Tag Archives: california

!nsp!re – An Evening at MorYork

Text Tile Art
Text Tile Art

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend the evening at MorYork. It’s tempting to call it an art gallery (which it is) or a studio (true also) but a better description might be what Los Angeles magazine describes as a “modern day cabinet of curiosities” in this article from March, 2015.

Lighthouse Mirror
Lighthouse Mirror

Located at 4959 York Blvd in Highland Park, in a building that formerly housed a Safeway and a roller rink before falling into dereliction in the mid-80’s when it was purchased by artist Clare Graham, it serves as gallery, studio, incubation, and event space.

003

The building, with high ceilings and wonderfully creaky original wood floors, is packed to the rafters with Clare’s work and collections of ephemera.

Floor Detail
Floor Detail

 

Furniture made from soda can pop-tops sits next to a display case filled with primitive carved sex toys. A whole series of art features stuffed animals sealed in plastic and bound together with twine.

An armoire inlaid with teeth
An armoire inlaid with teeth

Still other corners reveal furniture inlaid with human teeth, woodblock art, armoires covered in scrabble tiles, and display cases filled with animal skeletons and doll heads.

Skeleton and Vials
Skeleton and Vials
Caged Doll Head
Caged Doll Head

One enormous section of shelves near the entrance is filled with vintage carnival knock-down dolls while the opposite end of the space is dominated by a stunningly gorgeous lighthouse mirror.

Carnival Doll
Carnival Doll

It’s a mind-boggling, fascinating, and intoxicating environment. Added to the mix is Clare’s recent decision to invite music artists in to perform at MorYork. Alma Sangre (a trio with flamenco) and Edith Crash (LA-based French singer-songwriter) provided a lively evening during our visit, interspersed with drinks and munchies, all surrounded by this incredible collection.

Edith Crash
Edith Crash
Alma Sangre
Alma Sangre

The mix of art and music works, especially because neither is held up as being particularly “precious”. Clare’s work (which has often used recycled materials) is as much about craftsmanship as it is about anything. He’s an approachable artist who has a tremendous respect for, and love of, craft. That’s evident by his work on display at MorYork, and in the musicians that are selected to perform there.

If you’re looking for a deliciously surreal place to spend some time, I’d suggest taking a trip down the rabbit hole that is MorYork.

 

Advertisements

!nsp!re – Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters @ LACMA

001

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the member preview for a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – GUILLERMO DEL TORO: AT HOME WITH MONSTERS. The exhibit focuses on the artistic life and influences of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth).

002

Costume detail from "Crimson Peak"
Costume detail from “Crimson Peak”

For those who have read his book, “Cabinet of Curiosities“, this exhibit is especially thrilling. In the book, readers get a view inside Del Toro’s suburban Los Angeles home (named “Bleak House”). The home is packed with all manner of unusual oddities, props, artwork, and collections.

Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli
Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli

 

Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Illustration from "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
Illustration from “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

In this exhibit, those collections have been placed on view for the public; and it is horribly magnificent. The show is not a retrospective of Del Toro’s work; but a look at his influences and inspirations. In keeping with that idea, the exhibit is laid out thematically. Paintings, drawings, maquettes, full size sculptures, and more bring Del Toro’s unique visions into full relief in this exhibit that surrounds and immerses you into one mans fever dream.

A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.

The work of many artists is on display, and its easy to see where Del Toro derives his inspiration.

015

Sculptures by Mike Hill
Sculptures by Mike Hill

Taking its inspiration from the tone and architecture of Bleak House, the exhibit is housed in an architectural shell, with long hallways that twist and turn, opening into room after room. The walls and other elements are in muted tones of black, gray, and blood red. The use of rafters overhead is enhanced by lighting that casts shadows onto the ceiling and surrounding walls.

One room in particular is modeled after Del Toro’s writing room, in which a perpetual rainstorm falls outside the “windows” of the room.

007The exhibit is truly wondrous. It’s a through and detailed examination of artistic inspiration and process. A good example is that there are several of his notebooks on display. Since they could easily be damaged by the public, all the pages have been scanned and patrons can flip through them virtually on a touch-screen adjacent to the actual notebook. It’s a great way of revealing the artist while preserving the work.

El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer
El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer

I have only two small quibbles with the overall exhibit. The first is that it appears to have been put together quickly. The finishes on the display vitrines are somewhat slap-dash, with visible paint brush marks and drips. One would think that an exhibit with this sort of “draw” in the marketplace would have warranted a greater attention to detail. My other minor negative comment is that I would have loved to seen LACMA embrace a greater degree of theatricality through lighting and video. The black costume from “Crimson Peak” is especially poorly lit, diminishing its detail and beauty.

016

003Finally, there’s also a great book/catalogue that has been published in conjunction with the exhibit (Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections). The book goes into even more detail about Del Toro’s process, journals, and inspirations.

The exhibit is on view through November 27, 2016. Admission is free to members (which I highly recommend by joining here) or with regular admission ($15) to the museum.

!nsp!re – ARTS EDUCATION WEEK: Personally Speaking

In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.

I absolutely believe that we must raise the next generation to be educated, thoughtful, and well-rounded. That belief is firmly rooted in what the arts did for me personally.

The only classes I responded to in elementary school were art and English (creative writing). None of the other classes resonated. I was a shy, zit-faced little dude who just wanted to be left alone in my room (painted black, natch) with my stereo, my sketchpad, and a few books. Oddly enough, I was a fine student and actually made mostly good grades; I just wasn’t interested in anything apart from creative work. As I got into high school, I stayed in art class; and through friends, was introduced to theater. Theater opened up my perspective and bonded my love of art to something very tangible – theatrical design.

But even then, I never really considered it a career option. While many of my friends were thinking about “real” careers and jobs, I was somewhat lost. All I wanted to do was create – to make something beautiful from nothing.

All through that early part of my life, the arts kept my mind and hands busy (which kept me, mostly, out of trouble). They transformed my social awkwardness by encouraging me to socially engage with others. They taught me that while one can create alone; it’s WAY more fun to create with other people. They provided me with a direction that I decided to pursue as a career – and then gave me the tools to do it. The arts have done all of those things and far more for many of my friends and so many of the students I speak with on a regular basis.

I don’t want to imagine what my life would have been like had I not been exposed, at an early age, to the things that would mold who I have become. I don’t need to read the growing mountain of arts education studies to understand the reasons why the arts are important. I know the reasons to be true because they informed and changed my life.

For more information California Arts In Education Week, click here to visit the California Arts Council.

!nsp!re – ARTS EDUCATION WEEK: Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best

In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.

fea_art_stateofthearts

This post, written by Fran Smith at Edutopia.com, offers a compelling case for growing arts in education in our nation’s classrooms. Some of the more salient points she makes are:

  • Due to the arts cutbacks in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we now have a whole generation of teachers and parents who were not exposed to the arts during their education, making it difficult for them to understand the value that the arts contribute to becoming a well-rounded individual.
  • Arts education enables children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children of means, who are often exposed to the arts outside of classrooms via their parents and family.
  • Years of research show that arts education is linked closely with almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

I’d agree with all of those and more. The post then goes into great detail about specific educators who are challenging the status quo of reduced arts education, and how they are bringing arts back into their schools.

Click here to read the full article.

For more information California Arts In Education Week, click here to visit the California Arts Council.

!nsp!re – ARTS EDUCATION WEEK: Why is Art Education Important?

In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.

This post, originally from kinderart.com, explores the reasons why art class, specifically,  can be an important contribution to well-rounded development. I found this interesting because it focuses on younger children. In addition to the information that’s been learned in a number of studies about “why” arts education is important, the writer (an educator, Andrea Mulder-Slater) offers specific activities that young students can do. Some suggestions are:

  • See if your students can make figures using torn paper. No scissors, no pencils, just paper. If you have more time, the torn paper can be glued on another sheet and painted with watercolors.
  • Have your students create picture stories. Everyone draws a series of images—use stick people and box-shaped houses. Once everyone has created a picture story, share the images to see if the other participants can decipher the “code.” See how many versions of the story develop.
  • Have your students imagine there is a hole in the wall. What is lurking behind the wall? Talk about it. Ask them to draw it.

While it may be tempting to dismiss some of these activities as play (because the do sound like fun!), the quality they share is that they engage the imagination.

For example, the first activity (having students make figures using torn paper) teaches them to think differently. They learn that art doesn’t have to be “drawing” or “painting”. It can be paper, clay, sticks, paper, steel, wood – anything! But beyond teaching students that you can create art from anything, it encourages non-traditional thinking; a skill which is highly coveted in many career fields. Tech, science, and the arts all need talented people with non-traditional, non-linear thinking skills. The more we can encourage participation in the arts at a young age, the better chance that these learnings will become ingrained into our young students, who will then go out into the world and change it – hopefully, for the better.

Click here to read the full article.

For more information California Arts In Education Week, click here to visit the California Arts Council.

!nsp!re – ARTS EDUCATION WEEK: Top 10 Skills Children Learn From The Arts

In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.

I found this post to be very interesting when I initially read it back in January. It’s worth revisiting this week. Lisa Phillips (author of “The Artist Edge: 7 Skills Children Need To Succeed In An Increasingly Right Brain World”) details her thoughts on ten skills that children learn in arts classes.

Let’s take a look at #8, Collaboration. A student can, of course, learn to collaborate in other areas, like team sports. But if you take a typical theater or music class and examine it, you’ll see that collaboration is woven into the very fabric of the art itself. I believe there’s a significant distinction between collaboration (in the arts) and teamwork (in sports). Both involve putting something larger (the show, the recital, the big game) before yourself, of course, but how you get there is very different.

Whereas team sports like football follow a prescribed set of rules and all teammates must work together to win a game, mounting a play requires a different sort of collaborative approach because the play is different every time. There are, simply, no actual rules. Common practices? Yes – but not rules. It takes a different skill-set to navigate a process in which no rules apply, versus playing a sport in which one is penalized for not following the rules.

A school band learns new music every year; they don’t play the same piece repeatedly, and each piece is open to interpretation. Again, no real rules.

And look no further than the dance world to see a total lack of rules.

I think this lack of rules is at the core of how the collaborative skill-set is learned differently in the arts than in other classes. Lisa Phillips says it quite well in her post, “When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.”

Click here to read the full article.

For more information California Arts In Education Week, click here to visit the California Arts Council.