Margaret Tedesco

Pub date November 5, 2008
WriterGlen Helfand
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

Walking down the street the other day, Margaret Tedesco was struck by an oddly inspiring slogan on a slick poster for a Las Vegas spa: Live vicariously through no one.

"I saw that and thought, ‘This is me,’" she says enthusiastically. "I have my own agenda, and the biggest thrill of all is the surprise I find living it myself."

The indie spirit of that comment may sound a bit self-centered, but Tedesco’s approach to that agenda always includes inviting others into the fold. Whatever she puts her mind to, be it performance (often involving film and a persona-altering blonde wig), choreography, photographic works, publications, or, most recently, the cozy, artist-run [ 2nd Floor Projects ] gallery in the Mission, it invariably brings people together in dialogue and shared experience.

Tedesco’s performance and wall-based art are in public circulation — she was included in "Bay Area Now 4" at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, is contributing a live piece to a program at Slaughterhouse Space in Healdsburg this month, and is currently part of a group show of artist-gallerists at Blankspace in Oakland. There, she has raided her archives to present images of her history, including her participation in political activism in the late 1960s.

But it’s [ 2nd Floor Projects ], which Tedesco debuted in April 2007, which has garnered the most consistent attention, both locally and in the international art press. The gallery is very much her space, and it functions as a Sunday afternoon salon, a place where you can count on finding interesting art and conversation. Chances are, Tedesco will tell you about another event that evening — a notable writer, perhaps, giving a reading in a similarly salon-like setting — or she’ll introduce you to another artist who just came in to see the show. She’s lived here two decades, time enough to know hundreds of creative souls, and she’s worked for years as a graphic designer at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she is as much a mentor to students as a support to faculty.

Tedesco, it seems, knows just about everyone, and not only within a single genre box. Her community is truly multimedia. It includes writers, artists, filmmakers, thinkers, activists, eccentrics, and adventurers of all stripes. And she actively brings people together as a component of her work. Combining her keen interests in art and writing, she produces a limited-edition publication for each of the exhibitions in her space, pairing a writer with an artist. For a randy show of rarely seen drawings and paintings by twin brothers and legendary filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar, poet Eileen Myles created a broadside. Novelist Dodie Bellamy wrote an appreciation of British artist Tariq Alvi for his exhibit at the gallery. For an upcoming show of works by the late filmmaker Curt McDowell, Tedesco has tapped filmmaker/writer William E. Jones, who, she learned, is planning a McDowell biography. I know from experience — Tedesco invited me to write for a show by Nao Bustamante — that the goal is to generate writing that exists outside the standard art magazine form.

This type of matchmaking is one example of the kind of vicarious thrill Tedesco thrives on. "The joy of any exchange is watching it perform before my eyes. I get to be surprised," she says. And so do we.