A master of distraction attempts to create a character. 
I got doughnuts the other night before what seemed like a musical love child of the E.T. soundtrack and songs of Oompa-Loompas. T was interested in the musician who was not only performing but put the whole thing together at a place called Ham and Eggs downtown.
It came after checking out Chisme y Queso put on by members of the Center Theatre Group. The experience entailed improvisational skits inspired by chisme, which means gossip in English, written on the back of promotional coasters by people in attendance of a quaint bar in Boyle Heights. The reward for the most tantalizing gossip included tickets to a showing of Into the Woods, bottle of wine and a gorgeously giant wheel of cheese (one of those that can be easily melted over food and more conveniently consumed in slices cut straight from the plastic casing).
After a few rounds of applause-influenced evaluation for the winner, D won the prized package of goodies with his poignant piece of chisme. Unfortunately I missed the reenactment of his writing because I stepped out for a cigarette with T and was lured to dance in Mariachi Plaza by an elderly woman. She was dressed in a turquoise blouse, eggshell cardigan, denim shorts and comfy brown leather boots. It was like my spirit animal could tell the smoke was a mere distraction from being enticed by cumbia blaring from a stage that held a modest dj stand. Moving the crowd to dance from the stage was a short bearded man with a knack for strumming his güiro.
When we returned to Eastside Luv, we caught the last round of chisme and participated in the judging the winners of previous rounds. While D won the main prize, second place went to V, which was an inevitable consequence given his fantastic talent in storytelling. I don’t even think my story bit was pulled from the large plastic container holding everyone’s pieces of gossip. It didn’t matter. My mind was on doughnuts and I knew Ham and Eggs was just two storefronts down from a Dunkin Donuts. After a slight detour of foosball and some more dancing, we left Boyle Heights and concluded the night with a grand gesture of solid carbs.
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, 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.
Before the tin was left nearly empty, the weather began taking a dramatic turn but the behavior worsened in the sixth grade but somehow lessened in the seventh. Announcements for buses were nowhere near and the chatter was incessant with the exception of the few willing to learn. In almost every class, at least one student possessed athletic abilities and small stature while peers carried fuller frames and personalities expressive of a desire to learn.
With contributions from specialized students of scheming, the review twisted into more of a game where admitting a selection of a prize to the strongest performer garnered more attention than perceiving respectful behavior as the norm. Chaos ensued in the peculiar manner dismissals incited. It was clear the organized process of the activity evaporated with Mr. F’s management of the classroom the first week of the year. Smiling was one mistake realized merely three weeks into the year but something from which he felt vital to recover.
Not in a long time had Mr. F been challenged in tactics encouraging adaptability, wit and creativity on such fast pace and in large volume but a challenge of significant proportions it was. Instances of hardship were ill-phrased obstacles worthy of time and consideration, especially when seeking an immediate resolution, but he decided this would be rewarding on several levels.
These thoughts of the classroom circulated as quickly as people who passed the counter at Mr. F’s frequent destination. Old Bess offered a banquet for the senses and spirits but very often turned into a mecca of inebriation. Though he could savor a bottle or two by himself, customary it was to find him observing fellow patrons and engaging in delightful conversations with the ease of a butterfly out of its cocoon while offering libations to new and familiar comrades. Memories of Old Bess and visits to familiar places strung together his daily habits in spite of inevitable responsibilities in the morning.
Nearly paralyzed by the anguish of despair, the poor Mr. F dragged his feet beneath the warm sun as he pondered whether to beg, steal or forget about a morsel of food. The answer created a struggle of character more than hunger as he walked further from the sidewalk adjoining his school and a gas station. To his surprise, a cherry apple colored car screeched to a halt in a gas lane. The driver door swung open and exposed a well-dressed young person whose thickly heeled shoes tapped the ground with severity. Keen on concealing the extent of his curiosity, Mr. F adjusted his navigation toward the array of cigarette ads and scratched windows to get a clear view of the newcomer’s reflection.
To Mr. F’s surprise, the suave energy and tailored attire of a bearded young lad uplifted his spirits and pushed him to the point of laughter when he reflected on the juxtaposition of gracelessness and elegance of the arrival. It was a change of pace in this part of the city where bursts of expression puncture the stale sensation of normalcy but depart just as quickly. As the gentleman hurried from his car to the entrance, Mr. F straightened his posture and allowed the spectacle to enter first.
Inside, the gas station attendants boisterously debated with a paying customer the previous night’s surprise football victory. The debate ensued with “Yo, bro” strewn throughout the conversation, which Mr. F learned to expect as much as the consistent banana supply at the first register. He sauntered down the chip and frozen food aisle, which led to the fully stocked energy drink display where Mr. F routinely scrutinized lists of ingredients and caffeine contents.
His final decision was the same as always so he let the door slam shut as he went up a different aisle toward the animated sports conversation. Not wanting to be rude, he hovered on the carpeted space and looked to his left to see if the red car was still parked outside. To his dismay, he remembered hearing the clicking of heavy heals exit as he contemplated the origins of taurine but the absence of the car left a foreboding sentiment in the pit of Mr. F’s stomach.
“Alright, I can help next customer right here,” exclaimed one of the cashiers.
“Hi, how are you today?” inquired Mr. F.
“Just fine, thank you. And yourself?”
“Well, thanks. Can I get a,” Mr. F quickly scanned the familiar candy display just below the register, “Never mind. Just the drink will do.”
The cashier rambled something very quickly to his coworker then asked Mr. F as he prepared to swipe his card, “Debit or credit today?”
“Credit will do, thanks,” replied Mr. F.
“Credit, alright. Go ahead and swipe.”
Mr. F swiped his card and waited for the receipt as the cashier greeted a new customer. A receipt was the least of his desires so he waved to the cashier while he turned to the left and made his way back to the school.
Mr. F recognized one of the voices exclaiming, “Hey, Ms. Y,” or “Hey, Ms. G,” blurted out by students who were scolded for not walking quietly in the hallway. He gazed at the desks upon which he laid handouts for his exam review but Mr. F felt certain the afternoon would flow smoothly to review for the forthcoming test. His plan entailed a question and answer competition with opportunities for students to earn sweet incentives. This, in his mind, would influence students to recognize the advantage of a review day and improve their disruptive behavior exhibited in previous weeks.
Just a few minutes before they were released from lunch, he remembered he needed to retrieve the vintage tin (a lengthy container holding sweet incentives) from its hiding place. He snatched a sheet of paper left on the floor while approaching the metal storage cupboard, slowly opened the door and peered over his right shoulder to make sure no one was watching as they passed his room.
He grabbed what used to be a tin for crackers but Mr. F noticed the weight was significantly lighter than when he left his class the day before. As he moved from the rear corner to the front of his classroom where he would place the bribing system, he opened the lid and found only a quarter of the full supply of incentives left in the tin. The only thing on Mr. F’s mind was getting through a successful day of reviewing with his students and while candy was the least of his worries, stealing was quite another matter.
As he walked toward the board of the classroom, one of his more amiable students entered the room and inquired, “Ey, Mr. F, can I have some candy?”
In an instant, Mr. F’s stomach tensed and wanted to remark, “It’s rather difficult to appease you and your classmates’ plethora of desires especially when a simple incentive system can be abused in the manner I recovered it within fourteen hours of leaving my classroom.” However, he decided a succinct note inside the tin would suffice as he continued walking down the hall to return the culprit’s worksheet, which he found in the vicinity of the nearly empty tin.
The warmth of the exhibit United States at The Scarab Club made me feel completely at ease with not having more than three sweater options (and forgetting my camera) before I wandered downtown. As soon as I turned the corner from the shallow steps of the club’s entrance, one of several oil and wood pieces by Matthew Breneau gripped my eyes. While using the price list as a sort of narrator for my first Scarab experience, I felt very appreciative of serenity incited by Jeanne Bieri’s act of curating work by Meighen and Bill Jackson, Julie S. and Michael Mahoney, and Renee Dooley and Breneau. As I continued, the subjects and sizes of Bill Jackson’s photography projected a hearty appreciation for the busy life outside of the concrete and steel mazes of urbanization. After noting dignified energy from the oil depictions of Julie S. and Michael Mahoney, and briefly observing Julie float amiably and majestically from one side of the venue to another, I fell victim for a few moments to the captivation of Meighen Jackson’s West Wind 1, 2 and 3. Her distinct use of ink reminded me of a piece she submitted for the Detroit Artists Market’s August show. However, an up-close view of her capacity to harness mixed media with her signature flair gave many of us in attendance a feast for the eyes.
Down the street at the Detroit Artists Market, this month’s Abstraction and Landscape: Contemporary Woodcuts also served plenty to eat in textures, themes, colors and ambience. What initially caught me off guard was the spirited installment on silk and cotton saris by Teresa Cole, which hovered from an overhanging grid. There was something otherworldly about the woodblock and collaging techniques of Amanda Lilleston while woodcut in reduction by Geodele Peeters gently forced eyes to move up, down, across and around each statement of how water can influence its surroundings and vice versa. Parallel to the work of Peeters was a collection of Landscape[s] crafted by Susan Goethel Campbell. It wasn’t until I grabbed a glass of wine that I made my way to Campbell’s grand display of woodblock prints with perforations, which called viewers closer as they passed. From where I was standing, I couldn’t fathom why a couple was engrossed by what seemed a unique exterior view of a city. As I moved near, grains of wood gave movement to the clouds and buildings were perforated to yield a luminous dynamism. There wasn’t much time to get caught up though because I remembered after finding art extraordinaire James Dozier and painter/curator Bryant Tillman, they informed me there was more to be seen at the Ellen Kayrod Gallery of Hannan House.
On my way to see the exhibit Color, Line, Form by Diana Alva at the Kayrod Gallery, I crossed paths with a couple on the way home from DAM. We chatted briefly and I was left with a heartfelt message to call my grandmother as much as possible–a surprise to which I took heed the next day. Then I inhaled brilliant colors and wondrous compositions by Alva who quietly sat next to someone I imagined to be close a friend. In order to minimize any annoyance in being there right up to the last minute of the opening, I silently perused large and small segments of a two-year project. I laugh came across titles like My Cup Runeth Over so I thanked Alva for her humor and excellence in artistry. It was then I learned the process of creating titles for her work offered an exhilarating thrill in her creative process. I noticed and heard a shift to a more pleasant and less tired artist but I didn’t want to push my luck with any further prying so I rushed out to see what was being shown at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art.