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Preview: SFGate: Sam Whiting

Sam Whiting


Chana Bloch, poet and longtime Mills professor, dies

Thu, 25 May 2017 00:26:12 UT

Chana Bloch, a major figure in American letters through her poetry, translations of Hebrew and Yiddish, and scholarship in English literature at Mills College, has died after a four-year battle with an aggressive sarcoma — which she wrote and spoke about with searing honesty through her final days. The book unflinchingly plumbs the uncertainties and complexities of Ms. Bloch’s own terminal illness with wit, insight and tenderness. “She was always so open to feedback and changes and welcomed criticism of every word choice in both her poetry and in our translation,” said Chana Kronfeld, a UC Berkeley professor who collaborated with Bloch on two books. Ms. Bloch’s awards include the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (with Kronfeld), two prestigious Pushcart Prizes and an award from the Poetry Society of America. At Mills, where Ms. Bloch was a professor in the department of English, she taught courses in literature and poetry from 1973 to 2005. “Chana embodied the bridge between literary studies and creative writing through her own distinguished scholarship and poetry,” said Cynthia Scheinberg, a professor of English and associate provost at Mills. Even after her retirement in 2005, she often returned to Mills to give guest lectures and poetry readings, always well attended. “Hearing her talk about a biblical translation from a feminist point of view was a transformative experience for the students,” said Scheinberg. “Memento Mori,” a poem from her forthcoming collection, was published by the New Yorker and addressed her health. “God blessed you with curly hair,” my mother used to say and dressed me like Shirley Temple. Peter Sussman, a writer and friend who helped arrange the Ashby Village reading, is overseeing a documentary of that reading — and Ms. Bloch’s frank discussion during it, of her cancer fight — to be released in conjunction with the book’s publication. “For many years before her final illness, she had been fascinated by how people overcame disability, death and other life challenges,” Sussman said. Two months ago, excited at having just sent her book to a printer and optimistic about her medical progress, Ms. Bloch told The Chronicle she felt writing so openly about the specter of death was not a choice. “She was vibrant and caring, and intellectually curious,” said Benjamin, noting that the big family tradition was attending the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival (now Cal Shakes), just a few blocks from home. After retiring from the Mills faculty, she continued to work on her poetry and translations and kept busy and active even after she became ill. Sam Whiting and Kevin Fagan are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers.

Portrait painting in action at Stanford

Wed, 24 May 2017 17:23:16 UT

At 11:30 Monday morning, writer Tammy Fortin set up her manual Olivetti in the grand marble atrium at Cantor Arts Center and began tapping out a short story. [...] artist Hope Gangloff set up her acrylic paints and began painting a portrait of Fortin as she typed. The main entrance to the Stanford University museum, built in 1894, has been converted into Gangloff’s studio as the first in a five-year series called the Diekman Contemporary Commissions Program, underwritten by arts benefactors John and Sue Diekman. There is a lot to tell because Gangloff, 42, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and drove out in her Subaru with her boxer mutt Olly, and all her paints and brushes and buckets. “She’s a fun challenge,” says Gangloff, as Fortin clacks away in single space, working that carriage return, her salt-and-pepper hair blending nicely with the marble wall behind her. The typewriter sits on a pullout tray at a midcentury metal office desk. Scattered around are a metal lunch box in red tartan, a bottle of Wite-Out, a magnifying glass and any number of dictionaries and art history books open for quick reference, plus a Princess dial phone with the receiver off the hook and dangling to the floor so she won’t be distracted by a caller. There is a lot of detail to capture, and those who can’t wait around to see the finished product can go upstairs where the concurrent show “Hope Gangloff Curates Portraiture” is on the balcony. There is a whole wall of portraits, and visitors can turn around and lean over the railing to see the next one being worked on at the bottom of the stairs. “Hope is an incredibly talented painter who evokes the 19th and 20th century masters and updates the tradition, ” says Carty.

Rare glimpses inside scene that would become Summer of Love

Wed, 17 May 2017 01:38:38 UT

“There are images in this show that have very literally never been seen before,” says guest curator Dennis McNally, who spent six months traversing from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz to uncover 100 photographs by 20 photographers. “I was seeking pictures of the rock ’n’ rollers in their first incarnations as folkies,” says McNally, who has plenty of contacts thanks to his prior career as the official historian for the Grateful Dead. Alette spread a dozen prints across her dining room table, and the one that jumped out at McNally featured Kaukonen looking like Woody Guthrie while backing a then-unknown singer making her Bay Area debut. “There is Janis Joplin standing onstage wearing a basic black dress, the most conventional clothing anyone has seen on her,” says McNally, adding that within a song or two Joplin realized she was overdressed and went backstage to change into her jeans. McNally walked into Redl’s house and immediately saw that every image he wanted was on the living room wall. [...] they are on the wall of the CHS — Allen Ginsberg at the Drake Hotel, Michael McClure lying on his bed, Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the basement of City Lights. In the show, the “Death of the Hippie” funeral procession up Haight Street in October 1967 is represented by a seven-minute silent film. [...] the exhibit runs into 1970 as well, showing that what was happening in San Francisco was happening elsewhere, as depicted in Robert Altman’s image of free-form dancers at a festival in Boulder, Colo..

Mike McCone, former head of California Historical Society, dies

Tue, 16 May 2017 00:26:10 UT

Mike McCone, executive director of the California Historical Society during crucial years that were to determine its survival and later board chair at Heyday Books in Berkeley, died May 9 after a sudden onset of leukemia. Mr. McCone was 83 and had been living in an assisted living facility in San Francisco. Among the institutions for which he worked during his nonprofit management career, besides the historical society, were the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Grace Cathedral. In that effort, he gave unlimited hours to Heyday, which he helped convert from a struggling for-profit enterprise to a successful nonprofit. “Mike was a very loving man, and one of the things he loved most was books,” Harvey said. When Mr. McCone was hired by the historical society in 1990, it had eliminated its curators and librarians due to budget cuts and had a skeleton staff of six in a dark and drafty mansion in Pacific Heights. “It was a daring and a bold move, and a very strategic one,” said Anthea Hartig, executive director of the historical society. “Mike grew staff, established an endowment and brought in all kinds of new donors,” Hartig said. Mr. McCone was hired to work in Mayor Joseph Alioto’s administration, heading up an urban renewal program called Model Cities. “He was worldly without being cynical, deeply rooted yet playful, and he was great fun to be around,” said Malcolm Margolin, the now-retired founder of Heyday Books. Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Unknown photographer of the working life gets premiere

Wed, 10 May 2017 21:52:14 UT

Activist photographer Steve Cagan has never had a solo exhibition on the West Coast, and he wouldn’t have had one still if he hadn’t instructed Jeanne Friscia in a class at Rutgers University in New Jersey 30 years ago. Friscia ended up on the board of SF Camerawork, and starting Thursday, May 11, her former professor’s intense images will deck the walls of the nonprofit gallery overlooking Market Street. Plenty of documentary photographers have covered these themes, but not in the way that Cagan covers them, which is to spend eight-hour shifts on a factory floor or live for three months in a Colombian village in order to get honest and unguarded portraits. “Steve is not the kind to jump out of a helicopter, photograph a victim and leave,” says Friscia, as she hangs 160 images. The operating precept of Camerawork is to exhibit the work of unrecognized photographers, and Cagan qualifies. “The kind of work I do has not been easy to publish or get exhibited,” says Cagan, 73, from his home studio. “Working Pictures” provides a comparison between a steel mill in Ohio and a bicycle factory in Havana. Cagan lived among workers for peace and social justice in squalid refugee camps in Central America, and civilians dislocated by violence in long-running civil wars.

Nation’s tallest public art to top Salesforce Tower

Fri, 5 May 2017 01:54:11 UT

A brilliantly dynamic nine-story electronic sculpture will top the new Salesforce Tower with ever-changing LED light in what is being touted as the tallest public art installation in the United States, according to plans unveiled Thursday before the San Francisco City Planning Commission. The piece by San Francisco artist Jim Campbell will comprise four separate but integrated lighting patterns that will be at the top of the 61-story building, which is scheduled to open in July. Within the image is a montage of the cityscape to be captured each day by six cameras posted around the city. “It will be a diary of the day that you will only see at night,” he said, adding that the low-resolution lighting will be subtle and best viewed from a distance. The top nine floors will be unoccupied, and will contain the light installation, rising 150 feet. The top six stories will feature the imagery, and the lower three will form a foundation of colored light. The lights will be on the outside of the sheeting and face inward toward the building so that the viewer will see the LED colors bounce off the aluminum. “This process of reflecting the light off of the surface, as I have done in previous studio work, creates a soft and continuous image instead of a harsh direct image like a Times Square video screen,” Campbell wrote in his artistic statement. In addition to the still-untitled artwork at the crown of Salesforce Tower, Campbell has designed a sister work for Mission Square, the public plaza attached to the project.

Crowdfunded ‘Bronze Bunny’ lands in the Lower Haight

Wed, 3 May 2017 19:34:17 UT

The half-ton sculpture simply named “Bronze Bunny” was created by North Beach artist Jeremy Fish and dedicated Saturday, April 29, in front of the old UC Berkeley Extension building. “It represents a balance of good and evil, or cute versus creepy, and has been the symbol for my artwork and my gang of friends (‘The Silly Pink Bunnies’) for the last 26 years,” says Fish, 43, of the sculpture that has a skull inside a rabbit’s mouth with its two front teeth bisecting the forehead. Some 350 donors contributed a total of $70,000 to get it into place, making it the “largest crowd funded public bronze statue in California,” according to an Instagram post Fish published ahead of the statue’s dedication. Instead of a foundation, or a wealthy collector’s donation, this was financially supported by our fellow citizens, and that makes me very proud.

Bicyclist killed Saturday in Half Moon Bay hit and run

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 02:35:28 UT

A Half Moon Bay man on early morning bicycle ride was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Highway 1 Saturday. According to a report by the California Highway Patrol, Gongora had apparently been driving north on Highway 1 approaching Furtado Lane when he struck the bicyclist. The accident happened at approximately 7 a.m. The northbound lane of the Coast Highway was closed for more than three hours while the scene was investigated.

Thousands gather at Lake Merritt for anti-Trump climate march

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 01:58:58 UT

On a Saturday that was too hot for April or even May, a couple of thousand activists gathered at Oakland’s Lake Merritt to demonstrate for environmental protection and register their low opinion of President Trump’s first 100 days in office. The resistance rally was organized by People’s Climate Movement Bay Area as one of more than 250 linked actions. The Oakland event was the closest to San Francisco and brought out more than 2,000 people for an afternoon of speakers and music on a stage powered by bicycle at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater. The culminating action came at 3:30 p.m. with an attempt to form a human chain around the lake. Otherwise we wouldn’t still be breathing, said organizer Louise Chegwidden, 56, saying they had hoped to join hands and surround the lake “to symbolize our pledge to protect all we hold dear in the natural world and each other.” “If enough people are in plain sight, that’s going to influence the thinking of other citizens,” said Geoff Spooner, 54, a laser engineer who came from Bernal Heights in San Francisco with a complicated sign with a hand-painted map of the world that showed the temperature creeping up. Retired Episcopal minister Frannie Kieschnick, 65, had carpooled from Palo Alto with five people, plus her lapdog Nevada, in an electric Tesla. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, rallied the crowd with a brief but intense speech, saying the East Bay can lead the fight. In Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of demonstrators trekked down Pennsylvania Avenue in sweltering heat on their way to encircle the White House. Participants said they’re objecting to Trump’s rollback of restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants, among others. In Oakland, police estimated the Lake Merritt crowd at 2,500, leaving it 500 short of the minimum to join hands and circle the lake’s circumference of 3.2 miles. “Millions of starfish have died on the coast from warming waters,” said Callahan, 42, who drove an hour and a half from Inverness with the 50-pound plaster starfish in the back of his pickup. The BoomShake drum corps arrived to lead the procession around the lake.

Ray McGrath, SFFD captain and longtime volunteer, dies

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:27:51 UT

Ray McGrath, a retired San Francisco Fire Department captain who stayed on as a toy drive volunteer and morale booster, sometimes walking from station to station throughout the city, has died at 95. Among the duties he adopted was as minister to injured firefighters and confidant to Hayes-White as she transitioned the department from its old-boy ways to a modern department integrated by race and gender. When standing still, he worked in programs to feed and clothe the poor and in social justice causes. “He was always protesting something,” said his daughter Geraldine McGrath, a corporate attorney in San Francisco. Three of his older brothers, Joe, Art and John, had been star football players at Sacred Heart High School, but Mr. McGrath was too small to play sports. With the onset of World War II, Mr. McGrath joined the U.S. Navy and served in the Pacific theater. While away at war, he sent a photo of himself in his Navy uniform to his friend Lorraine Kerrigan, who lived one block away. To reach it, Mr. McGrath would lie on the floor at night while his daughter held his arms and his wife pulled on his legs, to stretch him. Back then, firefighters traditionally stayed in one station their entire career, but Mr. McGrath transferred around, always looking for the station with the most action. Mr. McGrath later learned that there was space available for the two of them in the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio, so he had his wife disinterred and moved to a plot near the flagpole with a view of the Golden Gate. Once she was moved, Mr. McGrath would walk from home to visit his wife’s grave, often in the company of Al McCarthy, another retired firefighter. According to Hayes-White, he liked to quiz firefighters on their knowledge of the streets, and he liked to visit firefighters injured in the line of duty. A Fire Department color guard, honor guard and engine will attend his funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday, all at St. Teresa, 1490 19th St., San Francisco.

Hung Liu’s color only adds to starkness of Dorothea Lange images

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:34:14 UT

[...] in the translation, Hung Liu is able to bring unique empathy to Lange’s Dust Bowl images, having spent four years working the fields during the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China. Liu’s eastward migration meets Lange’s westward migration in the exhibition “Promised Land,” which opens Saturday, April 29, at Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco’s Minnesota Street Project. To render 12 of Lange’s photographs into paintings took two years and enough emotional energy that Liu did not even attempt to start it until she had retired from the faculty at Mills College in Oakland, where she taught studio arts for 24 years. At 69, Liu has lived in California longer than she lived in China, but she still speaks with a Mandarin accent, and it doesn’t take too much prodding to get her back to the day that the soldiers came and took her away. [...] after her father, who had been an officer in the national army, was arrested and sent off to prison as part of the purge, Liu — the only child — was sent for proletarian re-education in a country village. When Liu was released back to Beijing, she enrolled in China’s Central Academy of Fine Art, and from there she went to UC San Diego for her master of fine arts degree, though it took her four more years to get a passport out of China. A table is papered with catalogs from her exhibitions nationwide, mostly portraits of “Chinese refugees and laborers,” she says. To approach the Lange portfolio, Liu went to the Oakland Museum of California, which holds the Dorothea Lange Archive of 6,000 prints and 25,000 negatives. Once Liu discovered the archive, she came back a dozen times or more to go through 78 chronological volumes of proof sheets, says Drew Johnson, OMCA’s Curator of Photography and Visual Culture. [...] a photograph of a girl sitting in a tire in front of a depressing shack might have the shack replaced with ribbons of color. “In this body of work, you can see the colorful lines,” she says, pointing out details like the barbed wire on a fence or women stooping over laundry, or the way hunger looks on all the gaunt faces.

24-hour sun exposures of Arctic Circle at Haines Gallery

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:13:29 UT

To get into position to make a picture, Chris McCaw loads his century-old panoramic view camera into his van and drives north. When he runs out of the continental United States, he catches a ferry to Alaska, then keeps driving north past the treeline to Deadhorse, near the Arctic Ocean, 4,000 driving miles from his home in Pacifica. A single exposure can take as long as three days, without sleep, and the end result of all this artistic sacrifice is on the walls of Haines Gallery for “Time and Tides,” an exhibition that has just been extended until May 20. “If you are in the Arctic Circle, standing in one point, the sun will orbit around you without ever setting,” says McCaw, 45. The sun literally burns its path onto the photographic paper and what you see is a depiction of this unending and infinite duration of time. If you were to see just the ball of the sun, it could get repetitive, but during any 48-hour exposure, the camera catches clouds, snow and hail, and 50 mph winds. McCaw’s working season is from May until the summer solstice, when the clouds of mosquitoes become “maddening,” he says.

LP release party at Noise marks Record Store Day

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 23:18:11 UT

LP release party at Noise marks Record Store Day Record Store Day 2017 is Saturday, April 22, and the place to honor the resurgence of vinyl is Noise, which will hold a record release party for local bands putting out albums in the LP format. The son is Daniel Brown, who plays sax in the Nick Culp Quintet, which will introduce a new album during a 5 p.m. set at the back of the store.

Civic Auditorium to get public art treatment

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 21:37:11 UT

The side that gets the most traffic, along Polk Street, is stupefyingly boring with only a Brutalist fire escape to break up the monotony. Using white neon that shines day and night, Kosuth’s design is to break the words “Civic” and “Auditorium” into their etymology in illuminated text. [...] “Civic” will be broken into several ancient languages — there is the Latin civis meaning “a member of the community,” and the German hiwun meaning “married couple.” “An important consideration that makes it a special challenge is that it must be accessible to a non-specialist audience, while at the same time providing an enriching cultural contribution,” Kosuth wrote in his proposal. Because the Civic Auditorium is a city landmark, the public is invited to weigh in on this piece before final approval by the Arts Commission.. “W.F.T. (San Francisco)” is the first public arts project that requires a Certificate of Appropriateness from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, a division of the Planning Department.

Join a Chronicle Chat on the future of the left

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 20:17:49 UT

Does the left have a future in a world where Donald Trump is president and the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress? The event is the first in a series of Chronicle Chats to be hosted by Northern California’s largest newspaper, and it will be moderated by Chronicle columnist David Talbot, author of the best-seller “Season of the Witch.” The panelists will include Becky Bond, senior adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign; Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; and Laura Guzman, Latina organizer and founder of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center. “We are thrilled to bring these longtime community organizers together to discuss one of the most pressing questions about the state of national politics,” said Audrey Cooper, The Chronicle’s editor in chief.