Los Angeles

Visual hors d'oeuvres.

I'm very grateful that it's taken until late November this year to see ice on the ground, but the time is here. As a result, I'm obviously in a constant state of Los Angeles-based daydream. As the KCRW Art Talk email came in today, I saw a short review of a great looking gallery show. So, preempting the eating festivities, here are a few shows in LA I wish I could see. Kirsten Everberg, Exhibition at 1301 PE

1. Kristen Everberg at 1301PE, a gallery I've had my eye on for a bit. It was great to get a reminder, especially from the venerable Edward Goldman. The artist was inspired by the house of Ingmar Bergman, and the paintings certainly have that ephemeral, slightly eerie quality I enjoyed in his 1966 film, Persona.

Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu, 2013

2. Njideka Akunyili Crosby at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, one of the few free museums in LA. Their programming is widespread and impressive, and this is a giant collage show examining African and American culture by an African ex-pat. I would love to see it...

All the press work is video - definitely worth checking out

3. OUTSIDE/IN by LeBasse Projects at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. When I lived in LA, LeBasse had a gallery space, but has moved on to do collaborative alternative art projects around the world. It's definitely worth keeping tabs on the projects, but they still have a big presence in LA, and this survey of Street Art in Pasadena is HUGE.

Max Beckmann, Dancing in Baden-Baden, 1920. No idea if it's in the show, but I like it.

4. I'll finish up with a traditional: New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933 at LACMA. I've recently been drawn to Max Beckmann, especially around the 20's, and this show includes a lot of lesser-known artists around the same time, which is a fascinating era of history no matter who is making art about it. Also, revisiting pre-WWII cultural perspectives might be particularly relevant, given the world's current political situation.

Trying to keep it light so I'll lay off, but stay safe and loving this season, and if you must go out on Friday, stay local and don't trample anyone.

Perspectives from a tabletop.

As I've had limited modeling work lately there hasn't been much variety in what I've been doing. At Loyola Marymount University's art studio there is a large rolling table in the middle of the room with a black pad set on top of it. This is where I have been doing all my modeling, and only one of the classes have included any sort of prop. For a couple months all my modeling has consisted of me on a table trying to think of interesting poses, wondering if I'm repeating the same one over and over.

This sort of work is challenging. I'm forced to be creative with subtle curves of the body to make the pose interesting, rather than depending on dynamic curves. Instead of hanging a leg over the end of a couch I have to discover the angle at which my hips will cause my one shoulder to rise a couple inches. However I appreciate the time learning how to form shapes with just my body.

I have decided I prefer to model with props, a single chair. I get to take on more interesting poses, and if I have something to prop me up (get it?), I can hold them for longer. A lot of what goes into a good pose is having some angle change. Often this can be the natural curve of the body, but the arc of an angled limb is a more exciting way to create interesting shapes in the pose. Without a chair, there is a trade off between standing and sitting. It's hard to make angles with your legs if you have to stand on them for ten minutes, or if you're sitting on them. There are things you can do to avoid this but having a chair to hang your legs off of makes it ten times easier, and the pose can be held longer.

This pose had three different levels to rest limbs on, giving a great variety of angle changes in the pose. Watercolor by Kim Grant

Modeling with props also creates an opportunity for artists to explore the body interacting with objects. One of the classes I worked for at LMU was about how fabric hung or wrinkled on the body. That was one of the more entertaining classes I worked, pretending to text and drink coffee so the students could experiment with the body in a more casual setting. I think my preference for modeling with props stems from my enjoyment of work that shows the model in a situation.

These situations don't need to be "casual poses" with little props like cell phones and cups of coffee. I think the main attraction of using props is the aspect of inspiration. As when I model on the rocks and they direct me where to lie, any kind of prop can give an idea for a pose. Thinking of this emphasizes the idea that models need inspiration as well as artists. The aspect of the "muse," has always fascinated me, and working as a model has not deterred that interest. The most exciting modeling sessions I have are when I am inspired by the artist, not just the furniture around me. I suspect the spark of a "muse" relationship could lie in the moment when an artist and a model begin to inspire each other.

LACMA Wanderings: Part 2

As many probably already know, I have temporarily abandoned the Los Angeles area to work for a youth sports photography company for their shoot season. I have modeling commitments in the area, so I will be in southern CA periodically, but it still seemed fitting to visit LACMA one last time before moving up the coast. This time I forced myself to stay away from the European art, and instead went through the ancient Pacific and the Art of the Americas sections.

I was seriously just uncomfortable the whole time. Picture courtesy of LACMA website.

This self induced Picasso-fast drove home the huge influence of Central and South America on the Southern California cultural scene. Of the two, two and a half floors devoted to the art of the Americas, an entire floor is devoted to art from those regions, some contemporary and some less so. Seeing news wings of the museum called my attention to the variety in presentation present in each building. The ancient Pacific section was completely barren, with cards explaining the different objects tucked in the corner and no writing at all on the bright white display stands. In contrast, the ancient art from Central America was contained to two rooms in the middle of the section for the Americas, with brightly colored curtains around the ceiling, wall displays surrounded by an interesting shade of puce and lumpy wooden display structures scattered in the middle of the room. Hopefully it isn't too hard to determine which decorating pattern I preferred. The womb-like indigenous art galleries were unsettling and distracting, especially in contrast to the simple white walls of the surrounding galleries.

Maya Vase with Snake-Lady, artist and year unknown. Photo courtesy of Justin Kerr's Maya Vase Database.
People will probably be pretty confused about this in a few thousand years. Google Images

Luckily I found the Mayan art in a clean, white-walled space, information on each piece concisely printed next to the artifacts themselves. Near the end of the gallery I found a piece depicting a female figure, reclining with a huge snake, surrounded by other figures clearly less powerful than her. I will put a disclaimer that I can't prove that this picture is actually the piece I saw. I could not find it on the LACMA website, and the database where I found this image attributes the piece so the Kimbell Art Museum. However, considering this is exactly what I was looking at, the photo was uploaded in 1998, and the vase was not found on the Kimbell's website, I don't find it inconceivable that the piece may have changed hands. Regardless, the descriptive text talked about a possible deity referred to as "snake lady," never found in Mayan texts, but heavily represented in the civilization's art. I love the idea of this mystery goddess, strong and relaxed as a snake twines around her. However, what really drew me to the piece was the idea that we have no idea what the story of this potential goddess is. If I had posed for the vase painting, I would know the myth she represented, her significance, where she derived her power. Fast forward a few thousand years and this woman I posed for a is a complete unknown, the only proof of her importance her prominence in the art of the time. Our imperfect knowledge of her shows the communicative power of art and the immense power of time, erasing the entire mythology of a clearly prominent figure.

Memorial Day at the Museum

Since I moved to Los Angeles I have contrived to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The biggest obstacle to this was the fact that I really wanted to not have to pay. It actually took me multiple months to have a day free when the museum was as well, but luckily a group of people from my apartment building visited during the "Target Free Holiday" on Memorial Day. While I am a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to visit a museum after moving to a new city I have now visited and have a membership with LACMA. I plan to go much more often in the future.

Levitated Mass, Michael Heizer 2012 Image Courtesy of the LACMA Website

I was not originally all that excited to visit LACMA because all I had heard about was the Stanley Kubrick exhibition. Anyone who knows about my taste in movies knows I have never seen a Kubrick, nor am I likely to. I didn't think LACMA held that much of interest for me. Clearly I should have done my homework. There's a Heizer (who I studied for my I.S.) right on the grounds. I had heard about it before, but it was Edward Goldman talking, so I wasn't really listening to the words. Anyway, I relished the opportunity to blather on about the displacement of natural objects while everyone I was with politely stood around and thought "Yeah, right Nora. It's still just a rock." Beyond this, the permanent collection, which I would have known if I'd looked, is delightful. Having lived in Picasso's adolescent stomping ground, and having an interest in writing about the muse-artist relationship, I have developed what could be an unhealthy obsession with the Spanish artist.

Head of a Woman, Pablo Picasso, 1909 (Cast in 1960) Image Courtesy of the LACMA Website

The collection of his work at LACMA is delightful. There were a few works showing off his impeccable technical skill, then many others that basically ran through his entire artistic development. The Rose and Blue period works were few and far between; really impressive was the complete collection of his woman head sculptures. They start fairly realistically then morph into what could be considered a three-dimensional form of cubism. I had learned about them in Modern Art class, and seeing them on display brought me right back to that classroom, with the wind making the building clank over Professor Siewert's low voice.

One thing I couldn't keep my mind off of while wandering around the Modern wing and into the sculpture garden full of Rodin's more religious works was how much I wish I had modeled for any of these artists. It is a sort of Midnight in Paris-y romanticized view of it (would I really want to be a woman in the turn of the century that needed to model nude to make money?), but the art world at the time was so dynamic, so influential that I can't help but wish I had been part of it.

This was a new feeling for me; visiting a museum as a model. Galleries show spectacular art I also dream about being involved in, but the history of museums makes that feeling even more potent. On this note, I am going to commit myself to an extra monthly post in which I go to LACMA, find a work that I wish I had modeled for, then write about it. I hope they end up being interesting!

LBMA Art Auction XV

While I always intended to get down to Long Beach to see Kate's Daydream in the flesh, I was lucky enough that she had an extra ticket to see it auctioned off on Sunday. I drove down with a friend of Kate's who lives in Hollywood. After a fun stint with LA traffic and a run in with Long Beach's LGBT population we managed to find the event. The museum was beautiful, a simple, tasteful sort of building in the midst of the corporate sprawl making up the rest of the city. The courtyard/patio looked out onto the ocean; if we'd thought of it we could have watched the sun set onto the Pacific. We didn't; the delicious food, drinks and multiple rooms of art distracted us. It was wonderful to see Kate and meet a few artists I'd been hearing about for months. As a model I love being around "art world" people, simply because they don't care that I am a model. At first my bloated vanity was a little put off by it, but after the 50th someone asks you in an undertone "So...do you mind if I ask...like, are you...like naked?" a non-reaction is a blessing. The event was great artistically as well. The sheer amount of art up for auction meant that there was a huge variety in style, medium and age of the artists, which lent a great mix of classicism and inventiveness. While I saw many works I could write about, delightful still lives that oozed Dutch Baroque and ceramic copies of antique beer cans, I decided to keep it to two works, both by artists heavily involved with the figure.

Arlene Diehl, Untitled 2008

The first was arguably my favorite piece in the show, completely in line with my taste in figure art. It was by Arlene Diehl, an artist working out of San Francisco. When I took drawing at UNH we had to do an exercise where we were only supposed to draw where the body overlapped itself, dramatic angle changes, and very dramatic shifts in value. It ended up producing some of the worst and best work I did in that class. Diehl's work has so much of that quality: the removal of everything but the most important elements of the figure, forcing the viewer to piece it together by well-placed immaculately rendered detail. Smudges on the finished piece open a window to the creative process, one of my favorite elements of charcoal.

He also used wax crayon in this work while I'm a bit bored of a lot of encaustic work lately, the crayon adds a great texture variation Shay Bredimus, Indelible, Study 2010

The second piece is Indelible by Shay Bredimus, a Long Beach resident who is signed to Koplin Del Rio Gallery, where I modeled in Culver City. I had seen some of his work at the Wunderkammer exhibit; he works with tattoo ink on drafting film. I wont go into detail about what I've seen of his other work, because I will probably want to make that a post in itself, but this work was one of the more eye-catching in the show. What I love about this piece is the messy drama, but with layers of really careful rendering underneath. The blocky background, the drips of ink all imply a carelessness offset by the perfectly placed highlights on the expertly sculpted face and neck of the woman. I can't imagine the "Guernica-y" feel to the work is accidental, and the title is such a delightful mess of meanings (it's done in tattoo ink!!) that the art historian in me enjoys imagining it a reference to the power of Picasso's masterpiece. The more I look at Indelible the more it piques my interest, and I can guarantee this will not be the last time I write about Bredimus' work.

Writing about this work, rather than writing about Kate's, is an interesting experience. I'm once again restricted to imagining what the artist might have been thinking, staring at a photo for five minutes before finding an element that inspires me. In these ways modeling has made it harder for me to write about art with which I'm not intimately involved. Would I have written about Bredimus' work if he hadn't shown it to me himself? Maybe, maybe not. It definitely deserves it. In other ways modeling has made it easier for me to find meaning in figure art that does not revolve around feminism. Not that feminist themes aren't present in most figure work, but it's a bit of a soft sell. Modeling has given me the insight into figure that allows me to analyze and interpret it on the same level as I can any other work, something I struggled with before. Now I just need to keep my need for personal attachment at bay.