Not Afraid To Ask: Artist Admiration

If you could invite any artist, living or dead, to a dinner party at your home, who would it be (and why)?

Ruth Asawa’s been on my mind a lot, given the Cantor’s recent acquisition of 233 ceramic masks that comprise Wall of Masks. But more than that, she has long been an inspiration for me — her insistence on daily creative practice, advocacy for education and community outreach, her passion for gardening. I would love nothing more than to soak up her wisdom at a dinner party. She lived an incredible life and the impact of her work is still being felt today.
Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander, pH.D., assistant curator of American art and co-director, Asian American art initiative, at Cantor Arts Center

Richard Avedon, circa 1965. He’d be exactly my age [early 40s]. I’d dig deep into his artistic process and inspiration knowing that some of his best work was yet to come. Keith Richards would show up fashionably late.
Spencer Brown, photographer

It would be my favorite artist, Claude Monet, because his paintings inspired me. I want to find out: when did he know how to use all the colors in his painting? And how to see all colors in the landscape? These questions have been on my mind ever since I was in art school.
Veerakeat Tongpaiboon, artist

My heroes: Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keeffe. I would ask da Vinci if he thought his lack of formal education enabled his fertile mind to imagine more or, if even possible, less. For Botticelli: did he willingly participate in Savonarola’s tragic and infamous bonfire of the vanities or were his paintings burned against his will? Picasso: was his obsession with women and sexuality an extension of his hyper innovative and creative mind or was he insecure and needed multiple conquests to validate himself? O’Keeffe: did she wear only black in the winter and only white in the summer because her intense love of color was [so] all consuming that she couldn’t see it as vividly if [it] was on her person?
Stanlee Gatti, founder, Stanlee R. Gatti designs

Without a doubt, Andy Warhol. When I moved to San Francisco in the early ’90s, I was looking for a book to read at the park on weekends (because a sandwich at the park was about all I had money for back then). I picked up Bob Colacello’s Holy Terror, about the Warhol days, The Factory, Studio 54 and Andy — I was riveted and could tell he was brilliant, calculated, insecure and incredibly influential all at once. Oh, the questions I would ask!
Jay Jeffers, designer and author

Dinner parties make the top of my most-missed list. What a familiar, yet elusive dream it would be to gather with a big group of friends over wine and Aretha Franklin on the record-player, celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday with family, or host an artist’s dinner at Cala in Hayes Valley. Or, better yet, combine all three and invite the Berlin-based artist Hito Steyerl, whose poetic — and often prophetic — philosophical musings explore the intersections of AI, museum practices, war and global finance. We’d swap the wine for beer and Aretha for techno while imagining our digital future.
Kathryn Wade, assistant curator at the San José Museum of Art. She is currently working on the exhibition Hito Steyerl: Factory of The Sun, which opens August 6.

Maynard Dixon, to talk picture design and life in the Monkey Block building. Maurice Logan, to talk painting and surviving as a Society of Six member, as well as an illustrator painter. In general? Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, to marvel at their lives in general and ask Diego how he feels about possibly seeing his mural leave the Art Institute. Wayne Thiebaud, just to figure [out] what he is drinking so that I can steal a quart of it!
Chuck Pyle, director, School of Illustration, Academy of Art University

Kelly would want to talk with Remedios Varo, the Spanish surrealist artist. Kelly is intrigued by her work and feels that not enough light has been shone on her work and history. Me? I’m feeling like I would probably want to be able to hang out with Jimmy Dimarcellis, who is a conceptual artist that has a very unique perspective on love, life and human sexuality. His mix of humor and color play combines seamlessly … I have always found his work mentally refreshing with a liberal dash of genius.
Kelly Tunstall and Ferris Plock, artist duo

I’d have to say Keith Haring. I would love to talk to him about the inspiration behind his art, beginning with his graffiti drawings in NYC subways. Also, [I’d] be very interested to get his take on Trump, COVID-19 and equity for all.
Charly Zukow, publicist

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