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.

Ernie Holzman: Life ReFocused

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This Sunday, November 12th, join Ernie and Terry Holzman in an exhibition of sculptures, assemblages, collages and more – in the presentation Ernie Holzman: Life ReFocused. The art show offers a completely different look – a deconstructed one – into the phrase “lights, camera, action.”

The beautifully curated exhibition celebrates film cameras and lenses from the 20th century. Presented by writer-director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield), Oscar®-nominated cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network), and cinematographer Ernie Holzman, ASC (Without a Trace, Cora Unashamed, Thirtysomething), the event offers assemblages and sculptures created by Holzman, as well as a rare print of the iconic set of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. All proceeds benefit cancer research at City of Hope.

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When cinematographer Ernie Holzman was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, he had to retire from making movies and television. He put his creative energy into deconstructing vintage motion picture cameras a friend had given him and re-assembling the pieces into abstract sculpture.  In order to give back to the cancer community that saved his life and put him into remission, Holzman is presenting 75 Life Refocused works for sale to benefit the City of Hope Cancer Center.

Holzman relates “The opportunity to create art, and ultimately have this showing, has not only been enormously healing for me, but has given my life greater meaning than I have ever known.”

His wife Terry Holzman made sure none of the exquisite memorabilia went to waste. 

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“My part of the show is I took all the extra bits—thousands of extra motion picture camera parts, from large lenses to tiny screws, and created 150 6×6” collages. It’s called Splice Here: Collages by Terry Holzman,” she relates. “I used the word “Splice” not only because it’s a film term, to join together photographic film segments, but also as a general term to “join together or unite” which is what Ernie and I are doing. Uniting to raise money to benefit cancer research at City of Hope.”

Enjoy the art, live music, food, and drink and help support the Holzmans this Sunday from 4-7 p.m. at RED Studios Hollywood, 864 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, 90038. An RSVP is not necessary to attend.

  • Genie Davis

 

Director Alexander Garcia: On Skateboards and Film

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You might say that film director Alexander Garcia is skating to the top. His upcoming project, Paved New World is his second film relating to the world of skateboarding along with his recently completed Skate God.

While the two are very different films, both have a shared passion for the sport.

“What attracted me to Paved New World was that when I first read the script, I felt each character had such a strong humanity and they were much different from other archetypes; they were characters we seldom see in other films,” he explains. Another attraction: “The script comes from the amazing writing duo Scott Marcano and Kip Koneig, who wrote Bio Dome,” Garcia explains. “The whole coming of age story is something that I feel will never go out of style. If I were to go back to films such as Stand By Me and films out of John Hughes’ library like Sixteen Candles, or Pretty in Pink, all those films have one thing in common – they’ve become a part of a timeless pop-culture.  Films of today do not have that elasticity.” At least until now. According to the director, Paved New World has all the makings to become a classic.

Garcia feels that the audience for the project is both general and niche. “It caters to the skateboarding subculture and will evoke what Lords of Dogtown did for the 40-something crowd, especially since the story takes place during the 90s,” he says, but notes that the project will appeal to a broad cross-section of mainstream viewers.

Garcia is working with star Daniel Pinder who plays Slim in the movie, an actor he worked with before in Skate God.  Pinder, well known for his role as Michael on Chicago PD – and for his love of skate boarding, seemed a perfect fit. Garcia was drawn to the actor for the pivotal role.

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“It would be disingenuous for me to say that Daniel is the embodiment of the Slim character.  That would be selling his acting ability short. Daniel is innately one of the most gifted performers out there today,” Garcia asserts. “He has the range to delve into any character by injecting himself into any role he takes on, which helps keep the realism intact. Your best actors are the ones that tap into their own inner being, becoming one with the character and playing off of their own idiosyncrasies.”

The chemistry between Pinder and actress Claudia Lee (Kick Ass 2) who plays his love interest, Jayce, in the film, was another part of the appeal, Garcia says. “Viewers will love his relationship with her.”

With Paved New World being the second project for Garcia involving skateboarding, the question had to be asked: what role did skateboarding play in his decision to make the film?

“I started skateboarding in the 80s when skateboarding hadn’t quiet found its footing yet. I continuously skated into the 90s…I turned professional in ’93, when skateboarding was on a downward slide because there were no monies to be doled out. It really came down to the artistry back then more than anything, which I feel is missing from today’s skating.”

Of course that changed again in the late 90s with a new incarnation of skateboarding including skateboard star Tony Hawk’s entrance into video gaming. “That’s when skateboarding really became a permanent mainstay in the extreme sports family,” Garcia says. He continued to skate professionally until 2007, and still uses his pro-model skateboard. While he no longer participates in contests, he carves out the time to skate at least once a week. Garcia was inducted into the freestyle skateboarding Hall of Fame in 2008.

He feels strongly that skateboarding exemplifies the idea of being an original and going against the grain, which he says has always been his personal mantra. “That’s why skateboarding was so attractive to me. When I started skating, there were no skateparks in existence so you had to skate in parking lots, underground parking structures, and you had to try to find your own safe haven. Mine happened to be my garage,” he laughs.

Gracia made the transition from pro skateboarder into filmmaker due to his long-standing love for cinema.

“That stems from when I was 6-years-old, going to the movies with my Mom in my hometown of Lakewood, Calif.,” he says.  “I would see films in every genre ranging from romantic comedies to thrillers to action, which in the end made me into a multi-genre storyteller. Horror films have always been my passion,” he adds.

His love of filmmaking took a back seat to professional skateboarding after high school, and he never attended film school. As a self-taught filmmaker, he says  “I have always leaned more toward being self-taught and less reliant on schooling and that comes directly from skateboarding.  I created my own personal style, I didn’t emulate anyone else, and it didn’t come from any book.”

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Currently, Garcia is working on a wide array of film projects in multiple genres along with his producing partners Anne Stimac and Stuart Arbury.

“One of the projects was derived from a children’s short story that I penned when I was 12 years old titled Libby’s Dreams. It deals with a detached, over-imaginative little girl with the ability to enter different worlds through her dreams. That helps her to fit into the world she comes from.  The Florida Project’s Valeria Cotto is set to star in the film as Libby. I’m also working on a mystery thriller, Gallatin 6, staring Tilky Jones and Daniela Bobadilla, and Apparency, which I like to describe as a supernatural love story centered on reincarnation — with consequences. And of course, there’s Skate God which is going to be a game changer in the sci-fi/dystopian genre.”

With projects like this in Garcia’s quiver, Paved New World is just the start of a brave new career.

  • Genie Davis