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Wilding Cran Gallery: Revisiting Childhood


Maria Lynch: Spaces and Spectacles runs through July 24th at downtown LA’s Wilding Cran, a vibrant, participatory look at childhood through the eyes of an adult, and a rumination on what fills the space in your mind and heart.  Above, artist Lynch nestles among her multi-colored plastic spheres – and you can, too.


Lynch is a Brazilian multi-media artist. Her exhibition here includes large paintings, soft sculptures, and an interactive installation consisting of translucent, vividly colored balls – a fantastical version of that ball pit toddlers crave at Chuck E. Cheese. Accompanying the installation is a soundscape by Brazilian musician Rodrigo Amarante.



Above, the “ball pit.” Step inside the exhibit’s gate, and move inside. It’s like entering a world of soft, shifting jewels.

Below, Lynch with one of her large scale, brightly colored oil paintings.  “You can create a fantasy that links childhood and memories, you can come back to that place of freedom. You have to regain that freedom and interact with it. As a child you are just naturally a part of it,” she says.

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Below, some of the soft cloth sculptures that are a part of the exhibition, deconstructed teddy bears.


The exhibit is joyous, packed with a deceptively simple, childlike-approach to color, light, sound, and space. Lynch says that the installation is site-specific; the fenced in section of the gallery containing her bubble-like spheres captures and reflects the light from Wilding Cran’s front window.

Enter Lynch’s magical kingdom and feel the years drop away as you run off to join the circus of this artist’s candy-colored, blossoming art.

The gallery is located at: 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles 90021

  • Genie Davis; All Photos: Jack Burke

Leonard Greco: Out of the Boondocks


Artist Leonard Greco is something special. A decorative muralist and painter for over 25 years, Greco also have his own blog, https://boondocksbabylon.com, which tells the story behind his works and inspiration for same. His paintings are powerful, haunting, often including religious or mythic imagery in settings that evoke surreal icons. In short, his work is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, fusing generations of disparate cultures and art. Along with his paintings, drawings, prints, and puppet figures make up Greco’s full oeuvre.

The work is startling and compelling, both in its use of color and its story telling style. Greco says he is exploring narrative figurative painting, frequently using archetypal figures. He also has a secondary objective: “to explore the extremes of human existence, most notably birth and death.”

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He has other themes that appear throughout his works as well, of transformation, salvation, and re-birth. Drawn to the narratives of early peoples, he’s inspired by the Mayan creation myth and Popol Vuh’s tales of the Hero Twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué. This Meso-American mythos is restructured and reflected through the artist’s own experiences and interests in the Italian Renaissance and Roman Catholic saints, the surrealism of English-born Mexican artist Leonora Carrington, and Ghosticism, among others. Greco’s own dreams prove an equally compelling landscape from which the artist draws.

His love of narrative depictions in the midst of these varied influences takes on universal themes, and a universal visual vocabulary, which the self-taught artist describes as “Life and death, mortality, morality, and most importantly, inner knowledge, gnosis.”

The artist’s narrative is also intensely personal, so that the refined surrealist images also take on an aspect of reality – real life as observed through the prism of a dream.

Greco Jonah

Greco’s “Jonah,” oil on panel, is a dark, surging, seething painting, with the green whale against whom Jonah triumphs floating in a turbulent grey sea. The whale has a head disproportionately huge – and human. A God-like head parallels the whale’s, looking down from the sky. A turreted bridge is in the background; a strange monument on which Jonah stands, a pedestal with the name Jonah upon it, in the foreground. Dark but translucent beams of light spill down from the sky. Jonah, his body blue, his face masked, looks up toward God, his hand pointing to the whale. This Jonah, unlike earlier painted incarnations such as those by Pieter Lastman, or Frederik van Valkenborch, is no pale creature fleeing the monsters jaws. He is no circumspectly robed elderly prophet, praying as he emerges in Jan Brueghel’s stormy sea.

No, this Jonah has emerged with his own strength. Jonah may have spent three days and nights in the belly of the beast, swallowed by both the whale and his futile attempt to avoid a mission from above, but the experience has not broken him. The Jonah Greco depicts may not have seen the error of his ways, may have fought his own way from the beast rather than being saved by an act of God. Is Jonah’s mask an attempt to still flee God’s will? In this raw and tumultuous world, Jonah’s figure is powerful, even if his face and motives remain hidden.

Deeply visceral is “Self Portrait of the Artist as a Flea,” a recent pencil and watercolor on paper, a paper doll of sorts that can be made to move through the judicious use of brads and string. Drawn in lavender, yellow, and white, it is the artist’s head on the body of a flea, but one which features abundant frontal nudity – except when covered by the artist with a ripe green fig leaf to render the work acceptable to social media. There is so much to be said about this piece, which in Greco’s words uses nudity and the body of a flea both unabashedly against “the bigots and the nasty folks who hate us, particularly important after the Orlando massacre. Queers have been treated like vermin for so very long, by fashioning myself as a flea I embrace what they find so vile.” The work has the quality of a fairy tale image, in part due to the colors chosen, in part due to the anthropomorphic flea, whose head shape resembles a jester’s hat. The fast, tiny, hard to destroy flea, a creature which though reviled, remains hardy, one who has been made to dance, to leap, to claim it’s own “flea-ness,” seems a triumphant image, as well as a humorous one. It’s a recognition of self, an acceptance, a dare to the world to accept, too. There is both anger and joy in that flea, and pride, in its careful, detailed rendering.

Greco Uranus

The artist’s 2015 watercolor on paper, “The Castration of Uranus” depicts the rather brutal outcome of son Titan Cronus’ attack with a stone sickle on his brute of a father. Greco uses this image to translate his own rage and inability to perform such an act on his own cruel father. In the painting, the green, monstrous beast-man, complete with images of the siblings he devoured in his distended belly, is castrated by his pale and sinewy son, blood pouring in a muscular wound from the gaping hole in Uranus’ genitalia. A pale woman, the moon behind her head, stands in blank observation. The twinning of the myth and Greco’s own experience creates a painting that is as alive as it is apocryphal. Particularly compelling is the vitality in Titan Cronus’ muscles, his life gained, his body about to spring forward into a future with fear vanquished.

Each of these works is a reimagining – of a Biblical story, a Greek myth, family violence, societal roles and values. Seamlessly blending the surreal here, the underlying narrative story there, adding brush strokes of irony and wisdom to his perfectly detailed images, Greco writes a new kind of artistic story, which like that self-portrait as a flea, itself contains joy and anger, pathos and triumph. The stakes are high, the world is strange. And art and artist go on.


Greco recently exhibited at the 2016 Second Annual Mask Art Show in Venice, but has shown throughout the Southland. Until a new show is announced, follow the artist’s blog for a look into his art and his mind.

Taking Another Waltz: Dances with Films 19


Dances with Films 19 finished a week ago, and the festival continued to amaze even as it drew to a close. Missed the fest this year? Then put it on your calendars for next year, and do watch for the stellar films shown at the festival. While these reviews bring those screened at the event to a close, there are several we missed seeing in the theater that we’ll be catching up on shortly.


Above, cast, crew, and advisors on The Track; with microphone, star Mariah Kirstie

The Track started as a short film by director Brett Caroline Levner, and was expanded into a feature by Levner and writer Matthew McCue. “I looked out my window one day,” Levner relates, “and I saw a 15 year old girl going in and out of cars, working as a prostitute.” Drawn to tell the story of underage, exploited children, Levner, who teaches film at University of Nevada Las Vegas, tackled the tough and moving story of Barbie.


Played brilliantly by Mariah Kirstie, the girl comes into contact with a suburban woman who has just lost her daughter, played by Missy Yager.  “I come from a theater background,” Kirstie reports, “but for this character I didn’t do anything formal. I was so connected to her, I just wanted to stay in the moment with my performance.” Yager says “This is a woman’s issue, these little girls get arrested. My character had a calling to help.”


The performances make the film, a true vehicle for social justice, into a compelling drama.



Above, star Joe Burke in Dependents Day

Dependents Day, a very different film, also began as a short. Director David Lynch (below) found star Joe Burke and a ribald romantic comedy was born. “I love nuance,” Lynch says,  “I thought he was a firecracker and all I had to do was set him off.” The versatile Lynch was also director of a dramatic documentary screening at the festival, Victor Walk, which won the audience award in the docs category; but Dependents is pure levity.


The story of a struggling actor claimed as ‘dependent” by his more successful girlfriend,  the film tackles love, LA lifestyle, and sexual mores with a witty vengence.



Star Burke says “We put so much into this, I’m so emotional to have so many people I love in one room. I feel so blessed.” Shot in just 17 days, the comedy is zany, the performances from Burke and co-star Benita Robledo pitch perfect.


Above with microphone, Kristin Wallace, co-writer/producer/star of Moments of Clarity

Moments of Clarity is a film that defies categorization. Sweet comedy, female buddy picture, road movie, witty take on independence, feminism, mental health issues – yes, all of those. A film that keeps you guessing, we loved it’s wild moments of comedy, touching sweetness, and screwball plot. Writer/producer Kristin Wallace plays lead Claire. Co-written by Wallace and Christian Lloyd, the film was directed by Stev Elam.


Claire is the daughter of a repressed agoraphobic, who teams up with a pastor’s daughter to escape their home town, fix a broken camera, and come into their own. “I wanted to create more roles for women,” says Candian-born Wallace. “I’d just moved from Toronto to LA and felt very out of place, so I kind of connected with my inner child to create this character. I just wanted to follow this character who was unabashedly herself.” Shot in 15 days, the film has the look of a much larger-budgeted feature, with bright colors, hilarious set pieces, and the edge of dark-comedy ever sharpened.


Wallace and Lloyd wrote only via email and didn’t meat Wallace and the rest of the production team until he came to the set for the last four days of shooting. “I Just sat there smiling like an idiot. It didn’t make sense that so many people came together to make such a wonderful film and have such a strong connection.”


Director Elam says “I loved that the script had so much positivity and no violence. When I read the script I thought this is like a foreign film, but they have American names. Then they said they were Canadian,” he laughs.


Whatever the origin, this is a don’t-miss. It releases in the fall of 2016, watch for it.


Rounding up the fest’s final day at the TCL Chinese was Those Left Behind, a drama that grew from the director’s involvement in a documentary about suicide.


The drama recounts a family’s struggle to come to terms with the grief over their son’s suicide 25 years earlier.

“You can live a joyous life and still struggle with depression,” says Grant Jordan, who plays the pivotal character of Jamie.


“I think a lot about loss in my own life, and how unresolved grief comes back to people, so I wanted to use that. I had an amazing cast, I asked people to be very quiet, to let the performances and the story build slowly. It was like unpeeling an onion,” director Maria Finitzo says.


Also viewed: Killing the Apologetic Girl, the fest’s audience award winner in the TV pilot category.  Writers Stephanie Little, Kimberly Aboltin – the latter also directed – have created a sweet and funny  story about the overly-apologetic Steph and her returned-from-Morocco decidedly unapologietic friend, Kim. Fresh and delightfully sarcastic, there’s a lot to like and much to want to see more of with these characters. Well-paced and exceptionally well-cast.

Don’t worry: Josephine Doe, Pop-Up, and fest top narrative award winner Virtual Revolution reviews are still coming up.

  • Genie Davis; All photos: Jack Burke