Friday, May 25, 2018

We Rise - An Art Show For Your Mental Health

We Rise is the perfect name for the outstanding art experience happening now through Monday in Downtown L.A., because once you have seen it, you immediately feel elevated. Wow. Just WOW. If you do nothing else this holiday weekend in Los Angeles, you should most certainly hit this powerful show. It's not just art ... it's a movement.

Created and curated by the same folks that brought us the excellent Into Action show in January, We Rise is perhaps even better than that previous show that I've still been raving about. Into Action was all about politics and taking action, where We Rise is about taking care of ourselves and each other. Mental health is at the root of just about every problem our society faces, and it's time the issue is treated with as much importance - or more - as anything else taking the attention of our national consciousness.

Well over 100 artists are on display with their works that all connect around the mental health theme. Moving. Heavy. Mega Important. Beautiful. Sad. Inspiring. All of them. But it's not just about the art. There are panels and workshops every day, with speakers like Common and Yara Shahidi. There are calls to action, and codes to scan with your phone to get involved. I can't say enough good about the entire thing. As I stated before, it truly is a movement, couched in the best of the best art shows.

The art. I loved it all. I couldn't get there until almost 8:30, so I had to hustle and look at the art while a panel about incarceration was happening. The reason I got there so late is that I'm working on a show for Viceland called American Junkie, and as I walked through the exhibit, I could think only about how we would not be experiencing this opioid epidemic if we better care for our mental health. It all starts there.

I got chills and choked up at several of the works, and I was not alone. To address that, the We Rise folks have arranged for counselors to be there for you in case something really bothers you and you need to talk to someone professional. I love the attention and care that is paid to every aspect of the issues, and the tangible feeling that someone cares about you. Wants to help you. Wants you to feel better. Is there for you.

There were different topics represented throughout ... like gun violence and kids being murdered at school. Imagine how that threat now affects our nation's children every day at school, when they're simply trying to learn and become who they're going to be. Isn't that hard enough without worrying that you might die at your desk? Do Not Cross (School Series), 2016 by Natalia Anciso thinks so.

And how about Emma Gonzalez, 2018 by Gabe Gault? Powerful stuff, powerful girl.

The opioid crisis and the over-medication of children (and everyone, really) is a massive problem, and there were several pieces that made direct hits on this outrageous - and preventable - issue. Like Avalanche, 2018 by Billy Kheel, showing it like it is.

Social media and cyber-bullying are also areas of concern these days, and one of the most chilling works in this show was Cyberbully by Lesley Augston and Alexander Rocco depicting a phone with sharp knives protruding from it. Ouch.

The idea that everyone is perfect online was tweaked by Adam Mars with his Validating Beauty Is Getting Ugly, 2017.

A gumball machine (Judgements 25 Cents, 2013) by Jennifer Dalton offered judgements of "OK" and "Not OK" were offered for 25 cents, but the point was priceless.

Speaking to the tendency to put a sheen over real problems for a better online image, Guillermo Bert lets us know that There Is No Filter For Toxic Culture, 2018. Amen.

Mental illness itself is often a taboo subject for the people that suffer from it. No one seems to really want to talk about it, yet all you have to do is walk down nearly any street in L.A. to see that it's an enormous crisis that is going unaddressed. It is THE root of our homeless nightmare, and something must be done. This show is a wonderful start to shedding light on the topic, and issuing a call to action. Catch Me When I Fall, 2013 by Holly Ballard Martz was made up of "Fall Risk" wristbands, and just hurt my heart.

Sutured Jane, 2014 by Dani Dodge was equally heavy. A sutured woman alone on a mattress. My heart ached for her, even as just an image.

Gary Baseman took it on with his series of 7 Selected Editorial Illustrations About Anxiety And Fears, Health And Human Wellness, 1995.

A basic, but crucial, question in the area of mental illness was asked by Aubrie Costello with her WHYCANTYOUTELLMEHOWUFEEL, 2017, with a code asking you to "BeThere" to text to 31996 to find out more ways to do exactly that.

Adam Enrique Rodgriguez showed the loneliness and confusion that may accompany mental illness with his Self Portrait #2 Out Of The Blue. Beautiful and more thought-provoking the longer you looked at it. I wound up randomly meeting him later on in the evening, and he gave me a lift back to Venice. We talked the entire drive about the importance of art in our lives, and how it really does have the capacity to shape our culture (after Bertolt Brecht). Rodriguez has one of the best stories about a career beginning ever, and is absolutely one to watch in the art world. He is also an awesome person that I am proud to call my new friend. Thanks, Adam!

Immigration was addressed by several artists, and rightly raised as an issue of mental health. How can you thrive and prosper when you're always looking over your shoulder in a country that is made up entirely of immigrants (aside from our Native population, who also often suffer greatly from mental illness, most likely from how terribly they've been treated in their own land).

Women and gender inequality was a big theme, and represented beautifully by several artists. This has been a year of reckoning for all that we have endured forever, and time really is up on that (awesomely illustrated this very morning by the perp walk by Harvey Weinstein that we were treated to all over the news. Richly deserved and ultra-satisfying to witness). The biggest piece on this was the Survivor Love Letter mural, with real notes to abuse survivors written and pinned on to the wall. Whoa.

I love love loved Be Gentle, 2018 from Ashley Lukashevsky, and its message of self-care. Loved.

The whole show is put on by an army of volunteers (and physically built out by recently released convicts), led by the wonderful Yosi Sergant. We first met on the first Obama campaign at a park in Compton, where the now Ex-President was speaking, so early on that he didn't even really have any real security detail to speak of. He worked with Shepard Fairey to conceive the "Hope" poster, and Fairey is always a presence in the fantastic events conceived by Sargent. I will go to every thing he ever does, as I'm always beyond impressed and inspired. Thank you, Yosi!

In the auditorium where the panels are held, there was a giant furry piece entitled The Power Of Safety, 2018 by Uzumaki. The truth that ART SAVES LIVES was done up on a big snuggly wall that Puff Daddy would have loved to stroke after smoking The Jeffrey in Get Him To The Greek.

Even with all the photos I'm showing you, you still have to go yourself, as I've barely scratched the surface of all the really, really great pieces of art. Like Ryan McCann reminding us that, in spite of it all, #LIFEISRAD, 2015. This blowtorch, oil, and acrylic piece on wood was also one of my faves. Because it's true. Or can be with the proper attention and care to each and every human being.

As you came to the end of the galleries, there was a bean counting system where you could vote by placing your bean in a jar that you felt was the most pressing issue. Tellingly, they were all filled about equally, because there are so many problems, and all of them are the most important to someone. And "We Say BS" on the myth that there are no real solutions. But there are, if we can only begin to work TOGETHER to solve them.

Imagine that. Because We Are Destined For Great Things, 2011 (By 2wenty) - if only we can get it together to become the nation we could - and should - be.

One where we understand that we're all in it together. That the Golden Rule is the best rule. That our neighbor's problems must be all of our problems if we're ever going to truly live in harmony. We must take care of each other, because in looking out for one another, we ALL rise.

Please treat yourself and your loved ones (especially the young ones!) to this wonderful art experience ... I promise that you will never forget it, and that you will be better for it. That's a pretty lofty statement for an art show, but this one deserves it. Heartfelt thanks to all involved in bringing We Rise to life. For bringing the issues out front. And most of all, for caring.

We Rise
1726 North Spring Street
Downtown L.A.
Through Monday, May28,2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

The 2018 Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auctions - Art And Healthcare For Everyone!

The 2018 Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auctions  took place yesterday, and showed once again - for the 39th time! - why it is an annual event that Venice looks forward to all year. My dear friend, Deb, was coming west to spend the day at the Walk with me, and I couldn't have been more thrilled. The May Gray burned off as soon as we'd finished fueling up at The French Market, and we were off to Google headquarters to pick up our maps and wristbands for the studio tours.

The entire area was already packed by the noon starting time, and people were ready to check out some ART. And there was SO MUCH art. Phew. The Google headquarters is always a good place to start, and it's free, so it really is an event for the whole community. Outside, there was a kid zone, food trucks, an art car "museum", arts and crafts booths, workshops, and the merch area, where you could pick up this year's t-shirt designed by Alexis Smith with a print of her "Stairway To The Stars".  Own it. Love it.

The silent auction inside of Google features so many artists you don't really even know where to begin. I wanted nearly every piece, and with so many bids being placed, you can see why this is the Venice Family Clinic's biggest fundraiser of the year. Art for good! My first favorite was Till The Clouds Roll By, 2018 by Patrick Haemmerlein. I was clearly outbid, because I didn't get back in time and I didn't win it. Boo, but happy for whomever got this great piece of art.

I also loved Pacific, 2016 by Lynn Hanson. A sea painting on a pull-down map! Ooooh.

A piece by Sam Durant (also an honoree of the event, and a past client of Venice Family Clinic) was really the whole point of the fundraising day, called, Everyone Deserves Healthcare, 2018. The serigraph was created especially for this year's Art Walk. It spoke the absolute truth, and served to remind everyone what the day was all about.

Another honoree of the event was the late Ed Moses, who was represented by his son, Andy Moses, and by a gorgeous live painting that was done to remember this Venice legend.

Guillermo Bert told us You Don't Have The Right To Remain Silent, 2017 - and you don't. Not in these times. There were several works that touched on current events, but this one was one of the most pointed.

In that same vein was another favorite  ... God, Leave The Rockstars Take The Politicians, 2018 by Adam Mars. My sentiments exactly.

"It's on every Collector's Calendar" was one of the event's tag lines, and if you are a collector of photography, there was a TON for you to choose from. Alfred Stieglitz (!) to Danny Clinch, John Van Hamersveld's Muddy Waters to The Eazy E by Mike Miller. And if you were lucky, you could get it for a steal.

There was live painting going down outside, and Jim Morrison was being both painted and adorned with flowers as he watched over the live music and beer garden in the patio outside of Google. Love Street vibes, for sure.

The clock was running on the Art Walk, so we set out to see how many artist studios we could get to while they were all still open. The complex next to Gjusta was up first, and I revisited my new friends from Wallspace, who were showing several of the works we saw at the Venice Art Crawl three days earlier.

They were popping up in MB Boissonnault's space, so I got to see her excellent, wave-like works again too.

Up the hall, I checked in with Marty Katon, who was chatting with visitors while a pigeon in a cage cheeped along. His wildlife and Native American pieces are so great, and he's even now doing original oil paintings on bracelets - as seen on such trendsetters as Rihanna!

I was delighted to find that my friend, William Attaway, was back in his own space just a few doors down from his longtime studio next to Gjusta. There are new works, including a giant giraffe sculpture that he did at the "Bombay Beach Biennale". Attaway is a Venice classic, and Art Walk would never be the same without his outstanding work on display. Welcome back, Attaway!!! (not that it ever felt like you were gone).

Jim Budman's studio is always a fun place to visit. He's always rearranging and adding things, and it's a treasure chest of interesting curios and art. Plus Mr. Budman is always a treasure chest of stories and bon mots himself. The only drag is that you don't want to really linger any one spot, because there is just so much to see all over town ... so off we went.

It was tempting to stick around Patrick Johnston's ceramic studio to enjoy a cold Tecate, but man, the art. We admired his collaboration pieces depicting Venice scenes, and I vowed to return for one of my own one day soon (when I have my own shelves again). Hugs and well wishes were exchanged and back to it we went.

We headed over to the studio of Alejandro Gehry, the son of architect, Frank, and an impressive artist in his own right. His series of the women of punk rock (Belinda Carlisle, Siouxie, etc...) were on display, as were his new works of women in military helmets. He was there explaining these works to some visitors when we arrived, and said that he got the idea for the concept works when women were allowed to be in combat. I would have loved to stay and hear more ... but more art was calling!

My former next door neighbors on Westminster were showing in their home studios, and Brad Miller and Mollie Favour both showed their fantastic works off. To get to Favour's studio, you took a wooden staircase covered with wisteria to get there. Inside, Favour was working on paintings featuring those same wisteria, and they were lovely. We thanked them for sharing, and took off over to Broadway to see still more art.

The massive studio of Greg Falk and his wife, Tanja Skala, was our next stop, and was a highlight of the Walk, as it always is.

Falk was showing his super interesting work upstairs, like the piece that displays world currencies according to their longitudes, where he found that the melanin in the faces gets lighter the more north you go.

There was a piece showing the ten most read books in the world, which we were admiring when all of a sudden we heard LOUD shouting from downstairs...

Skala was leading about a dozen women in a performance art piece that voiced female affirmations as they quoted Maya Angelou's Still I Rise. We were their only audience at the time, and it gave me chills as it gave their legs bruises. Powerful stuff, and I'm so happy to call this creative force of a couple my friends. Wow.

As we were still pretty close to Google, and my friend, Lacey Cowden, was about to play in the courtyard, we kicked it back over there to enjoy Lacey's tunes, and also take a quick breather in the shade (as it was now a bright, sunny day after the marine layer burned off).

We couldn't get too comfortable, though, as most of the other studios were further away, and we needed to hop on one of the shuttles circling around town. We got on a blue line shuttle, and headed for the home studio of Matthew Heller. Heller's great works with song lyrics and asterisks are some of my current favorite local artworks, and it was fun to get to see where they were created.

The wonderful Amy Kaps' pad was our next stop, and she was there in full black and white striped regalia. I was overjoyed to hear that she has been booked to do one of her performance pieces for RedCat Theater in its upcoming season. Richly deserved, and not to be missed!

Rohitash Rao's studio was our next visit, and I was real happy to hear the news that he gets to stay in his space that he was about to be booted from - thanks to Wabi Sabi, who offered to share the space with him. That's how a community that wants to keep its artists living and working nearby works together to make it happen. NOT by jacking up rents so that no one cool remains. Ahem. Rao's art is some of the very best around - and wittiest - around. I love every single thing, but especially the little plane in the big sky with a bubble saying, "Excuse me, Stewardess? I speak jive." Love.

I quickly stopped by Gary Palmer's studio, where we drank the last of his wine, and saw more of the work that we'd been teased by over at the silent auction.

Now it was four, and as many of the studios were closing down, and Deb had to get back East to let her dogs out, it was back to Google for me, where several friends had been texting, "Where are you?!" from. Now was the time to enjoy a little wine and the musical stylings of Foxtrails playing for a now extra-packed lawn. So many friends and local acquaintances were there, you couldn't even finish an entire conversation ... and I loved it.

By the time we did our fair share of gabbing and wine drinking, the food trucks and all that outside were closing up shop, and we decided to hit Hal's for happy hour and a resting of the feet. More friends congregated there, and it was a whole posse that then headed over to Flavio Bisciotti's studio to help him celebrate his birthday, that also happened to fall on this day. Friends reveled and congratulated him on a new year, and admired his work while we were at it. Oh, and there was more wine. Cheers, Flavio!!

It had been a super long day (after a super long night staying up to watch the royal wedding the night before and I was BEAT). As I headed straight for the bed waiting for me, I was walking down Abbot Kinney and got escorted part of the way by the passing Venice Electric Bike Parade! What a wonderful and fitting conclusion to a day that is always about Venice and the arts. Spectacular!

Once again, EVERYONE DESERVES HEALTHCARE!!! And the Venice Art Walk happens each year to bring us closer to that truth, and that reality. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to all involved in the creation and execution of this wonderful annual art extravaganza. We love the ART, and we love you, Venice Family Clinic!

Until next year ... Keep art in Venice alive every day!