Night Crawler

In Bill Rivas' studio a comically desperate figure made from a rescued volleyball, a lampshade, driftwood, and galoshes with a hand protruding from its crotch states Will Trade Art for Cash; a piece of driftwood smokes a cigarette; rusted scrap metal does the Russian Dance; and a taco shell in a frame sells for about $150.

"I really appreciate his sense of humor, but is it art?" asks 46-year-old Darren Votreski, pondering the 21st-century question. "I mean, really anybody could do that."

"But he did," replies his savvy companion.
" 'Art.' What a ridiculous word," says Dane. "It's a game-show host, not an expression."

"Make sure to check out the outer buildings," says Open Studios producer Estelle Akamine who, while an artist-in-residence for the Sanitary Fill Company, created formal evening wear for the Black and White Ball out of reclaimed typewriter ribbons. "The artists in the outer buildings tend to be a little heavier, a little more intense. They like their privacy a little more."

Indeed, only a few artists in the surrounding buildings have opened their studios to the public, and some that are open seem barely hospitable, with sketches tossed across the floor and piles of rubble in the hallways. A couple of doors exhibit signs warding people off. An artist sits in front of one such door like a sentry: "I don't need to see other people's work, and they don't need to see mine. A person's vision should be unadulterated.

No TV, no movies, no galleries, no magazines, just my mind, my thoughts. Of course, if Redevelopment has its way, and they double our rent, I'll be forced to engage the wine-sipping paradigm, won't I?" After a moment, the woman gets up and walks off. "I shouldn't even be here today," she says. "I knew I wouldn't be able to get anything done."

In front of one of the last barracks stands a sculpture by Nathanial Price -- a huge head with blank, slightly forlorn features and waggish ears cast in amber resin that captures the setting sun and turns it into honey. Inside his studio, the head is repeated again and again and again, in a variety of colors and materials. All huge. All breathtaking.

"I guess I just don't get it," says a friend who has dropped by to show his support, "but it's your artistic expression."

"That's OK," says Price with genuine tenderness, standing near a slab of clay beginning to take form. "That's OK."

Send comments, quips, and tips to crawler@sfweekly.com.

By Silke Tudor

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