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Raleigh Barrett is a vegan Angeleno transplant who has lived in the NoHo Arts District for five years. She certainly won’t be leaving California in the next four years. Raleigh recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts specializing in Linguistic Anthropology. While in Chicago, she worked as the Gallery Assistant at the Renaissance Society. Raleigh is thrilled to be back and blogging for the NoHo Arts District.

Thursday, 06 June 2013 16:11

The NoHo Senior Arts Colony...

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The NoHo Senior Arts Colony: An Up-and-Coming Place for Experienced Artists and Performers to Share Their Skills

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Urban photography by Dan Meylor and Tyrone Polk at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony’s current exhibit.

When I went to the NoHo Senior Arts Colony last week to cover the current photography show, I wasn’t all that psyched to go. The show was open to photographers of all ages, and I expected a community free-for-all. I ended up not only admiring the dynamic photography and the professional way it was presented, but also getting interested in everything that’s happening at this place.

One series of photographs depicts a graffiti artist at work on a building—cooler than I expected for a show at a senior center (shame on me—but it’s the truth). It turns out that the photographer, Tyrone Polk, is himself a senior in residence at the colony. And the more I talked to Amanda Talbot, the program manager for the colony, and Maureen Kellen-Taylor, chief operating officer of EngAGE (more about EngAGE below), the better I understood that many of the residents are professionals of great reputation in the arts who are still hard at work in their fields of expertise and happen to be 62 or older (that’s a requisite for living at the colony). I didn’t know what to expect when I came to the colony; but if you come to this complex expecting to see retirees who take art classes just to fill up time when they aren’t playing bingo, you’re in for a surprise. What happens in this place is the work of dedicated, experienced artists and performers who share their talents and creative passions with one another and with visitors to the colony.

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Samantha Wendell with her portrait of Johnny Winter (one of many rock artists she has painted) at the colony’s first art exhibit, “Reimagining Life.”

The gallery space is in the main hallway of the ground floor. After we looked at the photography, Ms. Talbot showed me some rooms off the main hallway. I saw a spacious art studio, with easels and paints and an instructor’s notes about “the art of seeing” written on one wall. I saw a beautiful new theater that mainly houses productions of the Roads Theater Company but is open to use by theatrical residents of the colony when the house is dark; currently the company is showing “Cooperstown,” a play by Brian Golden. I got a peek at the professionally designed set of a 1950s Cooperstown coffee shop. The shows are open to the public, and a box office on the premises sells tickets. In another room there was a bulletin board with flyers advertising various arts and fitness programs, all of which are free of charge for the colony’s residents. I saw that poetry readings are held weekly for residents by Morgan Gibson, an award-winning poet who has published numerous books and taught his craft in the U.S. and abroad. One flyer advertised the “Diggerly Do’s,” a show open to the public, which looks like great fun; it’s a musical written and performed by Kent Minault, who takes his audience back to the Haight-Ashbury district in 1965 San Francisco to see an actual community-action task force at work. (Mr. Minault was a member of the task force himself.) The Diggerly Do’s provided free food and other amenities to those in the Haight who needed them, but also had some tense encounters with the local law. It’s a very hip theme for a musical, and one that would speak to audience members of any age. It’s also a reminder that today’s seniors have been contributors to many cutting-edge creative movements that today’s young people revere and wish they had been part of. (Annie Liebovitz, Peter Max, and members of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead are in the right age group to live at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony…although it sounds like the apartments are going fast, so they should apply soon if they want one.)

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Alice Asmar, who had a solo show at the colony this past spring, in front of one of her paintings with Samantha Wendell.

During my visit I was introduced to a gracious gentleman by the name of Clarence Johnston, who happened to be passing by. Mr. Johnston, as it happens, is a jazz drummer with a career that’s stretched many decades; he’s played with greats such as Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, and John Coltrane. Currently he conducts drum circles at the colony and at other locations all over LA. These sessions are popular and attract enthusiastic junior and senior community members alike who want to beat drums and dance to the infectious rhythm.

Back to the gallery space, which is what I originally set out to write about (except that all these other things going on at the colony were too cool not to discuss). In February the gallery hosted its first group exhibition of fine art, “Reimagining Life,” which included portrait painter Samantha Wendell, watercolorist Jodet Shuquem, painter and writer Charlene McDonald, and painter and illustrator Walter Hurlburt. The second show (held this past March 29-May 5) was a mini-retrospective of the work of Alice Asmar, winner of a Woolley Fellowship to study at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, who currently has work in hundreds of public and private collections worldwide, including the Smithsonian. Her work focuses on Southwestern and Native American themes. She currently has an 800-square-foot studio in Burbank.

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Jodet Shuquem with one of his paintings at “Reimagining Life.”

The plan is for the colony to host an art or photography show every six to eight weeks. A solo show of hand-colored photographs by Cynthia Friedlob, an artist who is also a writer, editor, and public radio host, is coming a few weeks from now. And here’s one great thing about a gallery run by a nonprofit organization: the artists who sell work shown in the gallery do so privately, communicating directly with their buyers, and get to keep all the money from the sales.

The classes and other programs at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony are organized by EngAGE, a nonprofit group that, according to the statement on their Web site, “takes a whole-person approach to creative and healthy aging by providing arts, wellness, lifelong learning, community building and intergenerational programs to thousands of seniors.” The group provides programs for 32 active aging apartment complexes in LA, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange Counties, with more to open soon. All of the complexes have arts programs and three of them are senior arts colonies. There is another EngAGE senior arts colony nearby in Burbank, and the residents of that one and the NoHo one often visit back and forth to get involved with the programs at each other’s buildings.

The colony was established in November 2012, so it’s just getting started. To keep an eye on what’s happening there, visit the colony’s Web site at
Gallery shows, theater performances, and some other programs are open to the public. To find out more about what EngAGE does, visit


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The Gallery999 Show at Bats Day, May 4, Anaheim

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 ( 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 C.I.A. is ongoing at 11334 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. For hours and info, visit


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).

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 16:57

Art >> My First Duo Show, Part I

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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.

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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.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 10:49

Art >> “Conjoined III” at Copro Gallery

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“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).

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:16

Art >> “Creepy Cute” at WWA Gallery

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An Apt Name for a Solid Pop-Surrealist Tradition: “Creepy Cute” at WWA Gallery

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Wednesday, 16 January 2013 12:45

Art >> Art Research Is Easier Than I Used to Think

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When I was in college and grad school, research was for papers, and papers had to be carefully defended. I had to read all or part of several books and/or articles for each paper and provide a bibliography.

Don’t products that are “handmade” or “made by artists” sound like people should pay more for them? But, too often, people don’t. In fact, a lot of the time the pricing bar for artists is set dangerously low…by artists. It’s one thing for an artist to make something lower-priced than an oil painting, so that more people can afford it. It’s another to sell it at a bargain price. Let me tell you about what I’ve been seeing lately.

Thursday, 06 December 2012 09:10

Art Blog >> The Craftsmanship of Fantasy

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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.

Thursday, 15 November 2012 10:57

Art >> The La Dubla Show at Cella Gallery

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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!

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