Steve Seleska: Environmental Artist

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With a rich and beautiful show at Ark Gallery through June 30th, Steve Seleska offers a window into time and space. There is no “final frontier” here, but rather a doorway into multiple frontiers, into worlds within worlds. The self-taught artist’s first solo show, Uncharted Territory,  presents environments and fantasy landscapes, evocative work that is not only visually fascinating, but morally insightful. Seleska is encouraging viewers to look at changes in the world today on what he terms a molecular level; big events that affect human existence taken on an intimate scale.

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This body of work has a political passion, one that speaks to the national climate that has led to March for Science rallies, and nationwide cries for real facts and analysis versus propaganda. The fragility of our world and its eco-systems is the subject of Seleska’s artistic territory here, which presents the wonders of nature, the cosmos, the layering of the scientific with the phantasmagorical, the web of life.

SeleskaSeleska says “My work focuses on environments. My Micro-Environment series focuses on human observation of microscopic environments, perhaps viewed through a microscope,” he explains.

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Landescapism #4 above. “With the Landescapism series, the human becomes microscopic, observing a dystopian environment.” The viewer is deep inside the world here, beneath the shell of life as we know it.

The artist says that Unchartered Territory is representative of his current body of work, both in its intensity and its political bent. “My influences are environmental disasters. Oil spills and forest fires provided many visual references,” he relates.

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His Micro Environment #9 evokes motion, living creatures, caught and suspended, encapsulated. Micro Environment #111 appears like glossy liquid, water, oil, mutable substances.

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Deeply dimensional, like lace spun by spiders or filaments strewn by another species, Seleska’s work at Ark literally and figuratively makes viewers want to dive inside his world. Both graceful and intense, these fantastically textural works appear ready to come alive, swirl a new universe straight off the gallery walls.

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In terms of his thick and dreamy medium, Seleska notes “Layering acrylic and resin allows me to create a three-dimensional effect that invites the viewer into the painting.”

Although Seleska owns Resin Floor Studios, a company that creates art-like unique flooring, Seleska likes to keep his business and his art work separate. “The only real connection is that I use epoxy resin in both.”

The medium is at least in part the message in Seleska’s artwork, as he explores human events and consciousness. “Multiple layers of epoxy resin give rise to an intricate dimensionality. Reactions between oil, acrylic, resin and other chemical compounds hold evidence of interconnectedness and reflect transformation.”

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Seleska says his intention is to have the viewer “consider their relationship to our mysterious, precarious existence. My subject matter combines the representational and abstract. Together these elements create a transcendent aesthetic — an environment that is there and simultaneously not there.”

While it is still “there,” catch the last days of Seleska’s Ark exhibition this week, and see Seleska again with an exhibit at Launch LA in September 2017.

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern – Famous for Food and Fun

 

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Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern now has an outpost with an ocean view in Santa Monica.

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The atmosphere is warm and friendly; its essentially gastropub elevated to a lively level. It’s a great place to stop in just for a drink, and that’s certainly where we started.

We had a Pomegranate Mimosa, fresh and refreshing.

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And of course we had their signature Famous Mary, which is almost a meal in itself. It’s made with Absolut Peppar, blue cheese, olive, pepperoncini, jack cheese. You can get the  “real meal” version with egg, shrimp, and bacon, too.

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To go with these drinks we had the addictive dueling Southern Dips, two delicious flavors served with homemade corn tortilla chips. The zingy pimento cheese and savory roasted corn with poblano guacamole are both intensely flavorful.

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We also had the Spicy Ahi Poke with avocado, papaya and deliciously spicy Serrano chilies, all on crispy wontons. The appetizers are terrific and could serve as a meal in themselves.

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But who could resist the Maine Lobster and Shrimp Club Sandwich served on a buttery brioche. A large quantity of extremely fresh lobster and shrimp were perfectly blended with house mayo, avocado, and topped with bacon and lettuce.

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Jimmy’s signature dishes however are arguably their burgers. And there are plenty to choose from, too. Their Famous Cheeseburger offers American cheese and 1,000 Island dressing with their hearty New York chopped sirloin. The beef is naturally raised, and their buns are sesame-seeded Parker House. Other burger options include spicy burgers – one with jalapeno jam, double veggie burgers, and even a cowboy burger replete with onion fritters.

Just in case you’re not full yet — here comes dessert. We went on the comparatively light side with the none-the-less seductively rich dark chocolate Pot de Creme which comes with a wickedly indulgent Grand Marnier cream.

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On the supremely decadent side you could go with the Bananageddon made with fresh bananas, pastry cream, pecan blondie crumbles, butter pecan ice cream, salty caramel sauce, candied pecans, white chocolate, and whipped cream. Don’t count the calories, and it is pure enjoyment. Or you could have a drink for dessert, such as their generously proportioned Irish Coffee.  Their full bar offers plenty of tasty options.

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All in all,  Jimmy’s is a super comfortable place to hang out, portions are large and drinks are delightfully strong.

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It’s reputation lives up to it’s name, quintessentially American and famously delicious.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis

Bryan Ida: The Language of Color

Bryan Ida works in layers. Layers of color, line, and meaning are all equally discernable in his new exhibition at George Billis Gallery, Echo and Line, running May 20th to July 2nd.

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Ida’s images create external shapes and a haunting, richly symbolic language. The Los Angeles-based artist’s background in electronic musical composition is reflected here, with paintings that evoke the visual frequencies on recording-studio monitors. There is a musical flow to the works, which the artist has said are meant to reveal the passage of time and the importance of memory.

In each of Ida’s works, the careful, adroit use of color and his perfect abstract shapes form a harmonious visual music. There is a sense of containment and a vibrant sense of aliveness in each of his images, as if beneath the surface the colors and lines could break free or transform. Ida is working with ideas of connectivity, of perfection and imperfection, of the complexity of life itself. One of the most interesting things about these paintings is how geometrically perfect they are, and yet there is the sense that each image was caught in a single moment of perfection, one which could shift into another form in a heart-beat or a breath.

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Working in acrylic and mixed media, Ida has created work that is subtle yet intense, images of renewal and change so precisely defined that there is a sense of both isolation and splendor. If these are evocations of memory and language as the artist suggests, then who is to say what secrets and inchoate longing are kept here; what we contemplate and what we can express.

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Examining the rich blues and greens of “Unseen and Unimaginable,” viewers are studying the thin, perfect lines of a strange bird, its skeletal wings and body spinning outward through a wheeling universe dotted with stars, planets, or perhaps the glow of tiny microbial creatures. This is all about motion, symmetrical lines in flight against a soft, somewhat unfocused, peacefully pulsating unknown world.

Similarly, in “Transient Layers and a Quickening Pulse,” we have what could be a layered city skyline above a pattern of dimensional, floating platforms and upright, thick lines which could themselves be towering skyscrapers. These images are themselves filled with tiny, pulsating shapes that remind the viewer of creatures in video games or Chinese calligraphy. These are the patterns of life, the raw essence a landscape contains, the formal shapes we have superimposed over them. Ida has painted an intricate, complex work from the hues of his palette to the shapes within shapes.
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The fluidity of Ida’s work seems to speak of transition, change, and a barely contained spirituality. In “Immersion,” there is what appears to be a beautifully textured puzzle of interlocking rounded wooden pieces in a gentle rainbow of colors. This could be a gate or a door, a maze of pipes, or merely an abstract pattern. Whatever it may be, it is marked by a bright central circle of light, a large clear spotlight that lightens the center of the painting like a portal illuminated within the circle of a flashlight’s beam. The title can be viewed as every meaning of the word: involvement – whether physically within a substance, or through the mind or culture; the teaching of a foreign language. Ida’s language here is not exactly foreign: it is familiar yet mysterious, somehow known and unknown.

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Two other artists share the George Billis gallery space with Ida. Taylor Montague’s “Oblique Views of Suburbia” offers wavering, beautifully glowing images of architecture in a beach-town environment. The coastal color palette from the gold light of the sun to the intense blue of the sky near the sea contrasts with sand-colored buildings and dark electric wires. This is the world of the California coast, and of dreams.

Gina Minichino takes intensely modern subjects such as Easter peeps and ketchup packets and renders them with the perfection of a Dutch still-life. Like Montague and Ida, Minichino also creates her own symbolic language, here through lush renderings of common images, infusing them with meaning.

Samuelle Richardson: Of Fine Art and Fabric

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Samuelle Richardson may have entered the world of fine art as a painter, but her work now is in creating astounding fabric sculptures.  These beautiful pieces seem ready to spring to life.

“The figures I make are hand-built armature with fabric stretched and stitched over the form. The character of a shape is my most important concern and I achieve it by building up layers,” Richardson relates. “My art practice is rooted in life drawing and long ago, I saw that a deeper knowledge of anatomy would help me make better decisions in rendering the human form, so I immersed myself in a process called écorché where a scale model of the skeleton is built by hand, in clay.”

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Her pieces feel magical in their completeness, as if motion were simply frozen within their fabric, and should one look away, the pieces would come alive.

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Her Ghost Dogs, which use wood as well as fabric, seem ready to take off and run. They live up to their title, haunting figures, beautiful and frail.

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A different sort of beautiful energy infuses the artist’s earth angels, figures that are flying toward and carrying earth to safety.  These gliding and protective figures are suspended in a ten foot radius, soaring and strong.

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To see such powerful work made from cloth is to wonder both at the strength of the medium and the intensely classical form of the artistry.

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“Fabric has been familiar to me for a long time. My background in the design industry is where important decisions were made based on the characteristics of fabric. Various types of fabric yield different results when applied in the same way.  I love the feel of fabric and I see characteristics in fine material that remind me of the way my favorite painters have mastered color,” she says.

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“In my three-dimensional work, I especially appreciate the crush and pull of fabric as it relates to skin over bone.  I also like matching fabric to the character of the sculpture.”

Richardson explains that she saw a catalog of Louise Bourgeois’ Cell Series and knew she’d have to try her cloth figure technique. “I had made figures in clay before but I had not yet thought of combining my knowledge of fabric and the three dimensional form,” the artist explains.

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The result are sculptures that seem incredibly alive, as if beneath their cloth they breathe.  The softness of the material further enhances the powerful and persuasive illusion that there is a living spirit beneath the cloth.

“Today I am looking closely at images of Manuel Neri’s work from the 50’s. The series was made in the image of his favorite model and there are some interesting figure studies done in fabric strips, wire, wood and other found material.  I am also looking for ways to incorporate found material in my work and I gain a lot through the perspective of my favorite artists.”

Asked who those favorites would be, Richardson cites “Calder for his humor, Diebenkorn for his elegant command of color and design, and James Havard for his rare quality of naïve imagery based on a classical knowledge of the figure.”

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Richardson credits her transition from canvas to fabric to the vicissitudes of violent weather. “I might still be a painter today had my studio not been destroyed in a record-breaking storm in 2009. It took a year to repair the damage, so I moved my work into the house and began experimenting with hand-built armature and fabric. I liked my new medium so much that I never looked back.

Richardson will be part of a July 2017 group show curated by Betty Ann Brown at Groundspace Project, It’s a Wonderful World. Looking forward ahead, she’s scheduled for two group shows at MOAH in Lancaster, Calif., in 2019.

“My new work is underway and it will be about human figures.  I plan to make a group that interacts similarly to the figures in Ghost Dogs.”

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis; and courtesy of the artist