A master of distraction attempts to create a character. 
Echo Park Rising was my first taste of the expressive charm of Soul Scratch when the band performed at The Lost Room to a packed audience. That was two months ago but luckily they were playing again in the basement of downtown’s historic Pershing Square Building in October. Although nights had gotten cooler, the heat of anticipation or beverage consumption gave the pursuit of music a particular buzz.
After descending the white and black tile stairs to a balcony stretching along the perimeter of Mrs. Fish, I moved toward the seductive seating area and blue hued bar in the upper corner. To the left was the main lower level where Gramps The Vamp opened with brassy-swanky funk rhythms. At some moments, it almost felt like listening to an eerily cartoonish soundtrack. This explained why the railing behind and above the stage was lined with people propped and engaged.
I found a spot between two couples overlooking the band played and noticed people bunching and dispersing at the base of the staircase of the entrance. A monstrous fish tank suspended from the ceiling where new guests arrived and bombarded into the congestion for drinks. The glass bottom gave sight to lively colored creatures and suddenly became an emblem of the fishbowl experience I was having behind the band and discretely shadowed by the cobalt beams of light cast against the wall.
Regrouping with friends became a significant priority but easily accomplished with the temporary height advantage to help with sorting through the crowd. Making sure we got a good space to listen to Soul Scratch was another pain objective but seeing how late it was and they still hadn’t arrived on stage, I figured there was plenty of time for a cigarette. Squeezing a way up the stairs was a little easier than going down and the bouncer swung the door open but the atmosphere was so chill, not a curl of hair was pushed out of place by the greeting of street breeze.
I nearly dropped my lighter in excitement upon seeing Dale, the vocalist of Soul Scratch, standing on the curb already a few steps ahead as he exhaled a cloud of smoke in front of the tightly clad passersby. He was caught off guard but I was enthused to meet him. His expressive use of voice with the band quickly became the focal point of our conversation was cited as coagulation with funky flows of a trumpet, saxophone, drums and guitar. Shortly after a few exchanges, he finished his cigarette, then fled through the door and down the stairs in preparation for his entrance to the stage.
The yellow and amber tint of downtown’s streetlights spread across the busy pavement and gave way to a attractively distracting scene. However, Soul Scratch was due to perform shortly inside and luckily the bouncer recognized me so there wasn’t much of a wait behind the growing line on Hill Street. By the time I entered and found a seat on the patent red leather couch, the lead vocalist was beckoned onto the stage after a groovy introduction from the band. In the same fashion as the performance at Echo Park Rising, Dale made his introduction with a walk through the audience and swooned everyone through the night with vocal nods to Aretha, Etta and Otis over a funky swag of melodic pleasantries.
The sensations of journeying arose as the sun began lowering behind buildings in preparation for Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk. Food trucks parked in lots and stretched down the streets preparing for a busy night. Before the eyes were fed with what the destinations on the map were delivering, a pastelito by VCHOS Food Truck with chicken and carrots swathed in a creamy sauce all beneath a crispy folded and pinched then fried circle of masa gave much needed fuel. The fairly large parking lot was only a block or two from the concentration of pedestrians trickled onto the sidewalk.
After inhaling and coming to terms with not drinking the remaining salsa, the studio of Miguel Osuna was the first stop coming from the north end of Spring Street. Inside canvases lined up like books as tall as the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the 4th Street intersection. The artist’s technique with a rubber palette and with the exactitude of a ballpoint pen elicited a serpentine dance effect in grand proportions. Choices in color and use of light were like laying eyes upon a thick ribbon flowing through winds.
Howard Griffin Gallery was the next destination where Broken Fingaz landed in Los Angeles from Haifa, Israel using sharp and bold characters with form nodding to Japanese Shunga art. A rectangular fixture with comic book strip layout blared perhaps a message on regression while serving as a comedic shield with a blinding bulb illuminating a regressive birth of a mustachioed bald man. While several other depictions of statuesque focal points filled the gallery, the sun hadn’t completely gone away so the journey continued down Spring Street.
Just outside of Le Petit Paris Boutique, a craftsman of stationary by the name of Hundred Acre Works displayed an assortment of cards. Juxtaposition was the theme, which used tranquil landscapes as background for humorously compromising situations among characters like Batman and Wonder Woman. A few steps south was a painter whose gift with acrylic gave the illusion of being created with oil pastels.
It was off to a nomadic start and I couldn’t help but feel thankful for the space I live and very aware of those whose crafts(wo)manship was indoors and outdoors were connected to the transient phenomena of this coast. After another intersection, Art Walk Lounge had people crowding inside and spilling out so I made my way through a narrow passage leading to an enclosed and brightly lit space at the opposite end. On the way stood Urks Design presented digitally enhanced portraits of models whose porcelain skin fanned into floral accouterments and broken ceramic graphics.
Deeper in the lounge was the octagonal chamber where paintings by Diego Cardoso gave a perspective of movement through a city in consistent evolution. His paintings resembled photographs inspired by decades of planning land use, housing/redevelopment and transportation in Los Angeles. Telephone wires lining the sidewalks where bicyclists and dog walkers were bystanders of busy traffic was one of many vivid snapshots he painted. When I pulled the Art Walk map out to check for my next destination, the very same piece was used for this month’s promotional map and pamphlet.
Closest to the Lounge was the Gloria Delson Contemporary Art Gallery, one of the featured galleries of the month, which hosted the riveting “Femme Fatales” on display just two weeks before the August Art Walk. The title for this run was “Double Vision” and cohesion in doubles or more seemed to be a prevalent theme of the gallery’s opening. Closest to the windows were fine oil canvases highlighting glass texture in its uniform yet curving complexity by Mark Brosmer. Judy Gittelsohn left a message of perspective with “Something Cup” and “Nothing Cup” with a warm color scheme.
In the furthest portion of the gallery, I was struck by three rectangular pieces by Fran Santelli because the marriage of acrylic and collage formed a curious delivery begging for more details from the artist. “Reading Rainbow” held hand-painted geometric fantasies of colors and shapes forming symbiotic rhythms in front of a starry night sky. Excitement flooded when I crossed paths with the artist upon exiting the square space with her work exclusively on one wall. It was she who clarified what seemed like collaging was in fact her own ability to fine-tune the use of a brush while giving a textural and vibrant appeal.
As people flocked to her work, I bid her farewell and luck with selling to patrons of the gallery but the ambiance of The Hive Art Gallery and Studios felt like the most appropriate endpoint of the walk. The vast assortment of artists filled narrow allotments of wall space with respective eyes for detail. Meeting DavidR XV after catching a glimpse of his work prior to the event was as much a surprise as meeting Ryan Patterson whose eye for detail went as far as accentuating the eyelashes of his female model with clumps of mascara caught in the eyes framing porcelain skin and a perfect bone structure. Fusions of bold graphics and timeless black and white oils of cinematic poses by Lauren Mendelsohn-Bass left the heart warm and full as passers continued in and out of the gallery and through the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
Originally published by ZIPR Magazine, September 2015.
Relishing the video game aesthetic continued as more people trickled in to guess at which point they could see their faces on the projection walls. Some people went toward the glass fixtures while others went in search of wine and beer. Upon turning to exit, there was hardly a sign of the ladder and artist, which made the experience a bit like trying to catch a little white rabbit.
Originally published by ZIPR Magazine, August 2015.
First steps into Corpus Illuminata, an Anatomic Interpretation, were made in a partial trance as eyes peered with curiosity upon sinuous lines, bold colors and intriguing subject matter. Anthony DVS, organizer of the two-day affair, shed light on what started as a showcase of visual art, with interpretations for all things anatomic. Over five years, the event quickly expanded. This year included collectors of antique medical utensils, student and doctor presentations, as well as musical experiences; but the cohesive thread among all work on display remained fixed in references to anatomy, biology or medicine.
A few pieces on the entry walls were no larger than two square inches, but held delicate portrayals of vital organs on each mini canvas. To the left hung a mixed media anatomy-based illustration of Adam and the fall of man by Michael Reedy, titled “Malum A”. The artist’s narrative of mortality, physical limits as living creatures, and death was executed with exposed vital organs, bones and abnormal creatures as manifestations of their fall into pain and death. The complimentary illustration of Eve titled “Malum E” hung on the wall leading to the larger exhibition space.
Glossy ceramic and weathered metal sculptures were as bold and mysterious as large canvases of placenta, skeletons and fetuses. Rehearsal of vocal arrangements and piano by storyteller and “musical evocateur” Jill Tracy created a soothing melodic energy. In between songs, she revealed she was the first musician to achieve a grant to craft original compositions in the nation’s foremost collection of medical oddities at the Mütter Museum. Through her journey as a clairaudient and within the walls of the gallery, Jill, not merely treating spiritual eccentricities as a subject matter in her songs, shared lively engagement with artifacts and energy through music.
Jill continued rehearsing songs from her Mütter experience and additional work, which guided wandering eyes to paintings and photography near the stage’s corner. In that vicinity, a photograph by Anthony DVS titled “Soma Dorsum” held a peculiar energy. After projecting an MRI scan on a model’s body, the former electrician and self-taught artist manipulated lighting to create an eerie yet elegant snapshot.
As Anthony returned to his organizing responsibilities, the adjoining bazaar held in its center a unique pairing of post mortem photography, surgical images, entrapped tarantulas, and octopi. David Chow, director of Galerie Camille, spread his personal inventory of circus freak deaths, lithographs of medical procedures on the body, and massive leather resources for students of medicine. The reconstructed and inflated tarantula skins inside square frames were mounted and pinned by DJ Zaccariah Messiah. The nightlife enchanter’s display area also sported carbon fiber and clay skulls alongside octopus vials from North Africa.
Creating a border for the bazaar was a lengthy table – half of it the vending area of Heather Rhea-Wright of Painted Lady Trashions. On display: vintage taxidermy, human bones, and glass trinkets. Originally from Corpus Christi, Heather’s popularity was a bit of a surprise when she sold her first set of fetal pigs at the Rustbelt in Ferndale. She has since continued finding objects and improving her vast collection. Not only was it the fourth time she shared her collection at Corpus Illuminata, it was the first time she collaborated with Todd W. LaRosa, owner of Michigan’s Mortuary Museum.
On Todd’s side, there were cadaver prosthetic forms for open casket ceremonies, thin polished embalming equipment, and funeral home memorabilia. The backdrop for his space was a crushed velvet backdrop with Victorian jack-in-the-box frame made of wood. It was a grand stage set for the keeper of fourteen hearses and the largest funeral home antiquities collection in the United States. As more guests arrived, the visual anatomic feast carried them through the night with educative and melodic sensations in honor of life and death.
Finding the entrance to Rosa Parks Boys was as unique as the transformation of a loading dock and storage space to a skateboarding arena. Inside, Mary Bustamonte declared her strength in styling and editing within the realm of fashion by forming visual and poetic testaments to escape the lifelessness of retail. She epitomized uniformity of the fifties by attaching snapshots of the decade in which people were facing the same direction to a light blue button down.
Bustamonte admitted her impatience hindered her construction of well-crafted clothing but intended to practice her capacity with a camera by trial and error. Photography in “Bourgeoi-Zine” showcased her intentional juxtaposition of the rogue and the materialistic. Quite a comical fusion it was because exclusive familiarities of goings-on among those who identify with each social stratosphere seem to promote access to each world. Although finding the entrance to the facility, which had been magically transformed, was a bit of a struggle, my appreciation for stumbling upon such a fascinating space turned into a fervent desire to explore more.
Inner State Gallery boasted an array of glossy arrangements of wood, text and colors while fixating attention on the iconic arrow for which Above is internationally recognized. While gazing at the fruits of a two-month residency on the western wall, I crossed paths with photographer Michele Lundgren and her daughter Cara while we were hoping to meet the mind behind culminations of acrylic, spray paint and screen print ink. They arrived after catching an opening in the Eastern Market but were on their way out so I continued moseying. When I caught myself gawking at “Lock – Manhattan” and other puzzle-like creations, I made my exit as well.
Further into the east side of Detroit was Block One Gallery where paintings by Sean Nader were on display. Animated countenances of subjects from the artist’s past and present were prominent in the expressive surplus. Wrinkles of “Charles Bukowski” and caffeinated Dungeons and Dragons characters were only a portion of Nader’s gumption galore. He revealed the gallery space fell into his lap when friends of his were in the process of developing a conjoined unit of the building. It was one of several highlights in his journey through 2014 and having sold several pieces with an hour left, a toast to his serendipitous opening was crucial and my last for the evening.
About an hour into the “Quest 4 Visions” opening, red dots sprinkled the collection of Sanda Cook at the Pittman-Puckett Gallery in Ferndale. “Starscape” grabbed my attention instantly on the eastern wall but I wanted to follow the hypnotic effect of her work in numerical order. I also didn’t want to interrupt her interview with Steve Lloyd so I started with the western wall.
Allusions to graffiti and collaging felt most prominent in “Protection” but light and layering bound together Cook’s engagement with experiences of emotional and astrological sorts. “Soul Retrieval” was a gripping example of how curiously she characterized her observations of people. Variations of human shapes and landscapes left little room to inaccurately predict the success of the Romanian artist’s exhibit.
The western wall hosted larger pieces of equally expressive magnitude. “Galleon” delivered solemn emotions where red slashes forged a macabre naval craft. “Love Letter” entertained issues of distraction and clarity when unveiling a message of value. Perhaps for this reason, it resembled the troublesome fuzziness of images of dated televisions when their antennas were improperly coordinated.
In the midst of observing “Cosmos” I met Skip Davis and photographer/potter Rose Lewandowski who appreciated a co-design I donned by Randal Jacobs. Before and after years of neglecting her imaginative self for the sake of motherhood, honing her craft in pottery and image making came with a natural purity. She met Cook at a show in March of 2014 and they have since fueled each other’s creative fervor. After flipping through a few pages of Lewandowski’s portfolio, Cook greeted me with jubilance and I held no restriction of praising her visual assortment but focused particular attention to “Starscape.”
The image was already sold by the time we stood in front of it but I learned the starry sky came to life with an unintended but perfect speckling of paint. As we moved to the smaller pieces on the western wall, she introduced me to painter Jon McCahill whose work I recognized from a summer show at Whitdel Arts. We spoke of academic and self-taught approaches in finding one’s voice then quickly realized similarities in our processes of making art.
As the night continued, a bit of dancing broke out before Linda and Don Mendelson arrived and Lewandowski returned to snapping photographs and sharing her portfolio. As we carried on, it was indisputable how Sanda Cook’s fascination with human contact and universal forces influenced immense livelihood. This was even more evident in her interactions with everyone whom she graciously thanked for basking in the ambience of her cosmic love.
On the southern edge of Capitol Park, two huge geometric halves triggered nostalgia for an egg hunt with their exposed interiors greeting newcomers near the entrance of Passenger. Other sculptures stood prominently across the cement and white wall landscape while paintings, photographs and drawings created a charming atmosphere for a one-night presentation between the gallery and Detroit Creative Corridor Center, among other prominent proponents of Detroit’s scene of innovation.
Brian Barr curated Abstracticus, which opened in mid-October but Contemporary Abstraction offered a one-night multitude of visual and performance stimuli. Near the area designated for libations was a large amount of traffic where viewers gazed at two portraits by Tylonn J. Sawyer. His shadows, lighting and immeasurable detail made the subject’s face seem oily enough for a blotting sheet. Ceramics by Laith Karmo yielded a similar effect with his capacity to catapult fine sculpting into the public sphere.
Noah Stephens extended an opportunity to gaze into a fondness for exteriors and the night sky with his photographic lens. As Noah’s work emitted a brilliance often seen in motion pictures, he responded with much enthusiasm for the accidental creation of nightscapes resembling paintings and shots from a movie-making process.
While the evening encapsulated respective communications of form, aesthetics and contexts, the process of following each artist’s perception of reality proved tedious without a corresponding list outlining who created each piece on display. To the gallery’s credit, there was a compilation of brief artist biographies but perhaps next time Passenger will be able to offer spectators an easier transition between interrogation and evaluation.
When I was told about an iron pour at 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, I didn’t realize the radiance of Colectivo Cajeme had begun showing two days earlier. Insightful Mr. P of 555 relayed helpful background information about the artists until I pointed in admiration to Una Galaxia para Fátima. Quickly he pointed to a woman sitting alone and preoccupied with her phone across the exhibition space and said, “You should tell her yourself. She’s sitting right there.”
It was Gabriela Galáz—the artist whose work I found thrilling. After nearly galloping to speak with her, I invaded her isolation by flooding her personal bubble with compliments. Unfortunately, my impulse incited a raised hand, slight tilt of the head and an unsettled, “I’m sorry, I only speak Spanish.”
Quick to excuse my poor Spanish diction, I well enough to continue the conversation. From our exchange, I learned Colectivo Cajeme began with artists in Sonora, Mexico and the municipal support was a tremendous advantage in garnering community recognition and in showing internationally—two members had already exhibited their work in France and Spain. Those who came to Detroit for the opening, created molds for the smoldering iron outside but would either continue traveling or return to Mexico.
As with any craft, age had little to do with the expanse of talent but was fascinating to take into consideration. A pause in conversation kept the eyes moving until Mictlán by Ebeth Roldán became central to the conversation of living twenty-six years and demonstrating a remarkable commitment to perception and reality. Roldán’s exquisite movement of subjects, tones, shadows and light were held in a single moment in unison with a viewer’s capacity to appreciate such boldness.
Before Galáz elaborated on Fátima, En Revolución and Florecer, each piece seemed motivated by a repertoire exposed as an intricate system of pulleys and weights pouring rich hues into the finest stencils, which were carefully placed over large wood and canvas surfaces. However, my fascination with creative output preceded me as she explained Fátima was an aunt whose perfectly coiffed hair had been the subject of Galáz’s admiration for years. Similar questions then circulated around En Revolución and Florecer but Galáz’s minimal responses led to expressions of gratitude, which I regarded as a signal to check out the iron pour where it was chilly but warm tea and vibrations of blaring music kept the festivities cozy.