Paper, Scissors, Print–Jennifer D. Anderson Workshop

From complex paper cutting, origami, paper sculpture, to book making, this is an ever-expanding area of design that is gaining in popularity and evolving in new directions.  These intricate paper designs are exhibited in  museums  throughout the world and have become another exciting medium of expression for many designers who wish to combine the digital with more conventional methods of art.

Jennifer D Anderson is an artist and educator who has an innovative style of combining printmaking with paper art techniques including a lacy cutting-style reminiscent of ancient Chinese paper cuts and Mexican wedding banners.  I was fortunate to attend one of her workshops  at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC), and gain a different perspective on paper, how it is made, its physical properties (absorption, weight, sizing, fiber content, machine made vs. handmade) and how to utilize paper for mixed media printmaking.  The two-day workshop started with an overview of European and Asian papermaking, their differences, and different cutting and gluing techniques for each.  For those of you who haven’t tried pasting papers of different types and weights to another sheet of paper, believe me it is not easy! Here is my mixed media piece from the workshop.    

Laminating and pasting were demonstrated in detail (see YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_7JQOtOhoA for step-to-step demos).  The twenty workshop participants learned how to use digital images, laminating several transparent images together, and combine them with traditional printmaking styles (intaglio and woodcut).

Jennifer received her MFA from the University of Georgia and has taught workshops at the J Paul Getty Museum and the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Currently assistant professor of art at Hollins University,  those of you in the Bay Area can view her current work of cameo-like prints of anatomical images at “Visceral Intuition,” an exhibition at the MPC Gallery that ends April 13. (Jennifer Anderson’s website is: www.jenniferdanderson.com)

“A Separation”–Between Truth and Lies

I haven’t seen a film from Iran that I have loved as much as “A Separation” since I enjoyed “Children of Heaven”  (1997).  “A Separation”, winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, is an Iranian “Rashomon”.  This masterpiece of cinema lays out multiple stories unfolding from six principal characters.  Stripped of any vestige of a moral absolute, in spite of the low dramatic temperature of the filming, viewers will hang on every scene and every word.  The vast middle ground of truth and falsehood leaves you spellbound.

The storyline is simple.  A young upper class schoolteacher , Simin, yearns for a better life for her daughter, Termeh,  and wants to leave Iran.  Nader, her husband, however, is deeply devoted to his father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. Consequently, Nader refuses to leave his father behind, knowing that immigration is no longer an option for him.  The couple has a divorce hearing before a magistrate.  With her husband’s permission, Simin is allowed to leave the country but her daughter, Termeh, chooses to stay with her father. The conflict over custody for Termeh unwinds, and with it, their moral convictions.

“A Separation” offers a rare view of ordinary Iranians–both affluent and struggling– in an urban center.  The upscale apartment is contrasted with the grittier working class district in the south.  Simin and Nader’s lives are a world away from the pious, poor districts of Tehran. Thin slivers of religious conviction and family bonds unravel in unexpected and nuanced ways as a desperate married woman (Razieh) offers to become the caretaker for the aged father. Minor misunderstandings morph into a slow-motion nightmare that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path.

Hand-held cameras lend a documentary quality and visceral sense of realism throughout. The superb script carefully conceals the central incident so we’re never quite sure who’s telling the truth. We can see the logic of everyone’s position, their good intentions and their emotions while we vacillate on whose version of the truth to believe.  The director’s only agenda seems to be to express empathy. Although the judge may be tending against our own sympathies, we understand why he does so and may be correct to do so. That a director can make such a sympathetic film in such a troubled time is a tribute to his skill.

In this compelling drama about the dissolution of two families, all six characters feel justified in their own particular grievances.  The film accomplishes an extraordinary feat in not selecting sides in the midst of so many moral contradictions.  “A Separation” ultimately separates us from our own need for intellectual clarity and security in our values. Every single performance is noteworthy and natural, perhaps especially  the performances of the two young actresses who play Temreh (the incredible Sarina Farhadi, director Asghar Farhadi’s daughter) and Somayeh (the doe-eyed precocious Kimia Hosseini), the five-year old daughter of the caretaker Razieh.  The film’s ending is so iconic I could think of no alternative that underscores the theme more faithfully—namely, the thin places—the membrane between what is a lie and what is truth– fragile and easily torn.

Seagrass Restaurant: Bon Appétit–Mi Cuit

Last weekend we went to Santa Barbara and had a delightful experience participating in the inaugural cooking lesson by Chef Robert Perez, owner of Seagrass (30 East Ortega Street).  Trained in France, the Netherlands, and as a sous chef at L’Auberge de Soleil, Perez opened his first restaurant Citronée near Sacramento before moving thirteen years later to  Santa Barbara. This intimate family-run restaurant is elegant but not severe, relaxed and informal.  The chef’s wife, Marianna, serves as hostess and his son, Ruben, manages and greets guests.

Seagrass is rated #1 by Zagat’s, with #2 being Bouchon (where we had an equally phenomenal meal the night before).  What made Seagrass especially memorable for us foodies, is that we had not only the exuberant chef all to ourselves but his sincerity and hospitality in the kitchen made us feel like we were in our own home.  The “coastal cuisine” that Chef Perez specializes in is deserving of the highest praise:  the quality of ingredients includes local shellfish, salmon flown in from New Zealand, locally raised lamb, regional wild boar, and farmers market produce. Together with mostly Santa Barbara County wines, what more could anyone ask for?

Before sitting down to the three-course lunch of soup (cauliflower-puree garnished with a smathering of tiny crispy soba noodles), Alpine salmon, and chocolate mousse with chocolate decadence cake on the side, we had a demonstration of how to prepare this exquisitely designed meal.

For the soup–we watched the chef nurture a classic vichyssoise. Next was the pièce de résistance –the entrée of Alpine Salmon (Mi Cuit –”half-cooked”) with green cabbage “slaw” and tomato basil beurre blanc. (For the truly  curious, check out our YouTube clip at “seagrass cooking demo“).

This unusual salmon entrée is a bridge between sashimi and ceviche.  Semi-cured in olive oil, salmon mi-cuit can be served at room temperature or cold.  Olive oil is heated to 120-130 degrees and then poured over the raw salmon filets, submerging them gently in the pan to soften, retaining an amazingly bright pumpkin color.  Hence, the “mi-cuit“, the half-cooked, half-cured salmon. While the filets soak, the Napa green cabbage “slaw” is lightly sautéed in a pan with carrots (diced into tiny cubes) and then plated first, as a bed for the salmon mi-cuit.  Lastly, an incandescent and translucent tomato beurre blanc is prepared and gently poured over the perfectly bathed salmon.  And voilà– salmon mi- cuit!

For lunch Seagrass paired Melville’s crispy delicate Viognier with cauliflower soup and  Ojai’s gorgeously fruity  Presidio Syrah with the salmon mi cuit.  Each menu item is created, Chef Perez informed us, with wine in mind– nothing too delicate or too spicy to overpower each recommended wine.   Ever since the movie “Sideways”, Santa Barbara is now inseparable from its association with wine and proud of it.  This restaurant has some of the best wines the region has to offer.  Bon Appétit!