Sunrise — if Ethan Hawke were a total liar, that is.
Melissa Hawkins (Design)
Hawkins describes herself as a "redesigner." "The waste stream provides the basis for my work," she says. "My biggest dream involves developing secondary uses for material currently ending up in landfills." She's currently focused on making rings fashioned from cassette-tape heads.
IwamotoScott Architecture (Design)
There isn't enough space to cite all the honors bestowed on the husband and wife design team of Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott. They recently won the History Channel's "City of the Future" design competition, in which they envisioned "an underground arterial circulation network for hydrogen fueled hovercars, removing higher speed traffic from city streets." Iwamoto teaches architectural design at U.C. Berkeley, while Scott teaches at the California College for the Arts.
Mark Jackson (Performing Arts)
The Bay Area playwright and stage director first came to prominence as the creator of the experimental Art Street Theatre in the mid 1990s. His 2003 play, The Death of Meyerhold, which he staged in collaboration with Shotgun Players, received rave reviews. In recent years he has directed well-received productions, including Oscar Wilde's Salome for the Aurora Theatre. Last year the Weekly.named him Best Theatrical Auteur.
Violeta Luna (Performing Arts)
This Mexico City performance artist's work is frighteningly intelligent and sometimes just plain frightening: One of her motifs is to wrap fake, but very real-looking, barbed wire around her face. Says Luna: "I use my body as a territory, map, site, from where I can approach, question, [and] comment on social and political phenomena."
Kara Maria (Visual)
Maria's paintings manage to be surreal and explicit simultaneously. They explore the politics of war and its influence on popular culture, using images of pornography and war. Maria says she was struck by the use of rape as a war tactic in Kosovo in the late '90s: "I began combining images of pornography and combat to examine the interaction of sexual energy and the military." She recently had a solo exhibition at Catharine Clark Gallery.
Hilary Pecis (Visual)
Pecis' drawings and installations are haunting post-apocalyptic landscapes, inspired by geodesic designs, and assembled with scraps from magazines. She lives in San Francisco and is working on her master's at California College of the Arts.
Jesse Pollock (Visual)
Originally from Boston, photographer Jesse Pollock is the managing editor of local art Web site Fecal Face. Pollock also runs his own site, www.unpiano.com. His work not only shows a sense of humor — such as a picture of a dead rat outfitted with sunglasses — but also a remarkable eye for the beauty of the unremarkable.
Jake Watling (Visual)
This East Bay artist uses a graphic style and bright color palette, inspired by the hand-painted signage, simple storefront advertising, and crude graffiti found in his environment, to explore his fears about modern life. These fears apparently include being eaten by a mansized raccoon.
Ladonna Witmer and Michelle Brown (Film)
Imagine if poets made videos for their poems, just as musicians make videos for their songs. The results would be "cinépoems," as Witmer and Brown call their videotaped poetry. "Michelle and I really believe our cinépoems bring poetry to life in a way that feels fresh and relevant and emotional," Witmer says. "They make poetry interesting to an audience who may never have read the written word on the page." We agree.