Instagram Live Video 17 04 29. Painting a steampunk airship from one color to the next, and talking with my instagram followers throughout. Unfortunately you can’t see the follower comments! Painting and paint mixing with an awkward paintress (me).
Per the norm, when I walk into Thinkspace Gallery, the place is crowded. Rory and I show up about an hour into the exhibition, following an exceedingly awkward and silent Uber ride. On the left, in the alcove where Jolene Lai had her tentacle-button-monster last month, there is a video flipping through Marco Mazzoni’s moleskin sketchbook.
As I watch the lovely pages flip, it shows me conceptual sketches, tests of color palettes, and beautiful drawings. It’s organized enough to guess that he had been planning to show it off from the beginning. (This could easily be envy talking on my end. My conceptual sketchbooks look like deranged scribble drawings from an exceptional monkey.) Regardless, it was an exciting peek into Marco Mazzoni’s process. His choice of colored pencils as his medium allowed him to do some fantastic experiments in that little moleskin book.
Drawings in Colored Pencil
This is the first piece that caught my eye. Marco Mazzoni has a restrained, unified color palette of red and blue, intermixing with a layering of color for the shadows and highlights. The blueness in this piece is more subtle than any of Picasso’s Blue Period paintings, but maintains a muted seriousness. The position of the mouth, possibly gasping for breath, makes the moths’ wing beats flutter excitedly in my mind’s eye. An anxious person such as myself can easily imagine drowning in the lovely creatures.
This next piece is Rory’s favorite. There are two hidden, creepy faces on the middle dividing line. The lotus flowers are dazzling, and seem to shine more than the scales of the fish. I see two little monkeys trying to remain above the flow of the school of fish, but being dragged along anyway. We notice that they are holding on to branches for support, but they are not, unfortunately, attached to anything. Since both fish and lotuses are associated with water, one assumes that the monkeys are not comfortable in this environment, but they do not have much of a choice. They are staying afloat only due to their incredible willpower.
Bipolar Disorder (2017) is a successful piece meant to reach out to others. When we suffer, we look for those who have also suffered for empathy and understanding. Since we are all human, we have all experienced suffering, in one way or another. When you find friends and family who can help you take that pain and turn it into change, growth, and strength…you can only hope to be grateful for them. We search for this comfort in art and music as well, because solidarity is what brings comfort in times of need.
Since I do not have bipolar disorder, and have only studied it in school, I can only guess about what this is meant to express about it. I see an alternation of blue and red fish going from the light to the darkness, clamoring to get a one-up on the other color. Since the bottom fish is blue, and most deeply shadowed, we can guess that the depression (often associated with the color blue) is the root of the disorder. Red, being a flashy sort of color, might symbolize the manic episodes of the disorder. The fish barely have space to breathe, so one would assume that this state of being is not comfortable, and full of urgency.
I take some issue with the word “disorder”. In comparison to the neuro-typical populace, a mental illness such as bipolar disorder (or my own, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, comorbid with depression and hypomanic episodes) is outside the norm. We are labeled as “out of order”. But with nearly 1 in 5 of adults in America suffering from a mental illness each year (18.2 percent; link to Newsweek article here ), it is not as atypical as it seems. When you encounter a piece like this, try your best to understand the experiences of others. Try to imagine what it could be like. Compassion and empathy are our greatest strengths as human beings.
I elicited a gasp of awe when I saw this. The pink and baby blue tones of this piece are breathtaking. The blank space where the eyes should be, and the face molting into the flowers, suggest a dreamlike state. We are supposed to see what is in front of us, but we can only feel. Everything that we see is within our own minds.
Marco Mazzoni’s colored pencil technique is masterful even in the background of this piece, where it feels like smoke is rising. Here, a person is looking down, as one in wont to do in a regretful state. The flowers in red, popping up all around the head, make me think of memories popping into your mind. It’s difficult to forget what you regret. It is also difficult to avoid the color red.
The layering of black in the hair of this piece packs a punch. Colored pencil is such an exciting medium to see in a gallery. You definitely see the hand of the artist in each piece. The background of this piece has a watery quality, appropriate for the title. The only eye we can see in this piece is the one of the bird underneath the chin of the figure. After going through this whole room, I can almost hear the wings of the birds fluttering in this piece.
Atsuko Goto: The Silence of Idols
This exhibit occupied the second room of the gallery. I saw Jolene Lai hanging around in here. I remain star-struck by the other artists I run into at these events. I felt a sense of majesty walking into this room. Each painting was on fabric, and it lent a museum-like, archival feel to the room. Rory mentioned that each piece in this room felt like a self-portrait. As an artist, I resonated with that statement. I feel like each piece I create is a weird reflection of myself. The Lapis Lazuli pigment used in these paintings gave each one a jewel-like quality.
This was the first piece that caught my eye. The smoky lines above the head remind me of the phrase, “head in the clouds”. The flower petals framing her face (maybe chrysanthemum?), look even more lively than the butterflies. I could almost feel what it would be like to have a butterfly land on my lip after looking at this piece. It reminds me of almost feeling a kiss again, after trying your best to remember it. Atsuko Goto’s mastery of ink in these works gives them a graphic quality.
Raging Spring Wind (2017) is sexy. No way around it. The movement in this piece is intoxicating. The white of the butterfly antennae over her face is a striking highlight. The smoke on the top of the page is sultry and full. Each butterfly is captured by her hair, and she wears them like jeweled hair pins. The direct eye contact the figure has with the viewer gives it power.
This piece won the crowning glory of Rory’s favorite. I wish I could have gotten a photo without the reflection of the room, but I am just not that talented, apparently. This piece is dark and mysterious. Why water droplets? Is it sweat? Tears? Is it titled Beautiful Foreign Substance because she does not know what it feels like to cry? The placement of the water droplets makes it an uncomfortable piece, and begs a thousand questions. The droplets make it a surreal painting, in my eyes. The expression of the figure is one of challenge and strength, daring you to comment of those droplets.
Alvaro Naddeo: Discarded
Alvaro Naddeo’s work occupied the third room of the gallery. This room is also the room where those involved with the gallery were hanging out. I was looking around for Alvaro Naddeo, but didn’t spot him. We follow each other on Instagram, so it would have been cool to meet him. Next time! 🙂 His work definitely embodied the title of the exhibition (Discarded). There were paintings of wrappers, money, trash, shipping containers, and quite a lot of cardboard. His exhibition seems to follow along the same line of the Pop Artists’/Dada philosophy: elevate the objects you see every day into the realm of Fine Art. His work also reminds me of those in poverty, who are most familiar with what has been discarded, and what it feels like to be so. He comments on the amount of waste in our society, and the consumerism that caused it.
The power lines in this piece bring to mind the ropes and sails of a ship in a bottle. I love that the bottle is Miller High Life–one of the more affordable beers on the market advertising itself as “the high life”. An impoverished neighborhood takes the place of a well-built ship in this bottle. The title Meritocracy III tells the story of hard-working individuals that are nevertheless unable to make enough to pull themselves out of poverty. America markets itself as a meritocracy, but ethnicity, class, and gender still make it difficult to get ahead in our society. The ruling class often remains unaware of these struggles, having avoided the problem by being born lucky.
This piece is an exciting nod to Andy Warhol, the man who elevated consumer products and celebrity to great fame. I squealed when I saw the Brillo and Kelloggs boxes behind the Coca-Cola door. This painting features a structure that could easily be someone’s home. There is wallpaper for decor, a portable restroom attached, a hanging jacket, and camping supplies. The large supply of recycling could bring in some income for food. The whole structure is on a small stool, which brings to mind the phrase, “put on a pedestal”.
A powerful show, which I most definitely wrote a little too much about. This exhibition will be on display March 4, 2017 – March 25, 2017 at Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City.
Jolene Lai, ‘beside you’ Opening Reception at Thinkspace Gallery, in Culver City.
When I entered the Thinkspace Gallery that night with my trusty companion, Rory, Jolene Lai was surrounded by friends and admirers. The main room of the gallery was full of her paintings, masterfully done in acrylic and oil paint. On the left, Lai had installed a giant teacup, with tentacles bursting out, surrounded by thousands of buttons. The tentacles are handmade fabric, and the teacup was made of paper mache.
‘Beside you’ is Jolene’s first major solo show in the U.S. Her paintings have a pale, bright lighting that reminds you of dream sequences in movies. Most of the figures have a faint, peachy cheek rouge that is reminiscent of mimes, harlequins, and clowns. The setting of this exhibition seems to be within a western house, perhaps a country mansion or a British townhouse interior. She also hides her social media signature “enelojial” in each painting: in the writing of coin, the title of a book, the brand on a television, or on the inside of a lamp. Her paintings are magically surreal, and display an exquisite taste for aesthetic and detail.
I didn’t get to actually speak with Jolene Lai, because I was a little too shy to interrupt any conversation she was having with her friends or other visitors. Perhaps if I were some dude I wouldn’t mind interrupting, but since I’m the awkward artist type who doesn’t like being rude, I’ll have to catch her next time. 🙂 By talking to others, I heard she was really sweet.
Metamorphosis (2016) was Rory’s favorite painting. The moths that flutter out of the heart in her throat call to mind the tickle in your throat when you are nervous. The placement of the hole connects it a bit to where you feel your heartbeat in your neck.
Toss and Turn (2016) was my favorite. The hearts on the tentacles was just too much cuteness to bear. I am very fond of ships and octopuses, so this lovingly crafted vessel spoke volumes to me. The color palette holds lovely greens, and the play of light from the shutters across the blankets was brilliant.
Follow Jolene on Instagram: @enelojial
An interview of Jolene for this exhibition can be found Here 🙂
Anthony Clarkson, ‘Wandering Thoughts’ Opening Reception in Thinkspace Gallery, Culver City
Moving through the gallery to the second room, I found Anthony Clarkson lurking about his paintings, and being sociable with everyone that came up. I went up to him and asked if he was the artist. He was very sweet, and didn’t seem to mind chatting with me. A rough transcript of our conversation, which is by memory so it’s a bit flawed:
“So, how many fairy tales are in this painting? I counted five, but I’m not sure!” I said, pointing to the painting called …And the Story Ends. He grinned at me.
“I don’t quite remember, myself, let’s count again.” Anthony said, walking over. “I think there might be six, with the Thumbelina leaves down here.”
Rory and I exclaimed that we missed that particular tale. Rory, one of the most thoughtful comrades, somehow faded away as I kept talking to Sir Clarkson.
“So, do you like doing art openings like this?” I asked him, noticing how he seemed like a raven in human form, a little bit perched above the other patrons on the stair of the back room.
“I’m not incredibly sociable,” he told me, confidentially. I flapped a hand at him, indicating that I wasn’t the most sociable, either.
“Which painting is your favorite? I love fairy tales, so I think that one is my favorite,” I told him, pointing to the above painting again. Anthony pointed to the painting across from us. A lovely woman with six arms (two pink, two blue), a snake about her head, an apple in two white hands, and her insides showing faced away from us inside of a “Cabinet of Curiosities” sort of background. I remarked, “I think that one is the creepiest one. Maybe it’s the pink and blue?”
Anthony laughed. “Yes, I was thinking of medical diagrams and skeletons when I painted it.”
“Yes,” I said, “It’s like the blue for veins and the pink for oxygen or something like that. So, is this…” I began, gesturing around the room, “the kind of things you’re into? Fairy tales, steampunk, Greek tragedy, medical stuff?”
“Well, this was the first show that I’ve done where there wasn’t an overall unifying theme. Hence the title, ‘Wandering Thoughts’. I’ve done shows in the past where they were all the same theme, but this time I wanted to have a bit of fun with it,” said Anthony.
“And all of them are on wooden panels?” I asked.
Anthony nodded, and said, “Yes, I never really paint on canvas. These are just wooden panels that go out pretty far, and the ones over there are a bit thinner.”
“And do you use a roller to gesso them?” I asked. He nodded again.
“Clear or white?”
“Just regular white, and I sand it down after to make it smooth.”
“I feel like a lot of surrealist artists paint very smoothly. It makes it more…” I waved my hands about, searching for the right term. “Cloudy? I guess.”
Anthony smiled. “Yes, it seems to be a lot about the visual rather than physical, gritty textures.”
“Well, I’ll let you get back to your admirers. May I give you my card?” I asked him.
“Oh sure,” said Anthony, maybe a little surprised. I handed him one of my little artist business cards.
“Maybe we can talk some more another time. It looks like we have some common interests. We don’t even have to talk in person again, if you don’t like!” I said, poking fun. He laughed and I waved.
It was genuinely nice to meet him. I love meeting other creative people, and he’s so accomplished.
Rory’s favorite of Anthony Clarkson’s paintings was the Theater of Tragedy (2017). This piece is so chuck full of references, I don’t think I have the ability to name them all. Some interesting points:
The Greek Pan was blindfolded, god of nature, fields, and etc. Perhaps a reference to the dismal state of our environment? He’s also been dressed up, so maybe it’s another nudge towards wild creatures being pushed along by civilization?
A dog with a top hat walking his human pet. Accurate for anyone who owns a pet.
The cherub children on the pillars both look upset, even though one would expect the devilish kid to show a bit of cheeriness towards the chaos.
Tear into the Sky (2017) was just delightfully creepy. Skirt cages and birds go well, and the whole thing has a circus-carnival feel. I felt like this panting really brought home the surreal, creepy feeling of Clarkson’s art style.
An overview of Anthony Clarkson and this exhibition can be found Here 🙂
Thinkspace Gallery is a classy joint, and most of my favorite artists have shown there. I anxiously await their next opening.
I’d also like to thank the co-owner’s charming girlfriend, who ran the open bar at the event, for being so kind to me. And to the co-owner of the gallery, himself, who was kind enough to talk to an emerging artist like myself. 🙂
The official website for Thinkspace Gallery: Here 🙂
The offical blog of Thinkspace, Sour Harvest: Here 🙂
Trump winning this election has been devastating to myself, to my friends, my family, and so many others whose intersectionality makes this step back in civil rights ever more potent.
We cannot give in to despair, and normalize the violence and injustice that has occurred in the 2016 election.
I must confess that I, as a queer woman, felt utter terror after Trump was elected. I kept my protest to social media and art, afraid of the violence that might occur if I joined the protest. I think I have my fear under control now. I feel like I can face the world and stand up to defend others at this juncture. I only hope that my efforts as a small individual will help someone.
My pain can only be a fraction the pain felt by people of color, families of immigrants, the Muslim community, Mexican Americans & everyone else that has been singled out by Trump’s hate-filled campaign.
I am white, so a demographic I am a part of made this happened. I am ashamed, in place of people who should be. I am so sorry; I promise to help fight back against this intolerance with all my heart. I am fortunate to be in California, where more people chose to vote for civil rights. Still, if people hate me on sight for being a white woman, I don’t blame them. I will use my insignificant life to help change this world to one of equality.
There are many who saw this coming. I knew this race would be a close one as soon as Trump was elected as the Republican candidate. I was devastated anyway, because I had such high hopes for a female president at last.
I will not give up. We must have strength in our despair to continue to fight the daily battle for equality.
Until everyone is up, we are all down.
Here is a link to a list of organizations that need our help more than ever: Help Others
Donate now, donate at Christmas, donate every month if you can. Volunteer your time. We have a long four years of continually defending civil rights ahead of us.
I miss you already, Mr. Obama. You’re definitely the classiest president we’ve ever had. Thank you for your fight for women’s reproductive rights, for police cameras, for forgiving student loan debt, for passing federal perfection for the Trans* community, for LGBT+ rights, for dragging our country out of recession, and so much more. Thank you for the protections you are putting in place for the future presidency. I appreciate and look up to you so much. You are the hope for my generation. Thank you.
Ghostbusters Portrait of Holtzmann on scratch off paper.
The Ghostbusters (2016) movie was a lot more fun than the original. I loved the trope reversals and the quirkiness of all the characters. I felt like Kate McKinnon was the star of the show, and Leslie Jones had some of the best one-liners. I like Melissa McCarthy & Kristen Wiig as well, but I felt like Kristen fell into a similar personality to her roles in previous films.
But anyway, I did the portrait on rainbow scratch off paper because I thought the material would suit the character. It’s silly but delightful.
Definitely in love with Kate McKinnon, in that special way we live all of our favorite characters.
Here’s a little YouTube snippet of Holtzmann : Here 🙂
I believe that no matter how you feel about yourself, it is essential to do a self-portrait every once in a while. It helps to see yourself at a different angle, to try to understand who you really are.
This time, I drew myself in a mask. Another day, I might have done a mirror portrait of exactly how I look at this moment. But, not today. Today, I was feeling mysterious. Some of my charm is definitely in my love of the dramatic. My whole family is full of drama queens, and I am no exception.
I love cypress trees. This watercolor painting is based off of one of the photos I took at the Point Lobos Natural Reserve in Carmel, CA. We went hiking there last week. Cypress Trail is one of their most popular (and beautiful) trails there. We had to stay entirely on each trail, since it is an actual wildlife preserve and not a park. However, there was an insane amount of poison oak, so I think we saved ourselves some misery by being law-abiding citizens.
Here is a link to Point Lobos, in case you wanted to visit.
Cypresses are well loved, notably Vincent van Gogh. Shown below. 🙂