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Port in a Storm 

The cool nautical art of Bill Daniel, complete with a "back-to-the-land punk pirate"

Wednesday, Dec 17 2003
One thing's for sure: Our national obsession with pirates is here to stay. In the late 1990s, students, artists, and other fringe-y types zoomed in on eye patches and the all-purpose exclamation "Arrr!" Then the 826 Valencia writing center opened, fronted by a pirate supply store, complete with all manner of striped hosiery. (Our own Silke Tudor wrote about the trend back in March.) The piratical pull finally yanked the mainstream under, and Johnny Depp did us proud with his drunk gay Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Viva show biz!

Bill Daniel's nautical art is about as far from that megaproduction as a pretty-boy actor is from an actual pirate. In fact, real-life nomadic types are often the subject of Daniel's works. As a lauded documentarian, curator, and experimental filmmaker, he's long been interested in people whose independence and need for self-expression trump the desire to fit in -- as seen in his hobo-graffiti group show "Pretty Gritty," which came through town this spring. Most recently, his gaze has been fixed on the relationships among housing, boats, and oil reserves, and on people living completely off the grid in self-made, self-contained houseboats.

This week, his complicated multimedia installation "Soul's Harbor" opens, and among the characters populating it are Noah (of ark fame), prophetic geophysicist M. King Hubbert, and a local street musician named Carolyn Ryder Cooley. The Mission Bay District, with its mix of high-tech construction and no-tech car campers and its high water-to-land ratio, provides a rich and varied backdrop.

Descriptions of the piece test the imagination: What is "RV-based" art? How is Daniel going to get a boat into a gallery? Even if he succeeds, how will video images play in its windows? Most intriguing of all is the promise of an extensive interview with a boat-building "back-to-the-land punk pirate" known simply as Sarah. Think Disney'll try to make a feature out of that?

About The Author

Hiya Swanhuyser


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