Libby Black at the Berkeley Marina

Living & Working

Libby Black at the Berkeley Marina

By Libby Black February 20, 2019

How does one survive and thrive as an artist in the San Francisco Bay Area? Living & Working is a multi-platform column focusing on the experiences and strategies from those who continue to live and work in the Bay Area.


Libby Black is a painter and sculptural installation artist living in Berkeley. She is a professor at San Francisco State University. Her work is based on imagery culled from disparate sources like fashion magazines, snapshots, newspapers, and pop culture websites. She is interested in having the work chart a path through personal history and a broader cultural context to explore themes of impermanence and identity. She has exhibited nationally, with such shows as Bay Area Now 4 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2005; 2004 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; and at numerous galleries in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Black has been an artist in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito and Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. Her work has been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Zink magazine, Flash Art, and The New York Times.  She received a BFA from Cleveland Institute of Art in 1999 and an MFA at The California College of the Arts in 2001.

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The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

I’m Libby Black. My pronouns are she and her. I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1976 and I moved when I was a sophomore in high school to Plano, Texas. When I came out here for college, I came out as gay—lesbian. Growing up in Ohio and Texas I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school and I knew I wanted to be in the gayest city in the United States. And San Francisco was that for me. So it wasn’t about going to a certain school; it was purely location—all about location.

I went to California College of the Arts in 1999, and graduated in 2001 with an MFA. It was a really exciting time to be here, to be kind of young and in school, and then just out of school.

The Bay Area has changed dramatically since then....the art landscape, the galleries, the museums—all of that has shifted so much. In April it will be eighteen years since I got out of graduate school.

So it’s changed dramatically, but for me, after being here this long, the connections are the most important. Even if they aren’t connections that are like “I’m going to show you,” but just that I can walk into someone's gallery and they’re like “hey Libby, how are you?”—just people knowing you for that long is so important.

I go to the Berkeley Marina and just walk around and meet friends there: Julie Goodman and Michael Hall, and sometimes Sydney Cohen. I’ve known them for a really long time. It’s also that connection to the Bay Area, you know, where Michael is a teacher and they’re artists. And sometimes it’s just good to just kinda decompress. Sometimes when my friends can’t go I just go by myself.

Walking with friends or by myself is just that kind of reminder to let go of things and to realize where I’m at. It’s a grounding place for me.

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Living & Working is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.

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