A Special Place for Exhibitions: Shoebox Projects Artist Residency

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Above Shoebox projects premiered their residency series with a work by Jennifer Gunlock and Susan Feldman Tucker.

Shoebox Projects began hosting a new artist residency in November, offering space for emerging and mid-career artists to present work ranging from encompassing installations to more traditional gallery shows. Founder Kristine Schomaker, an artist herself and owner of Shoebox PR, an artist marketing agency, created the space located in DTLA’s Brewery lofts, to provide a venue for artists to experiment and expand.

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Above, Schomaker with Gunlock and Feldman.

The first exhibition in the new space concluded with a reception just before Thanksgiving from artists Jennifer Gunlock and Susan Feldman. It was Schomaker’s idea that this very different artistic pair work together.

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The reception allowed viewers to intimately explore a single, encompassing installation, one that involved both Gunlock’s drawings with collage and gesso-transfer and Feldman’s wood and found materials sculptures. The end result is a tree house fantasy, a wildly creative mix of fairy-tale house, wilderness shack, and surrealistic living space.

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“We don’t want to project too much of an agenda on it, but a few inspirations, words and phrases we bounced around about it were Disneyland’s Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, abandoned privies, secret hiding places, a ladder to nowhere, and a jungle gym,” Gunlock says.

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Above, details from Feldman-Tucker’s sculptural work, wood, rope, and other found pieces coalesced into an expansive structure.

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Whimsical and packed with creative elements that allowed viewers to discover nooks and crannies, swings and secret sleeping spots, the work was delightful, a free-form world-building experience that encouraged viewer participation.

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Above, a detail from Gunlock’s work, which evokes images of New Orleans style in the structure of a tree house.

Shoebox Projects is fully booked for the coming year with their monthly series of residencies, each of which will end with a solo show. Viewers are encouraged to attend not just the concluding reception, but to engage with artists and their work throughout the month long process.

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The next artist in residence will be Susan Amorde, followed by Emily Wiseman, and Karrie Ross, above left.

Shoebox Projects is located at the Brewery, 660 South Avenue 21 #3 in Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis, Kristine Schomaker

 

Buzzing About Artist Terry Arena

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Based in Ventura, Calif., Terry Arena recently received the Board of Directors Award at the Southern California/Baja Biennial show in San Diego for her art project of delicately detailed drawings of bees.

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The “buzz” around her work notwithstanding, there is something moving and magical in her intense realism, something that draws viewers to contemplate both her message and her medium.

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Arena’s meticulous, almost photographically perfect drawings are not all about honeybees and their tragic disappearance. In past years, the artist created a series of drawings based on multi-generational recipes, from the potatoes in “Potato Leek Soup,” a recipe Arena received from her great-grandmother, to her minutely perfected drawings of “Lavender” or “Chives,” the latter image framed as if on a plate. Her recipe drawings are each of a single ingredient, so powerfully portrayed it takes on a symbolic, sustaining value of emotional as well as physical food, as well as remaining a beautiful, intimate, still life.

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“Where is our food derived, how it is produced, who benefits economically and otherwise, and what will effect our environment and the health of the population over the long and short-term?” Arena asks, saying that her drawings “…consider ideas of seasonality, genetically modified organisms, homemade meal preparations, and most recently, the plight of the bees.”

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Arena’s dedication to ecology focuses on bees, and hums with these incredible insects synergy. She shows us bees through a monocle as beautiful, circular miniatures, fallen bees, bees vibrant in cut paper overlay on graphite, and images such as “Big Honeycomb,” revealing the intricate structure of bee architecture.

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“My drawings all start with lots of thumbnail sketches and drawing from life,” the artist reports.

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Often working in graphite drawings presented on metal food tins, lids, and other re-purposed materials, using a magnifier to create her focused, minute works, Arena has crafted an hypnotic series dealing with honeybees. In fact, she has 35 works that depict the plight of the honeybees caused by pesticide use.

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The ongoing colony collapse is poignantly captured in pieces such as “Two Bees,” both fallen ecological warriors. Her choice of materials that serve as a canvas for her drawings includes lids that once held produce pollinated by honeybees, creating an emotionally as well as literally textured canvas for her work. Sanded and primed, these former lids evoke a bee hive in their exhibition placement, and create in their display a resonant depiction of agriculture’s necessary symbiosis with bees.

So richly detailed, and as small in scale as the bees themselves, Arena’s work pulls viewers into a Lilliputian world, it’s very size an expression of the vulnerability of the honeybee.

“My work considers our relationship with the environment and the impact bees have on our food sources,” Arena notes.

Each drawing is unique and intimate, creating a visceral connection with viewers on the delicate nature of bees themselves as well as her style of drawing.

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Raised in a rural area in San Diego County, Arena has memories of citrus and avocado trees, and an early interest in food and agriculture. Her current Ventura residence is also in a community that is focused on these industries. While location has certainly influenced the artist, who draws and photographs the nature around her, Arena’s interest in her subject is deeper than place. She is compelled to create awareness of the honeybees decline, and its effect on plants and fruits that require their pollination. One senses that Colony Collapse Disorder is a real and vital concern for her, not only as an artist but as a mother. Nature’s balance is skewed; and CCD has far reaching generational effects. If she can help save the bees – and us – through her art, Arena wants to try.

 

The artist states that one third of our crops are supported by honeybee pollination, from directly consumable items such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts to the production of dairy and meat products. “The role of the honeybee is so integral to crop propagation, bees are transported by trucks to farmlands in need of pollination. Recently, the mysterious vanishing of the bees has been covered in public media. Though studies have been conducted, causes of these bee declines are not yet definitive.”

Bringing awareness to this crisis through her potent, magically realistic graphite artwork is Arena’s mission. A teacher as well as an artist, she seeks to educate, illuminate, and inspire viewers as students of nature.

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Arena’s “Symbiotic Crisis” honeybee exhibition has been ongoing since 2014. Using a moving truck, the artist has transported her monochrome creations to locations throughout California as well as exhibiting in traditional gallery spaces. She’s often installed her works in bee-inspired clusters or swarms, overlapping drawings, and even working with the reflections and shadows cast from the backs of her metal ‘canvases.’

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Arena invites viewers to join her in contemplating their relationship with the environment. Her work has an ethereal quality, but its creation also has roots in historical botanical drawings and nature studies. There is something both urgently realistic and that which exists outside of time in her work, an entwined dichotomy that creates a vital conversation about our daily lives and the potential for catastrophe that teeters throughout the natural world.

Nothing Hazy in Bakersfield Mist at the Fountain Theatre

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Now through January 30th, the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood offers a beautifully written, touching, and hilarious comedy in Bakersfield Mist.

Written and directed by Stephen Sachs, the production is a revival of an earlier incarnation of the play, and remains a two person tour de force, currently performed to perfection by Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett. As an out of work bartender and an uptight art expert, respectively, the performances are spot on.

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Sachs is co-artistic director at the theater, and has written a wonderfully nuanced character study of two people who in their own, incredibly different ways, are passionate about a piece of art – which may or may not be a Jackson Pollock.

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Based on a true incident, the play focuses on bartender and thrift-shop veteran Maude Gutman who may have uncovered a genuine Jackson Pollock. Summoned to her door is renowned art historian and analyst Lionel Percy, come all the way from New York to verify the providence of the painting. Though Maude makes a convincing and impassioned argument, and both reveal their past mistakes, sins, and dreams, the pair ultimately butts heads when it comes to whether the painting is genuine or not.

Emotions run high, amusement soars and recedes on a tide of self-doubt and recrimination, and who is the stronger survivor of the pair might very well come into question.

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The two are each quite profound in their own disparate ways, and the question as to the meaning and purpose of art is matched to even deeper questions about the meaning of life itself, handling loss, and the burning spark of truth and desire the fuels everyone, regardless of pedigree, pride, or limitations.

Delightfully witty and yet deeply moving, this is a perfect two-hander, performed in one compelling act. It makes a great way to start the theatrical New Year.

The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Ave. For tickets visit http://www.fountaintheatre.com/event/bakersfield-mist-2016/

  • Genie Davis; photos provided by Ed Krieger

Get Enchanted

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Running through January 8th, Enchanted: Forest of Light turns Descanso Garden’s into a wildly wonderful fantasy land. Not specifically holiday themed, eight illuminated installations lead visitors through the dark, into a garden blossoming with light.

Timed entry keeps the event from getting too crowded; there are spots where visitors can simply stand for a moment and breathe in the chilly night air and the almost palpable sense of wonder. Kids love the colors and lights, adults are quietly mesmerized. The interactive nature of some exhibits adds to the visual poetry and the fun.

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Entering the exhibition, viewers first meet up with fields of multi-colored, ever changing beds of tulips, which dance with light as they color-shift.

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Next up: like a miniature version of the light columns at LAX,ccolor-changing columns in the Rainbow Sycamores section respond to touch; place a hand on the five blue columns and watch the colors shift into vibrant purple or pink.

Next, head toward the lake beneath arches of stars.

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At Lightwave Lake, push a button and change the spotlights shifting in ribbons of color across the water. When we visited a spooky mist blanketed the lake, creating a truly other-worldly experience.

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Thin streaks of light pulsate, part art, part alien.

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The Ancient Forest, all ferns and firs, dazzles with soft multi-colored light, an emergence into a fecund land that could be home to a myriad of alien creatures. Anyone remember the charming 90s era animated feature Ferngully? Or maybe Avatar? Both fit.

It’s fun to literally hop on wooden platforms in the Symphony of Oaks section, too, where the ancient oaks become the guardians of guests’ ability to sound chimes.

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On the Luminous Lawn, kids and adults alike hop again – onto lily pads which change colors and patterns in a touch-sensitive pond.

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A Japanese garden vibrates with red light, creating a surreal and beautiful finish to the show.

We took a leisurely just-under-two-hour stroll through the exhibition. The unlighted areas of the gardens that hover just out of sight add to the magical feeling – we are privy to a secret world, with perhaps other secrets tantalizingly just out of sight.

While a festive event for the season, Enchanted could easily run year ‘round; there are no overtly holiday themes here, just a link to the magic, wonder, and sweetness of the season.

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For now, make the drive to La Canada/Flintridge and have an enchanted experience through January 8th. For ticket info see https://www.descansogardens.org/programs-events/enchanted/

  • Genie Davis