I Went To Los Angeles And

I went to Los Angeles and saw a lot of things and it was good and slightly strange. This is what life looks like in Venice, California, if you ever wondered.

Lo and behold, there’s wildlife. There’s also a plethora of contemporary art galleries, which is what drew me in the first place, though sighting an egret (that is what this is, right?) counts as a plus.

From LA Louver, works by Tony Bevan, Matt Wedel, and Shirazeh Houshiary.

Installation view of Tony Bevan’s work at LA Louver, from their website

Flower Tree, Matt Wedel, from ArtNet

String Quintet (detail), Shirazeh Houshiary

From L & M Arts, a range of Jenny Holzer.

From Redaction Paintings, altered images of classified documents released by the US Government

From Marine Contemporary, new pieces by Christopher Michlig.

From White Noise, Christopher Michlig, from MC’s site.

Going to a city is both heartening and saddening.

There is comfort in being with art. In sinking into some one else’s mind and vision, in letting yourself become obsessed with some one else’s obsession. Every work, every artist has their own flavor. The sinewy human-ness of Tony Bevan’s line courses through trees, architectural images, and portraits alike. Matt Wedel’s organic sculptures speak of the birth of form from abstraction, of the joyful, messy processes of coming to life. Shirazeh Houshiary gives music form and and form aspiration. Jenny Holzer takes on human foibles and failings with wrathful compassion, simultaneously mocking and memorializing our species. Christopher Michlig reformulates the detritus of city life into abstracted, playful new iterations of itself.

Seeing – feeling – all these stories come to life through other hands is knowing good company. And suddenly, I am struck by how very much I am missing. To be in good company is to become aware of its absence at other times.

Cities have a tendency to fill me with a gripping loneliness. Could there ever be enough art to fill this gap? But loneliness, I feel, is a self-made sadness. We must undo it as much from within as without. I must make my own art as well as melt into the makings of others. There lies solace, if it is to be found.

Things to Draw: Chocolate Chip Cookies Playing the Banjo

Chocolate Chip Cookies Playing the Banjo, Ink and Colored Pencil on Paper, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/4″

Another from the most lovely Claire. This is us, on the fantastic occasion that we are in the same place – two cookie-minded, banjo-jamming dudettes!

Do We Call This Art?

I spent most of this week thinking about voice. About how a huge part of being an artist is discovering what you have to say, honing in on your concerns and questions, and then developing the relationship between your message and your medium. I’ve been thinking about my own work – its steadily rising tide of abstraction and space-creation. I’ve scrapped and redesigned plans for new installation pieces, and I’m feeling good about what’s to come.

I recently got invited to take part in a show at The Hive Gallery, in LA, in which every piece somehow utilizes an old CD, kind of an upcycling thing. First I thought about just wrapping the thing in canvas and painting it. And then I started applying all my recent thinking about abstraction and installation to the project; I thought I might build a maquette for a piece I’ve been developing that’s circular-ish.

And then I had this idea. It literally popped into my head fully formed, title and all. And it was so funny to me, and filled me so suddenly and urgently with the need to acquire pom poms, which I probably last used circa 1995, that I drove out to Michael’s, stocked up, came home, and set to work with my hot glue gun.

Glory, Pom Poms, Hot Glue, Pipecleaner, Googly Eyes, Wire, Paper, An Old CD, 5″ x 6″ x 5″

This thing is not an installation and, though it definitely has roots in abstraction, it’s pretty directly figurative (googly eyes are a surprisingly effective way to personify any object). Also, it’s made almost entirely with kid craft materials, which I have history with because I used them when I was a kid, but which I’ve never related to or thought of in terms of art before. In the process of making this guy, I remembered a conversation I had with Johanna Reed, a writer and performance artist based out of LA, where I asked when she started making art. She said she started writing non-narrative plays and making book objects as a kid. I asked how she knew or decided that it was art, to which she replied, “What else would it be?”

Art is not necessarily something we decide or direct. Art surprises us. Frequently that’s the objective of the artist for the viewer, but it also occurs by the work for the artist. Even when you have a vision in mind, a specific question you are asking with your work, things arise of their own accord.  Art is what comes out of us, with its own intentions.

Things To Draw: The Temple I Don’t Go To

That’s The Temple I Don’t Go To, 5 3/8″ x 8 1/2″, Watercolor, Ink, and Colored Pencil on Paper

The prompt particularly says, “That’s the temple I don’t go to.” I’m guessing this a movie reference or quote because of the source, but then again it could be based on little more than my friend’s wisecrack sense of humor.

The word temple immediately drew up all kinds of religious and sacred imagery, but I mostly have positive experiences going to synagogue with my dad or visiting historical Eastern temples. There’s nobody traditionally temple involved whose chops I feel like busting. So in the course of musing over what I could enthusiastically take issue with that also has recognizable symbolism, this became a commentary on greed. It’s not meant to be an accusation directed toward economics or capitalism, as those systems run well or poorly depending upon how they are directed. I guess I mean this mostly as a reminder of how dangerous worshipping in the temple of reckless desire is and as a finger pointed in the mirror, reminding me to ask myself what temples I’ve been patronizing lately.

Also, it was wildly fun to play with slightly macabre imagery, as I rarely tend toward that direction.

A Right Path

On Thursday night, my show opened. There are ten thousand more poetic and/or articulate things I could say, but mostly what I feel right now is “Hell yeah!”

This show is the first opportunity I have ever been given to take a space and make it mine. And I did. Although I am most frequently a painter, and occasionally a maker of three dimensional things, I am finding more and more that my (he)art lies in creating a space, in holding an experience in place for the viewer to inhabit in the time that they are present and take with them once they have gone.

To paint the walls, hang the paintings, and put the installation in place is one thing. To have people walk in, stop dead, then utter some form of “Wow,” is wholly another. People walking down the opposite side of the street told me that what they glimpsed for a mere moment diverted them from their intended course to come and see the work.

To Be Without Words (To Let Words Become Poems or Prayers, or Birds to Take Flight And Carry Our Wants and Fears Away From Us), 7’ x 6’ 4” x 8’, Wooden Dowels, Wire Mesh, String, Epoxy, Spray Paint, Fishing Line, Journal Entries 2011-2012

Yes. This is what I want. For my work to be an offering.  For it to give you something that matters to you.

It comes from me. My work is pictures of my own life: my uncertainty and doubt, aspiration and longing. After all, we each have but our own life to go on. But it is meant for anyone who wants it. The hope is that my stories, told abstractly, speak to others, that the sense of our own human life can be found in another’s.

23 Abstract Paintings

To have other humans living other lives affirm that this indeed occurs – for just a moment, I want for nothing. Gratitude completely subsumes all other emotions. Just this remains: Thanks Universe. Thanks fellow humans. This is a right path, and one I intend to follow.

To see more images of the work, including individual titled photos of the paintings, check out my website.

Places to Leave and Return To

This is the single, solitary photograph that I took in Montreal. I liked the play of light on the glasses, and the juxtaposition of vertical lines with repeated circles.  Though only the most token glimpse of late lunch at the well-known Olive et Gourmando, it tells you what you need to know: bounty, satisfaction. If you ever find yourself in Montreal, go there. If you can, also track down the bakery Au Kouign Amann in the hipster neighborhood called Plateau Mont-Royal (I felt at home here, hehe). Finally, visit the Jardins Botaniques.

 I borrowed this ridiculous, teeny picture from their website. It doesn’t do the place justice – you should go and find out for yourself.

That was Montreal, plus old stone streets and poutine and maple everything and the minor exercise of my vastly diminished French. I don’t think four days is sufficient time to really bond with a city, but anyway, I admit, I was distracted.

A Cube I Used to Know, Astor Place, Manhattan

My four days in Montreal followed a week in New York City. And frankly, I was ghosted. I moved to Manhattan when I was seventeen, with newly minted independence, an education paid for by my family, and all of adult life before me, yet still far enough way that I felt no responsibility for it. I lived in late night and early morning cafes, cheap restaurants, yoga studios, and indie rock venues. I went to class and I learned book things, but I breathed the streets and people. But somewhere along the way, I choked on that air. I withered for want of plants and soil. Once, I tore from my dorm room and practically ran the thirty-odd blocks to Battery Park to sit under a tree and mourn for how far the sky felt and how sorry the ocean seemed, its waves unmade against a concrete wall.

The View from My Former Life, Third Avenue North Tower, looking maybe East…

So I left. I found my way back west to mountains and desert and the pinyon-juniper belt. I remembered the city as a place I lived once, filled with both opportunity and human crush – entrancing but no home for the me I knew myself to be. I never looked back.

Then, two Thursdays past, I found myself headed to a Korean diner in Midtown at 3 a.m. Somewhere between the stop lights and taxi lights, the smell of laundry and the smell of piss, I remembered: There is a part of me that lives in New York City and nowhere else.

She wants the whole damn world. She also wants to share. She walks quickly and vacillates between cursing the slow and and reveling in the game of navigating a packed sidewalk without bumping or bothering a single soul. This girl; I remember her.

I remember the feeling of books and art and ambition, everyone’s, all around me. I remember the length between avenues and the brevity between streets, how to navigate by color and the height of buildings. I remember the sound of myriad languages played together like a musical chord. I remember the sound of a city so vast, you can sing while you walk and no one will hear you. I sang so much more when I lived in Manhattan. I remember loving this city, and feeling loved back.

For Future Homes. at ABC Carpet

And now I feel the city inside me, calling me back to a home I thought was no longer mine. It makes sense, I guess. A curator friend once told me, “You can’t guarantee that your work will matter to contemporary art, but you can swim out to where contemporary art is happening and at least stand a chance that it might.” And then he said, “Which is Brooklyn, right now.” I scoffed and said that Los Angeles is practically established art ground these days and anyway, I’d left that other metropolis behind. Apparently not. I’m not booking a flight or anything; I have business yet with these mountains and the tides of art in my current home. But New York City remains, like an itch in the back of my mind. I can’t help but wonder what futures may unfold from the planting of this seed.