Buttnekkid Bares It All at MuzeuMM

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Opening tonight at MuzeuMM, Buttnekkid is two artists’ take on nude painting. It is also a phenomenal show, as graceful as it is non-judgmental, lush and visceral.

As the show’s description notes “We are all born naked – and artists either reveal or obfuscate this fact when creating figurative work.” This show is all about the reveal.

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Above, show curation in progress

A reveal which oddly enough still makes some people uncomfortable. When Facebook frowns at posting something that even resembles a nipple,  it’s only too obvious that the puritanical purveyors of “morality” are still very much with us.

So it is worth noting that as well as being beautiful work, the two solo shows that comprise Buttnekkid, curated by Mat Gleason, are also making a bold statement as to the beauty of the body and our views toward it.

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Lena Moross pairs same-sex couples in intimate yet unsentimental poses, some clothed, some bare. Anna Stump critiques the ways in which our society seems to fear flesh as much as it is obsessed by it. 

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Both artists have a uniquely lovely way of expressing intimacy,  of revealing the body even as they portray this form as exactly what it is – completely natural.

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Stump, left; Moross, right

Moross says “I was working on my new series on figures and Anna saw it. She said she had figure paintings too, and proposed we do a double show at MuzeuMM.”

Because the two artists create entirely different works, they knew that their figure paintings would not mesh, and should stand as two separate, thematically twinned exhibitions at the gallery. 

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“I worked my usual way: staging and taking photos from real people and then painting from them. Anna did her take on the 1970s era pornography industry.  Basically we did our own thing in our studios,” Moross explains.

Stump reveals “About a year ago, Lena saw an older figurative painting I’d done with a heavy grid structure of drips. She really liked it and asked if I’d do an exhibition with her of nudes. I said, of course!”

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According to Stump, “Lena and I are similar in the way we approach art making. We are both extremely confident with our technical skills and understanding of the body represented in 2D, which frees us to make work that is actually less concerned about beauty and more about monstrousness.”

For Stump, the inspiration for her subject matter came from a stack of Playboy magazines she borrowed from her studio mate. “I grew up in the 1970s, exposed to nudes from Playboy, courtesy of an uncle. I’m charmed by the awkward, pre-Photoshop poses, the tans, the naiveté, the non-surgically enhanced bodies. The porn is almost wholesome. The male sketches—earnest, goofy—are also referenced from the magazine ads and editorials,” she relates.

Gleason notes that the show is about the “female gaze and agency…of disrobing.” He says that nudity in art received a bad reputation when the models were all women and the painters men. But with two women creating this work, the tables have turned.

Lena Moross uses nudity as a semiotic device within a psychological drama while Anna Stump pushes the boundaries and politics of professional eroticism…curating them has been a dream.”

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Experience that dream for yourself Saturday, 8-11 p.m. at MuzeuMM, 4817 W. Adams in mid-city. The show runs through
– Genie Davis; photos provided by artists and curator

Crystal Clear: Catalina Glows with Chihuly Glass Exhibition and Zip Line Sunshine

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Above, Chihuly at the Catalina Island Museum

The winter months are the off-season in Catalina, home to to the iconic Casino building, kitschy shops, and beautiful, once-made-in-Catalina pottery and tile work. But off-season or not, there are some very wonderful reasons to check out the island before the holidays.

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The glow begins early with sunlight dazzling over ocean views heading from the mainland to the island. Catalina Express offers multiple, less-busy-than-summer crossings in high speed boats from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. The fleet of high-speed ferries makes traveling the 22 miles across the sea effortless and smooth; we had beautiful crossings early in the morning and by moonlight and sunset.

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Outdoor seating is surprisingly comfortable, no hard plastic benches here; indoors the lounge area offers a bar, tables, and padded seats.  If you’re looking for even more luxury, you can upgrade to the Commodore Lounge, with a complimentary beverage, packaged snack, and reclining seats.

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Once on the island,  the adventurous in our group of four took a thrilling ride on one of the island’s newest attractions, the Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour, (above and below.) Grand vistas of the crystal clear harbor water spread out before the intrepid duo who were thrilled with propelling down 5 separate zip lines, and dropping from 600 feet above sea level. One run traversed 1,100 lineal feet. In total, participants travel approximately 3/4 of a mile at a whistling speed of up to 30 miles per hour.

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Our pair was shuttled to the top of the zip line course from Descanso Beach. Their return to home base included pauses at several eco-stations where zip line operators discussed the flora and fauna of Catalina Island. The adventure lasts close to 2 hours, and both zippers were exhilerated by the experience.

Below, The Catalina Island Museum.

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Until December 12th, there’s another way to experience the crystalline glow and excitement of the island. The Chihuly glass exhibit at the Catalina Island Museum is a stunning array of work by glass artist Dale Chihuly.  The museum itself is a sparkling gem; opened just over a year ago in 2016, it makes the most of both natural light inside and some outdoor exhibit space which was perfect to create a garden glass for some of Chihuly’s ephemeral works.
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The glass sculptor’s works here are a true fit for the island, the delicate translucent pieces mimic water and sea creatures, mysterious flowers, sea weed and seashells.
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Dazzling works seem to be a part of the island’s clear waters themselves. From well-known Chihuly works such as Seaforms, Red Reeds, and the towering chandelier Sea Blue and Green Tower to those less familiar, such as Mille Fiori, these are brilliant, inwardly illuminated artworks, the stuff dreams are made of.
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The museum is currently fundraising to keep one of these pieces as a part of its permanent collection, Aureolin Yellow Spire Chandelier, a hot yellow sun, below, which vibrates with light and color.
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There is something entirely magical about Chihuly’s work, his vast range of color, the soaring spirit of each piece, the voluptuous sea forms, and his flower-petal-like baskets, inspired by Native American basket art. The museum itself offers a series of insightful permanent exhibits; a film documents the history of the island, old newsreel footage, and a segment on Chihuly; exhibits include island-made pottery, island history, and island folklore.
The Museum is located at 217 Metropole Ave. in the heart of Avalon, and is open 10 to 5 daily.
The island, open year ’round, is waiting.
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So, doff that sailor’s cap, hop on a ferry, and follow the glow, whether you’re taking a zip, a sea-dip, or a dive into celebrated art work.

Taking Off like a Photography Rocket: Stephen Levey

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Stephen Levey had no plans to be an artist/photographer. Or to be the guy who shoots art exhibitions all around LA. And yet – here he is – creating his own art on his iPhone 7Plus.

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“I’ve been taking photographs for my entire life but just for myself. I never thought about monetizing my hobby, that happened purely by accident and quite recently,” he demurs. “It’s kind of a crazy story how this whole thing happened approximately 7 months ago.” He has a background in corporate marketing, but his transformation is fittingly mysterious – for months, his pictures were his footprint but DiversionsLA didn’t actually see him in person.

Now, though, there’s a face behind the photos and a story in the art itself and his iPhone use.

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“Because I don’t shoot high speed motion – e.g. sports, and the fact that I’m not interested in enlarging any of my photographs to building size, I didn’t feel that I needed a ‘real camera.’ That combined with the fact that nobody was complaining about my image quality led me to the decision of solely using the camera which was always in my pocket already,” he explains.

His favorite subject: “Los Angeles in general.”

His view of his work: “I’m just a guy who likes taking pictures.”

The third generation Los Angeles-resident knows his city, and creates meaningful images of everything from architecture to automobiles, art installations to nature.

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“I love shooting in DTLA, you never know what you’ll see and even though I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos of virtually the same area I’m surprised more often then not to find something I’ve missed previously,” he relates. His visual mantra is “How did I never see that.”

Some of his images are startlingly vivid, others in moody, noir black and white.

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“In reality pretty much the only photo correction I do is to brightness and contrast, and every once in awhile tilt shift. I do not use software to ‘perfect’ my images,” he says. “My goal is simply to take photos that make people happy when looking at them, if you enjoy a photo i took then I’ve done my job.”

Levey says he admires a number of local photographic artists – is in fact “in awe” of their work, but “being that my mama didn’t raise no fool I will not be naming any names.”

His oeuvre is expanding. “If it’s an interesting project I’ll shoot anything. Just recently I was convinced to expand my repertoire to include fashion – a friend was offered a magazine layout and I was her choice of photographer.”

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Along with photography, Levey is a runner – which probably serves him in good stead as he races from event to event to take photos around town.

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“I’ve run the L.A. Marathon for the past 5 years for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and to date I’ve raised in the neighborhood of $10,000 for this very worthy and necessary charity.  I never had any interest in running, let alone running a marathon but a chance encounter on a flight to Mexico changed that. This mother and daughter were flying to Mexico in order for the daughter to meet the family she’d never met before she passed away. During the six-hour flight she explained to me about her daughter’s disease and told me what a godsend St. Jude’s had been to them. When I returned to the U.S., I decided that I wanted to help, and fundraising seemed like the best way to accomplish my goals.”

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Levey’s work will be on display at the upcoming Gabba Gallery Wishlist 5 opening 11/18; and is currently exhibited at The San Juan Capistrano art show curated for Dias de Los Muertes by Skye Amber Sweet.

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With plans afoot to exhibit at The Hive,  and an upcoming photo spread for Malibu’s The Local, there’s no doubt that Levey will be photo-present all around town. See more of his work at Diversions LA’s co-sponsored fundraiser Lyme Away 2 where you might just be able to snatch up four pieces for a song.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Stephen Levey

Gabba Gallery Wishlist 5 – Art Wishes Granted

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Opening this Saturday, November 18th, Wishlist 5 at Gabba Gallery is a holiday cash and carry show that promises its annual eclectic mix of amazing local artists. There’s a sentence you’d best not say too quickly, but what should be done quickly is go to the opener. The show runs through December 16th, but you won’t want to miss the hot-on-the-walls works of artists curated by gallerists Jason Ostro and Elena Jacobson. Including the work of over 70 local to international artists, works are all priced under $1000, and buyers can take the art home immediately – something new and artistically amazing will appear in its place.

IMG_6504 IMG_6505 IMG_6506 IMG_6507The evolving exhibition includes works by:

8333, ÷–x+, Alex Achaval, Douglas Alvarez, Balloonski, Allison Bamcat, Cody Bayne, Terri Berman, BIOWORKZ, Nicholas Bonamy, Clinton Bopp, Nicole Bruckman, CANTSTOPGOODBOY, Kate Carvellas, J. Scott Chapman, M. Christy, L. Croskey, Bibi Davidson, Dcypher, Keith Dugas, Carly Ealey, Joey Feldman, Jaq Frost, Rene Gagnon, Anyes, Galleani, Peter Greco, Mike Habs, Patrick Haemmerlein, Cloe Hakakian, Mary Hanson, Hero, Cyrus Howlett, Warren Jacobson, Jspot Jr., Nagisa Kamae, Kate Kelton, Leah Knecht, Jennifer Korsen, Andrea LaHue, Leba, Stephen Levey, Lauren Mendelsohn-Bass, Moncho1929, Morley, Mr. Melty, Max Neutra, Henry Niller, Jeremy Novy, NvrAlone, Jason Ostro, Judy Ostro, Phobik, Valerie Pobjoy, Olga Ponomarenko, Patrick Quinn, Christina Ramos, Christine Rasmussen, Red Dahlia, George Rivera, Roaming Elephant, Phil Santos, Septerhed, Shawn Sexton, Jeffrey Sklan, Amy Smith, Bisco Smith, Mable Song, Spacegoth, Hannah Streety, Skye Amber Sweet, Matthew Steidley, Ten Hundred, Tatiana Tensen, Toshee, Gilberto Ulloa, Vakseen, Em Wafer, Sebastien Walker, Christine Webb, Pastey Whyte, wrdsmth, Mimi Yoon, Erin Yoshi, Meg Zany, Essi Zimm, among others.

We know this work will be mind-blowingly cool – we’ve attended all four previous iterations of Wishlist. And, we were thrilled by the exciting, visceral work in the gallery’s October-November four-solo show exhibition, which is now closing, featuring Hero, Collin Salazar, Lucas Raynaud, and Dcypher. 

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Above, Lucas Raynaud

Raynaud described his dimensional work, Growing Up, as an escape from today’s social and political reality. “My last show was very political, but I felt like this could be an escape, something fun, something that brought back memories of a better time, when I was a kid in the 80s. It’s my way to escape what’s going on right now.”

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Above, Hero

Casey Courey-Pickering, who goes by the artist name, Hero says, that in the last eight years of political “hope,” shadows have come to the surface “much like how forging steel brings the metal’s imperfections out.”  Here, he is melding those shadows against hope for the future. Hero’s thoughts on his street-art exhibition of stenciled paintings, Shadows of Hope: “When I created these pieces, for a long time I knew the images but not the messages. The title of the show highlights my own personal experience. The shadows have always existed, but particularly now, I wanted to have inspiration.”

Hero will also have work in the upcoming Wishlist 5.

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Above, Collin Salazar

Collin Salazar’s Outer offers a visual equivalent of lucid dreaming – semi-psychedelic images in lush dripping colors, as in “Electric Feel.” He is looking to create “an expression of self-awareness…impactful abstract portraits.”

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Above, Dcypher

Dcypher’s Fiction City 2 gives viewers a beautifully detailed rendering of a dystopia that is both delicate and tragic. Influenced by both graffiti and architecture, the artists notes “This is a series of work built from the understanding that nothing lasts forever. From destruction comes creation… everything comes full circle.”

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Gabba Gallery also recently released their first print in collaboration with Judy Ostro and Sugar Press. In short: Gabba is growing.

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Wishlist opening night reception: Saturday, November 18th from 7-11pm. DJ Jonathan Williams spinning. Bar sponsored by Original New York Seltzer. Free parking at 3000 Beverly Blvd (enter off Reno) or street parking or Uber/Lyft. Gabba Gallery is located at 3126 Beverly Blvd. Wishlist 5 will be on view through December 16.