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.
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.
In a portrait of Detroit muse Andrea Perez, Robert Sestok highlights a stoic poise with a method contrasting bold colors and textures across many submissions for the Big Paintings exhibit at The Factory of 333 Midland. Black lines amplify shadows, clothing, demeanor and tattoos but force speculation as to what inspired Sestok to create this enormous piece. The answer: body art.
When Andrea first decided to mark a revolution of body and mind, it was on a walk-in basis and she left after forty minutes with fresh ink and in a tizzy of her next tattoo. The process of conceptualizing and acquiring tattoos to cope with life’s chaos became an insatiable craving, which Andrea took great care to satisfy. Although the urge did not subside, she was keen on selecting creators based on merit, which guided her to a variety of talented individuals who have left their mark on the canvas of Andrea’s body.
Artist Alana Robbie—who relocated to Portland, Oregon—fashioned El Corazón in Chicago in honor of Andrea’s father and her Mexican heritage as the image mimicked a playing card of lotería, which is a popular game resembling bingo. Matt Lambdin was another image-maker who was fortunate to experience Andrea’s influence after studying art at College for Creative Studies. Creating a likeness of the Mexican painter was outside Lambdin’s comfort zone but after gaining Andrea’s trust with the direction of his three other tattoos, something about her tactics of eliciting exceptional work influenced an accurate yet distinct representation of Kahlo. In addition to the portrait of Kahlo, he also fashioned depictions of a pigeon, bee, and a rose compass.
Enchanting the minds of people who sharpen their inventive blades happens very naturally but the Ferndale resident’s professional life entails delving into her love of books—also illustrated on her body through effervescence of hardcovers—as a facilitator of library sciences in Westland. Although she was uncertain about posing as the subject of a grand painting, it wasn’t until after she accepted Sestok’s invitation when Andrea realized the significance of participating in Detroit’s art community—the same community in which Sestok has remained an admirable proponent.
As his time is not exhausted on working with his fascinating muse, Sestok has been developing City Sculpture, which will comprise a retrospective of his work on Alexandrine near the Lodge Freeway. When he spoke of his plans for the sculpture park, permanency resonated brilliantly and justifiably for an artist who has witnessed and participated in a broad scope of transitions in Detroit. During our conversation, the idea of a larger than life sculpture of Andrea arose, to which Sestok’s energy shifted with excitement beneath his opaque lenses. It completely verified Andrea’s power as a creative provocateur.
Twenty minutes after midnight
I heard a discussion about
pharmaceutical companies being
under quite an investigative
pressure. I think it was on
91.7 FM and when the subject
was introduced, immediately
my mind went to an appointment
I had with a psychiatrist in
two thousand eight or nine.
He was a person whom I’d
maintain for follow-ups and
refills, however, in the midst
of a very paranoid state I
inquired the possibility of
pharmaceutical companies working
with those in occupations of a
psychiatric kind to exchange
money and promotion of drugs,
to which he responded in a
wide-eyed manner, “If there
were any benefits, I wish I
could use some of them,” and
then remained silent. It was
he I gave trust to intoxicate
my mind with helpful substances
in pursuit of emotional stability.
|_ife is crazy.
The three words
come to mind often
when there’s difficulty
thinking of something
to say about a topic.
Maybe the habit is
the result of perpetual
side effects of pills
deemed advisable for consumption.
Do thoughts of what has passed and
what will come in near and far
futures determine what has become
of the present moment in time?
Only a few
A song was written
about a young woman
and charm of a person
by which she’s smitten.
The rhythm was off
but the theme was evident
of a romantic pursuit
forced to remain secret.
Why in this season
do energies shift
and influence admirers
to reveal an eerie twitch
when trying to determine first
whose number will be uttered
and consequently lend to the
spreading of various ignorances?
Rhyme and reason do not enough
in explaining the dynamics
of amorous affairs.
Oh, the day’s been long
and it’s not quite ten.
Brain cells may very well flee my head.
So long, I hear myself say to the boss
until I think about the inevitable money loss.
Change may come but never fast enough.
Perhaps slow it needs to move
while one sits in wonderment
of where the spirit should travel.
I remember the days I would daydream
on the vast school playground
watching clouds float by
and other kids move about,
never present was I
rather in a flight of listless thought.
Pausing to contemplate
the movement of my body
as it rotates in a chair,
the scent of salmon
in the midst of oil and butter
soothes the day’s exhaustive chatter.