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Staff Profile: Creating Beauty Through Art "After Hours"

by Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
posted November 18, 1998

Artists Yoshiko Tagami and Katherine Huffaker Jones are on the staff at the Graduate School of Education.

Two longtime staffers at the Graduate School of Education spend their off-campus hours creating artwork that has been exhibited and sold around the state.

Katherine Huffaker Jones' large paintings often include arid Western landscapes with objects and figures so tiny she actually paints them using a magnifying lens and needle. Some have a 3-D, diorama feel. They are at the same time terribly real and mysteriously surreal (see page 8). Her oil paintings take up to nine months to execute.

"My paintings aren't easy, and they won't make you feel particularly happy," she says. "It takes a while to know what you're looking at."

Jones is represented by Bucheon Gallery in San Francisco. Gallery co-director Sheila Cohen notes that, "Katherine's work is not only visually beautiful and technically sophisticated, but her concepts take it to another level. She's a thinking painter who asks the veiwer to engage in her experiences."

Yoshiko Tagami, who came to California from Japan in 1979 for more personal freedom, can hardly keep up with the demand for her delicate pastel scenes of California landscapes. Her fall vineyard scenes are especially popular.

"I fell in love with the California landscape -- it's so grand, yet so delicate at the same time," she says. "I love the play of sun and shadow. In Japan, it's often misty."

Tagami's paintings are available for rent and purchase at the Oakland Museum Collector's Gallery.

"Her pastels are small treasures that beautifully capture the feeling of the atmosphere and the reflection of sunlight," says Migsy Hamasaki, co-director of the gallery. "They have been very popular with our renters."

Jones joined GSE in 1983 as a senior clerk. With a BA and MA in art from San Jose State University, she quickly took on design work for school publications. Promoted to publications assistant, she also designs web pages and assists with the Social and Cultural Studies in Education program.

Jones works 60 to 80 percent time for GSE, reserving Thursdays and Fridays for painting in her Emeryville live-work space, which she shares with her sculptor husband and 11-year-old daughter. GSE has loaned her a computer for home so she can complete projects without cutting into her daytime painting schedule.

Tagami has been a program assistant with the Academic Talent Development Program (ATDP) since graduating from Berkeley in 1989.

"I love my work at Berkeley because it gives me a chance to be with young people," says Tagami, who mentors secondary students learning Japanese. "I follow them through the years and many become UC Berkeley students."

This summer ATDP provided 2,400 elementary and secondary students with academic enrichment and acceleration classes.

Tagami recently returned to her artwork after a two-year hiatus brought on by a heavy campus workload, loss of her studio space, and "painters block."

Now she's made a tiny work space in her kitchen and is experimenting with mixed media and chalk drawings -- partly because pastel dust requires a separate work space. She would like to return to a part-time campus work schedule, but ATDP demands and rising rents prevent it.

"I decided after college that a steady, part-time job with benefits was the best way to survive as an artist," says Jones. "I think creative people are drawn to work at the university for their 'day job' because the faculty are doing creative work themselves, so many of them understand and support it from their staff.

"Everybody here works beyond their job classification," says Jones. "The University gets a lot for its money, but it also supports my artwork in a way by keeping my schedule part-time."

"Everyone here encourages my artwork," says Tagami. "I'm very lucky."


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