Monday, December 31, 2007

Napoleon at MFA and Cool at OCMA

The thing I love about the holidays is the loosey-goosey schedule that allows for some catching up on exhibitions. We were in Boston a couple of weeks ago, and in between blizzards I managed to sneak (thanks to my sister-in-law) to the MFA to view Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of the Empire Style, 1800-1815. Although I would have loved to see more 2D work from the period, the furniture, dinner settings and - most of all - the Empire dresses were spectacular. Per usual, the MFA's web site offers a really terrific interactive component. Click here to view.

And then last Thursday, three girlfriends and I played hooky and ventured down to Orange County to check out Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury at the Orange County Museum of Art. This show has received quite a bit of buzz, partly because of the dedicated love of mid-century design in this part of the world, and partly because it takes a different approach to museum installation - it incorporates music! Imagine that! Art and music together! I often wish museum installations would have a musical component, because so often music is of great influence to an artist's work, and music also helps convey the feeling and vibe of a period of time.

So this show did just that, starting with the title: Birth of the Cool is, of course, a Miles Davis album from the 1950s, and its funky, groovy sounds greet visitors entering the exhibition. Throughout the show, there are listening and viewing stations where you can check out "cool" albums and TV shows from the same period. The whole experience really made me want to visit the Playboy Mansion and sip a martini.

My favorite part of the show was the gallery of paintings. I've long been a fan of Helen Lundeberg and Karl Benjamin, and this is such a great opportunity to see several of their dynamic works all together. I'm so happy to finally see Benjamin get his props - his work is so dynamic and is so relevant to what was going on in design and art in Southern California in the 1950s. He's quite elderly now but totally lucid, and I'm sure he's enjoying this much-deserved attention. This piece, Benjamin's Black Pillars from 1957, became the most iconographic image of the show, and rightly so, since it's geometric forms and unusual color combination are hallmarks of the designs explored here.

Happy New Year to you! Thanks for reading, and check back soon for more explorations!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Coastal Dreams B&B in Galveston, TX

Once in Galveston, we arrived at the Coastal Dreams B&B - and had a hard time ever leaving! I found the B&B through looked like a lovely place and was around the corner from the house my cousins were renting, but we were so pleased at how terrific the B&B actually was. And we were the ONLY guests that weekend!

The B&B is a historic Victorian house built in 1887, a "storm survivor" as they're called in this town that barely survived the "1900 Storm," a hurricane that obliterated the city and killed more than 6,000 people.

Apparently the house fell into disrepair in recent years, but was resurrected by its current owner and B&B pro, Lana (seen above here with my mother, bed-headed nephew Sam, Eric, and the ever-cute Miss Pokey, Lana's furry companion). She restored the place a few years back, retaining much of its original wood and windows (and its four-foot-wide front door!).

Lana was a dreamy hostess, friendly and welcoming as though we were family - and she's a great cook, to boot! Her morning breakfasts were wonderful, and she keeps the house constantly stocked with snacks, coffee, teas, etc. When gray skies and a serious rainstorm hit on Saturday, the B&B was the perfect place to hunker down under a big comfy comforter with a cup of hot tea. Thank you for a great weekend Lana and Miss Pokey!

Mom with Miss Pokey

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Woody's Smokehouse in Centerville, TX

Thanksgiving found us back in Texas, where we embarked on a little roadtrip with my mother to Galveston. Our plan was to pick up my nephew in Houston, then rendez vous with my dad, grandma and some cousins in Galveston, and we were all going to visit another cousin and her family at their home out in Hitchcock, Texas. On the road again!

So on Friday Eric, mom and I piled into mom's car and we headed south. The drive that day was great, the roads were pretty empty and I-45 was lined with those towering pine trees that blanket East Texas. We had the munchies and had hoped to find a little kolache stop, but I guess those are more prominent on the drive to Austin. So we stumbled on Woody's Smokehouse in Centerville, Texas, (home of Fort Boggy State Park) about half way between Dallas and Houston. What a find it was! We thought we'd just get a sandwich, but all three of us ended up leaving with an armload of food, including a package of turkey jerky, a jar of homemade salsa, some homemade jelly, Woody's spicy cheese puffs, some black-eyed pea dip and, yes, three sandwiches (mine had homemade pastrami and spicy mustard - yum!).

But we barely scratched the surface of Woody's offerings - aisles and rows of Woody's jarred food (dill pickles, hot asparagus bullets, dilled garlic, black eyed pea dip, even cherry cobbler!), Woody's packaged foods (dried nuts, fruits, etc), coolers of cheeses (smoked cheddar, Wisconsin hoop, jalapeno), and, of course, a MASSIVE amount of Woody's meats. In fact, they claim to jerky capital of the world, (a TALL order in this corner of the country), but they also have any number of pork, sausages, and beef products poultry. The place was huge, packed with shoppers, and obviously a hugely popular pit stop in East Texas. The pastrami was yummy, and the salsa we bought is garlicky and spicy and truly some of the best I've had in a long time. And guess what - you can order on their web site! I wish I'd taken some pictures of mom, Eric and me leaving, our arms full and mouths watering.

I can't attest that all of the products are produced locally, but I think it's easy to assume that - it is cattle country after all, and the place was just dripping with Texas pride!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hollis Cooper, in our collection!

Last Saturday we attended a terrific little art auction at the brand spanking new Claremont Museum of Art, which has only existed for about six months but managed to amass a nice selection of works to bid on. There were some big names - including Karl Benjamin and Harrison Macintosh - and there were some emerging artists, including students from several of the nearby universities.

The piece that caught our fancy is by Hollis Cooper - not a huge name (yet!), but definitely not a new-to-the-art-world student. She actually teaches in the art department at Cal State San Bernadino (which has a great art department, by the way).

So after much hang-wringing and cocktail sipping, we broke our promise to not further deplete our art funds, and started bidding. Low and behold, a bidding war ensued! Her piece was such a hit. All the bidding just made us more determined to own the piece, so we were resolute and hovered and growled and stalked until we wore down our competitors. And now this wonderful piece, Alpheta is ours! I love the energy and color, with thick, globby paint and a really cool 3D texture to it that's hard to discern here. It's mixed media on panel, 15"x24". How lucky are we?! In her work, she frequently combines digital imagery, architecture, and painting. Her large scale installations are so cool. Hollis definitely has new fans in Eric and me!

After the auction we stayed at a lovely little boutique hotel that just opened right across the street from the museum. Casa 425 is lovely and serene in all its bright white modern-ness.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Friday Kahlo at the Walker Art Center

It's time to tele-transport again, this time to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which is showing a retrospective of work by none other than Frida Kahlo. Despite the efforts of the Kahlo cult to beat us over the head with her visage on any number of trinkets and knick knacks, I'm still a huge Kahlo fan, and this is a rare chance to see a cohesive set of her fantastic paintings.

And fantastic really is the word for them - her self portraits is pure fantasy, situating her intense gaze in any number of surreal situations. There's a terrific review of the show by Peter Schjeldahl in a recent New Yorker (he's a professed Kahlo-lover!). His description of the above oil on canvas, Me and My Parrots, from 1941, is so evocative:

"The tactility of certain self-portraits is, among other things, staggeringly sexy. In Me and My Parrots, it combines with sharp tonal contrasts of warm color to convey invisible moistness, as of a summertime, full-body, delicate sweat." Yowza!

Click here to view the New Yorker's great little slide show of some of Kahlo's work, plus a couple of photos and works by husband Diego Rivera.

I once visited Kahlo's gorgeous Mexico City home - where she was born, lived, and died - and seeing her wheelchair, resting silently beside her paints and easel, gave me such a tingly sense of unease and awe.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Paiement Preview in LA Times

Forgot to mention two things about Paul Paiement - he just opened a show at Raid Projects in the Brewery Art Complex in LA, and the LA Times gave him a terrific pre-show preview!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Paul Paiement

I recently worked on an art auction (actually, I lived, breathed, slept, dreamt, sweated and fretted an art auction for six months), and the end result was a lovely event. But for Eric and me, the event brought three new works of art into our collection. Thought I should take a little time to talk about the three artists, so let's start with Paul Paiement!

Paul lives and works right around the corner from us in Long Beach, but his recognition is much broader. He had a solo show at Laguna Art Museum a couple years ago, so he's very much an established artist. We're just lucky enough to have him living in the LBC! He's also an art professor at Cypress College in Cypress, CA, and also its gallery director.

Paul is perhaps best-known for his "hybrid" series, where he depicts insects that are on the verge of morphing into a computerized, digitized creature. They are so beautiful, at once embracing nature and technology. The piece above is the lovely watercolor we acquired at the art auction.

Paul recently finished a large-scale installation for Heather Marx and Steve Zavattero (Paul is rep'd in SF at Heather Marx Gallery. They hired San Francisco filmmaker Jim Sottile to document the making of the piece, check it out, it's a really cool project.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

LB in the NY Times

Well looky there, word is spreading that Long Beach is actually kinda cool! Thank you, New York Times, for giving us a little recognition! Think we'll see a surge of NY Times-reading shoppers? Hope they don't come any time soon, as the smoky, ashy air will drive them away real quick.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fundraiser for Kime Buzzelli

This Thursday, Oct. 18, there is a fundraiser at the Echo for the LA artist Kime Buzzelli, who just had surgery to remove three tumors (from her kidney, I think?). I hate to miss this fundraiser, but alas we'll be in Austin so the best I can do is spread the word. Click here to view her blog, where you can see some of her work as well as read some of her touching and funny accounts of tackling these tumors.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Two more Mexico clips

Just wanted to share a couple more clips. The first: Bob waxing poetic on "turtle oil" as he drove us to Fisherman's Beach, and the second: the gorgeous sunset waves at Fisherman's Beach.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Casa Bentley in Todos Santos, Mexico

Eric and I were persuaded by cheap airfare to jet down to Mexico for a few days. The cheap seats were to San Jose del Cabo at the southern tip of Baja - we've been there before, and it's certainly lovely, but I wanted to seize the opportunity to, at last, visit the "artist colony" of Todos Santos. I'd been through TS years ago on a bus, during an epic Mexico journey with Tamita, and had wanted to return ever since.

Even though it's a relatively easy day of travel - two hour flight, cab ride to the bus station, then a two hour bus ride - it still feels quite adventurous. We pulled into Todos Santos at about 8:30 pm, it was pitch dark out, we had no idea where we were, and our Spanish lessons of years ago have dramatically faded (much to my embarrassed chagrin!!). We managed to stumble on the Hotel California (ever immortalized by the Eagles) and found a nice English-speaking waiter who gave us directions to our hotel, the Casa Bentley: "Turn left at the church and walk down the hill. When the road dead ends at the dark, unpaved road, turn right, and it's a little ways down on the right. Ignore all the dogs in the road." Oy.

At this point, we were very tired and VERY sweaty; it was surprisingly hot, and I had visions of cold, limey Tecates dancing in my head. It was so tempting to belly up to the Hotel California bar, but you know how you just can't relax until you get checked into your hotel? So off to the dark unpaved road we went, walking slowly like turtles with our backpacks.

At last, we made it to Casa Bentley. We walked through its front gates, and stumbled on paradise. The barking of dogs was our first greeting, followed by a chipper "Hello! I was worried about you!" from Bob Bentley, the hotel's proprietor and chipper, Santa-of-Cabo sort of guy. He let us know that whenever the hotel's five dogs start barking, just yell "Hi Heidi!" and they'll pipe down. He showed us to our room - the Dolphin Suite - pointed out the pool, handed us a couple of Tecates, and told us the Hotel California would be serving dinner for another hour.

Bliss! The full moon was the night before, so it shone incredibly bright onto the rocky walls of the Bentley. After a quick dinner and margarita (both kind of mediocre and overpriced, by the way) at the Hotel California, we took a moonlight swim back at the Bentley, and suddenly we were reminded what is so great travel. Our room was huge, cool and beautiful, with an enormous private patio and gurgling fountain outside the window.

It was still down season in Baja; a mere two weeks away the high season would begin, but for the time being Todos Santos - and Casa Bentley - were very, very quiet. Although I'd love to visit TS again when the throngs of art-loving crowds pack into the town's numerous galleries, for this visit all of the peace and quiet was pretty much perfect. Aside from Todd and Susan, friends of Bob's who frequent the Bentley, and who are building a home nearby, we had the hotel to ourselves, and it was like staying at someone's fabulous home; technically it is Bob's home, and he just saves all the best rooms for his friends and guests. Todd and Susan left on our second day, so it was just us, Bob, his trusty helper Beatrice (a lovely woman from Switzerland) and the five dogs: Jacque, Heidi, Mojo, Matilda, and Symyra. The dogs were all sweet and friendly and, miraculously, flea-free.

Check out Bob, chatting during our ride to the beach that weekend:

Bob, a former geology professor from Oregon, has been working on Casa Bentley for more than 20 years. Scattered throughout the rock walls are precious childhood mementos: stone that he gathered with his father as far back as the 1930s. He's full of stories and geology lessons - he explained how Baja was formed, what's going to happen to it in the future, the basics of plate tectonics, and why developers basically suck.

Todd and Susan kindly offered to take us to one of the nearby beaches, along with all the pups, for sunset. What awaited us was one of the most beautiful and least populated beaches I've ever seen. Perfect white sand, clear blue water, and nothing but a couple of shrimp boats in the sea (no oil drilling! no tanker ships!) We all applauded after a perfect sunset...the sun looked like it just melted into the ocean.

We returned to another beach, Fisherman's Beach, a couple of days later with Bob and the pups. Another gorgeous beach, another jaw-dropping sunset, this one with clouds and spectacular pink rays emanating from behind. This was a common site, Bob's standard poodle Jacque careening past us:

These beaches are about a ten minute drive from the hotel - there are places to stay near the water, but we opted to be walking distance from town instead. There were times when a car would have been handy to explore the area, to check out all the beaches, but that's where a return trip is in order.

Even though it was slow season, there were enough restaurants and shops open for us to spend a little time exploring Todos Santos every day. We had our favorite breakfast joint (Caffé Todos Santos) our favorite place to buy beer and tequila, our favorite taco stand (there are many!), and even our favorite pizza place (Il Giardino). Bob's waiting for you, under the huge rubber tree, near all the mango trees by the pool. If you're lucky, you'll hear the same words from him we heard upon our departure: "You're the kind of people I like!"

Friday, October 05, 2007

Quick Mexico glimpse

I'll soon write about our trip to Todos Santos, but for now here's a hilarious little highlight...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anthony Lane discusses Leica

I've been jammed up timewise and there are so many things going on out in that crazy art world of ours, but I leave for Mexico in the morning and post, I must! So I'm leaving this one up to the fabulous and wonderful Anthony Lane at the New Yorker, waxing in that Anthony Lane way about the Leica camera, a still amazing and coveted piece of machinery, even in this digital age.

Go here and read more:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For Art's Sake

I met a lovely gal named Lori Apthorp, and she's been developing a very cool project called For Art's Sake. She's filmed short (less than 10 minutes) interviews with various artists who live and work in the LA area. They discuss their work, their views on art, and a number of other related topics. You can now view the interviews through One Networks. They provide a great slice of how artists think! Lori and her crew will be producing even more interviews in upcoming months, and you can also subscribe for by iPod, AppleTV, iPhone, RSS and Email.

To my delight, the initial group of five artists include two of my personal favorite artists, painter Peter Zokosky and sculptor John Frame. You can view those by clicking their links below.

Peter Zokosky
John Frame

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Dalí alert at LACMA!

Just a heads up, there's an interesting Dalí exhibition coming up at LACMA. Dali: Painting & Film opens Oct. 14 and runs through Jan. 6. Now you can't say I didn't tell you about it. The show will be an interesting take on Dalí's connection with film as an artistic medium, and "aims to illustrate the cinematic influences and elements that are present in Dalí's work as well as the contribution he made to cinema. The exhibition brings together a variety of key pieces from Dalí's oeuvre, incorporating painting, film, photography, sculpture, and texts." Sounds cool to me!

The magic time to go will be in its first two weeks, when you can also view The Arts in Latin America, 1492-1820, which closes October 28. I keep hearing great things about this epic exhibition, and I can't wait to see works such as this one, The Divine Shepherdess (detail), from Quito, Ecuador, circa 1780.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gerald & Sarah Murphy at WCMA

If I could vaporize and immediately reappear in a far-away place, I'd spend today in Williamstown, Mass. at the Williams College Museum of Art. I read in the New Yorker about a small exhibition there that sounds really fantastic: The Art and Style of Gerald and Sarah Murphy.

The Murphys were an incredibly stylish couple living in the most stylish cities during one of history's most stylish periods: the 1920s. They ooze a certain panache that is so intriguing. I've always been kind of obsessed with the art and style of the 1920s, particularly in New York and Paris, so what I'd do to be Sarah's gal-pal for a day! I really need to figure out that vaporizer time-travel thingy.

Gerald was a terrific artist who truly captured the flavor of the era, but he didn't take painting very seriously as a career, and only 7 of his paintings survive to this day (including these two: Wasp and Pear from 1929 and Razor from 1924. All of the remaining works appear in the show, alongside works by contemporaries and friends Picasso, Léger, Gris and several photos of the Murphys and other ephemera from their friendships with luminaries with big names like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Parker and Braque.

Click here to read Peter Schjeldahl's review of the exhibition in the New Yorker, and here to view the New Yorker's great slide show of Gerald's remaining paintings, and snapshots of the Murphy's fabulous world.

The show runs through Nov. 11 at WCMA then travels to Yale University Art Gallery from Feb. 26 to May 4, 2008, then to Dallas Museum of Art (my alma mater) from June 8 to Sept. 14. Looks like I'll be dragging my Dallas family there next summer!

House of Cherubs in BA

We've already been back a week and I'm just now writing about our final stop in Buenos Aires, the House of Cherubs. It's a safe house for kids whose parents are in prison or otherwise unable to care for their kids. The children aren't up for adoption, they're just being kept safe and sound until (hopefully) their parents get their act together.

We benefitted the HOC at an International Progressive Dinner Party last year. We were introduced to them through our friend John Matson, who lived in BA for a while and was involved with the home.

If Eric and I hadn't first visited the comedor, this would have been a somewhat sad visit, knowing these children had to be taken from their parents for all sorts of reasons, and now live with a dozen other kids in a not-too-large house. But in comparison to the situation at the comdeor, these children have it pretty good. They're fed well, have warm comfy beds, and are surrounded by cheery, lovely women who are just oozing love for them (you can see them here). The home is tidy and well-kept, and it's in a lovely neighborhood (we heard it's the same neighborhood where the Argentine President lives!). We were asked to not post photos of the children, so here's a little morsel. We brought some crayons, markers and paper, and the girls were so thrilled to draw, creating beautiful little landscapes with happy balls of sunshine. That little girl just loved Eric.

A big shout out to Sarah, Marita, Nicolas and Russel for the amazing and illuminating time in lovely Buenos Aires! They're a special group (and muy international!), and we were so lucky to reap the benefit of their kindness - and translation help!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Comedor

Yesterday was very intense. We went with Marita and Sarah to a comedor, which is basically a government-funded soup kitchen that provides daily food to some children who might not otherwise eat. Marita, Sarah and Russell have been involved for some time with this comedor, providing it with gas for the stove, clothes, plates and cups, and even food, since the subsidized food basically consists of only lentels, beans and other bare necessities.

Marita prepared gift bags all week for the 100-plus kids - a pair of socks and some candy for each. Yesterday (Saturday) the comedor was celebrating "Dia de los ninos," or kids day, so there was to be a special meal. Marita and Sarah planned to attend and deliver the gifts and invited us to join. We hesitated at first, pretty much just because we're selfish vacationers and didn't want to commit to what would surely be a heartbreaking day, but after watching Marita lovingly prepare the gifts, we decided we shouldn't pass up such a special invitation.

The comedor is about 45 minutes outside central Buenos Aires, but it may as well be on another planet. The entire area around the neighborhood serviced by the comedor is awful. There is trash, literally, everywhere. Piles of burning tires send black smoke into the air, and the streets teem with malnourished and mangy dogs and horses. The air pollution is terrible, and it stinks. The kids' neighborhood has no paved roads, and absolutely nothing beautiful - no flowers, no grass, nothing but rundown homes, filthy air, dogs and garbage. It's unclear how many of them even have plumbing. This is the setting for the comedor, which at last has a gas stove (until recently they cooked with wood), but still no sink or toilet.

The special meal for the kids consisted of a burger patty, some sliced hard boiled egg and mayo on a bun. Plus some soda pop. That was it. No fries or chips, much less fruit or vegetables. There were balloons and Marita's gift bags, and Argentine music blaring out of a jam box (then, inexplicably, REM's "Everybody Hurts" came on). It was so depressing, particularly knowing this was a "special" day. The kids were so beautiful, and so happy to get their socks and burger. The ladies feeding them worked so hard to bring a little lightness to the kids' lives, but the squalor they have to live/work in just made it all so difficult to understand.

Eric and I spent the rest of the day and all dinner talking about it. How can we help? Where can we begin? How can we get that one darling teenage girl to college? Just trying to comprehend the obstacles that face these children, how unlikely it is the any of them will climb up even one step on the socio-economic ladder, makes me want to cry. And when you think of how many millions of children around the world live like this - or worse - it's so daunting. We definitely plan to hold a Progressive Dinner Party to help, perhaps to buy a new building that has a real kitchen and bathroom. One step at a time, I suppose. When I figure out how to post videos you can see some of the kids in action. Over and out for now.

Friday, August 17, 2007

BA: Empanadas Galore

The loft is maintained by the sweetest lady on the planet, Marita. She's here every morning, making breakfast for us, offering to do our laundry, etc. We're planning to pack her into our suitcase, as we're not sure how we ever lived without her. She made these gorgeous empanadas for us. They're stuffed with ground beef and are so yummy. Marita has spent a lot of time this week preparing gifts for the children at the local soup kitchen - the loft is full of candy and clothes for the ninos.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dia Tres in BA: TANGO!

At last, on dia tres, we see TANGO! On our friend Jon's reco, we took another harrowing taxi ride (the drivers here are on some kind of mass death wish with their driving, ignoring lane dividers and threading needles between other cars) to the Esquina Carlos Gardel, a totally fabulous, old-school, somewhat Hollywood-ized tango mecca. Walking in the door itself is an experience: you're greeted by some of the most gorgeous people you've ever seen, men in tuxes and gals all kinds of decked out in sequins and feathers, and quickly ushered to your special, red-leather-clad booth for two. It's totally hysterical. We even had our picture taken with two of the dancers - I literally turned beet red when my "partner" instructed me to hike my leg up over his extended leg - but when they tried to charge us $20 for the pic, we declined.

But the dancers - OY! And the band - perfecto! The little tango orchestra was suspended up over the dancers, as though the dancers were dreaming up the music. And the dancers were really amazing - you could tell this was a young generation, they looked early 20s, and many of them brought a bit of a rock and roll or even punk sensibility to this already incredible dance. At any rate, they were was like they were fitted with extra-charged batteries, they moved so quickly and with such precision. And they were all GORGEOUS. There was a shy couple and goofy couple and a sexy couple...each had a little narrative that they acted out via tango. It was so cool. Oh and we had a fabulous dinner and were waited on by handsome sweet men in tuxes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dateline: Buenos Aires, day one

Hola from South America! There's something really thrilling about being on a continent for the first time. Just flying here was cool - I wish they would have showed us on a map what we were flying over...Mexico, then Central America, at some point Bolivia. Just seems strange flying straight south instead of east across an ocean. And now that we're here, I keep having to remind myself that we're in South America, since Buenos Aires is so thoroughly European.

It was an epic series of flights totaling more than 18 hours of travel, but it actually went pretty smoothly. Then at BA airport, Nicolas, the lovely Russian neighbor of Russell (whose loft we're staying in), kindly picked us up and spirited us away to the loft (check out the loft in the pic, it's fabulous!). It was a somewhat chaotic scene at first - guys packing up the film crew that had apparently been filming here for several days, a couple of gals cleaning, and really loud American pop music on the speakers. Funny stuff. But it chilled out quickly and then Sarah, Russell's American assistant, showed up and gave us the low-down on the city, and a ton of maps. So we hit the town.

We didn't do anything in particular, stopped at several different wine bars and tried many, very nice Argentine Malbecs. So tasty! Love the peppery ones, and I'm officially a fan of Tempranillo. We wandered over to the Puerto Madero, a former port area that's now all swanky and trendy, and is accented by a really fantastic Calatrava bridge. I'll have to find links for all these things and places at some point. Jet lag kicked in and we made our way back to the loft, where we watched some Deadwood (brought the DVD!) on the huge movie screen from the loft's bed, sipping Malbec.

The city is very interesting, a fascinating blend of Rome (lots of Italian immigrants here, accounting for all the pizza and gelato), Madrid (reminds me a LOT of Madrid, just not as old) and Mexico City (the super-jam-packed-ness of it). But it's lovely, the people have generally been super nice, and it's CHEAP. Russell's wonderful right hand woman is Marita, and she arrived to make us breakfast this morning, and now we're listening to an amped-up, electronica-ish version of Tango music with her. Tonight, the triple threat: Tango, Steak, Wine. Life is good!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Yun Bai at Bert Green

Back to Downtown LA we go, to that corner of Main and 5th that has become quite a hotbed of yummy contemporary art. On the northwest corner is one of my faves, Pharmaka, and on the other side of 5th sits Bert Green Fine Art, a very cool gallery that always has some really challenging work. Bert himself can usually be found at the reception desk, and he's a great little repository of contemporary art knowledge.

Bert reps several terrific artists, including David Meanix (the guy behind Claire's celebrated art on "Six Feet Under"), John Scane (whose donkey series is on BG's site, but I really love Scane's abstract work, which you can see here) and Yun Bai, whose piece The Beauty of Life Is Its Incompleteness is shown here. Her work is so beautiful, it makes me dizzy.

There's not currently a Bai show, but Bert always has several of her works hanging around the office. They are so striking, with bright, playful colors, and depictions of flowers in a somewhat Asian-inspired design, reflective of her Chinese heritage. But upon closer inspection, the flowers are made from images culled from commercial pornography. Whaaa?? Yes, once you get up verrry close to the work, you'll see the petals are comprised of images that are probably inappropriate for me to describe here. At first they are all sweet and innocent, then you discover imagery that is really kind of difficult. They're really challenging, and I love it!

Of course this is influenced by events in Bai's life, circumstances that led her to be involved in the port industry while a college student. Click here to read more about Bai's story. There's also a great interview with Yun ("Yunny Bunny") at White Hot Magazine.

Bai does have an upcoming show at BGFA - Sept 13- Oct 28 - I don't know if she's showing new work for the "Porn Flowers" series, but whatever her new work is, it'll get me back to that corner of 5th and Main.

Monday, July 30, 2007

RIP Grandma Norma

A little break from the arts to honor my dear, sweet Grandma, Norma Ploen, who died at the age of 90 early Saturday morning at her nursing home in Davenport, Iowa. I am happy for her that she passed on - it has been many, many years since she lived the kind of life she wanted to live, and I'm happy to know she's been set free to waltz to her heart's content. But it's still a sad occasion, and I wish I could be with my family in Iowa today.

The pics: This is Norma in 1932, when she was 16 years old, and below, Grandma with my mom in 2002, when we celebrated mom's 60th in Durant, Iowa, down the street from where mom grew up.

Since I grew up in Texas and she lived in Iowa, where she raised my mother and six uncles, I didn't get to spend near as much time with Grandma as I would have liked when I was growing up. But the couple of times each year I did see her were pure bliss - she was absolutely the epitome of sweetness, all love and patience, gentleness and humor. I last saw her almost a year ago, on her 90th birthday, and knew that was probably our final visit.

Here, in no particular order, are ten great memories I have of dear Grandma Norma:

10. She asked me last year if I had a boyfriend, and when I told her that I had a husband, she said "Well then you'd better not have a boyfriend!"

9. When she finally met my husband, she looked at him and, sounding like a 17-year-old, said "Ooh who's that handsome guy?"

8. When I was little she taught me to take care of my nails - I had the longest, prettiest, reddest fingernails in the fifth grade!

7. Endless games of pinochle at the kitchen table when I was a kid - how many people can get an eight-year-old totally sold on pinochle?

6. Spending time with her and Steve. One of grandma's six sons, Steve, tragically died when he was 17 in a car accident in, I think, 1968. A couple of years later, another local boy named Steve Muller was severely brain damaged in a car accident. Norma helped take care of him for the next 30 years in his home - Norma and Steve's mother Verna were absolute angels in my eyes, taking care of his every need. I loved watching Grandma make him laugh. She always said that taking care of Steve made her feel like she had a second chance and taking care of her lost son.

5. Walking to Tom Thumb with Grandma when I was maybe eight years old. Don't know why this left such an impression, I guess it just felt very adventurous, walking the couple of miles to the store with my Grandma.

4. I spent a couple of weeks with Grandma and Grandpa Hank in 1981. They still lived in the same huge, amazing cool old house where they raised 7 kids. My cousin Erin and I spent every second of the day exploring that house. I can still smell the musty attic, where we scavenged our parents' old toys.

3. Grandma convincing me, in that same summer of '81, to try fresh radishes from her garden, doused in salt. I liked it! She followed those with fresh, hot rice krispy squares. Bless her!

2. Riding from Iowa to Texas with Grandma, Grandpa and cousin Erin that summer - we drove Hank crazy giving the "honk your horn" sign to the passing truckers all the way down I-35. But Grandma thought it was pretty hilarious.

1. I have a vague memory of visiting the "Ewing Ranch" of "Dallas" fame with her when I was wee young. Do I actually remember her wearing a cowboy hat?

A bonus one...when I visited them in the summer of '94, just after I graduated college, a bumper crop of corn had just been harvested (this was Iowa, remember). By this time Grandma and Grandpa had sold that cool house and moved into a little condo, but she still made the same amazing meals out of that little kitchen, and we had the world's best corn at dinner every night. I can still hear her say "This is the best corn ever!" with such delight at each meal. That was the epitome of Norma - finding something to enjoy and celebrate in the smallest of things.

Click here if you want to read Grandma's bio - it's very brief, I guess her achievements (raising 7 amazing kids, bringing nothing but delight and happiness to everyone who knew her, being a GREAT bowler) were too far under the typical obit writer's radar. I love you Grandma!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My name is Cari and I'm a TS-aholic

I need help. Seriously. Somebody really needs to make a standing appointment with me on Tuesdays from 4 to 6pm far away from a computer, otherwise I'm going to drive Eric and myself into the poor house with Tiny Showcase acquisitions! I really just can't help myself. The work is so great, if I don't act quickly they'll sell out, it's only 20 bucks plus shipping, if I just click the button it's mine...drrooool drroool drrrooool...

So this is my latest addiction, I mean, acquisition: "Open Air," by Jennifer Davis. I knew from looking at her web site before the TS posting that I was in trouble - her work is right up my alley. Fun colors, unusual imagery, somehow mysterious and sweet all at once.

There is a component of altruism here. Part of the proceeds from this sale benefits Springboard for the Arts, a group I have never heard of before. Turns out it "helps meet the emergency needs of artists in need of immediate monies to cover an expense due to loss from fire, theft, health emergency, or other catastrophic, career-threatening event." This is so cool! If you're an artist you should totally check out this site, it offers a lot of great resources for you, including workshops and a "job book." See, sometimes addictions can pay off!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lisa Bufano on NPR

Have I ever mentioned that I love podcasts? It still blows my mind, that I can listen to all sorts of whatnot on my wee little iPod shuffle. One of my faves is NPR's "Story of the Day." Even though I listen to NPR all day long, I somehow miss stories, which brings us to one of their podcasts.

Back in March, NPR aired a story about Lisa Bufano, a 34-year-old performance artist based in Boston. I listened to the podcast of this story weeks ago, and it has really stuck with me. Lisa is a highly-regarded and award-winning performer a dancer, but what's so unusual, and stunning, is that she has no legs or fingers. They were amputated when she was 21, after a staph infection ravaged her body.

The story began with the innocuous sound of Lisa jogging, it just took a moment to explain that she had no legs and was jogging on super high-tech running prosthetics. As the story proceeded I was so moved by just the sound of her performances, trying to visualize them. So her web site is really a gem. Lisa herself offers several splendid podcasts on her site, just click here. You can view some of her amazing, dreamy performances, where she uses surreal stilts or, sometimes, just her own unusual body. They're kind of like watching a surreal show with life-size dolls. Bufano's achievements - without the use of these appendages that we take for granted - are extraordinary!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jon Burgerman at Tiny Showcase

Summer is here, which means there is a whole mess of stuff to interfere with art perusing and purchasing - stuff like swimming pools, beaches, bike rides and margarita happy hours. Then there’s the duffy boating and family visiting and burger grilling and outdoor movie watching. Don’t even get me started on the new organic garden in which I’m partaking! Oh, and then there’s work, too.

Thank the art gods, then, for Tiny Showcase. As long as I can find myself at the ‘puter at 4:30pm on Tuesdays, TS brings art to me. Last week’s was another winner; “Waggledance”! This fantastically fun little work came at such a perfect time, embodying the kooky, chaotic fun that is summer. The madness behind the method is Jon Burgerman (don’t you know that name caused him all kinds of headaches as a kid, but now it’s SUCH a fantastic artist’s name? Although, he is European, so perhaps he was spared the playground taunts he would have found in, say, Topeka).

For you Tiny Showcase virgins, it’s one of the best concepts in the arts – the TS folks enlist artists to create an original 2D work, then they print a limited run, release it via their web site every Tuesday for a mere $20 to $25, then it sells out like hotcakes on a cold Scandinavian morning. This one sold out the run of 100 in about an hour. You must be quick around TS! Then the artist and the TS kids split the proceeds to split the revenue, plus they give $250 to a charity of the artist’s choice. This one benefits Greenpeace!

This was my third acquisition from TS. Click here to see purchase numero uno, by Federico Pazos, and here for dos, by Gregory Euclide.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Helen Lundeberg at Louis Stern

I've long been a fan of mid-century painter Helen Lundeberg, particularly works like this one, Arcanum #6, 1970, which appears non-objective but can evoke all sorts of imagery - from a stained glass window to a waterfall. Her quiet, minimal works pack a quiet punch of sorts. While much of her early work was more representational and figurative, it was her later experiments with flat, geometric areas of color that I love most.

Which means I love the selection of works now on view at Louis Stern Fine Arts in West Hollywood. LSFA is the sole representative of Lundeberg's estate, and it's stunning to see how many works by this seminal West Coast artist are up for grabs! Through August 25.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Edward Hopper at MFA Boston

We were "back east" last weekend, visited Eric's family in old Cambridge and - for the real adventure - attended his 20th high school reunion. It's crazy that it's been 20 years since he graduated, especially since we're only, like, 24 years old! Pays to be a child prodigy.

It was a very hectic weekend, but the art gods were kind to me and carved out some time for me to visit the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Yes, I actually had some time alone on Monday, and the MFA is actually open on Mondays. Thank you, art gods! I love the MFA - they always have some fantastic, comprehensive exhibitions, but it's not such a monstrous, monolithic institution that you feel like you just ran the Boston Marathon. And their audio tours are always worth the few extra bucks; I leave there feeling like I just took a really interesting and understandable class. One without tests.

So, the Hopper exhibition was no exception. Totally comprehensive, truly fascinating, and completely stimulating. I've been a Hopper fan for years, and not just because of the cheeky repros of his infamous painting, "Nighthawks." But his work is the kind that you like, but you're not sure why. They are so calm and moody, but inexplicably pack a real punch. The show illuminates the ideas behind his earlier work (popularizing lighthouses as romantic beacons and Victorian houses during a time of ultra-sleek deco). But it's his paintings of people, particularly women, that I really love. I could stare at this image, "Chop Suey," for hours. Two sets of two people sit at tables in a Chinese restaurant, but there is no food on the tables, and no apparent conversation going on. What are they thinking? Where are they going from here? Are they happy? Pensive? Content?

The audio tour explained that the year this was painted, 1929, was very different, fashion-wise, than just a couple years earlier, when no proper lady would be seen dressed like the gal in the green sweater. The lip stick, the rouge, the eye shadow, the tight clothing...this was a sign of the times, the onset of liberalization in women's clothing (and rights), and this pretty girl is the epitome of a 1929 hipster. I love how she looks; confident, smart, modern. The painting's acidic colors and streaming daylight are gorgeous, and pure Hopper.

Total shout out to the MFA's web site. They've incorporated several interactive components to the Hopper pages, including making images available for download as desktop images, a slide show of Hopper's iconic work, and a really FANTASTIC slide show of his sketchbooks. This is such a revolution, this internet thing-a-majig, for museums. You can really benefit from the MFA's hard work in researching and documenting Hopper, even if you can't make it to Beantown. The show runs through August 19.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Venice ArtWalk Art & Architecture Tour

A couple of weeks ago we went on the "Private Homes & Art Collections" tour on the Marina Peninsula as part of the annual Venice ArtWalk, which is one huge weekend-long cornucopia of art events that raise money for the Venice Family Clinic.

There are so many components to the ArtWalk - auctions, studio tours, home tours, parties, etc etc etc - that it's literally impossible to attend them all, so this year we chose the home & art collection tour because, you know, we're house and art collection junkies. And it's so much more fun to be voyeuristic on the inside of amazing homes, rather than peering in their windows in the dark of night. So we forked over $50 per person (for a great cause!) and proceeded to salivate all over the saltillo tile floors of some really spectacular homes.

One home really wowed us. It was a contemporary masterpiece, a total show stopper designed by Sean Harrison (architect was Jeffrey Dahl). What appeared to be two huge walls of windows in the living room were actually open spaces - the windows had been lifted into their retractable openings. So the living room just opened to the patio, which looked over the bay that was a couple hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean. Gorgeous! There was so much amazing art that day, including unusual work by a contemporary Icelandic artist who uses volcanic rock to create mesmerizing sculptures. Alas, I do not remember his name (why'd I think I'd remember it??). Anybody know who this might be?

Pete Jackson's Ultrawides

Pete Jackson is an LA photographer, originally from Ireland. I'd never seen his work until a recent show at the LA Center for Digital Art in Downtown LA, where they exhibited some of his "ultrawide" photos, which are just incredible!! Check out these two shots of downtown LA, taken from completely different points of view. Jackson shoots from atop LA's highest points, such as the hills in Griffith Park, to obtain really incredible vistas of the region. He digitally "stitches" together multiple images to create remarkable panoramas. PLUS he shoots in infrared, so the texture of the images and the amazing detail give them such life. The images perfectly capture the vastness of the LA basin, and even emphasize that there are actually several trees out there! They're really hypnotic and make great use of new digital photographic technologies.

These are all available in editions of 20, and are 90" wide.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pharmaka is Cool - so help them out

One of the galleries that spearheaded the burgeoning (perhaps it's beyond burgeoning?) arts district in Downtown LA is Pharmaka, which opened its doors in 2005 with a mission very different from the typical commercial gallery: to "actively pursue an intellectual and verbal dialogue with painting and its place in history and today's society."

Basically, the founders, who are painters and dealers themselves, wanted a venue to show paintings that challenge the "superficial, market-driven cacophony that has displaced real critique," extending from their belief "in the power of painting as a visual and emotional language, a language that has existed and flourished for millennia, serving a myriad of social, political, religious, and even mystical purposes." Wow!

They actually curate shows with purpose, much like a museum does, but in more of a gallery setting. You can read more about their mission here, but suffice to say it's SO REFRESHING to check out gallery shows that are actually addressing an issue and showing works to reflect that (rather than, as its web site states, galleries that emphasize "shooting stars and signature styles").

Pharmaka is indeed a non-profit organization, which means it needs the help of art lovers like you! Click here to become a member now. Better yet, pay Pharmaka a visit. It's a gorgeous space with a great show right now, "Dear Mr. Saltz," and you can mosey down to Pete's for a drink afterwards.

Downtown LA Artwalk

So if you peeps have yet to explore the spate of new-ish galleries that have sprung up along Main and Broadway in Downtown LA (at least a couple dozen of them - just look at 'em all!), get off your keester and head down there! Not that you should wait a whole month to go, but a really great time to check out the scene is the 2nd Thursday Art Walk (happened last night). Eric and I went last night, and it's such a refreshing atmosphere - if you squint, you might convince yourself you're in New York, with all the great old architecture that can be so hard to find 'round here. There are such gorgeous old buildings down there, some restored, some in dire need of restoration, and the galleries are just a cauldron of interesting shows by some really fantastic artists.

More on that in the next entry. Plan now, the next one is Thurs., June 14.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Andy Haynes at The Venice Contemporary

Jeesh, it's taken me all week to write about last weekend's openings! My last entry is from our last gallery of the evening, The Venice Contemporary. Yet another new gallery for me, it's part art gallery, part uber-hipster party spot. We actually saw Ryan Gosling there. It's heartening to see an opening full of young-ish people, and a lot of them were actually in the gallery, not on the back patio where they could be smoking and listening to the band.

Of course, there was a great reason to linger in the gallery - it's full of really great works by a bunch of emerging artists who are up to their eyeballs in talent. The show features work by four artists, and you can read all about them here, but the one I really clicked with was Andy Haynes.

Just a wee lad of 25 years old, Haynes already shows a technical skill that I expect to see in much more experienced artists. His figures live in hazy dreamscapes that are at once creepy and beautiful, mysterious and whimsical. This image, Skipping Stones, is a great example. A girl, wearing a horned hood, standing beneath a stormy sky and at the edge of an ominous body of water, holds a book whose tattered pages transform into moths that fly through her windowed body. Cool! I love Haynes' work, and can't wait to see what lies ahead in his artistic career.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Matt Adrian's work

More on Matt Adrian's work (kinda sorta started in the post below). There's perhaps no better work to be a part of an LA billboard project - Adrian's depiction of cars wildly flying off the highway is an excellent depiction of what many motorists must fantasize about on a daily basis. The works are a bit dark but also a little cheeky, painted in bright, chipper colors (love the bubble gum pink train!), and with their fair share of whimsy. No LA smog to be found in that bright blue sky! Even their titles carry a certain mirth - this one is entitled "Cancel my 4:30." He also has a great series of bird paintings. These portraits of the wee creatures are really engaging, and also have that tinge of humor. I love this one, "I'm West Nile Positive."