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Masterminds 2011: SF Weekly Recognizes Local Artists 

Wednesday, Feb 16 2011

Now in its fourth year, SF Weekly's Artopia is continuing its efforts to spotlight Bay Area artists who deserve more attention. Vying for three $1,500 grants, more than 300 people — a record number — submitted entries.

Our judges looked at paintings, posters, films, sculptures, photographs, cards, calligraphy, books, dances, fashion designs, installations, and other artwork — all of which moved us in one way or another. Though it was difficult to make a decision, make one we did. For now, there are 10 finalists, each of whom wants to be the next artist to make it big.

The Bay Area has always been an incubator of acclaimed art. Ansel Adams, Richard Diebenkorn, Raymond Saunders, and Ruth Asawa are just a few who have been deemed masters of their craft. "Masterminds" is what we call the Artopia winners.

This year's Artopia is being celebrated at Public Works, whose building at 161 Erie St. (near 14th and Mission streets) has a painted tree and bird courtesy of Banksy. Other street artists followed Banksy to the same spot, adding giant ants, perennials, and more. Art inspiring other art. These Artopia finalists can cite influences from far and wide, but their vision is uniquely their own. Painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and a quilter — a heavy-metal quilter, at that — are in our Top 10. All their art will be displayed at Public Works, where the three top winners will be announced to fanfare and, we know, a great deal of applause.

Your Masterminds finalists:


A photo from Mindo Cikanavicius “Lost In Daydreams” series.

In a series of Mindo Cikanavicius' photographs titled "Lost in Daydreams," people seem to be hovering in air — whether it's on the street, in their apartments, or in some other enclosed spaces. In a follow-up series, people are also doing unusual things, such as reading while standing in the middle of an ocean, or wearing a large dunce cap while walking by an industrial building.

"The idea is to convey being lost in thought and being lost in surroundings," says Cikanavicius, whose photos are staged using a combination of professional actors and first-time volunteers. Cikanavicius, who graduated last year with an MFA in photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, says cinema — particularly the films of David Lynch "and his moods and atmospheres" — influenced his style. He also cites fashion and fine-art photography as influences.

"Lost in Daydreams" was his thesis project at the Academy of Art. Each photo features the same person in three different poses or states of being. To make his subjects appear to float, Cikanavicius had them jump up and fall on a mattress; he captured the jumps in midair, and then digitally excised the mattress from the photos. He would do multiple exposures. He wanted, he says, "to show the person being in three different positions: mind, body, and soul. After that project, I decided to use one person in one image, or a couple of people in one image, but to use props."

Cikanavicius, 34, grew up in Lithuania and now lives in San Francisco. He was trained in traditional photography, though he was first pushed into painting: "When I was a kid, I tried to draw but I didn't get any good results," he says. "I studied photography when I was a teen, and at that time, it was more documenting friends and places — basically snap-shooting. I had a passion for it. But over the years, I noticed how I can create staged things to convey a creative idea." Cikanavicius would like to get into filmmaking, but his photography already has movie-making elements. As he puts it, "Everything is now directed in my photographs. [What type of] cameras I use is not as important. It's more about ideas."


Still from Jeremy Rourke’s stop-motion animated short film, Out to See.

In the stop-motion film Out to See, a cutout of a man in a trench coat flies along the streets of San Francisco, Superman style, as folky guitar plays in the background, along with these lyrics: "My lady, she pulls those aching shoes from my feet; this city walked all over me, it walked all over me, it walked all over me." Seconds later, the man morphs into a cutout of an old schooner as the lyrics mention "barges pushing out to sea." Illustrations of owls, fish, a 19th-century bicyclist, top-hatted men, and other assorted figures mix with scenes of modern San Francisco that fold into other scenes. Jeremy Rourke made the three-minute movie in December — four years after he wrote the song of the same name. The marriage of music and stop-motion has become his new artistic mission. "It seems like a nice way to share the music," says the 33-year-old San Franciscan, who has been writing and playing music since he was 18. "It makes it easier."

Since getting into stop-motion films a year ago, Rourke has made six of them from his songs, including Eyes Hearing Stars, whose whimsical scenes include a cutout of an old-time bicyclist riding atop the Golden Gate Bridge. The year before his foray began, he was doing lots of stencil drawings. "I feel like they all fall into the same creative art form," says Rourke, who grew up in Connecticut and majored in English at Northeastern University in Boston. "They're all art."

Rourke has never been formally trained in art, although he remembers making flipbooks as a child, and did illustrations in college. He learned how to do stop-motion films with a computer program. Each movie takes about two weeks to make. At music gigs at El Rio and other Bay Area venues, Rourke has been projecting his films as he performs. He was initially inspired to do stop-motion when he saw another musician, banjo player Laura Goldhamer, perform songs with her own stop-motion films: "If I had just heard the music, it wouldn't have had the same effect of these two images together," he says. "It showed me the power of these two art forms together."

About The Author

Jonathan Curiel


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