Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ahmed Alsoudani at L and M Arts Venice

I had a little window of time to myself to go check out the latest exhibit at L&M, though I had to wait until this remarkable summery January mind blower of a day started to turn golden hour before I could force myself to be remotely inside.

Maybe it was because all seemed so well in the world outside that I was even more affected by the art of Iraqi-born, New York-based Ahmed Alsoudani inside.

I entered the West gallery, and was delighted to see the bright colors and whimsical (from a distance) paintings. As you can usually have the whole place to yourself on a weekday, you can really take your time and stand there and take it in when it's not the opening night squeeze experience. When I did just this, it soon became clear that a whole lot more was going on in these works than a bright circus-y good time.

Baghdad-born Alsoudani left Iraq 15 years ago, but it's clear that the destruction and mayhem of that war-torn land is present in every stroke. Spooky faces, disembodied bits, violence, meat cleavers and claws compete with the cheerful hues to impart what a dichotomy life is EVERYWHERE these days. At least that's what I took from it all.

All of the charcoal and acrylic paintings in the show are titled Untitled, 2011, so you kind of have to interpret it all yourself, with the limited knowledge of Alsoudani that is provided. And you SHOULD interpret your feelings for art for yourself anyway.

I felt sad that a lot of the pain within this exhibit is the fault of my own country. I felt even harder core that we should be going nowhere near Iran (duh). I felt grateful that art helps us to (hopefully) better understand our fellow People of the world. I felt like going back outside and embracing the gratitude and luck that enabled me to breathe sea air in deeply as the sun turned orange and purple a few blocks to the West, without the threat of war immediately overhead.

So I did.

The Ahmed Alsoudani exhibit is on at L&M now until March 3. See what YOU think.

L&M Arts
660 Venice Boulevard

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Solidarity Forever!

I was zooming back from the beach this morning, when I saw this poster on one of those power box things along Venice Boulevard:

I love it, of course ... but I would raise this poster's "Spring" to "Forever". That's the whole point, that we're all in this together, and we simply must look out for each other. From little things like watching someone's baby or bringing them produce as a surprise on their doorstep, to big things like not voting like a crazy person for crazy people and policies. And when those crazy people and policies somehow weasel their ways into being, then banding together to oppose them and make things right.

If you've watched any of the Republican debates or read anything at all about any of the front runners on that side, you simply have to laugh. Out LOUD. Watch the State Of The Union tonight, and sigh in relief that even though President Obama has had his hands tied behind his back by BOTH parties the entire time he's been in Office, and has wussed out on some things (but triumphed in many others, I mean, c'mon!), the guy is smart. Compassionate. A daily dynamo amid super daunting circumstances. And still manages to be cool (did you see him sing Al Green?!). That's the guy I want at least TRYING to lead with some dignity and some fairness, since this is the system we currently have in place. Meanwhile, the PEOPLE can be creating positive change with the POPULIST Movements, hands free. By demanding it.

The Party System has to be abolished. No one can get anything done, and it's way too far past corrupt to really fix at this point. Everyone's in everyone's pockets, and we all know it. Which begat the Occupy Movements. Which will surge again this Spring. With leadership. And Solidarity - because that's the only way anything that has ever elevated the spirits and character of this country - or the World - has ever happened.

Get smart. Chins up. Fists raised. Together.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Wino-Strut of Artist David Phillips

I first learned about the art of David Phillips in probably the best way possible. I was walking down the beach last year when I came upon this crazy piece of art (that I now know is called "Birth") just sitting there in the sand.

It had the curious name "Wino-Strut" across the front of it, compelling enough for me to write a little story about it at the time. Then I got an email from the artist - David Phillips - who somehow had seen the Blogtown article, and contacted me to invite me to his studio. THEN I got a random email from a reader - Matt - that they had come upon some more Wino Strutting on the beach and thought I might find it interesting. I did.

So time flies and things pile up and I didn't get to the studio, but then I got an invitation from Phillips to the Hotel Erwin for his opening during the Art Crawl last Summer.

I went, it was great, and I had a new friend in Mr. Phillips. But I still didn't know the whole story. So a bunch more time passed, exchanging messages and trying to find a time to sit down and tell the tale, until it's a new year and you gotta make things happen, so we finally sorted it out and here we go.

Phillips is from Tulsa, Oklahoma (Sooners!). His Grandmother was a painter, so from a very early age, Phillips knew that he too wanted to be a painter - in fact, he started with oils. He grew up and wanted a larger audience for his art than perhaps Oklahoma offered, so "Art brought me here" - Here being Venice, California. He had come out and stayed on a friend's couch in Venice, and knew that was the only place that made sense for him to settle. Which he did, right on Abbot Kinney. He got a job as a PA, which let him afford to get a studio (which he says is in Venice, but really it's Marina Del Rey...Ha, David!) and he was off to the races.

Phillips would load up his truck with paintings and just hound gallery owners to see his stuff. Soon enough, after not taking no for an answer ever ("I was gonna be a painter whether they liked it or not!"), he got a gallery rep. This led to a spot on CBS News about his art, and he's been able to work on his painting full-time ever since. He IS a painter.

{At this point, we decided to leave the beach-adjacent studio and conduct our interview on the sand. I thought this appropriate as it's where I first discovered his work, and I feel great guilt and oppression over being inside when I know a remarkable sunset is shaping up outside. See below.}

He's been hired by Urban Outfitters to do works, he gets a bunch of private commissions, but with all the edge and fun and good times and free wheelin' vibe of the beach, he started thinking about doing art that was more accessible to an even larger audience ...

Willem De Kooning is "the end all, be all for me", says Phillips, and he recalled a story about De Kooning selling a painting (One of his "Woman" paintings, which later sold for $20 million) to a guy for a case of wine. De Kooning had to walk the outsized painting all the way uptown to claim his payment, and Phillips thought that would be called a "Wino Strut". This would become his name for his otherwise anonymous pieces that he leaves behind. He figured why let the graffiti artists have all the fun, and maybe the next step beyond graffiti as public art would be a contemporary artist leaving behind works that people could actually take home!

This began the Wino-Strut practice and Brand of "Giving someone a HAPPENING ... The experience IS the art!" So the installation like "Birth", that first led me to this interesting fellow, and his studio. Then he painted 500 bottles, inserting painted scrolls of abstract faces inside, and placed them all along the coast, from Venice (Marina Del Rey) to Malibu, for people to discover along their morning walks and keep. This little caper did earn him a call from the LAPD, who thought that he might be planting pipe bombs all over vs. just making someone's day. Sigh.

Phillips had just done an installation the very afternoon that we spoke, lining a bunch of bottles along the entrance to Groundworks on Main Street. Rather than think of the art as fleeting, Phillips sees it more as "Disrupting someone's monotony. This art HAPPENED. And now they have an illustration of a memory." How great is that?

We wound up our interview back in the studio, where there are multiple works in progress, as well as lots more bottles being prepared for a 3,000 bottle onslaught, perhaps somewhere near you. I was gifted with one, and it makes me smile just to glance at it and think of the lift one like it is going to give someone else, totally unexpectedly. Another day brightener in Venice.

Phillips is a big fan of the Ferus/"Cool School" of art, and loves to mingle with those guys (Bell, Lodato, etc...) around town at Larry's Venice, The Erwin, the Art Crawl, VENICE ... and keep that inspired torch burning.

I'm so happy to know the story behind it all now, and look so forward to hearing about - or just again stumbling upon - what new hijinks Phillips has in store for the unassuming audience. He has followed his dream, and both had and brought fun to many in doing it. And that's about the highest form of living one can do. May he long continue his wino strutting!

PS - 1.18.12

THEN today, after posting this story yesterday ... Wino-Strut strikes again! Perhaps in celebration ... it looks like one!

Right outside Casa Linda, brightening everyone's day!

David Phillips

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stephanie Hobgood Hair Grand Opens on Abbot Kinney!

New Year, new endeavors! I'm so happy and proud to report that my BFF, Stephanie Hobgood, is opening the doors of her very own private hair studio today on Abbot Kinney! After living and working in Venice for years, then switching over to Sunset Plaza (in between styling the locks of you name the celeb, all over the place), she is back in the neighborhood for real, with Stephanie Hobgood Hair.

The very first time I walked in the light, airy bare space to just check it out with Steph, I immediately said, "This place has good vibes." It does. One whole wall is windows looking out toward the sunset sky over the beach a few blocks away. The rest of the room feels exactly like you're in the room getting done up before you head out to the set of a late night show. Steph has Henry Diltz rock photos around the room, because she is rock, and you can feel the Venice of the place as you look at The Doors walking down The Boardwalk back in the day. Black and White and Metal sums up the interior, but the warmth of Steph and the bright sunshine cozy the place right up.

But what you're really here for is the best hair cut/color/style of your life. Stephanie has been in the hair biz a long time, and has a loyal clientele. Over the years, many of these clients have become friends, and it is so exclusive and private now (Just Steph!), that it will be like going to your friend's pad to get your hair done and talk and chill with total anonymity ("It's like therapy!"), and without the hubbub and noise of a busy salon. Steph is so on the go, moving and shaking, between red carpet gigs for Oscar nominated actors, extreme sports heroes, etal ..., magazine shoots, special events, film festivals/junkets and all of that, that her schedule is always changing, and having her own space now allows her to take control of her own environment, and booking (by appointment only!). It's the perfect set-up, and she made it happen.

The location is so great for people hooking up a day of beauty too: the front space is Alexandra Wagner Skincare for you to get a facial. Next to her is Lavish Tan for a spray tan. Next to them is Kelley Baker Brows - the best. And now, in the back space is Stephanie Hobgood Hair, Ta DAH! You could walk in the front door, work your way back, and emerge out the back door looking the best you've ever looked. Try it!

Steph loves Venice, and a real perk of her new studio will be bringing her little Boston, Nico, with her to work, looking out at the tangerine sunset, and then loading Nico into her bike basket and heading out for a post-work day breath of fresh air. Dope. She loves the Abbot Kinney neighborhood and all its creative excitement. When I asked her, Why Venice? She shut her eyes and smiled and said, "Venice is my Homegirl."

Stephanie is MY homegirl. Who I couldn't be more proud of and excited for. If you would like her to make you look all hot, and have it done in the coolest rocking space, call for an appointment now, before it gets as busy as it's going to. New Year, new looks!

Cheers & Congratulations to my hair do-er, and dear, darling friend!!! Wow.

Stephanie Hobgood Hair
1636 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Second Floor
(310) 775.0299

*Studio photos by Jennifer Everhart

Frozen Lakes and Marshmallow Vodka, Starfish and Coffee

Happy New Year 2012, Everybody!

I had a little hiatus while I went home for the holidays (that's skipping over Glogg Fest '11 and the raging Everhart Holiday Ball, suffice it to say - FUN), and am back and charged up, ready to Delve Into '12!!! How about you?

Home was Heavenly. Look:

Though there was not one snowflake on the ground in Minneapolis on Christmas Day (!), I quickly came to terms with that, and focused on loved ones instead. And OH, are they loved! Mom. I can't say enough about that saintly woman that will ever do her justice. I just looked at her and brimmed over with love and admiration. All my hometown friends (and their children!) just ruined me with their smiles and joy ... and Minnesota accents. They also introduced me to Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow Vodka - and then real marshmallows on top. Couple that with dear souls skating on a (semi)frozen lake and that was just IT. I sometimes feel that I'm not around enough and the kids of my dearest friends won't know me and I can't stand that, and then my dear Tonja texted me from her lake cabin up North and said that her little daughter went outside the cabin and said, "It smells like Carol!" Christine's daughters, Jane and Kate, said, "We have to Skype EVERY day!" I held my hands next to my Mom's and noticed how they looked alike. I cried when I left this time.

But then I came back to Venice and it's 80 degrees and the fog gave way to bright sunshine. I walked along the beach this morning with Jenny, back in the routine for the new year. I had a feeling we would see them, and then sure enough, DOLPHINS! It looked like a romantic couple of dolphins, more mellow and circling than going nuts like usual. Then we decided to explore the end of the jetty to see if it was true that Starfish hang out in Venice. We waded out and tried to time our searching for when the water would recede. Thousands of mussels attached to the rocks, but that looked to be it. Until Jenny - her eyes accustomed to reef searches in Tahiti all the time - yelled "Look!"

There at the bottom of the rocks was a big red Starfish! With a little orange friend next to it! We were jumping around like elated children. It was truly exciting, in the most natural way possible. My day could only have been made better - and I said so - by seeing one of our regular beach friends, the Beach Guru, Rajiv (He's never said anything that profound, but the total purity of his calm and happiness is written on his face so plainly every time we see him wave that I consider that Guru enough). Just then, his silhouette emerged out of the bright sunlight, I swear! I ran out of the water to tell him about the Starfish, which I'd never seen in all my years in Venice!

He was clearly amused at our exuberance, and he said, "That is a very good omen for the new year!", echoing exactly my thoughts. We walked back to our bikes, fully stoked.

This joy of a morning was followed by my favorite cup of coffee at The French Market, and thus the Prince tune, "Starfish and Coffee" played through my head all day since. A perfect mix of Home (Prince) and Here (Starfish!).

aNOTHER good omen for the new year. I dig it already. And wish you all the very best of everything that fills your heart, all year long!


*Starfish amazing moment captured by Jennifer Everhart