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by Caroline McElroy

I’ve never seen myself as an artist who paints one fabulous painting at a time to fill gallery walls, satisfy a waiting list of eager buyers, and someday make it into a modern-art museum. My work isn’t so highbrow, I say to myself; because I do a lot of drawing and less painting, and choose horror mixed with humor as my favorite subject, I fall somewhere in between the gallery painting and the greeting card.

Published in LA Art Shows

A Surreal Saturday Night in NoHo: Cannibal Flower at Cella Gallery, then C.I.A.

Never a Dull Moment

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Published in LA Art Shows

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.

Published in LA Art Shows

The Craftsmanship of Fantasy: Little Stars at Cella Gallery, Classic Monsters at Halloween Town, and Odditorium Detroit at District VII

After a haitus of a couple of weeks to prepare for two gallery shows, I’m very happy to be back here to write about those shows (which just opened in North Hollywood, CA, and Detroit, MI) and also about a third exciting show in Burbank that opened at the same time.

Published in LA Art Shows

I had a two-week bout of the flu and two trade shows that kept me from concentrating on this blog the way I normally do. I apologize for my haitus and for writing so late about this particular show, because I really think people should go see it while there’s still time!

Published in LA Art Shows

Tell us about your style of art.

Dersk One: The style of art I am most associated with is Graffiti Art. I do paint and produce art in other styles such as photography, cooking, sculpture, and poetry, but working in a graffiti style has been a passion of mine for over 20 years.

Published in LA Art Shows

Oscar Wilde said “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist not the sitter.” I may not have agreed with this when I first started creating, but now, almost 20 years after I first picked up a camera, I can see its truth looking back on my body of work and its evolution.

Published in LA Art Shows

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