What does FedEx envelopes, HAZMAT suits, building installation, protective CD sleeves, and Lea Feinstein’s art have in common? Tyvek. It’s an unusual but practical choice because it’s inexpensive, lightweight, durable, and ready for transit. According to DuPont: “Tyvek is formed by a fully integrated process using continuous and very fine fibers of 100 percent high-density polyethylene that are randomly distributed and nondirectional. These fibers are first flash spun, then laid as a web on a moving bed before being bonded together by heat and pressure – without the use of binders, sizers or fillers.”
I’ve discovered that the best treasures can be made with innovative materials and reside in the most unlikely places. Every semester, my goal is to expose students to an artist that has served their time in the creative world valiantly. Grey hair, wrinkles, and experience are a proud badge to bear. Don’t shy away young artists but embrace these qualities! It represents the gift of time and the ability to create consistently. As a result, my class made the journey during ridiculous urban traffic to learn the life lesson that artists must look for the future and not be shortsighted.
Located in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood is artist Lea Feinstein’s studio. It’s not the richest part of San Francisco, a former naval base, but most artists can’t afford the rising costs due to the latest Tech boom. I’ve spent my time in “tough” neighborhoods including the Tenderloin and many years in West Oakland. That time built character and strength for this “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” Midwestern girl.
My students walked into the studio and responded to the openness of the space. Could they envision themselves here one day? Feinstein’s work effortlessly floats leaving little wall visible while chronicling her process similar to recalling memories. Feinstein: “All my paintings are mediations on flow- a product of time and gravity.” The class assignment was to condense the artist statement to one sentence to recite during the visit. A task that takes years to master and Lea proved that point.
Ms. Feinstein shared her life’s story including teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Georgetown University while raising three boys. In addition, she’s written for SF Weekly, ARTnews, and Art Practical. It was no surprise she asked students to pick their favorite piece. As a result, their choices reflected the diverse backgrounds.
Feinstein: “My work is about communicating something -a mental state- a state of the moment and I couldn’t say those things in words. I’ve always felt that art asks questions.” The studio visit inspired us all but I hope it prompts investigation and action. Whether on Tyvek, canvas, clay, plastic, paper, or any medium: what do you have to say?