Archive for April, 2010
The best thing about the Arts at Context building in its raw stage is that the vast warehouse space is still teeming with materials, props, fabrics, and a myriad of strange and exciting things that could made into potential art supplies by all of us artists there and we’ve been encouraged to scavenge the debris and remnants of the old event company that was here prior to us. The amount of wood planes has become particularly exciting to Ryan and I as we embark on some body outline paintings to flush out a collaborative show already in the works.
Photos from Cristopher Cichocki’s Inaugural Installation – view more work by Cris at www.cristophersea.com.
As my friend and fellow Arts at Context artist Cristopher Cichocki and I drove to the building to do our room installations for the inaugural exhibition, we decided to drive around the perimeter blocks to check out what we had on hand in the hood. With a super grass root delight, we discovered that our studios in the Old Town Indio historic district were actually positioned like a central wheel hub with streets becoming spokes to all the things we could possibly want within a neat square mile. Everything the starving artist needs: thrift stores for clothing and impromptu assemblage treasures; carniceria and liquor store for beer and cheap eats; 24 hour fitness gym for exercise between the art creation; a Winco for super cheap studio fridge groceries; post office; police station; bus stop; the Indio Performing Arts Center; the Date Farmers in town studio; and my friend Phillip K. Smith’s The Art Office where he creates his insane architectural and design public art pieces. And a nice convenient Del Taco down the street, where I was when the aforementioned Phillip stopped by to leave me this lovely welcome note on the eve of our first show amidst a day of hardcore art installation.
Bill Schinsky is my hero. Not only has the soft-spoken and gentle artist been running the Coachella Valley Arts Alliance since its inception as an arts advocate and supporter, but he truly digs on the ideas of community and co-op that spring from grassroots level creative thought. This is why he convinced the City of Indio to lease him the massive building next to the Yellow Mart and across the street from Johnson Photo in old town Indio, which is currently in the process of being transformed into a thriving arts and culture center of studios, exhibition space, and cultural and non-profit based office space.
The minute I heard about this grand coup, I applied to be one of the artists and was thankfully accepted. There are so many reasons this idea was attractive to me but here are a few.
I love Old Town Indio for the same reasons I like to go hide in Mexico during the summers. It’s basic and simple, it feels down to earth and real, it’s not shiny and fake (nor are the people)-everyone is working. I can buy Levis or Dickies and tee shirts. I can get my work framed. I can eat cheap but great food in the carnicerias. Good beer is right down the street. So is the post office for stamps so I can talk to everyone I want to reach without having to leave my art space, and there are miles of train tracks and desert for meditative walks mid-painting.
The block of Miles Avenue on which the building resides is also a part of a central spoke and wheel of streets that consist of the following things: the revitalized Indio Performing Arts Center, which armed with a new Executive Director is poised as a new, interesting space, the first studio of the Date Farmers who have now moved onto L.A. for their evolution into Ace Gallery (yet the idea that their creative energy still remains is rejuvenating), scattered small businesses just dying for some economic input, and a feeling in the air that something scintillating is about to happen. Bristling with potential, the brand of being unpolished, unknown, untrained, and newly formed is totally exciting.
There are other artists moving into the space whose work sings to me. Cristopher Cichocki simply blows me away with his desert installations and toxic environmental exploitations and Ryan Campbell is ready to bombard the world with his conceptual trickery. I am aching to move into performance based video works and will now have the space and aptitude to do so at length. Not only will I be in my own studio, but I will be able to walk out that studio front door and see my artist friends working in an elevated form of community, will be able to order art supplies from the rumored satelite location of the Art Colony/Blueprinter within the same set of walls; and meet, engage and interact with the other artists moving in whom I don’t know. This kind of come-as-you-are, co-op, collective is new to the desert and Bill Schinsky is allowing it to form from inside, which it has been doing steadily on the down low. I hear Adrien Balogh, who is an autistic and brilliant artist and Nikki Reisman, who is like a goddess queen of the desert, and Jan O’Connell from Los Angeles who who creates passionately colored paintings, are also moving their wares in. S.C.R.A.P. Gallery, the Museum of Recycled Art, will also have a display presence within and Bill Schinsky will show his work and the work of others he works with like the kids of Juvenile Hall.
On April 23rd from 5:30 – 9:00, this new space aptly titled the Arts at Context, will have a debut party to introduce the community at large to this new and patchwork collective. Bill Kobrin, the famous photographer who shot the iconic photo of Marilyn with her white dress floating up over a street grate, will present his show Stars and Celebrities while the rest of studio artists will each have a room to make up as a private gallery that expresses our work for the evening in a collective exhibit titled MAPPING THE CONTEXT. Everyone will be able to see the space in its original raw form before we all get into the nitty gritty in May of turning our studio spaces into our own and cultivating a hub of tempestuous creativity and art!
There will be a DJ playing LIVE in the street and refreshments for all!
I hope everyone can make it!
In October of last year, I quit my life as I knew it. It was part of an eighteen year plan that actually had begun the moment I was born: to be a full time artist and writer. I had successfully managed to work on my art, get published, participate in shows, and evolve my voice as an artist over the past two decades while also raising a daughter and working full time but it wasn’t just being in shows and seeing my name in print that had been my lifelong goal. Quite the contrary. I wanted my entire life to be a form of art, to be focused around art, to be encompassed by art, and to consist of nothing else but art.
Art could no longer be a side thing, it had to become the main thing. It had to come before everything else. It had to be the elemental impetus of my existence. I remembered things that backed this up like an article with Author Dennis Cooper I read once where he admitted that in order to become the writer he wanted to be, he had to quit his high powered job, chose to work instead as a restaurant employee, so that he could devote all his brain space and energy to his chosen craft. The minute he made this commitment, he was able to finish and sell his first successful book. I recalled an article about Kiki Smith, one of the female artists of today who I admire most, where she spoke of a piece she had installed where an artist sat at a desk working on plans for the next piece with nothing else but a bed-denoting that the artist’s life is one of solitude and devotion. Then I read a piece about another favorite artist of mine, Maurizio Catellan, who retains a lifestyle where he only has a small apartment with a bed and some clothes so that he has nothing else he has to maintain or think about other than his art.
I realized this was a brave desire, fed nothing but skepticism in a world where people live with carefully guarded wishes close to their chests in lieu of choosing the safe routes. I had chosen the safe route for a long time and found myself looking in the mirror in October ‘09 after sending my 18 year old daughter into the world and knew that it was time to quit life as I previously knew it and embrace the artist’s life fully, not just in output but in practice—the everyday practice of living. It was now or never.
So I did. I left a house and memories and let it go, I reduced my possessions from a house full to those that could fit in a tiny two story loft bedroom in my family’s home and that mainly consisted of books, clothes, photographs, artwork and art supplies. I reduced my PR client load to only those who represented similar interests as me. I left the social world that I had been so successful in and stopped going out at night to dinners and galas and parties and instead focused all my attention on writing and painting and working on art. I got rid of any concern or maintenance related item I still had and began concentrating on true inner focus.
After six months and a hell of a lot of faith, and a lot of naysaying by fearful friends who thought I was crazy, and blind commitment, I was accepted as a studio artist at the new Arts at Context building in Indio, California where I will be able to work full time in the environment of grassroots culture in a community with other artists and friends I admire to build a new kind of living. Head first and happy, I am diving in.
I am tired of egos and politics and consumerism and greed and getting ahead and staking a claim and owning things and status symbols and not knowing my neighbors and not talking to people in grocery store lines and not buying into the time clock and living life with some other set of codes that I didn’t create, nor ever would. I don’t want the almighty dollar to rule my path or the direction I take. I just want to create, communicate, touch other people and feel truly alive and thriving every day for the rest of my life interconnecting with the world through the only fresh thing we have left: art and its creation.