Studio visit with artist Bill Bruckner

On my way out of The Black Woman Is God exhibit at SOMArts in August, I was delighted to meet artist and access consultant Bill Bruckner. He’d been to a life drawing class nearby and had also visited the show. We got talking and it seemed natural that a studio visit to check out his latest work should follow. I’ve always liked his portraits but he also has some exciting new work that relates to recent eye surgery. We planned to meet soon, share some food and talk life-drawing and approaches to making art.

A full length portrait of slim, white man Bill Bruckner in acrylic paint. He is smiling and balding, looking straight at the viewer and wears jeans and is bare-chested with a single, short arm.
Self-portrait (unfinished), Bill Bruckner, 2012.
Detail of head from full-length portrait of one-armed artist. He is smiling, and is white, balding with some grey hair and wearing round wire-rimmed glasses
Self-portrait (unfinished – detail), Bill Bruckner, 2012.

Sharing works and process

Arriving at Bill’s studio near Balboa Park BART station, I was happily reminded of how important it is for artists to spend time with each other, to touch base, share experiences and swap useful contacts and ideas for future endeavors. Somewhere in there, we talked about the local disability scene and the history of the US, we showed each other our recent work and glimpsed each other’s sketch books. Bill has been drawing and painting versions of the air bubble that was part of his cornea transplant surgery,  images that his ophthalmologist has heard about but never really seen or experienced himself.

Other related paintings we discussed were inspired by the “blood moon” of April 2014. Our conversation came soon after the summer eclipse season of 2017, and his images seemed to resonate and pulse with a lightness of space and time that made them more immediate.

Image: a dark square background has a circle that resembles the moon with a golden hue, suggesting
Air bubble – Full Moon #2, acrylic, Bill Bruckner

I am always drawn to monochrome line work and loved everything black and white that Bill shared with me. He has many beautiful landscapes that remind me of English or European artists and from time to time, he adds to his wonderful series of portraits of people with disabilities and his 2012 self-portrait remains unfinished.

He has an Open Studio as part of Artspan Week 3 on October 28 and 29. His studio will be open 11am–6pm. He is opposite Balboa Park BART in San Francisco at Studio number 20, 2377 San Jose Avenue (corner of Niagara). His studio is accessible but there is a slightly hair-raising slope for wheelchair riders down to the entrance. You will need to zig-zag down an expanse of parking lot before entering the building, and going down a long corridor to his studio.

Community of Practice

Big shout out to local artists Sue Fox from Textile Dream Studio and Corbett OToole for all they do. I’ve just completed a wonderful 12 x 12 challenge with Sue, Corbett and 10 other women artists over the last 12 months. We’ve all traveled together and shared our process, our products and ourselves once a month. Their expertise and wisdom are a dynamic force in the world and we are all so grateful to them.

Much of the Farming Series has been made during this process and as the year drew to a close, the work started to become more sculptural. The gate motif is still making its presence felt and I’m more than ready to do some full on, in your face color. The piece in this photo is also within the 12 x 1 2 inch format, and made of 12, 12 inch square pieces of plastic bubble wrap and re-cycled batting, sewn together to make a cushion. The sculpture makes a crunching sound when pressed, and reminds me of the daily endeavor of reducing the amount of plastic in my life.

Image shows: square white cushion with 8 small red prayer flags sewn to bottom edge. A white gate symbol is stenciled onto a fragment of red silk fabric song with three vertical black lines and hints of blue and yellow paint.
Farming Sculpture No. 1, mixed media (including plastic, paint and silk cloth, 12 x 12 inches

The small red fabric prayer flags are torn rectangles from an old red silk dress. The white gate motif and black vertical lines were applied with a stencil. Image shows: square white cushion with 8 small red prayer flags sewn to bottom edge. A white gate symbol is stenciled onto a fragment of red silk fabric, placed in the middle of the piece with three vertical black lines and hints of blue and yellow paint around the edges.

“Patient No More” at the San Francisco Public Library

Last chance

“Patient No More” has been at the San Francisco Public Library for the last few months and will end its run there on September 3rd. The mural remains in place at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, the project website has all the content from the exhibit, and the traveling version is continuing to make its way around the country.

On Thursday August 24, Cathy Kudlick, director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability hosted a tour for blind and visually impaired visitors, several board members from Cultural Connections and old friends from the Museum Studies Department of SF State University. Cathy spoke of the many access features like Braille, captioned and audio described videos and text specifically written for the disability community that were built-in to the exhibit from the beginning. She also introduced Dennis Billups, a blind 504 protester who was there during the whole “504 occupation” in 1977, and who recounted the close bonds and interdependence that developed between protesters while they occupied the government offices for 26 days. Forty years ago, the many people with disabilities and their allies who took over the federal building in San Francisco to pressure the government to sign the regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act took a stand against indifference and discrimination. Their individual stories still resonate and inform us all today.  As we toured the exhibit, I was reminded of how little I knew about accessibility when I began working on this project, how much I have learned from the Longmore Institute, and how lucky I am to have had an opportunity to work on an exhibit with, for and about people with disabilities, as curator and also as graphic designer.

A view of the Rotunda at the Ed Roberts Campus with mural in the background
A view of “Patient No More” at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, California.

Visitor comments

Some new comments in the visitor book were wonderful and I thought it would be great to share them here, as the exhibit comes to a close next weekend.

August 9, 2017

“– On August 9, 2017, a group of about 30 federal employees who work for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission visited the “Patient No More” exhibit. Your hard work truly shines with your presentation. Everything was beautiful. Thank you for educating our staff and the public at large. The struggle continues … (EEOC staff member)”

August 13, 2017

“Awesome work! Keep it going. PS Loved the payphone :)”

“I lived here from 1965–1983, 1987–2000 but had no idea about the issues presented here. Thank you! (JT)”

“Great exhibit! Thanks for displaying this history for all people to see. I believe this is an amazing display on a major part of our history and events. Thanks. (DLP)”

“This exhibit brought me to tears. Thank you for illuminating this amazing event.”

August 24, 2017

“Fantastic exhibit – captures the spirit and essence of the 504 struggle. I was there – my office was across the plaza and I participated when and how I could. Remarkable how much information has been presented in a format so easy to understand. Thank you each and everyone who helped to make this possible. (WC)”

Traveling exhibit moves to new locations outside the Bay Area, 2018

The traveling version of “Patient No More” is currently at the California Museum in Sacramento until November 8, and will then travel to the Southwestern College Library in Chula Vista from January 28–March 25 2018 and will be at the Arkansas State Capital, Little Rock & University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, from August 26 – October 21, 2018.