South 1st St. Fridays…

The first Friday of every month, a group of places in downtown San Jose host a type of get together.  The way that I like to describe it is a traveling art show.  This was my first time attending the event.  And I have to admit that it was a lot of fun regardless of the fact that so many people were squeezing into some small places.  One such place was the first stop on our walk, Caffe Trieste  located at 315 S. 1st. St.  It’s a great little shop that creates delicious caffinated works of art.  It was PACKED!  I had a tough time trying to find a spot to stand so that I can see the featured guests which were members of Opera San Jose’s production of Le Nozze Di Figaro, or The Marriage of Figaro.  They perform a few doors down at the beautiful California Theatre.  Due to the number of people attending, I was only able to stay for the first song and couldn’t get a clear shot for a picture.   But it was hilariously magnificent!  Unfortunately, because of the nature of the shop, I couldn’t hear the gentleman’s name when he was introduced.  However, as I was leaving, at the front of a line so I couldn’t stop and chat, I did manage to tell him what a brilliant performance he gave.  There were many opera lovers in the cafe, but also people that were coming in for a great cup of coffee. Should this be the place that you would like to visit next month, get there about an hour early.  Nearly the first half of the cafe was reserved for the singers, and there aren’t that many places to sit otherwise.

We next moved on to The Art Glass Center of San Jose at 465 S. 1st St.  While I wasn’t allowed to film, I was able to take a couple of shots of the instructors who were demonstrating how to make beads.  They recently started offering classes again after a brief break.

In addition to the instructors, there were two students there that were working on fusing pieces together for their projects.  I watched as one of them would sand down a fragment ever so slightly then walk over to his work, set it down look at it, then walk back over to the sander.  This happened three or four times while I was there, and when we had left, I wondered if he happened to get the right design that he wanted finally.

There is a small gift shop in the Center that had many stunning pieces on display and for purchase.  The prices are pretty reasonable when you take into account that it’s a hand crafted piece and it’s 30 bucks.  As someone that appreciates the creativity that goes into a piece, I do plan on stopping back in and picking up a couple of works for a birthday.

As was the case with the cafe, this area was also a crowded but since it isn’t as narrow, moving about wasn’t too big of an issue.   Although at times, I felt like a spaz among all of these delicate articles as I bumped into people left and right.  Usually, I am very aware of my surroundings, so I felt so very awkward.

My favorite thing was this Heart-bird in a glass cage.

After all the bumping and ogling, we decided that it was time to move to the next destination. So, out into the night we headed once more.  Since there was some distance between this stop and the next, we walked a little faster thanks to the chill in the air. As the clouds had been clearing away, we were graced by the view of those twinkling stars.

Stop number 3 was a colorful reminder that there is more to the little corner of 577 S. Market St. than a little white building.  It’s where we happily found SLG Publishing Comics Art Boutiki & Gallery.  As we walked up to the store, we could hear music!  It wasn’t any sort of music that we have heard before, but it was very intriguing.  It sounded very experimental electronically, but the live drumming behind it had a structured pattern.  As you walk in you can see a mountain of statues of this blue monster.  Coincidentally, the statue was actually called Monster.  It’s based off a character in the SLG published comic Gloom Cookie.  The beast lives under the bed of Sebastian and eats his girlfriends.  There’s more to the story, but you have to get the comic to find out what that is.  While a seemingly evil brute, the statue is posed so that he looks very noble and romantic.  He’s adorable.

The best part is that there was a sign on top of the display that read:

FREE if you know the secret word.  Perry, my partner in all crimes,

pondered what the word could be and mentioned it several times while we were there.  After taking a preliminary look at the comics that were offered here, we made our way through the doorway at the back of the store and found a huge lounge where the band Shy Grape was performing.  There were about 15 people in the room sitting and having drinks or enjoying the snacks that were laid out.  The Shy Grape consists of three people, there was a woman who  played a keyboard, and a wild man of a drummer, and another gentleman that was making the oddest gestures in front of a wooden box.  This box  was making a sort of wailing sound, but there were no keys to press or anything to actually touch.  During a break,  I later learned, thanks to the gentleman playing the wooden box, it was called a theremin.  He gave us a little demo and offered to let us try our hand at it, but we politely declined and thanked him for the offer. This particular one was made by Moog but people can make their own.  It was fascinating. I added a link below that you can click to see exactly how it worked. Also, as it turned out, this man was not only a musician, but was the featured artist whose pictures were hanging throughout the front of the store.  His name is Andy Ristaino.  He wrote the very funny Life of a Fetus.  He even signed my copy.  Perry was drawn to a  particular digital creation of Andy’s that is wonderful, and the picture that I have taken of it to show you, does not do it justice.  When you see this work in person, the rug at the bottom jumps out at you while the cat in the chair seem to pull back.  Andy was nice enough to autograph Perry’s purchase.  In addition to Life of a Fetus and Gloom Cookie, I got a few more titles to check out.  They are called Jazzbo!, The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers, and Little Scrowlie.  As Perry was showing the sales clerk which print he wanted to buy, I began talking to an author who was selling her book about her “adventures” in online dating titled: Kissing Frogs in Cyberspace. Dianne Sweeney had me read 2 of the emails that are in the book, and I was chuckling pretty hard, so I decided to give it a go.  She kindly autographed my copy and as she was doing so, Perry came up and said “I wonder if I say ‘The secret word’ if I could get a statue.” Dianne whispered to him, “It’s Please.” So that’s how he got the monster.  

We had spent quite a bit of time in the comic shop, so we decided it was time to head out and follow the crowd to see what else there was.  This lead us to the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art at 560 S. 1st St.   The main gallery was housing a show called By A Thread which featured artwork that was made using thread as the primary medium.  As this post has gone on this long, I will refrain from talking about all of the artists individually and say that every piece was incredible.  I do have to say that there was one work that gave me chills, and I can’t even describe why.  What it is in short, is at the corner of the room about three feet from the corner on each of the walls, the artist, Beili Lui sketched a human outline and dotted it with silver sewing pins.  Next, the pins were connected from one body to the other body in the corresponding needle implying that people are connected like soulmates. I looked at it as every person. It’s not the idea behind the art that made me and still makes me think, but the way the thread is used, with some of it pulled taut while other sections loosely fall to the floor and pool in between the bodies. Just stunning.  I highly recommend that you catch this series while it’s in town through May 15.

When we left the ICA, we walked past a couple of the places that were part of the walk, but the yoga studio looked packed to the gills as did the Metro newspaper office.  We were going to go into the quilting museum, but they seemed to be wrapping up.  So we popped into the MACLA center to see what was on display there.  While I understood the idea behind one of the installations that was there (a set of three pictures with a single woman wearing a burlap sack superimposed over herself doing various poses) I think the one picture would have been enough.  The idea was that the flour that was contained in the sack was used for so many things and in so many ways during his childhood, that for this piece the woman’s expressions and moods were supposed be a representation of that.  Consequently, the three pictures are indeed all different, but using the exact same shots of the woman in a different order, wasn’t enough to make me want to spend too much time looking at them.  On the other side of the room, there were several pieces that didn’t mention who the artists were, but the theme was love.  Unlike most other works where love is depicted as great or broken, I found this facsinating.  And not because many pieces had a heart and were in shades of red and pink with a dash of orange or blue, but most of them had tentacles of some form.  I couldn’t find any literature to read about the artist, so I left empty handed, but full of thoughts.

Most of the places were winding down so we decided to head home as well.  Now, I can’t wait for next month to roll around.  I hope that you will find yourselves strolling about in downtown San Jose and seeing all of these great things that are being done.  But you don’t have to wait until the first Friday of the month to visit these places.  So get out there and check them out.  I’ve added links to most of the places that I mentioned, but viewing them online is not the same as stepping out of your house and into that great little coffee shop or indie comic shop or amazing museum.   So, what are you waiting for? Caffee Trieste – great coffee! Opera San Jose Art Glass Center of San Jose The Cool Indie comic shop The electromagnetic musical instrument San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art Dianne Sweeney’s website –  author of Kissing Frogs in Cyberspace