CALL Program Artist Arlan Huang

CALL Program Artist

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Arlan Huang

Can you share what has changed for you as a result of being a part of the CALL program?
CALL has centered my life's journey. It has revealed the little things that give me clear vision. In glassblowing there is a term that states,"Keep the glass on center." The good blowers make it look easy. The maestros make it effortless. It is a most difficult dance to master. Admitting or discovering you are off center is the tough part. CALL has helped me identify and define the hard questions I need to ask myself. CALL has helped me find center.

Can you give us a sense of what needed to be accomplished when you started working with the CALL program?
In the beginning of the career documentation process I identified three interconnected goals for the year.

1. To document and download work into the database.
2. To alleviate the burden of estate for my family. We would create a guidebook with an art  roadmap of the studio.
3. To investigate the soul of why I do Art. It would be the heart of the guidebook.

We worked tirelessly to achieve the goals. It is an ongoing, living process. But the third goal of seeking soul, an elusive endeavor to begin with, grew to be the most compelling story in the documentation process. To my surprise, it began upon the unearthing of the first artwork. As the excavation continued, the weight of time became overwhelming. The journey exposed emotions ranging from the depths of despair to the epiphany of bright moments. It became a necessary exorcising process for unravelling my art DNA sequence. The opportunity to reboot DNA and to wrestle with ancient demons allowed me to embrace my soul. The soul of my art manifests itself thru my work ethic. The art is the evidence. The intangible resides in the heart where family rules. CALL lifted the veil. The program validated and confirmed what I had always suspected about art and soul.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this work?
A magic appears in the rush of discovery and the reclamation of forgotten history. The treasure is the art. It is the proof that I had been there. The paths taken were laid before me. All those old, crazy, stupid, lost, abandoned ideas were unwittingly tried over and over. It is somewhat deflating to see my new idea was executed ten years ago but forgotten. The absolute beauty of the process reveals progressive, ever so slowly, subtle cumulative changes. Nuance has accumulated into deep luscious statements in my art today. After years of questioning dead end artworks, valleys of surrender, brilliant moments, debilitating criticisms, wasted time and great times, I see all the dots. For once in my life my art is qualitatively clear. Life and art is on center. My art and work ethic is finally acceptable to me. That's a big deal.

I thought I had a good memory. CALL revealed my flawed memory in so many ways. From where things are to lost and found objects, the process stirred the pot of regret for the past, faux aspirations, haunting and colorful detours. Oddly, the view is from the outside looking in - an Arlan I once new very well. It is a strange empathy from pathetic to brilliant. But definitely it is not me now but it is embraced in the sum total of me now. It is a humbling and fascinating experience only available thru the CALL program.

CALL has afforded me a personal retrospective of my art. CALL has given me proof of life.

What has been the most difficult?
It was my choice to signify myself as an old school artist. It had cache with a patina towards approach and process. One day I awoke and I WAS old school! I was analog, the world was digital. My career was paralyzed and quickly descending into a forced isolation. Thanks to the CALL program I am almost digital, still behind the eight but in the game. CALL has restored choice for me.

One of the hardest thing for me was to swim awkward moments. The embarrassment of being a total computer dunce left me floundering in the audience of my CALL specialist and student assistant. I was determined to swim again. Specialist Beth Krebs patiently glided me into shallow water till I was free to float on my own. She was always there to save me when I went under. Student assistant Ellie Reynoso introduced me to crazy stuff to do on my smart phone besides holding my breath.

I would like to express my gratitude to Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist Support Manager Shervone Neckles-Ortiz, CALL Legacy Specialist Beth Krebs and student assistant Ellie Reynoso (social media navigator). Without them nothing would have been accomplished. I will miss our weekly planning, doing, dusting, labeling, wrapping, rapping, and jousting. Mostly I will miss the sharing of our weekly triumphs and defeats in art and life. And now, Rose Nestler comes to help me swim the length of the pool. Did I mention dusting?

What do you recommend to artists who might be in the early stages of creating an inventory system?
Documenting your life's work is overwhelming. It requires a combination of doggedness and improvisation. Be nimble and generous. There will be missteps and redo's. It is difficult to allow anyone, even yourself, entrance into the secret corners of your studio. But allow you must. Patience and open mindedness may find you on your journey towards center.

The best advice I received came from a CALL workshop lead by artist, author, Jackie Battenfield. In urging us to do our homework she said, "just do a few small things." This has become my daily mantra. My recommendation - always think of your family.


CALL/VoCA Talk

On Friday, October 30, 2015, CALL artist Arlan Huang sat down with artist and Legacy Specialist Beth Krebs and Robin Clark, VoCA Board Member and Director of the Artist Initiative at SFMOMA to discuss his practice and the experience of documenting his life's work. This event was one of a series hosted in partnership with the VoCA highlighting the CALL initiative while also underscoring the crucial need for dialogue with artists around the production, presentation, and preservation of their work. The full-length Talk is below, and a transcript of the interview is available upon request.
 

  • Photo © Lia Chang Photography

  • Swimming Awkward Moment, 2014. Oil and acrylic on cotton duck, 80 x 90 inches.

  • Suddenly Laughter: Reflections from within a Zen Rock Garden, 2005. Permanent hanging glass sculpture for Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Suddenly Laughter: Reflections from within a Zen Rock Garden, 2005. Permanent hanging glass sculpture for Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx.

  • 100 Smooth Stones for Grandfather, 1994. From the show Dim Sum, Hearts Desire: an installation approximating Huang's grandfather's NY Chinatown apt.

  • 100 Smooth Stones for Grandfather, 1994. From the show Dim Sum, Hearts Desire: an installation approximating Huang's grandfather's NY Chinatown apt.

  • American Origins- Do Re Mi, Doo Wop, Padme Ohum, 1996. Permanent glass installation for PS152 in Brooklyn.

  • American Origins- Do Re Mi, Doo Wop, Padme Ohum, 1996. Permanent glass installation for PS152 in Brooklyn.

All works are copyright of the artist or artist’s estate.