Pacific Standard Time, first stop

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“Behind Closed Gates”, SUB photography coop, 2012

Lots is happening in our local art museums and galleries this fall as the city-wide Getty initiative known as Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA explores Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Many institutions are hosting a wide range of exhibits, and I’ve made it to a couple so far.

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“Lunar Typewriter”, Katz, 1978

The Getty Center has four separate shows on view, and the “Photography in Argentina, 1850-2010” is deep and fascinating. It is sub-divided into various genres and fills the lower level of the West Building. According to getty.edu,

“From its independence in 1810 until the economic crisis of 2001, Argentina was perceived as a modern country with a powerful economic system, a strong middle class, a large European-immigrant population, and an almost nonexistent indigenous culture. This perception differs greatly from the way that other Latin American countries have been viewed, and underlines the difference between Argentina’s colonial and postcolonial process and those of its neighbors. “

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“Evita” (detail), Santiago Porter, 2008

There is a strong social and political point of view to the majority of these works, and a whole room on their best-known celebrity, Eva Peron. I learned a lot about Argentina’s history and cultures from the detailed wall text.

Also at the Getty Center is a smaller exhibit called Making Art Concrete, featuring mainly 3-dimensional works. According to the website, this show…

“examines the formal strategies and material choices of avant-garde painters and sculptors associated with the Concrete art movement in Argentina and Brazil. These works of geometric abstraction, created between 1946 and 1962, are presented alongside information on the way artists pioneered new techniques and materials.”

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“Concretion 58”, Luiz Sacillotto, 1958

I liked the simplicity of some of these objects, as they appeal to my graphic design sense and were a relief from the somewhat heavy mood inspired by the photography show!

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Autumn nostalgia

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White-trunk Sycamores at the white marble Getty Center, in that lovely California light

Shorter days, chilly mornings, pumpkin patches – these trigger in me a certain nostalgic mood. Couldn’t sleep last night and spent 1:35 to 2:50 a.m. reflecting on what my views are on “God”…triggered by a question posed to me yesterday: “do you believe in God?” I grew up going to church every Sunday, youth group Sunday night, and sometimes weekly choir practice. But I always felt my father’s take on religion was truest: church is about fellowship with people who try to do good, not the afterlife or earthly rewards. We didn’t talk about God at home – just did our best to follow the Golden Rule, and said grace before dinner!

However, I have always said that I have an angel watching over me, because my life has been mostly free of pain, tragedy and loss. I had terrific parents who lived into their 90s, and siblings who have always been my first line of solidarity. Being the middle child had a magical quality to me, a “safety-sandwich” of having an older sister to smooth the way, and a younger brother who was always large for his age, and thus our “protector”. Both our parents were middle children – Mama of five, Daddy of nine – and they endeavored to treat we three evenly.

This autumn is just the second since Mama left the planet, but memories of her – and of Daddy – make this annual transition to winter fill me with nostalgia for the carefree times of childhood. Maybe we adults should go leap in a pile of crunchy leaves!

 

East Wing, NGA

Back to my Artventure journal entries from August on the Right Coast! Today’s pages are from a morning at the recently renovated East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I grew up in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. and have always considered the Smithsonian and NGA to be my hometown museums. I love visiting them whenever I can find time on a trip to see my family and friends.

Since my flight back to L.A.wasn’t until afternoon, Pat and I took Metro into town and spent the morning exploring the new East Wing’s well-curated galleries. I saw so many favorite artists and works that are familiar, as well as some new discoveries…

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I enjoy the handmade nature of this journal – a balance to the digital creativity of my blog!

Female-driven films

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(images from IMDB)

We’ve watched three recent movies in the last week (at home) that each revolved around a strong female lead character. All the films had merit, but I wasn’t blown away by the one I expected to like the most, based on reviews from both critics and friends. And the one that disappointed at the box office was my favorite. The third was what I expected, and I liked it because of previous associations.

Wonder Woman” was visually spectacular, had a good message about powerful females bringing love and caring to the world, but for me was dragged down by the standard superhero formula (violence, explosions) and necessity to connect it to the comic book franchise. I was disappointed because I really don’t like superhero movies, so mine is a prejudiced review. (My husband didn’t care for it either, but that’s because he’s prejudiced against female superheroes).

The movie that I liked because of all the connections it presents was the live action Emma Watson “Beauty and the Beast” film. I enjoyed the 90s animated version, and as the mother of daughters who were the right age when it came out, I approved of the focus on Belle as a bookworm and independent woman. I also did research into various retellings of this fairy tale for a lesson when I was an art docent for our girls’ elementary school. There are many terrific illustrations for different fairy tale books about Beauty, and the new movie is sumptuous and gorgeous like those fantastic illustrations! It worked for me, but may not have been as enjoyable without the background I brought to it. (My husband fell asleep).

Here’s the surprise: my favorite of the three was “Ghost in the Shell“, a sci-fi thriller starring Scarlet Johannson that was panned by many critics because it “white washed” the lead (Johannson is by no stretch Asian) and changed a key part of the story from the source material, a Japanese manga and animated film. I had read a bit about the controversy when it came out, but was unfamiliar with the story line. I found the film to be involving, from the fantastic CGI environments and special effects, to the gradual reveal of the back story of the lead character, “Major”. It worked for me as an exciting diversion precisely because I didn’t expect much from it. (Ditto from husband)

All of these were big budget pictures about female characters, but I prefer independent smaller films just because they focus more on storytelling than on effects – and often have strong female leads. Still a favorite of mine from last year is “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” – the females have supporting roles and are rather caricatured but fun – look for it and let me know what you think!!

 

Summer Artventures!

While on the Right Coast in August, I was able to feed my passion for art museums big time! After our nature week in the Smoky Mountains, we did a loop through Chadds Ford, PA, then to Philly, PA, and back to D.C. I make journal entries for every “artventure”, and here are scans of pages from these recent treks. My co-conspirators who shared some or all of these art-outings include my sister Cathy, my friend from high school and college roommate Martie, and my long time best bud from last year of college Pat. All are also art lovers and creatives who are always happy to indulge me when I visit. If you can’t read my handwriting, comment and I will clarify 🙂

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I’ll save the other pages for next entry…

Boulder World

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Appropriately named “Jumbo Rocks” picnic area, this snapshot from our day-trip to Joshua Tree National Park last week hints at the strange beauty of desert vistas here in So Cal territory. Dry but not sterile, Joshua Tree is a huge protected area that attracts rock climbers (natch), hikers and campers, as well as busloads of tourists come to marvel at  the natural wonders. We lucked out with gorgeous sunshine and mild temps, and it wasn’t too crowded even on a school holiday. Crazy hot in summer, the peak season runs autumn to spring.

20170921_141618The park is named for the weird “trees” (actually yucca) that are native to this area and are pretty spooky looking on a dark night. Named by the Mormons because their branches looked like arms raised in prayer, Joshua trees “have an extensive root system reaching up to 36 ft deep” into the sandy soil. “If it survives the rigors of the desert, it can live for hundreds of years; some specimens survive a thousand years. The tallest trees reach about 49 ft.” (stats courtesy of Wikepedia)

Our best camping trip to Joshua Tree was a spring when the wildflowers were in full bloom. The cacti blossom in saturated colors, and the ground cover explodes after even minimal rainstorms. The Joshua trees have large bunches of white blossoms, and butterflies abound in temporary nectar heaven.

That same trip I too closely encountered a “jumping cholla” cactus. I was crouching to better frame my photo composition, and backed into the deadly spines! Luckily I was wearing jeans and the heavy denim saved me from a worse fate – only a few painful needle pricks to my best padded anatomical feature.

Time to get our camping gear in order – we may do an overnight up to Angeles National Forest soon. Having beaches, mountains and deserts so close is one of the best parts of living in LA. That and all the art museums!!

Journals to Remember

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Two pages from my August 2017 nature journal – watercolors & haiku

When we go to the mountains, my sister and I always do journals of some kind. They often feature our illustrations of nature encountered, along with photos and poems that help us remember the special time spent with family and friends. I especially like to write haiku, the ancient form of Japanese 17-syllable verse that traditionally evokes images of the natural world. They are fun to compose and great little snapshots of memory.

In fact, this watercolor I did from a photograph I took of sunflowers is all the memory I have now of the beautiful scene in Bryson City. My phone camera was saving images to an extra SD card – which got corrupted!! Sometimes modern technology is no match for the act of drawing and painting in order to preserve experiences…