Custom exhibition banner created by staff member and alums Joel Lithgow (BFA Individualized Studies 2022) and Joseph Blake (BFA Printmedia 2022).

View the creative side of the people who help keep CCA moving

The exhibition Alter Ego offered a glimpse at staff talents outside of their work for the college.

CCA staff such as studio managers, technologists, program managers, and more play a critical role within the CCA community by supporting students and faculty, as well as their fellow staff members. And in intangible ways, they strengthen our community by sharing their true selves on campus, online, and in the studios.

Staff also lead not-so-clandestine lives as artists, yet their creative identities often remain veiled to students and faculty. In November 2023, the CCA Campus Gallery offered a rare glimpse into their unique perspectives, experiences, and creative journeys in the exhibition Alter Ego.

See a highlights from the exhibition and read the inspiration and motivations behind the pieces.

Piper Alldredge, studio manager, Model Shop/Fabrication

My installation was a home distillation set-up with accompanying zines that visitors could take to learn how to set up their own at home. I’ve been working a lot with plants the last few years, and as I talked through the idea of submitting something to the exhibition, someone mentioned to me an exhibit they saw that included a scent component. Art in galleries tends to really be about what you see, sometimes about what you hear, sometimes what you touch. And, I am always interested in sharing something that people can take and try on their own. So, this installation was about that DIY spirit, and using your sense of scent.

Photo of zines with green text and purple illustrations detailing how to set up home distillation.

Piper Alldredge, Untitled, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

Torreya Cummings, associate director of academic computing & studio operations

These pieces were made in October 2022 while I was an artist in residence at Recology. In my job at CCA I use cables like these all the time, where I manage the computer labs and other technical resources. While I was at Recology, I started collecting them from the e-waste bins and weaving them into sailor's knots while I was looking for materials for a larger (and ultimately unrelated) installation.

I had just finished a project on a sailing ship at the SF Maritime National Historic Park and was excited about rope mats on the deck made from lines that had been retired from use. There was an interesting parallel with the ethernet and USB cables I found in the bins. Day jobs and night jobs have a funny way of overlapping and informing each other, and this is an example of how, even when I'm at work, I'm secretly thinking of it as “research” for my other work.

“There was an interesting parallel with the ethernet and USB cables I found in the bins. Day jobs and night jobs have a funny way of overlapping and informing each other…”

— Torreya Cummings

associate director of academic computing and studio operations

Installation of discarded gray and red power cables tied into a flower-shaped knot.

Torreya Cummings, A Collection of Untitled Sailor’s Knots (detail), 2022. Copper, rubber, plastic, unknown metals, circuit boards, gold plating. Courtesy of the artist.

Sarah Lowe, senior director of studio operations

During the pandemic restrictions, I wanted to spend time with gorgeous materials that wouldn't be a health hazard or need any specialized facility separate from my home. I started making stitched and embellished fabric samplers; this piece was the first one that broke out into three dimensions. I think of it as a weighted blanket/amulet for the heart, something protective in a time of so many vulnerabilities.

Installation view of rich velvety tones fabric stitched together in an abstract oval shape.

Sarah Lowe, Untitled, 2020. Photo by Nicholas Lea Bruno. Courtesy of the artist.

Tracy Tanner, assistant director of the Center for the Arts and Public Life

Ritual is a commentary on being a single mother. This is a sketch for an installation where I bathe Thea, my daughter, pour milk on her, care for her. Although, this installation will likely never be shown in a gallery because Thea is not interested in such a public display, it happens everyday.

Being a mother takes so much care. You give more than you ever knew was possible to give. As your children age, you become a subset of them. Here at CCA, in my capacity as Assistant Director of the Center for Art and Public Life, I am a full person, a free standing individual, but as I leave here I become my daughter’s keeper. Picking her up for school, running her to activities, helping her with her homework, how to care for herself, feeding her, trimming her nails, and injecting magic into her everyday. Thea, as her name suggests, is a goddess and I am her ladies maid helping her traverse through the world. I know it is my most important role I will play throughout my life, so I give it the time and attention it deserves.

A painting with a young girl at the center attended to by a maternal figure.

Tracy Tanner, Ritual, 2023. Acrylic on paper, 24 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Nancy Chan, instructional technologist, Libraries

My piece is called Self-Portrait with Otter Costume, a lithograph I made in 2005 when I was an undergraduate student at CCA. Reflecting on the piece now, almost 20 years later, it's a nice snapshot of my life at that time—living with my parents, commuting to the Oakland campus, spending time in the print studio socializing with friends, listening to music, and making art. I'd made the otter costume on my mother's sewing machine for Halloween not long before making the print, and it seemed a fitting portrait for the theme of the exhibition—the subject standing as an otter then and the staff member standing as an artist today.

A lithograph of the subject whose lower facial features are visible behind the whiskers of a self-made costume.

Nancy Chan, Self-Portrait with Otter Costume, 2005. Lithograph, 19 x 13 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Alexander Guerrero, evening studio manager, Model Shop/Fabrication

As a studio manager at CCA, I have found my time working with the student body an immensely gratifying experience and certainly fuel for my practice. I'm growing as an artist every day by showing up to work and allowing that art school energy back into the wells.

Western Wild Blue, the wall drawing I created for the 2023 Staff Art Exhibition, was a back-to-the-basics meditation on my art-making life up to this point. When I was in art school, I had the opportunity to intern with the Sol Lewitt wall drawing installation team at Mass MocA in North Adams, Mass, and I am forever grateful for the skills and concepts I was exposed to that summer.

Western Wild Blue is a work of variable dimensions installed on the wall by pouncing blue chalk along the profile of the stencil, which can travel from, say, floor to ceiling, wall edge to edge, or corner to corner while utilizing any (and all) of the four permutations, chosen at random by the pouncer. I am grateful to Manuel Angeja and Jaime Austin for believing in the process and allowing me to cover their walls with it.

Photo of the artist installing their work on the walls of a gallery.

Alexander Guerrero, Western Wild Blue, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

John Jenkins, director of undergraduate program management, academic services & curricular events, academic affairs

In my artistic practice, I weave personal and familial narratives with cinematic ones by translating photographs into monochromatic paintings. Inspired by alternative photographic processes, such as cyanotype or gum bichromate, the work involves meticulously building up thin layers of paint from light to dark to create tonal transitions that are subtle and atmospheric. Through figurative compositions and portraiture, I invite viewers to explore themes of interpersonal relationships within the context of photography and filmmaking, the nuanced concept of artifice and storytelling, and the complex act of gazing between the figures within the painting and the viewers themselves.

Side-by-side panels of the artist, one wearing a face mask, and the other wearing headphones with a bewildered expression.

John Jenkins, Self-Portrait (Twice), 2023. Acrylic on gessoed panels, 6 x 6 inches each. Courtesy of the artist.

ShawnJ, director of graduate affairs & community engagement

I am a theatre maker outside of my CCA life; director, actor and dancer. The piece I shared was a video tribute of a dance to my late mom in honor of her 80th birthday.

In 2000 I created a dance piece for her 60th birthday. So for 2020, I wanted to see if I still had the goods and set out to honor her in memoriam for her 80th birthday.

A video still of the artist dancing in front of a green wall with a neon sign that says live your life.

ShawnJ, “To Mom, on her 80th Birthday,” 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

Daniel Paul Thomas, project manager for academic operations, information systems, and curriculum management

My nine works on paper in the Alter Ego exhibition were selected from a larger body of work that I have been producing since Late April 2023. As of the exhibition opening last year, I had produced 141 discrete works in this modality in total; these drawings and collages are all about 9 x 12 inches; they are all untitled; I make them in my home in San Francisco.

They're made with digital photographic prints, pencils, oil and chalk pastels, markers, and pens. They arise out of my regular urban walking practice and other experiences I have in this city. I capture and print out numerous photos of the city infrastructure and landscape; many of these photographs depict mundane subjects such as dripping spray paint or weathered signage. I think of these quotidian snapshots in a poetic way; I see them as abstract, painterly form—not literal representation.

A grid of nine abstract drawings ranging in color from black and white to green and orange to purple and blue.

Daniel Paul Thomas, Untitled, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

Tanza Solis, web applications developer

My paintings are psychological portraits that use visual metaphors, informed by my fascination with natural history, to explore emotions in totality. Emotions are physiological and spiritual phenomena as much as they are psychological. The divide between mind, body, and spirit is arbitrary, as is the divide between humans and nature. This particular painting is about the exhilarating vulnerability that emerges when you're starting to open up to someone.

Photo of richly colored orange, red, and black painting of abstract forms.

Tanza Solis, Terra Firma, 2023. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Alter Ego was on view at the CCA Campus Gallery from November 1–November 15, 2023.

Published on February 22, 2024