Start-Up Art Fair: Starting Something Cool



The Start-Up Art Fair was one of a quartet of art shows dancing across the Los Angeles art scene two weeks ago. There was the mammoth LA Art Fair at the Convention Center, the less mammoth but still large and established Art Contemporary at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, the small but interestingly scrappy Fabrik art fair. And there was the Start-Up. Which started up a whole new way of envisioning an art fair.


First of all, it was held at the Highland Garlands Hotel on Franklin in Hollywood, with each room or suite serving as a de facto gallery – plus weekend accommodation – for artists. 45 artists exhibited solo in rooms or as pairs in a carefully curated show that brought together some terrific, original art in a relaxed setting.

Artists offered the glass of wine here, the home-baked cookie there, and the intimate ability to have an actual conversation about art in a relaxing setting.

We arrived in the evening, and the experience felt magical. Illuminated swimming pool, glowing room lights, open doors, laughter – and the ability to visit each mini-gallery/guest at our leisure. Here are some highlights – and some artists to watch for at future fairs and galleries.


Heidi Cody is an Andy Warhol for today’s American consumerism. Altering brand names, colors, and illuminations, her sculptures, signs, and graphic paintings critique our consumptive culture with humor and style. Plus, who wouldn’t want a foamy Hostess Cupcake.

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Below, Stephen Whisler takes on government subterfuge, the surveillance/power/warfare dynamic, and the preponderance of military posturing in today’s world. Large scale drawings done in vermillion red and silver weapons “sleeping” in hotel room beds, compelled viewer involvement. Let sleeping missiles lie? Is Dr. Strangelove hiding in the bathroom?F23C8382

Below, Kimberly Rowe’s Happiness Calls for a Party.F23C8385


Bombard, Acrylic on Canvas, by Jennifer Turnage, Rowe’s suite-mate, below.


Kimberly Rowe is a vibrant artist who describes her work as having a rhythm or musicality. She means for her materials to speak for themselves rather than in the service of a concrete and explicit depiction. The colors sing, the mixed media beg to be absorbed, touched, defined as if one could cull the meaning of a person’s heart from stroking skin.  Her work is all about perception: the perception here is of an intense and compelling artist whose medium truly is the message.


Rowe and her suite mate, Jennifer Turnage, had soft black “eight balls” as a fun handout. F23C8389

Turnage created a group of 65 Circles, small paintings numbered to show their relationship, each circle influenced by the next.

These pieces are as vibrant, elemental, and eternal as the atom, or a single biological cell, reproducing and mutating.


Diane Rosenblum, below, uses a spare, linear exploration in her Snap Chalk Drawings which connote forms of measurement ranging from music notes to mathematics, from computer coding to spiritual definition. It’s about harmony and infinity.F23C8403

Aline Mare’s ethereal mixed media work, below, is a study of the spiritual environment. Each piece combines scanned and altered images into a layered, poetic exploration of what could be the universe or an exploding dandelion re-imagined.


The artist says she’s searching for a new language and “for metaphors of roots and seeds and the systems of conveyance that link plants, bodies and cities.”



Going up? Even the stairwells at the hotel complex were art-ified.F23C8411


Annie Seaton’s  Clean series refers to the surfing term for good water conditions, and smooth wave energy. Her surfing themes feature cut outs of surfer images, ghost-like against the shore line – utterly clean. The wave Seaton has caught soars with the vivid details of surfing culture and the already fading imprint of man on the mighty sea – rather like footprints in the sand.



Above, Catherine Ruane’s series Look Until You See features stunningly detailed depictions of plants, so tenderly and exquisitely rendered as to create a metaphor for human life. Working on paper, she exposes her drawings to the natural environment as if the plants depicted were themselves living and breathing. So real do they seem, the viewer’s breath quickens.


Whimsical and bright, a patchwork quilt of art, Dana Zed’s acrylic paintings were inspired by a 500 mile solo bike trip across the country.


Nancy Willis, above, investigates images of daily life in soft, fuzzy-edged renderings that make the mundane into a visual fairy tale.

Below, Lindsey Evans Montgomery creates color prisms that reflect geometric forms, glowing rainbows, and voluptuous auras.


Below, Gillian Keller creates glowing, quintessentially SoCal images of “Enlightenment Barbie” as a name for herself and her work. Ken better hurry and get his own ashram on. F23C8429

Mitra Fabian and Kathy Aoki create immersive sculptural pieces that take over the viewer and transport to a different time and place. Fabian, below, has created delicate, shroud-like mixed media.


Aoki leads us into the world of a faux history museum, where “found” sarcophagi lead us into an alternate universe. F23C8434 F23C8436 F23C8435

Color, light, form, meaning, metaphor, wonder – the closest summary we can make to the StART Up Art Fair experience. Book yourself a stay next year. And take a splash in the pool of private gallery space that grows richer with every room visit.


Above, If I Fell, Acrylic on Panel, by Kimberly Rowe, a piece absolutely juicy with color and life.

Below Kimberly Rowe and Jennifer Turnage make their room’s walk-in shower into a bouncy ball pop-up art exhibit. Their shared suite number was Room 222. F23C8394


  • Genie Davis; all photos by Jack Burke, photo of Aline Mare by Gary Brewer

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