Refusalon Gallery Panel Discussion at CSUS

Time & Place: Panel discussion with visual artists Amy Berk, Paul Bridenbaugh and Cheryl Meeker.

The artists on the panel were invited to speak about their involvement with the San Francisco art gallery Refusalon. The panel was organized by Robert Ortbal, Associate Professor at California State University of Sacramento, one of the artists also involved with Refusalon during the 1990′s. Refusalon was a subterranean art gallery that doubled as a home for founder, curator and artist Charles Linder. Ortbal’s objective for hosting the panel was to show his students that if they can’t find an art scene that they can connect with, they can always create one. Just as the artists on the panel did with Refusalon.

Ortbal noted that Sacramento is in a unique position right now to incubate artists because rent is still cheap. Artists and the middle class are being unapologetically gentrified by the adolescent Nouveau Riche of the Silicon confession from the Bay Area (My words not Ortbal’s). The titanic rent prices in the Bay Area are also forcing galleries to shut down. So more people are being forced to move out of the bay. And some are even moving to Sacramento. Another objective of Ortbal’s panel was to ease anxieties students might hav about getting into a commercial gallery. The artists on the panel suggested finding an art gallery that most likely won’t sell anything at all. Because removing money from  the art propitiates a more untainted artistic paradigm.

The artists seemed to agree that Refusalon was simply a place to show art and see art. Amy Berk, professor at San Francisco Art Institute, noted that galleries are essentially store fronts but no one seems to want to recognize that or admit it. Lacking first hand experience I still hear dreadful stories about the nefarious underbelly that haunts galleries artists, curators and buyers creating provincialism and tension. These stories seem to remain in oral tradition only.

Refusalon was less of a store front and more of a place artists could gather and hangout. The artists correlated Refusalon’s reputation to conceptual artist Tom Marioni and his  philosophy, drinking beer with friends as the highest form of art. This elucidates the jovial nature of Refusalon. This is very much what the artists on the panel encouraged students to do.

Another thing the panel of artists touched on was, what the heck do you do after grad school? The artists on the panel essentially told the students not worry about selling anything and think about why we make art at all. Paul Bridenbaugh an art professor at Skyline College simply noted that he was doing things he wanted to see and painted things that he liked. In other words Bridenbaugh suggested that if you create art do it for you. Bridenbaugh also noted that if students can’t get into a gallery to remember there are places like Refusalon to show and mingle at. Don’t worry about selling anything just find a scene or create the scene yourself. Bridenbaugh empathized with everyone in the room and asked, “How do you find your own voice? It’s a frustrating experience.”

As part of the College of Arts and Letters 2015 Festival of the Arts, the Art Department sponsored this panel.



Paul Bridenbaugh


As part of the College of Arts and Letters 2015 Festival of the Arts, the Art Department sponsored this panel.

Location: California State University of Sacramento

University Library Gallery Annex


Doug Hall: The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described

Dough Hall’s exhibit, The Terrible Uncertainty of the Thing Described is showing at the San Francisco Art Institute from March 28 – June 6 2015.

Doug Hall’s installation is ominous. It’s ominous when you walk in and stays that way when you leave. The gallery is dark, and there are several television sets mounted about six feet high that are showing natural disasters and the awesome power of nature. The audio that accompanies the natural disasters is aggressive and ever present. Past the television sets is a cyclone barricade that encompasses two metal chairs and a Tesla coil.

The ominous setting inveigled the audience to speak in hushed voices. The imposing barricades, natural disaster feed and the uneasy anticipation of witnessing a Tesla coil zap metal chairs invites a bit of intimidation. Then there was the question, what if something goes wrong? How will it effect me? Everyone that walked in waited, toying with a bit of unpredictable danger.

One of the most striking thing about the exhibit is the separation of personal experience from the dangers of natural disasters. Another way of saying this is that if someone was able to witness a disaster as large as the ones shown on the television sets, they probably wouldn’t make it. It seems that Hall was trying to get us as close to the action as possible without destroying the lives of the audience, “Hall’s installation sets idealized notions of nature against the often terrifying reality.”

Television, arguably, is where we all learn to fear. This seemed to be an important element in this exhibit, by introducing fear through the television sets then making fear real and personal. One can’t help but daydream about the tangibility of danger and injury when waiting for the Tesla coil to fire off.

Hall’s exhibit was an interesting and a bit jarring experience. Tesla coils are far louder than one would expect. The exhibit makes you wait. There is an uneasy feeling about what’s really going to happen.

Tesla Coil zapping chairs

Big screen showing nature’s doom