Red Poppy Art House Presents the 1st Annual Cross Pollination People & Performance Festival

Cross PollinationI mage

Friends, I am very pleased to be a lead curator in presenting this first ever festival at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco.

This September, the Red Poppy Art House is producing a unique festival aimed at bringing together artists and audiences from different communities and artistic disciplines. It’s all about creating a space of intersection between the different worlds we inhabit; our social spheres, our work life, and our personal paths. Each evening features a mash-up of different aesthetics that highlight the audiences attending as well as the artists presenting. Come experience a week of people and performance, magic and medicine, and the space between.

Artists include music performances by Marcus Shelby Trio w/Tiffany, Antique Naked Soul, and John Calloway Quartet. Contemporary dance by Amara T. Smith, Byb Kongo Bibene, Jennifer Gwirtz, Christine Germain, Kerry Mehling. Theater and Dance/Theater by Mugwumpin, Embodiment Project, and Dandelion Dance Theater. Films by Cine+Mas SF / San Francisco Latino Film Festival. Poetry by Indira Allegra, and a TangoCeviche workshop by Adrian Arias and Todd Thomas Brown.

The First Annual Cross-Pollination People & Performance Festival will run from Wednesday September 24th to Sunday September 28th, 2014. The Red Poppy Art House is located at 2698 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. For most events, doors will open at 7:00pm, and performances begin at 7:30pm. Admission is $15-25 sliding scale. All ages are welcome.

Check for more info, or visit the festival base station on Facebook.

On an August Eve

On an August Eve

KALW Radio Interview: How is the tech boom affecting the arts?

We-Lose-Space_1The following panel interview was recorded and aired live at KALW RADIO, 91.7FM
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“On today’s Your Call, we’ll talk about the state of the arts in the midst of rapid growth in the tech industry. Intersection for the Arts, one of the oldest alternative art spaces in San Francisco, recently laid off most of its staff citing major budget shortfalls. How is the audience for the arts changing — and how are arts organizations responding? What is the state of the arts in your area? Join the conversation on the next Your Call with Rose Aguilar and You.”


Todd Thomas Brown, founder and interim artistic director of Red Poppy Art House and a founder of the MAPP – the Mission Arts Performance Project in San Francisco’s Mission District

Kate Patterson, communications director for the San Francisco Arts Commission

Ellen Sebastian Chang, director, writer and a creative consultant in San Francisco; former director of “Life on the Water”

Listen to the full interview  here.

New Paintings from Teobi’s Dreaming

Opening Reception
Sunday, May 4th, 6pm-9pm
Red Poppy Art House

I will be hosting an informal showing of 14 paintings from a new series I created in response to my recent theater project Teobi’s Dreaming – An Inquiry into Biology and Being. Some of these works will be going to individual donors of the project, and so I thought I would take the opportunity to show them along with other works from the same series for this one-night exhibition. The paintings incorporate notes and script fragments used during the project’s rehearsal process and production.


2698 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California, 94110

Notes on the name Teobi

 ”In this capacity of presence lies the deepest human contact, of witnessing one another – of denying nothing, accepting everything, and facing it with the greatest light of our being.”


teobi mask
The San Francisco poet Nina Serrano recently asked me during an interview, where did the name ‘Teobi’ come from, and what do I mean by “Teobi’s dreaming?” This prompted me to write the following response, which I thought would be worth sharing since many others have asked the same questions.


Pragmatically speaking, the name Teobi is a combination of the name I use when traveling in Spanish speaking countries (‘Teo’, because Todd is largely unintelligible when spoken in Spanish), and the first initial of my last name ‘B’. Hence, “Teo-B”. I conceived the name as a device to represent my biological being – an organism that has been evolving since the beginning of human life, if not before.  We each are this organism. There is ‘Todd’, born on October 3rd, 1970, with his particular personality and odd ways. But ‘Teobi’ names the bio-being, the bio-poetic being, that is much more than ‘Todd’. It is the housing of ancestors, the amalgamation of not only their formal biological traits, but also their stories – their love and their fears, so many nuances of being, in a word – their collective poetry. Teobi represents the idea that many selves live within us, that we are not as ‘individual’ as we are led to believe. We each are a collage.


We give so much credence to the intellectual mind – it’s concepts, beliefs, and everything it constructs from it’s extremely limited time and experience in this life, be that 20 years or 85 years. While that personality takes center-stage in our live’s production, our bodies go on being – living moment to moment, with a brilliance and intelligence we scarcely comprehend. Most of us are lost in thought 90 percent of the time, while our bodies live in real time and real space, communing with the living world around us. They are far more informed than our personalities on the reality of life. Yet we treat our bodies as a relatively clumsy and unintelligent mass of flesh and bone, of which we are the master. The performance work Teobi’s Dreaming was intended to shine a light on the brilliant complexity of being – that intelligence lies in being, because being means being present and only in the present is their the living quality of intelligence which is altogether different from constructed ideas, beliefs, ideologies, etc. (these as forms of thought that become solidified and therefore static, existing outside of the living quality of life).  That’s a lot to try to convey in a piece! But this is a large part of the idea behind the work. Additionally, as our bodies house the beings before us, so too do they house history – all of colonial conquest, family pain and family love, the histories of religion and governments, etc., and so that history too is present. So, in some paradoxical way, our body-being is both the recording of history and the antidote, with its ability to heal and thereby transcend (though this is likely too strong of a word) all that came before through our capacity to be fully present with one another. In this capacity of presence lies the deepest human contact, of witnessing one another – of denying nothing, accepting everything, and facing it with the greatest light of our being.


Dreaming is another aspect of the work. By ‘dreaming’ I mean our fundamental capacity to see, in our minds eye. What we see in each passing moment, in our minds eye, is what we experience. We live that dream. It is the moment to moment power of thought, both verbal and non-verbal, translating itself seamlessly into feeling through each second, active all the time within us, interpreting the world and projecting fourth it’s interpretations. Most of the time, we are scarcely aware of it. We believe we are experiencing the world rather than our own inner interpretive arrangement of it. The dreaming power is also the power of creation – to create from our ability to envision different possibilities. I think this is one of the greatest most revolutionary forces in the world, because a person or people can look at a so-called ‘reality’ and say “no, i refuse to accept this, I/we will create another!” Dreaming, in its empowering sense, is not hoping or wishing, but seeing - seeing the reality of multiple possibilities. Yet the unconscious dreaming power is what we all are doing all the time, believing in each passing thought, just as we do in sleep.


By the words “Teobi’s Dreaming,” I mean to imply that this human organism, that is now my body-being, has been dreaming, conscious or unconscious, across millenniums. All my ancestors before me, their thoughts, hopes, fears, desires, terrors, revelations, live on as a bio-poetic inheritance within me. My opportunity in this body and life is to give voice to it, listen to it, interpret it as best I can, transform it and be transformed by it. The body-being is the doorway, not my thinking mind. My body, always, is present. If I (the inner thinking being) can become still and surrender attention to the body-being, then I may find a glimpse into a deeper self, a deeper being, a being of many, if only for a moment.


I say “body-being” to underscore the idea that the body is always being, and that being-ness lives within and through the body. It is not a machine. It is life’s intelligence in action. Teobi’s Dreaming plays with the idea that our cells dream - as in, they participate in the ongoing creative process of bringing form into being – that each is alive with a thinking intelligence and memory. We need only surrender, and we may discover now the voices of ancestors in the living present.


(Teobi’s Dreaming, an interdisciplinary production exploring biology and being, was conceived and directed by Todd Thomas Brown with Tom Sway as assistant director. The production was presented by the Red Poppy Art House of San Francisco this past March, of 2014, with support from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Collaborating artists: Camille Mai, Ellen Oliver, Schuyler Karr, Adrian Arias, Kenya Moses, and Tiffany Austin)



TEOBI’S DREAMING | The 2014 Premier

A Performative Inquiry into Biology and BeingTeobi Video-ImageTeobi Video-Image
The 2014 Premier

Conceived and Directed by Todd Thomas Brown
Assistant Director: Tom Sway
Featuring Camille Mai, Ellen Oliver, Schuyler Karr, Adrian Arias, Kenya Moses, Tiffany Austin, and Todd Thomas Brown

Teobi’s Dreaming is a multi-disciplinary theatrical performance that explores questions on human biology, ancestry, and the fleeting moments of spontaneous presence that we experience in our daily lives. Consider how we walk though life confident about certain facts; we know where we live and where we keep our plates, sneakers, and laundry, and yet we are mostly unaware of what goes on inside our bodies in each passing moment. Teobi asks, where is my spleen? Do I know? Is it that I have a body, or does my body have meTeobi’s Dreaming plays upon the idea that our biology and DNA are not aspects of some biological machinery storing genetic information and code, but rather they represent a continuity of stories, poetry, and dreams, moving forward through time – a bio-poetic organism, the body-being in which we live.

Kenya Moses and Schuyler Karr in rehearsal

Kenya Moses and Schuyler Karr in rehearsal

Teobi’s Dreaming engages stillness, humor, reflection, challenge, and insight, to facilitate the capacity within us to hold questions that we cannot answer. As the poet Rilke said, “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Cast | Tiffany Austin, Camille Mai, Ellen Antoinette, Schuyler Karr,
Adrian Arias, Kenya Monek Moses, and Todd Thomas Brown
Music | Camille Mai, Schuyler Karr, and Tiffany Austin
Choreography/Dance | Ellen Antoinette & Kenya Moses
Visual poetry/performance | Adrian Arias

Teobi’s Dreaming is supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

Evening Performances:
Thursday & Friday, March 20 and 21, 7:30PM
Sunday Matinee:
March 23, 3PM

Red Poppy Art House, SF

Buy tickets in advance HERE, seating is limited:
2698 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California, 94110

artist reception

Artist Reception Studio Grand1506245_10152204476475908_1260043752_o

Todd Thomas Brown | Abstracts in the Way of Being



A solo exhibition of 20 mixed media paintings

Artist Reception:
February 9, 4:30pm.

Live music by Amy LaCour and Schuyler Karr

The exhibition runs February 9- March 30 2014.
The gallery is open to the public Wednesday – Saturday from 12 – 4pm, Monday and Tuesday by appointment.

Studio Grand, 3234 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610


The Myth of the Isolated Artist

by Joyce Carol Oates

Originally published in Psychology Today, May 1973

The most exhilarating feature of our present era is its energetic reassessment of its own traditional preoccupations, and the methodologies——usually the mechanism of the “rational-conscious” mind——by which we seek to comprehend and promote these preoccupations. Long-cherished, sacred myths are now being explored; the collective mind of our world is making a supreme effort to transcend itself.One of the holiest of our myths always has been the unique, proud, isolated entity of a “self”: perhaps it is through an exploration of this phenomenon that our other myths will be exposed, devaluated or given a new value, absorbed into the consciousness of a new world.

It is my conviction that all human beings “create” personality. Some do so passively, helplessly, and are in a sensecreated by others, whom they come to fear or hate; others create their personalities half-consciously, and are therefore half-pleased with their creations, though they suspect something is missing; a few human beings, gifted with the ability to “see” themselves as “other,” and not overly intoxicated with the selfness of the self, actually devise works of art that are autobiographical statements of a hypothetical, reality-testing nature, which they submit with varying degrees of confidence to the judgment of their culture.

In other words, while the great majority of people are content to “create” their personalities through ordinary conversations, casual letters, and behavior, the more curious or energetic attempt to formalize the process. But, when it is formalized into a great work of are, like Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, it is erroneously taken to be a permanent statement. The greatness of a work of art usually blinds us to the fact that it is a hypothetical statement about reality——a kind of massive, joyful experiment done with words, and submitted to one’s peers for judgment. Even if the work is not released for publication, as in the case of Kafka’s uncompleted novels, it is still, in my opinion, a form of inquiry, a testing of certain propositions by the author.

Thus, while the usual reader/critic response to an important work like Sartre’s is Sartre states that humanity, like nature, is contingent and without meaning, the legitimate response should be The author asks us whether he is correct in believing that humanity and nature are both contingent in the universe, and therefore meaningless. And published work, especially a vast body of work, is created by the author with an intelligent and responsible public in mind——if he is extremely ambitious, it can be an entire era. But when the conception of “self” is one of a fiercely individualistic, private, and “original” nature, the relationship between an author and his culture will always be misunderstood.

The differences between the “artist” and the “scientist” are minimal, psychologically; but we have inherited a tradition that insists upon separating them, and upon assigning to the artist a certain conglomeration of traits that are, in fact, illusory. Just as Theodore R. Sarbin traces the origins of the term “schizophrenia” and shows how mythical it really is, one can trace the terms “art,” “artist” and “artisan” to show how the original conception is simply one of an apparent anti- or nonnatural activity [see "Schizophrenia Is a Myth, Born of Metaphor, Meaningless," PT, June 1972]. “Artifact” is “any object made or modified by man,” and the entire activity of human civilization is, of course, an artwork, a cooperative artifact created by both the traditional men of art and men of science, and everyone else. The exclusion of the artist from a general community is mythical.

I am saying not simply that every scientist is an artist but that everyone is an artist: he is involved in the effort of creating artifacts of one kind or another which, ultimately, add up to civilization. Conversely, the artist is a perfectly normal and socially functioning individual, though the romantic tradition would have him as tragically eccentric.

However, since the myth of the isolated artist is a very real one, and since individuals tend to believe the myths told about them, it is important for us to realize how difficult, and in some cases how destructive, this fantasy is.

Scientists have always known and acknowledged their dependence upon one another. Norman Mailer, in Of A Fire On The Moon, expressed the typical author astonishment at the “ego-less” Space Program, which seemed to be like the moon itself——without an atmosphere. The complex theories and facts that goes by the term science is a vast, collective venture, running parallel with civilization itself, and not even a maddened scientist would imagine that he, alone, had achieved anything significant. Immense bibliographies are appended to all books of a nonfiction type, in which the author acknowledges his dependence upon everyone. Works of fiction never contain bibliographies: they would be too lengthy, perhaps, but most of all they are just not traditional. The creative artist is told that he is original, highly individual, solitary, and that his successes and his failures are totally his own.

Therefore, while the intelligent scientist knows that “his” findings are not really “his,” but that he represents the spearhead of a process of systematic theorizing and truth-finding which may go back for centuries, the artist believes that “his” work is exclusively “his.” If I were to suggest, in utter seriousness, that my fiction is the creation of thousands upon thousands of processes of consciousness, synthesized somehow in me, I would be greeted with astonishment or disbelief, or dismissed as being “too modest.”

In civilization, no one can be “too modest.”

The illusion of originality and isolation can be very destructive to the writer who is, for personal reasons, unstable to begin with. Though a man like Herman Melville did the work of a hundred men——and his parallel in the field of science would be one hundred men, not one——Melville himself felt he bore the burden of his efforts, and believed “himself” a failure. In the physical world, it is never a loss to a man’s pride when he cannot overcome an obstacle that would require two men to handle it, but in the imaginative world, it is quite possible for a single individual, attempting the labor of countless individuals, to feel destroyed. The suicides and mental breakdowns of gifted people (see A. Alvarez’s The Savage God: A Study of Suicide) are well known, and may in part be traced to a totally erroneous concept of what the “self” and “personality” are.

Because the writer is seen by his readers and critics as totally separate from his culture, as other, his attempts to establish a relationship with this culture are usually frustrated. If a gifted young poet like Sylvia Plath publishes poetry and a novel (The Bell Jar) that are hypothetical statements about reality, she will rarely receive from even her most intelligent critics anything that resembles understanding. Instead, she is praised for being technically proficient or for exploring the agonies of the modern age, without flinching from their implications. There is a pernicious symbiotic relationship between writers and critics, which can result in the destruction of the writer: John Berryman comes immediately to mind. The deathliness of his poetry is praised, along with its technical virtuosity; it is never considered hypothetical, but taken as ultimate wisdom. When the writer believes his critics in such cases, he has no course left but suicide.

Well-meaning critics praise their subjects for the wrong reasons, often; and they condition their subjects to deliver more of the same, and by implication to be the person who delivers this work, in a malevolent downward spiral. A sympathetic English critic, Tony Tanner, City of Words: American Fiction 1950-1970, disapproves of John Updike when he is “positive,” but approves of Updike when he is “nihilistic,” though the quality of Updike’s writing is about the same in both instances. Yet Tanner, while meaning only good, is conditioning Updike to develop his nihilistic side—and, in fact, the critic is conditioning anyone who reads his book to develop his nihilistic side. This is no isolated fact but symptomatic of a general cultural problem.

Science addresses itself to objective reality, but so does art. The “subjectivity-is-truth” of Soren Kierkegaard and others is an outdated existentialism, which fails to see how the consciousness of any man is an objective event in nature; it is not, somehow, mysteriously hidden from nature. It is not the private possession of the individual just as the individual is not “his” own private possession, but belongs to his culture. What is so healthy about science is its commitment to hypotheses-and-verification, and its ability——sometimes sluggish, admittedly——to alter its vision as new truths appear. Once a truth is known it cannot be not known. If there were not a massive cooperative venture among totally unconnected people in this process of establishing truths, all of science would be chaos——simply the expression of isolated individuals, deluded into believing that each is “original” and “creative.”

In surrendering one’s isolation, one does not surrender his own uniqueness; he only surrenders his isolation. It is time for psychology to take very seriously the propositions advanced by all the great mystics——that the “self” is part of a larger reservoir of energy, call it any name you like. As long as the myth of separate and competitive “selves” endures, we will have a society obsessed with adolescent ideas of being superior, of conquering, of destroying. The pronoun “I” is as much a metaphor as “schizophrenia,” and it has undergone the same “metaphor-into-myth” process. Creative work, like scientific work, should be greeted as a communal effort——an attempt by an individual to give voice to many voices, an attempt to synthesize and explore and analyze. All the books published under my name in the past 10 years have been formalized, complex propositions about the nature of personality and its relationship to a specific culture (contemporary America). The propositions are meant to be hypothetical and exploratory, inviting responses that are not simple, thalamic praise/abuse, but some demonstration that there is an audience that participates in the creation of art. Many myths must be exposed and relegated to the past, but he myth of the “isolated self” will be the most difficult to destroy.

Open Studio & Salon w/ the Camille Mai Trio

As part of SF Open Studios weekend 3, I will be showing approximately 52 medium-large scale and 15 smaller mixed media paintings, including my latest work, as well as a series from my artist fellowship at the de Young Museum and an array of older pieces. Of course, for those of you that know me, I can’t help but add some live music into the mix when gathering friends and art lovers, so I will be hosting a closing studio salon/mixer featuring the remarkable Camille Mai Trio (

SF Open Studios is the oldest and largest open studios program in the country, featuring an annual, month-long art event in October that showcases over 900 emerging and established San Francisco artists in their studios.

Saturday: 11AM – 6PM
Sunday: 11AM – 9PM

6PM – 9PM
Sunday Salon w/live music from the CAMILLE MAI TRIO (BYOB)

Studio Teobi, 550 Thornton Avenue, SF, CA. 94124

facebook event here
Artspan profile: