Mysterious, wonderful, frightening, inspiring. That’s the childhood world that photographer Kathy Curtis Cahill presents in her riveting exhibition “Memories and Demons” at the Artists Corner Gallery in Hollywood.
The photographs Cahill creates feature eerily realistic antique dolls, positioned so that they, like her luminous photography, come startlingly alive. Cahill describes the pieces as inspired by her childhood. “It was difficult,” she relates. “My parents were blue collar workers, and we moved around a lot. My father gambled and drank, and abused my mother. My brother was boarded out. I’ve spent a long time getting over being angry.”
But Cahill’s work offers her closure, and the viewer an insight into a world of childhood both vivid and insightful. “This project was cathartic for me,” Cahill says. “My parents divorced, but ended up back together, in a toxic relationship they couldn’t live without.”
What Cahill can’t live without is her art. “I’ve always been involved in art and photography. I took photography classes. I worked in film. I have been inspired greatly by Diane Arbus and Sally Mann.” She started “Memories and Demons” utilizing another long time passion, collecting antique dolls. The dolls are her subjects, and their haunting expressions and positions are profoundly alive. ow does she create her dolls’ life-like positions? “Through trial and error,” Cahill attests. “I use paint cans, sticks, props. I work with them, and create an environment for them.”
Cahill has been creating her unique vision for just under a year. She works without assistance, using a variety of natural light sources in many pieces. “My ‘Please Help’ was shot by porch light,” she explains. The naturalism of her settings, lighting, and interactions contributes to the surreal/real style of her work.
The poignant images show loss, longing, fear, and wonder, all in a very personal way that grabs the viewer by the heart and throat. Her first piece, “Small Comforts” was directly inspired by her mother. “I make these pieces for all the children who were traumatized, for children who are still affected as adults by what has happened in the past. I tell stories in images that children may not be able to tell in words.”
To learn more about Cahill’s dynamic work, visit Artist’s Corner, located at 6585 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. A closing night reception and artist’s talk takes place Saturday, August 8th from 7 to 10 pm and should fall in your “do not miss” category.
Opening last Saturday at the Lam Gallery, the vibrant large-scale paintings and smaller works by LA-based artist Sally Bruno compel with color and thick, nearly three-dimensional applications of paint. Whimsical and riveting, Bruno’s work may remind viewers of Matisse and Chagall.
From large, imaginative flowers to romantic courtyards and mysteriously energetic, curved, and colorful shapes, Bruno captivates. “I’m really interested in things that color can do for the viewer, and the viewer’s experience of pleasure or joy,” Bruno explains. “Every painting just vibrates with color. That’s when I decide a painting is finished, when I get an internal realization that the paint, the color, is complete. The most interesting and exciting part of the process for me is that I have no idea what my paintings will look like until they are right there. When I paint, I’m really in the moment.”
Bruno describes her creation process as “moving fast and thinking fast. Everything leads to a different idea. There’s a part of me that really simply enjoys the journey of the painting, and learning what it means as it takes shape.”
A rainbow of colors, Bruno’s rich and energetic paintings are about the texture, the pigment, the waves and ribbons of color that shape her figures and landscapes. In “Flower Pot,” for example, Bruno’s exquisite layering of paint and color result in flowers so lush that they seem to pull the viewer into a world where such flowers grow.
Oil on canvas, many of the paintings are large and expansive, with her inviting “Courtyard,” featuring an electric-red chair, and a table with flowers, is 84 by 120 inches. But just as riveting are pieces such as “Fruit Bowl,” a 24 x 18 colorful collection of fruit that could’ve come straight from Carmen Miranda’s hat.
To experience Bruno’s inventive palette, enter her peacock-hued world at LAM Gallery by August 15th.
Artist Kristine Schomaker not only creates her own art, she supports other artists in the Los Angeles community through her company, Shoebox PR. Schomaker discusses the direction of her art and how she began her work as an artist and as an artist’s advocate.
Schomaker’s first art experience was as a child in grade school. “I used to draw my dad’s race cars and the F-15 planes that he worked on. In the 80’s I used to take the soda bottles that had foam labels, tear the labels off in one swirling shot and put it in the empty bottle. I would call it ‘pop art.’” In high school, Schomaker wanted to be an architect until in college she realized “I hated math, so architecture was out.” A painting class, art history class, and museum visits set Schomaker’s life as an artist. “Iwent to the Sam Francis retrospective at MOCA and the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at LACMA and I was blown away. After seeing the Sam Francis exhibition, I knew abstract expressionism was for me.”
Schomaker began painting using a process of “pouring and dripping, mixing colors on the canvas and using my blow dryer as a tool to create the work,” a technique she continues today. When an aunt and uncle described the virtual world of Second Life, and how artists appeared in the world, showing real-world artwork, Schomaker joined up. “I created an Avatar, started a gallery, organized shows and started creating work using second life as another tool. Since then, I continue to paint, but I also use Second Life as another art tool where I focus on identity and body politics.” While the artist has sold many paintings, she finds “new media is more cutting edge for the contemporary art world. I’m learning to combine the two and I’m working on making full room installations using new media, painting and sculpture,” she notes.
The artist is based out of the Brewery Artist lofts on the eastern edge of DTLA. That location contributes to her work. “I grew up in the Antelope Valley in the high desert, so I didn’t have the opportunity to come down to the museums or galleries as much as I would have loved to. When I moved to the Brewery a few years ago, the world opened up. I could jump on the freeway and be virtually anywhere in a matter of minutes. The diverse artists, the amount of creativity and imagination, the inspirational studios and lofts – the community is very stimulating. The artists who live here range from architects to graphic designers, painters and sculptors, photographers and print makers, jewelers and fashion designers. I have an idea to make a full body suit in the likeness of my Avatar and I have already talked to one of my neighbors about working together on it. I ran out of titanium white paint one Easter when all of the art stores were closed. I posted on our Facebook group to see if anyone had some, and an artist had a quart from Nova Color that I bought from her. It was perfect. If I need another eye to look at my work, I can call friends here to come over and check it out.” In short, being a part of this loft community is an important aspect of Schomaker’s work and lifestyle.
But the artist is not one to stay at home. She recently transported sculptures on a “road trip” around Southern California and took photos of that journey. “My new media work has always been about bringing the virtual world to the physical world or blurring the line between the virtual and the physical worlds. In a solo show I had a couple years ago, for opening night I held a dinner party performance in which participants in the physical world sat down to eat with Avatars from Second Life. The Avatars were made up of people from all over the world. The painted mannequins are inspired by my Avatar in Second Life. In that virtual world, I used one of my paintings as a skin on my Avatar and it became a brand for me and my work. It was a natural progression to bring her into the real world. Painting a mannequin was the best way at the time to make it happen.”
Schomaker has created five real world Avatars and has taken them on the road with her. “I call this project Avatar Simulacrum. My last trip was to San Diego and I am planning on taking them to San Francisco the end of the month. The Avatars are a stand-in for me. They are virtually my ‘ideal’ self. Since my work is about body image, self-acceptance and society’s perception of beauty, I will eventually have a mannequin made in my likeness to show that every body shape and size is beautiful.” Her art is very personal, particularly in regard to her Avatars. “They represent me and my body image issues. I have an eating disorder which in part originated because of these issues. I use my work to hopefully inspire people to accept themselves and others no matter what shape, size, race, or religion they may be.”
Along with her own art, Schomaker is unique in supporting other artists through her company Shoebox PR. “I’ve always been big on building art communities. I absolutely believe that we have to support each other in order to thrive in the art world. I was the social media manager and then the president of the Brewery Artwalk Association, and I’ve been able to support the artists who live here. It is so fulfilling to see my artists succeed. It is not only their success, but my own, because I know in a small way, I was able to help them get there. Art is all encompassing. Like literature, it tells a story and every artist has their own story. It’s fantastic to share those stories.”
See Schomaker’s work – and that of other artists – at the California 101 Exhibit opening July 31st in Redondo Beach