“Love Thy Neighbor”

LAST NIGHT, I slipped in for the opening at the Craft Folk & Art Museum on the Miracle Mile.

Wilshire Boulevard was a bit of a madhouse as it was free museum admission day across the southland and LACMA, located just across the street from CFAM, was one of the venues participating in the promotion. (Which sent a pretty loud message about perhaps retooling pricing structures and thereby creating more access, but I digress …) 20140126-150110.jpg

This brought a healthy crowd into CFAM as well — on top of the opening guest list/party crowd. The current show, which features the work of three artists — Timothy Washington’s “Love Thy Neighbor,” Golnar Adili and Samira Yamin’s “Displacements” and Shirley Familian’s “19,275 Stamps — was packed, and offered a pretty vivid representation of the many faces/guises/spaces that make up L.A.

Consequently the galleries were really too bustling to spend much contemplative time up-close with all of the work. That will be for later. But I did get upstairs to the third floor to take a quick-spin through “Love Thy Neighbor,” as I’m putting together a profile on another currently-L.A.-based assemblage artist who grew out of this very same L.A. strain of the tradition.

This is Timothy Washington’s first solo museum exhibition. The show, which occupies the entire third-floor gallery, features a generous sampling of his creative evolution — engravings on aluminum, found-art sculpture, mosaics, wash-boards and wooden spoon pieces among them. Meticulously layered, each piece is a story within a story within a story, offering powerful visual narratives about both sense of place and state of mind. Looking forward to returning to spend more time with all of it.

Here’s a preview piece by Mike Sonksen that appeared earlier this week on KCET Departures.

Below are some highlights and details from some of Timothy Washington’s work.

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“Wanda Coleman/Los Angeles”

Hill Street, Santa Monica
TOO MUCH saying “goodbye” of late — or trying to find the right words to do so.

I still haven’t found mine.

I sat for hours yesterday on a black plastic chair in weathered street-corner church in Santa Monica listening to remembrances about the poet Wanda Coleman.

Some were poems. Bouquets of anecdotes. Vignettes. The very edges of decades-faded fragments. There were digressions. Revelations. And of course, music. Even her own. Just the way she spelled her name in a video outtake made me remember the control and breath. Modulation.

All these shared stories cracked open old memories. I saw my former self sitting in the very back of a tiny, fire-hazard crowded Santa Monica bookstore decades ago and listening to Wanda read/sing her way through a trail of poems and essays for the very first time — lines about a workaday Los Angeles that was so very familiar to me. Streets and faces and routines. Same sky. Same trees. Same radio-station tuned in — even the between-stations static. This was long before I was calling myself a writer out loud but knew that that was what it was I wanted to be but hadn’t quite figured out what that would mean and what it would take. But she knew. wanda2

The collage from yesterday’s memorial/tribute pieced together just that — in image/memory: floor-to-ceiling binders of rejection slips, watching “Seymour” (Seymour!) on TV with her daughter, doing the poet’s turn around Los Angeles and beyond, speaking your razor-sharp mind (tongue) and your soft, open heart. Balance. We heard how much work it took to do the work, but also heard how much time she found in those tightly-scheduled days to give big gifts — keep your head-up/”No-You’re-not-crazy” encouragement — that would last into this all-too-brief forever.

Just last week I found a list of “just-in-case” story ideas — black ballpoint on pink scratch paper– she had pressed into my hand after an hours-long lunch. Thankfully, I’d gotten to a couple of them before she vanished, so she saw that she was still guiding — me and others — toward great things, making connections on and off the page.

The quote from yesterday that I walked out with/woke up with was an answer to a question posed to Wanda: “Why write?

Her answer:

“To provide context for my being.”

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Chasing Chandler’s Ghost

THE LAST couple of months have been a crush of trying to make it to the finish line on several projects, but I took a little time out to check out the Esouteric’s Raymond Chandler tour.

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Esotouric does a number of L.A. historical/cultural off-the-beaten track explorations of L.A. — you can check them out here. Our four-hour tour in a big fancy air-cooled bus (this seems to be a theme of mine of late — to be a tourist in my own town) was led authoritatively by Kim Cooper and Richard Schave. Deeply researched, it wound us along Chandler’s meandering trail through Los Angeles — downtown and Hollywood — with both historical and literary context provided — even some clips from Chandler-inspired films.

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We made stops at the lavish Oviatt building, the Barclay Hotel in the heart of downtown’s historic core, then snaked into Hollywood past Paramount Studios, the Crossroads of the World and then wound back to the industrial district where we’d met up.

at the hotel barclay -- downtown

at the hotel barclay

Coming at the city from all of these different angles shifts the perspective, allows you to both see L.A. from the inside out and arms you with a ready come-back for those who want to tell you that L.A. has no history. Often the problem, we Angelenos know, is that people just don’t know where to look when they are out to chase ghosts.

Esoutouric seems to know where the best ones are hidden.

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“things that do not speak to me as they used to”


VERY MOVING read in the L.A. Times today about Eloise Klein Healy who was named Los Angeles’ first poet laureate last year only to suddenly disappear from view. Patt Morrison’s profile brings us up to date on Healy and her whereabouts. She was diagnosed with encephalitis.

Here’s a snip from Patt Morrison’s piece:

Healy is in intense therapy, which involves many things designed to treat the aphasia symptoms of her illness. There are vocabulary flashcards, dancing, listening to music (mostly the Beatles). Household objects are labeled with Post-Its: ‘oven’ and ‘pantry.’ The fact that Healy is left-handed, Rooney explained, somehow accelerates the relearning of speech.”

The striking thing is how swiftly and confidently she still talks. When she can’t think of a word, she drops in a different one. And she breezily makes up words, saying her illness left her “all scrooped up.”

You can read the rest of the story here:

image: Eloise Klein Healy photographed by Francine Orr via L.A. Times