Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Venice Art Block - Celebrating Our Home

Sunday was the latest edition of the Venice Art Block, and it was maybe the best yet. Art just everywhere, with friends and neighbors out enjoying it all in the sunshine. A perfect way to let a Sunday happen.

I lucked out with my first stop being just a half block away at my friend Harry Gunderson's house. His beautiful house was decked out with his gorgeous paintings, most of which featured nude women in repose ... all of which I wanted.

Gunderson's partner, Russell Cletta, is a landscape artist, so their house and yard is as lovely as the art inside. This is one of the great parts of the Art Block, being allowed into the spaces where our artists create, as the tag line goes, "See artists in their natural habitat."

From there it was a quick zip over to see the lovely Amy Kaps, freshly back from her trip to Havana, where she performed one of her wonderful unraveling pieces for our Cuban friends. Her home is a beautiful reflection of the special talent that Kaps is. Love her.

This was another packed Sunday for me, so I sped on over to the main hub of the event at 4th and Sunset. There is so much to see during these art events, that you really have to use your time wisely. For me that also meant some real cardio, as we had serious ground to cover. Sunset is a good place to start, as long as you don't get sucked into the vortex of Gjusta and all that chaos. Though everything looked great, we didn't have the luxury of the time that place takes just to place an order. Onward!

Gary Palmer was showing new works made with red wine as the paint.

It gave me a whole new angle on what to do when you spill red wine, and it's always good to see what Palmer is up to in his studio. And keep your ears open to hear about his upcoming street chalk art extravaganza that will be a part of this year's Abbot Kinney Festival.

Jim Budman has his very cool studio open to show the work of Dennis Miranda, in a show titled Naturaleza Muerta (that actually opens tonight at WNDO - 361 Vernon). There is a bit of a Day Of The Dead skull quality to his pieces, some that are recognizable depictions, like Uncle Sam, but most of haunting, The Scream type faces.

Miranda is obviously prolific, with works hanging from floor to ceiling, color bursting out all over. Really good stuff, and someone to pay closer attention to, for sure.

I went to check out the work of Kate Wolfgang Savage from a friend's tip, and climbing the stair up to her studio was well worth not skipping. Her landscapes and people in rustic, wooden frames were some of my favorite pieces of the day. I have my eye on one lazy river scene that has continued to haunt me since Sunday. I'll be going back there.

Eric Schwabel's studio was a real highlight, with people standing in line to get their photograph taken by Schwabel as you stood with an umbrella under an indoor rain storm. I have to say, I was conscious of the drought as the water beat down over my head, but there was a money jar to offset the water use (I told myself), and the pictures came out super cool.

Schwabel had a purple light on behind the subject. so when the shutter snapped, it created a very saturated aura of color surrounding the person with the umbrella. It was fun, I dug it, and was happy to be turned on to such a cool new (to me) talent.

All the galleries along Sunset were open, but time was limited so there was only time for a quick visit and a beer with William Attaway. It was great to see my friend Attaway, but I was extra saddened to hear that he too is going to be evicted. Attaway - whose mosaics and sculptures are prominently featured all over Venice - will have to be working out of Alhambra this fall. ALHAMBRA!

There is a popular Venice t-shirt by Christopher Gallo around town that says, "Venice - Where Art Meets Crime". Gallo's dear friend Attaway has amended that to say, "Venice - Where Art Meets Eviction" - which in itself IS a crime. I'm even getting sick of myself talking about it, but we have to. We have to keep talking about it, and fighting it, or wonderful days like these are certainly numbered. There will be no more artists left to have Walks and Blocks and Crawls for, because they'll all be in fucking Alhambra or somewhere. Is that what you really want, landlords? You're the ones responsible for all of this mess, and we won't forget it.

Again, onward! Attaway has some gorgeous new works in progress, and it's always just fun to hang out and see all the locals coming through to pay their respects. Believe me, there is going to be one BIG Eviction Party when that dark day arrives (probably at the end of August). Ugh. But we were all happy together on this day, just living in the moment.

And then we were REALLY happy because we headed on over to the studio of Francisco Letelier, one of my favorite Venice artists, not only for his beautiful art, but also for his activism. When we rounded the corner of 6th to head into Letelier's space at Indiana Court, I saw what was my very favorite installation of the day.

Already Home is the project founded by Letelier that speaks to home, homelessness, community and what that means to all of us.

The alley is adorned with photos (reproduced from Charles Brittin, who photographed Venice in the 1950's and 60's), drawers with poems and thoughts engraved in them (from a set of drawers Letelier found in the alley), nests, little paper houses, tipis, anything that people thought represented home ... and the fragility and preciousness of that word and its meaning.

The installation is meant to be portable, public, and collective ... art for everyone. Home for everyone. Venice for everyone.

That is the idea behind the installation being mounted in the alley. While out of town money and insane greed (INSANE! This is VENICE - where none of these money people with ZERO vision ever wanted to live before, kicking out people who have lived, loved and created here for decades) are taking over our streets ... Letelier's idea is to take over the alleys. Venice has so many beautiful alleys, that no one really utilizes, and certainly don't beautify. With the welcome addition of Already Home, that's about to change.

Once inside Letelier's space, it is a haven of art and beauty. Kids were drawing their own art for the alley at a picnic table.

Leonardo Ibanez showed his masks, Mary Beth Fama displayed her work. An acoustic guitarist was regaling the visitors with lovely, flamenco kind of tunes, and enchanting doorways invited you to come in and take a look.

I know that I missed a lot of this Art Block, and I apologize to anyone I was unable to get to, but if I could only see one thing on that day, I'm so glad I saw the Already Home project. It's exactly what people need to see - and to contribute to - right now, especially here in Venice. OUR Home. To people (or more likely the corporations they work for) who would choose to raise rents to unlivable, unworkable, unattainable rates that threaten to turn our fair town into a white bread mall in the name of their sickening greed, I'd just say, too bad. We're already home. And we'll fight you for it.

Thank you to all involved in the absolutely great Art Block .... where the art is for everyone, and all are welcome.

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