Thea Saks is an artist based in Los Angeles. Her company, The Mighty Squirm (www.themightysquirm.com), specializes in apparel and art prints with designs inspired by folklore and historical periods of interest, especially the 19th century. Thea's work has appeared in local galleries including Cella Gallery, Cannibal Flower, and La Luz de Jesus, as well as Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco and District VII in Detroit. The Mighty Squirm has participated in markets for highly original merchandise such as Unique LA, Bats Day Black Market, Bazaar Bizarre, Comikaze Los Angeles, and Son of Monsterpalooza.
Never a Dull Moment
Michael Christy, "Nature Scene 36 (The Ways of Nature)," acrylic on canvas, at the "Never a Dull Moment" Cannibal Flower show at Cella Gallery.
Cannibal Flower Art Gallery and Performance Space, now in its 13th year of assembling large shows with a combination of local artists, musicians, and performers, also curates smaller group shows; and now through May 10, Cella Gallery in North Hollywood is hosting their latest curated presentation, “Never a Dull Moment,” with 21 artists. When I asked Cannibal Flower curator L. Croskey what the featured artists have in common, he said they were “people to keep an eye on.” It would indeed be hard to categorize all the art in this show any other way, except to say that they are mostly paintings, accompanied by a delightful installation of 1,000 tiny paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. The opening night was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd and many of the artists were available to chat with.
John Park, "On the Brink," mixed media on wood panel, at the "Never a Dull Moment"
Go to this show with a completely open mind and prepare to have a lot of fun looking at the variety of visual ideas. At the same time, prepare also to be impressed by how skillfully all these artists execute their work. Even though the ideas are “anything goes,” and even though people have different ideas about quality in art, I don’t think anyone could argue against the beauty of the figure painting, the compositions, and the use of color in the pieces in this show.
t" Cannibal Flower show at Cella Gallery.
Daniel and I asked ourselves, “What’s become of C.I.A.? Is it still there?” We hadn’t been to C.I.A. (California Institute of Abnormalarts) in quite a few years and remembered our former haunt with fondness. So we looked online…sure enough, they have a very comprehensive Web site (http://www.ciabnormalarts.com) with videos, photos, events listings, and other current information, making it obvious that the venue is still very much alive and well. We decided to drop in after the Cannibal Flower-Cella show, and when we did, we were lucky enough to meet and talk with Carl Crew, “The Barnum of Burbank Blvd.—a filmmaker, a former mortician, and one of the founders of C.I.A. 18 years ago.
A man in a straightjacket and chains is put into a sack and has to escape from all his restraints, on the stage at C.I.A.
“Don’t be scared…” said Carl in a creepy voice when we bought our tickets. He set off a startling alarm noise when he stamped our hands for entry. “We have a dead clown,” he continued. And he came out of the ticket booth and showed it to us. He said the corpse dated back to 1912, and its acquisition took eight months even with the help of a determined lawyer. Next to the dead clown were the remains of a dead fairy. Among the other attractions he described to us were an octopus girl, a “pig-wa” (a pig-chihuahua hybrid), and the enshrined arm of French nobleman Claude de Lorraine (severed when he punched a stained-glass window over 100 years ago). The nobleman’s arm is supposed to be cursed if you photograph it, so don’t make the mistake I did while I was there. However, aside from the warnings about accursed objects, Carl welcomes photography.
The dead clown enshrined at C.I.A.
Whether the freakish dead and their body parts enshrined at C.I.A. are real or not, they look real enough to make me stop and study hard, and the displays are artfully dusty and aged. I personally think it’s more fun to believe they’re real. In violent contrast, some of the hallways and other areas are decorated in psychedelic fluorescent patterns, another kind of visual shock after the shadowy displays of death.
In addition to its eerie sideshow attractions, C.I.A. has a stage for musical and other live performances. While we were there on Saturday night we saw two ladies enthusiastically performing songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (as one partially undressed the other), followed by a magic act in which a straightjacketed and chained man escaped from his restraints while a little man dressed as a circus ringleader emceed. The C.I.A. Web site’s Hall of Fame offers a slideshow of some of their regular performers. (Sometime I’m going to have to go back and see Count Smokula live.) There’s even a “CIAbnormalarts Radio” button on the home page so that you can preview some of the bands coming to play at the venue.
I can’t post unlimited photos here, so I really hope you’ll visit the Web sites below and look at more pictures! Or better yet, go and see everything live. You won’t be disappointed.
“Never a Dull Moment” is running through May 10 at Cella Gallery, 11135 Weddington Street, #112, North Hollywood. For more info, visit http://cellagallery.com/Cella_Gallery/Current.html. C.I.A. is ongoing at 11334 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. For hours and info, visit http://ciabnormalarts.com.
It would be a big job indeed to pay any kind of comprehensive tribute to the enormous number of cartoon television series produced by Hanna-Barbera (the count I got was well over 100 after reading lists from various sources).
My husband, Daniel, and I are doing a show together in October. It will be our first gallery show that’s “just us.” We have a theme, which I will reveal eventually but not yet, and the pieces will all have to be new ones that work together to tell the story we want to tell. We also have to help the gallery generate “buzz” about the show and ensure a good turnout at the opening.
March is Women's History in the USA honoring the women trailblazers of American History. In writing this article, I choose to first pay homage to all mothers because creating and nurturing lives is so very important.
“I Believe in Unicorns Too” is a fairly large group show with plenty of unicorns and other storybook-like fantasy themes chosen by the artists.
An increasing number of galleries are showcasing tattoo art and graffiti art. In this show at Cella Gallery, Timothy Garrett and Samir Evol bring tattoo art, photography, and wall-size spray paint art together to give a wink to the tradition of retro pinup art. My husband and I are big fans of the art of Alberto Vargas, Gil Elvgren, and George Petty and photography featuring models like Bettie Page. This show gives street cred to that tradition.
“Conjoined III” was probably the most mobbed art opening I’ve ever attended. There were two steady flows of spectator traffic: one moving past the gallery walls, and one closer to the center of the room heading out. The two lanes of traffic were so close that they were always touching each other slightly, with a constant murmur of “excuse me” and “sorry” in the air. And outdoors a food truck was doing brisk business with the sea of people that had collected for chatting (since it was too crowded to talk inside).
An Apt Name for a Solid Pop-Surrealist Tradition: “Creepy Cute” at WWA Gallery
Dee Chavez, “Buttercup Farm,” acrylic on wood.
My first pop-surrealist “creepy cute” experience occurred when I moved to LA in 2000 and first saw Mark Ryden’s portrait of Christina Ricci in a poster shop. Like everyone else on the planet, I immediately fell in love with the oversized head; the enormous, shimmering eyes; the soft edges in the painting; and with all of that the implication of darkness underneath, since Ricci is so well known for playing dark or off-beat characters. (I fell especially hard for Ryden because he was really my introduction to pop surrealism.
Larkin, “Saint Gus and Pilot,” acrylic on panel with crochet frame.
When I lived in New York I mainly kept my nose in underground comics and didn’t look up long enough to notice posters or gallery walls.) Eager for more, I became acquainted with galleries like Cannibal Flower, Copro Nason, and La Luz de Jesus. There I was introduced to the disturbing circus-sideshow creatures of Liz McGrath, Anthony Ausgang’s stretched cartoon characters, Luke Chueh’s white bears with bloody eyes and extremities, Ron English’s bloated but jolly images of Ronald McDonald, and the work of many more artists who compellingly joined sinister and sweet in various ways: by combining the two characteristics in one twisted subject, making an angel and a devil appear to be in cahoots, making a dark figure a sore thumb in a cute setting, sullying a cute thing with disfigurement or evil, or implying darkness by showing that cuteness can be nauseatingly overdone or commercial.
Kelly Hutchison, “The Bone Shaker,” oil on canvas.
Since we all have our own feelings about what’s creepy and what’s cute, it’s a broad theme, and the seven artists featured in WWA Gallery’s current show all take approaches that are very different and give the show great variety. For example, Dee Chavez’s paintings are colorful fantasies in which live things appear bewildered in their unexpected settings (such as a whale that can’t successfully dive in peanut-butter cups, or hills with faces that look very sad—maybe because they’re stuck in one place). Meanwhile, Peter Adamyan brings in politics, making Papa Smurf into Karl Marx and Ronald Reagan into Gargamel, the smurf-eating villain. Even when there aren’t ironies or struggles in the works in this show, we see eeriness in very pink habitats for very darling animals and in the mingling of beings and objects that don’t look like they could coexist safely for very long.
Peter Adamyan, “A Smurfy Coldwar,” oil and acrylic on wood relief.
“Creepy Cute” is on view through Feb. 9 at WWA Gallery, 9517 Culver Blvd, Culver City 90232. For more details, visit wwagallery.com.