Friday, May 22, 2009

Alice Shaw in the news

Alice Shaw's new show (Auto) Biography was on the cover of the
SF Chronicles 96 Hours section on Thursday. Here is the story about
Alices project as it appeared.

'(Auto)Biography': The delicate art of identity

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Palm readers and makeup artists, style-hopping dilettantes and spiritual mediums - San Francisco artist Alice Shaw is interested in constructing an identity from the information these know-it-all strangers have to offer in her new show at Gallery 16, "(Auto)Biography."

She's hired a handwriting analyst to dissect her show statement and then commented on that analysis with a work of her own. She's gotten a makeover and then made an imprint of this painted face. And she's had her name taken apart by a synesthete before photographing herself in her moniker's hot pink hues. In the process, last week, the Mission District denizen appeared to be putting together the perfectly imperfect portrait of an artist as a skeptic - unwilling to settle on a medium or any one medium's intuitive/off-the-cuff interpretation.

"This is something I've had in my head for a long time," Shaw, 43, said. She was still putting together the pieces for the upcoming show. Works-in-progress were gathered on a small card table and settees around her Victorian parlor, which was also strewn with antiques and stuffed animals. "Showing with (gallery owner) Griff (Williams) at Gallery 16 is great because he gives you complete freedom - he doesn't know what I'm going to be doing at all! That's the best way."

Shaw appreciates this creative freedom. Coming from a family of artists - her father and mother are ceramicist Richard Shaw and painter-printmaker Martha Shaw, her grandfather was a Disney cartoonist, and her brother is singer-songwriter Virgil Shaw - she's a maker who has "dabbled in a lot of different things."

Wordplay and teasing out the real from the unreal are factors she's toying with, as well as ideas revolving around doubled or mirrored selves - notions that popped up in her book, "People Who Look Like Me," and her 2007 solo exhibit, "Alice Shaw: A Group Show," also at Gallery 16.

The San Francisco Art Institute instructor was also provoked by those complicated yet all-too-easy fabrications facilitated by digital media. "I think a lot about how digital photography has created this society of skeptics," Shaw observed, "because you look at things and think, 'Well, I don't know if that's been changed or not.' " But rather than bemoaning the switch, the artist is taking notes from digital media's fake-book, making, say, faux salt prints and punning on the form visually by depicting "positive" and "negative" salt shaker images. "Sometimes," she said with a chortle, "I take things way too literally."

Reception today. Through July 3. Gallery 16, 501 Third St., S.F. (415) 626-7495. - Kimberly Chun,

This article appeared on page F - 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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