Artist Spotlight: Alexis Laurent


Dandelions, by: Alexis Laurent


La Ville, by: Alexis Laurent

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

As anyone who has visited France knows, one of most prolific French experiences is admiring the Art Nouveau influences on Paris’ cityscape, from the famed Eiffel Tower to the intricate iron handrails on staircases.

San Francisco resident and France native, Alexis Laurent seeks to capture this marriage of art, nature and urban landscapes in his contemporary works. He molds dark metal into soft organic shapes, attaches plants to iron beams or combines all three on rough patches of asphalt. His paintings complete this vision with soft cubic shapes, blurring lines and organic colors.

When Laurent was a little boy growing up in the French countryside, he helped his father build their home with his bare hands. It was that experience and years spent assisting his artist parent’s in their metalworking workshop that laid the early foundations of a career as an internationally recognized painter, sculptor and self-described “urbanist”.

Laurent contemplates spaces much like an architect. He sees the merging of industrial and organic elements as a natural way to bring art to cities and make art part of the urban landscape.

After graduating with International Relations degrees from Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris, France and the University of Wisconsin, Laurent enjoyed a successful business career. But he realized that the business world was not for him. So, he took his American wife and daughter, and moved them back to France for three years to paint and nourish his passions.

Upon his return to San Francisco he bought an abandoned sweatshop warehouse in the gritty Mission District and transformed it into his personal studio and gallery. Inside, an entire living wall of iron and dessert plants dominates one gallery wall, and a giant conceptual saw made entirely of wood greets visitors at the entrance.

Laurent is adamant that the world must adapt to the idea of cities as landscapes and even works of art. While he acknowledged that it’s taken centuries for European cities to reach that point, he thinks that it is imperative to achieve this quickly in the United States.

For Laurent, it’s not a question of artistic pride but rather an elegant solution to the problem of rapid urbanization and population growth, so that future generations may enjoy their surroundings.

To learn more about Alexis Laurent’s work visit:


Arts & Events: Peralta Junction Pop-up


Photo by: Jesse Roadkill Wilson

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

There are times when the most outlandish experiences inspire the most visionary art. This may be the case when you step to the Rickshaw ticket booth at the Peralta Junction Pop-up this weekend in West Oakland.

The Junction is a living multimedia, performance and art instillation with daily concerts, shows and events.

“We’ve conjured up a magical creative space,” said Leslie Pritchett of Commonplace Productions, one of the Junction’s creators.

Inside, visitors can partake in vintage carnival games, provided by M.T. Pockets Traveling Midway of Curiosities and enjoy live music and performances by Another Roadside Attractions.

Originally, the project was an abandoned lot at the junction of Mandela Parkway and West Grand Avenue in West Oakland.

That was until Commonplace Productions, a design and build collective, and One Hat One Hand re-imagined it as a local art, design and performance space. Soon Oakland’s tight-knit art community came together to help the space come to life.

A city known its grit, Oakland is one of the most artistically supportive cities in the Bay Area and this project is another testament to that dedication.

Where: West Oakland, at Mandela Parkway and West Grand Avenue

When: Through December 15

Artist Spotlight: Kelly Tunstall

Kelly Tunstall Cao Studio Cameo 3D Print

Cameo 3D Print, by: Kelly Tunstall

Kelly Tunstall Installation at Betty Lin Boutique 2011

Installation at Betty Lin Boutique, by: Kelly Tunstall

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

When she was a little girl, Kelly Tunstall used old issues of Vogue to make 3D paper clothes for her paper dolls. Now, she makes installations, illustrations and artworks for some of San Francisco trendiest restaurants, galleries and boutiques.

You can find her pieces hanging on the walls of Bar Crudo and the Marina neighborhood pasta heaven – A16. Tunstall specializes in mixed media, illustration, installations, multimedia, and jewelry design and represents half of the artistic duo KeFe, that she founded with her husband and fellow San Francisco artist, Ferris Plock.

When she was still a student in college, NEMO Design of Portland hired her as a designer. While with NEMO,  she explored the commercial side of art, creating designs and creative marketing campaigns for global brands. But her love of art soon drew her away from agency life.

Kelly Tunstall The Secret State 111 Minna Gallery SF

The Secret State, by: Kelly Tunstall

Enrolling in the California Institute of the Arts and Crafts in San Francisco, Tunstall developed her distinct abstract and mixed style. Her work is a reflection of Pop Art and abstract ideas, evident in depictions of cartoon-like figurines that spew dark matter and mysterious shapes from their body parts. Many of her pieces are completed in collaboration with her husband, such as the  2009 Elements exhibition.

Tunstall proudly admits to having no specific style or artistic direction. On many occasions, she goes in search of her materials first. It’s only when she finds elements that inspire her, that her work begins.

It’s a fitting workflow for an artist, who as a little girl would peek through the pages of Vogue, waiting for the perfect outfit to catch her attention.

To learn more about Kelly Tunstall’s work visit:

Arts & Events: Industrial Design Junior Review Exhibition

Tieton Cider Works, 2012, by: Christian Ross
By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Dive into the world of tomorrow’s toys, furniture, typography, luggage, and just about anything else at the California College of the Arts Industrial Design Junior Review Exhibition, showing Nov. 27 through the 30th.

Some of this year’s works include a portable amplifier made for street performers, jumping toy for adults, a new bottle label design and toy bears that can be disassembled.

The origins of industrial design can be traced back to the early 1900’s with the expansion of industrialization. It is defined as the use of a combination of applied art and science to improve the aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality and usability of a product.

As an artistic field, industrial design has always walked the fine line between art and engineering. However its true artistic merit goes beyond aesthetics because the creations of industrial designers can have a direct impact on quality of life.

Past graduates of the college’s  industrial design program included Lucas Ainsworth, who channeled his passion of sustainability and the outdoors into designing products like Jungle Walkers, 100 percent sustainable cardboard puzzle animals and a recreational kite that can pull a man across a snowy slope.

Whether art or engineering, new projects built on creativity and logic are sure to be fascinating, if not just plain cool.

Reception Tues., Nov. 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
1111 Eighth Street
San Francisco, CA

Artist Spotlight: Franc D’Ambrosio

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Franc D’Ambrosio’s La Diva, 24”x24”, acrylic on canvas

Franc D’Amrosio is an artist who is not used to starving. As a young singer, he made his Broadway debut in Sweeney Todd, where was discovered by Francis Ford Coppola and offered the role Michael Corleone’s son in Godfather III. While auditioning for Miss Saigon in San Francisco, he was instead offered the much more prestigious lead role in The Phantom of the Opera. For such a gifted and exceptionally hardworking performer, the success comes as no surprise.

But nobody was more surprised than D’Ambrosio, when oil paintings he created as a hobby, became highly coveted and collected.

He first picked up painting alongside a friend, who was going through a difficult period in his life and was using art as catharsis. Theatrical themes can be found in almost all of his pieces as angelic forms dance and majestic figures stand on a stage. It’s no accident that his muse, is longtime Phantom of the Opera costar, Lisa Vromen.

Many fans compare his work to Jackson Pollok but while D’Ambrosio’s art certainly comes from the same school of thought, his style couldn’t be more different. While Pollock was known for adding materials to his canvasses – even cigarette butts – D’Ambrosio feels his work is finished once he has taken away as many layers of the oil paint as he can.

Oil is a favorite of many painters specifically because its think viscosity allows the artist to be flexible with the style of application. Some artists prefer to add solvents, such as turpentine or varnish to achieve the perfect texture and look.

Franc D’Ambrosio, Angels, acrylic on canvas, 40”x30”

D’Ambrosio’s signature style was borne out of pure frustration. No matter how little paint he applied to the canvas, he always felt that it was too much. Once he began concentrating on taking it away, instead of applying, he knew that this was how he was truly meant to paint.

Some artists spend their entire lives searching for the golden moment of recognition and fame. For others, that moment seems to fall right into their lap. Except that it doesn’t. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation, without the hard work it takes to nurture even the most prolific talent.

D’Ambrosio has spent years developing his artistic voice on the stage and his success in painting is a testament to how artistic growth in one medium, can translate to another.

Arts & Events: BADASS Exhibition

Rene Garcia Jr.

Ali by: Rene Garcia Jr., glitter on wood, 2005

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Glitter isn’t just for 12-year-old schoolgirls anymore, as Rene Garcia Jr.’s new BADASS exhibition at Project One in San Francisco showcases a grand reimagination of pop art through unapologetically sparkling works.

Known for an artistic style that exudes optimism and self-described, “badassery” Garcia is inspired by the work of early pop art masters. Unlike some artists that create for themselves, Garcia’s work caters to the audience. The glittering Marilyn and Muhammad Ali illustrations play on pop culture obsessions and give an all around tribute to all things fabulous.

Prepare for a trip down a dazzling rabbit hole with Garcia’s new BADASS exhibition, that showcases his new collection of glittering iconography. You may have the urge to dust off the old Beddazzler but beware. Only a true artist can transform the most ostentatious materials into works of art.

Now – Feb 1, 2013

Project One
251 Rhode Island St.
San Francisco, CA

Artist Spotlight: Charmaine Olivia

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Rose Study by: Charmaine Olivia

Headache by: Charmaine Olivia

One look at Charmaine Olivia’s boldly feminine, sensual and whimsical pieces and it’s easy to see why Lady Gaga handpicked her work from that of 3 other artists in an Etsy contest to design posters inspired by the Born This Way album.

Lady Gaga chose the “Headache” print, a woman with flowing white locks and antlers that bears a strong physical resemblance to the “Born This Way” singer. Fifteen of the posters were signed by Mama Monster herself and all proceeds from the exclusive Etsy sale were donated to VH1’s Save the Music Foundation.

A self-taught artist with no classical training, Olivia first toyed with the idea of moving to Paris but ultimately chose San Francisco as her home. Her work features strong Hindu and Eastern influences from her childhood. The fantastical man-animal god hybrids of Hinduism manifest themselves in painted Third Eyes, animals in human clothing and sirens with deer horns.

Jackie by: Charmaine Olivia

It was her talents for creating fiercely independent work that helped her  stand out even when standing shoulder to shoulder with a master. When The Warholian asked her to reimagine Andy Warhol’s classic Jackie O portrait, for the Warhol Reimagined exhibition in San Francisco, she responded by giving Warhol’s print of the aristocratic icon tattoos and a third eye.

While tattoos on Jackie O may seem like a contradiction, it is actually a perfect example of Olivia’s ability to illustrate the desire for both strength and feminity across all female generations.

In many ways, Olivia’s work can be seen as a reflection of today’s generation. Her animal themes underline how people will always feel an instinctive connection to nature. Her themes of strength and empowerment show that although some social norms have changed, women will always be mysterious creatures.

This may be the why Lady Gaga chose her work over other equally talented artists. Olivia’s aesthetic is otherworldly and even a little whimsical but at its core it speaks to the most basic thoughts and desires we all feel.

To learn more about Charmaine Olivia’s work visit: