Friday, May 31, 2019

The Light Of Venice

We were recently shooting down on the Boardwalk for our documentary, 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED, when I finally really got down and looked at the wonderful tiles embedded in the benches all along Ocean Front Walk. Each depicts a classic time and place in Venice, and show what has always made our Community special and unique.

I know many of us feel that is all being threatened these days on several fronts, and that we often feel helpless to create positive change and reject the negative ... but we're not. We all have a voice, and you can exercise yours this weekend during the Venice Neighborhood Council elections by showing up to vote for the people that deeply care about the spirit of Venice, and wish to preserve it - not merely profit from it.

I can't be there for everything happening in Venice this weekend, as I'm in Minnesota taking care of things for my ailing Mother, so I extra get that feeling of helplessness ... but I can at least tell you what I think. There have been nefarious forces at work for some time on both the VNC and the Venice Chamber of Commerce, and I really think it's time to clean house in both of those organizations. You may recall the stories about the Chamber not letting Venice Pride use the Venice Sign for the annual sign lighting and party over strictly personal beefs and shady accounting. Well, now they've gone ahead and lit the sign rainbow ahead of Pride - not allowing them to have the countdown or anything - and the "scheduled maintenance" they said they were doing on the sign for the month of June appears to be another lie. Venice Pride had to go ahead and order their own sign as a backup plan, so now there will be a double rainbow during tomorrow's Pride celebration! Pride will never go down without the FUN.

The Chamber also scheduled their "Flower Fest" for the exact same day as Pride, and got the Art Crawl to join them. The Chamber/Flower Fest situation is what started all of the issues with Venice Pride, as the Chamber didn't have enough money in their budget to make it happen last year, so resorted to ever shadier tactics (which they wrongly accused Venice Pride of, hypocritically - and there's plenty of documentation to prove it) to throw the event - that pretty much no one attended. I don't have time to get into all of it here and now, as I'm dealing with pressing family things here, but I will tell you that you can trust me on the fact that I wouldn't cast a single vote for anyone who endorses the Venice Chamber hijinks. Or anyone that values property value or development over Community, creativity, and empathy. Who I WOULD vote for are who the people who share my deep desire to preserve that special light of Venice are voting for:

Community Officer: Jim Robb/Brian Averill
Outreach: Joselyn Williams
Chair of Land Use and Planning Committee: Alix Gucovsky
Vice President: Grant Turck (!!!!!!)
President: Ira Koslow

There are more categories to vote for, and I don't have time to get all the way into it now ... but for those I would definitely err on the side of the longer they have lived in Venice, the more chance they get my vote. Because they simply care more and GET IT more. There is a an all day (10-6) BBQ on Sunday at 1301 Main Street hosted by Robb, Averill, and Gucovsky that you can hit up before or after you vote - or both. Get to know the people that love and care about Venice and want to be stewards of what our late great poet, Philomene Long called "the light of Venice" ...

That the light of Venice
not be extinguished
Nor diminished
nor simply maintained.
But that that light burn, burn, burn
into a boundless luminosity!  

I look forward to hearing that the right people were elected, and that Pride was the best ever this year! Cheers, fun, and LOVE to all Venetians!!! 

*And do check out the marvelous benches, as well as the book about them - Art Tiles At Venice Beach!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Doors Of Venice

It's no wonder the band, The Doors, came up with their name in Venice. They were talking about The Doors Of Perception (by Aldous Huxley), but they could just as easily have been talking about the actual Doors in Venice. Just about every block has a house with some kind of a cool door, and that's one of the things that I've always loved about our little beach community - its creativity!

This one is tucked away on a dead end street near the beach, and I just love its little painted plants and sense of whimsy ... by someone called Luis P. Door. Adorable.

One of the few new homes following this fun precedent is on Rialto, and has a kind of desert oasis vibe ...

Then there's the one that looks like a gateway to a Balinese paradise ...

This little entryway in the Oakwood neighborhood made my day one day ...

And you have to have the Mosaic House in any conversation about doors ...

Though just a random sample of the cool doors around Venice, there are probably enough to make a cool book - just another of my million ideas that I hope to make happen one day. I hope that more homeowners will join in, as it's such an easy way to welcome people in a fun way! I also recently learned about embroidery on screens, so let's hope soon every door and window in Venice is a good time to look at.

 I love the famous quote from Joseph Campbell ...

Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors where there were only walls. 

Feel free to send me shots of the doors you love - or your own when you follow your bliss and finish it!

Monday, May 20, 2019

The 40th Anniversary Venice Art Walk!

The forecast said rain for Sunday, and that would be a major drag for the 40th anniversary edition of the Venice Art Walk to benefit our Venice Family Clinic ... but the sun came out just in time, and the day was glorious in every way.

We were shooting artists and families for our documentary 90291: VENICE UNZIPPED, so it was extra great that the rain stopped, like PHEW. I didn't get around to as many artist studios as I usually do, because we were shooting, but I did get to race through the Google campus to see the silent auction part of the day. There didn't seem to be as much art in there as most years, but I didn't have as much time either, so all was well - and there was plenty of art to be seen.

The Gold's Gym parking lot was decked out as a family fun zone, complete with a rainbow balloon arch to welcome you, as we were looking for real rainbows in the sky.

So many local (and global) artists support the Venice Art Walk, and the Venice Family Clinic supports so many artists - and regular people too. Health care is such an issue in this country, and that we have a resource that looks out for everyone - regardless of income - is a special gift, and really the point of the entire event and day.

I had just been to the wonderful We Rise L.A. opening night a couple nights before, so my head was full of art that actually matters, and was happy to see that the artists representing Venice were also using their heads and talents to make their points.

There was a lot of great work, and I just quick snapped shots of the ones that I'd want to have in my own home, like the California Bear.

I met a woman named Kim Schoenstadt at a party the night before, and she told me her work would be in the Art Walk, so I looked for it and found it there. It's pretty cool, as it's kind of paint by number, and you buy the outline, then fill it in yourself for an interactive piece. Cool, right?

There was work by people you see on the streets of Venice every day, and there was work from people that aren't living anymore. There were things with low opening bids from up and comers, and there were real expensive pieces by dudes like Ed Ruscha.

The signature artist this year was Laura Owens, whose work was not only up for auction, but adorned all the official tote bags this year.

This year they had a bunch of Art Walk artists do their own version of a dog sculpture, and the individually decorated hounds were also up for auction.

There are always a lot of cool people roaming around the Venice Art Walk, but probably the coolest this year was Flea, who was not trying to blend in with his entirely purple outfit, yellow shoes, and pink hair.  Californication personified!

Andy Moses had a piece that reminded me of really good Spin Art, and it made me think of his dad, Ed, who we lost last year.

One of my favorite pieces inside was one that said "Good Night, Sleep Tight" with words made of a collage of hotel/motel ephemera from a Crosby, Stills, and Nash tour. How cool, and it also touched my heart because that is what our Mom has always said before we went to sleep.

The Beer Garden area was crowded and jumping, with people happy to be outside enjoying the sunshine and art.

I had to race off to meet back up with my film crew, but quickly stopped off to see the great work by M.B. Boissonnault in her studio. We had interviewed her for our documentary earlier in the day, as one of our favorite Venice artists and a woman with great things to say. There was a constant flow through her studio, so our visit was brief, but gratifying. Thanks, M.B.!

From there it was a short walk over to the studio of Tanja Skala and Greg Falk, who were our next subjects to film for an interview. I always love my visits to this husband/wife team and the incredible studio of theirs that they built themselves from scratch. Skala always does a riveting, profound performance piece for the Art Walk, which are always a highlight of the day for me each year. This year found Skala and her friend acting as doctors, giving prescriptions of "Empathy Pills" to the patients that came through.

They sat in front of a periodic table of human emotions, and as you stood in front of it, you really got that of all of the emotions that we feel, empathy is the one most needed in this world right now.

That is true for our film also, and in interviewing Skala and Falk (with his amazing work upstairs that includes a speed wheelchair made from skateboard parts! Giving back!) we realized what a good summation it also is for our project. In examining income inequality, homelessness, gentrification, and art in our community, the number one thing most needed right now IS empathy.

That is also true of the Venice Art Walk itself. Artists of all levels contribute to the event to give back to the clinic that helps other members of their community in a beautiful example of yes, Empathy.

I didn't get to see as much art as I would have liked this year, but what I did see was beautiful and moving ... and all for a wonderful cause! It was also great to see so many locals out and about enjoying art in and about the heart of Venice.

Thank you to the Venice Art Walk crew for another excellent year of art and empathy! Love.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

We Rise L.A.! The 2019 Mental Health Art Experience

This is the rare weekend post, as I can't say enough good about the We Rise L.A. art show for mental health taking place now through May 27th in downtown L.A., and I want as many people as possible to experience it for themselves!

It's an entirely inclusive and immersive show, with different areas like "Create", where you can make your own screen printed posters, with messages like "You deserve infinite support and love" - which you do.

In the room called "Engage" you could mix and mingle with others, or take a break for yourself with some kombucha on tap and snacks like churros, as you watched a big Iphone bringing up messages from people arguing via text, that feel like how that usually goes. There was also a mirror being adorned with positive messages. It's a family affair, as this little girl was really into it, and though some subject matter may warrant explanation - or protection - communication is always a good thing, and kids can handle a lot more than we know ... especially these days.

So much damage in adults is leftover from traumas experienced as kids, and this show addresses a lot of that. Kids whose parents are incarcerated. Kids who have been separated from their families at the border. Kids who have been abused. Kids who have seen too much, as you can imagine from the piece called The Child. (Please forgive the lack of credits - the first draft of this piece disappeared when the internet went down and I'm trying not to have my own mental breakdown as I re-type this whole article after I already deleted the photos of the credits. Ugh and apologies, but go yourself to get all of the info!).

SueƱos was especially heart-wrenching, as it depicts immigrant kids embracing their mothers through bars. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that we as a country allow this to go on. We need help.

Each piece in the art galleries has to do with some aspect of mental health, and while some are heavier than others, all pack a punch and instantly provoke thought and self-examination. It can't be helped.

Monarch Cluster might seem like a gorgeous bunch of butterflies, but to me it said you're not alone.

I looked at this photo and wasn't quite prepared for the gut punch that the title delivered ... Thank You For Your Service was the title of a photograph showing homeless U.S. veterans. Like, THIS is how we thank our men and women in service?! It's shameful - again.

The Parish Hall list of events shows how messed up America really is, even as we proclaim to be a Shining Beacon Of Light To The World. Yeah. Right.

Nipsey Hussle WAS a shining beacon of light to his community, until it was recently snuffed out by more of the constant senseless gun violence in this nation.

There were a couple of self-portraits that complimented each other, and also showed how scrambled up we can feel inside of our own minds sometimes. The first was by Adam Enrique Rodriguez ...

...And the next one was called Hanging On By A Thread, which is how I've personally felt a lot these days, and I know I'm not alone - especially after seeing this show.

A bed was hanging on by thicker threads as it levitated above a bedroom installation called In Limbo, that a lot of people were digging and photographing.

The art galleries are loosely arranged by issue, from incarceration to domestic abuse, from immigration to women's issues to social media. The women pieces were very powerful, yes, because I am one, but also because we've been so under attack in recent times. I can really go off on this topic, but for now I'll leave it at the fact that NO man should even be discussing any issue relating to a uterus if they don't have one. I could care less about any male perspective on this, and really don't even want to hear it. Sisterhood IS powerful.

You can tell the power of one sister just by her gaze and the tilt of her chin in Viva Yalitza!

I always love the work of Ashley Lukashevsy and its feminine power, like this year's piece, Space.

As you meander through the galleries, you hear music and talking coming from the cavernous main hall where the seminars and performances happen daily throughout the run of the show. You will be enriched by any that you attend, whether it pertains to you personally or not, you will get something from the beautifully and consciously curated discussions and music. One wall shows exactly what's going on ... All The Feels!

The other wall reminds you in the form of a plush, cozy wall, that You Are Safe Here - and you really get that feeling here. That people truly care, and that they truly want to help you.

A couple of my favorite pieces were hung beside each other, one was City Of Refuge - a little shanty town sculpture, and next to it were beautiful screen windows with floral embroidery, called Screened In. I can't believe I never thought of this, and now want to beautify every screen window I see.

I loved another piece of embroidery, as I love hummingbirds - but I loved it even more when I saw that it was called For My Struggling Students.

As you walk through the galleries, you're being watched by cameras bearing the logos of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ... just like in real life!

There is an area dedicated to social media works, and a very hipster guy and I were standing there reading the same ones and we looked at each other at the same time, and he said, "Do you have chills?" I did, and it was one example of how you can connect with a total stranger over a common feeling - and that is the power of this magnificent artistic and humanitarian endeavor that was obviously put together with so much care and conscience.

A giant living wall reminded everyone to Breathe In The Present Moment, and that was the advice I probably most needed at this time. That, and that once again, people care. We're not alone. Everyone has their own struggle. Communication and connection are crucial to getting through this thing called life, and this beautiful show personifies that.

Every day of the show's run offers different programming and addresses different issues, all of which will be rewarding to attend. In fact, at one point I turned to my friend at the opening night party, and said, "Everyone here is better off for it." Truth, and the beauty of that is that it spreads, because then we all go out and talk about it, and we're all closer for it. Humanity at its best, delivered through art, without judgement. That is how we can go forward ... and protect our spirits.

Please give yourselves the gift of attending this show. You too will be better for it. THANK YOU to all involved in this special and important art experience. You are helping.

*Special shout out to the excellent people, food, and service of Lupetti Pizzeria, right around the corner where we celebrated being alive after. Thank you!

We Rise L.A.
1262 Palmetto Street
Los Angeles, 90013
Now through May 27th