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A creative blog by Arthur Kegerreis on The Whole 9

Arthur Kegerreis – aka Liberal Art, aka Himat Singh – is interested in way too many things, although curiosity has not killed this cat yet. In LA for 14 years now, he has lived in NYC; VT; Amherst, MA; Santa Fe; Madison, WI; and grew up on Long Island. Arthur has been a cabinetmaker, guitar maker, Kundalini Yoga Teacher, Pilates instructor, graphic designer, composer, and playwright, though he now spends most of his time taking photos, writing songs, making video art, and building websites. Having fought his night-owlish tendencies all his life, he is fascinated by the creative process, so jump in and talk shop into the wee hours…or not.

Flatlander’s Guide to Joshua Tree: Part I (NW): Giant Rock/Integratron

Periodically, non-Angelenos come to visit LA, and inevitably they want to visit Joshua Tree, thinking it’s nearby, although it’s 100 miles away on another desert plateau. The attraction has always puzzled me, until I got to know some of the locals there.

My initial thinking: Palmdale and Pearblossom Highway offer plentiful more accessible Joshua Trees (without a park admission fee) than the National Park does;

Pearblossom Highway - Google Maps

Pearblossom Highway – Google Maps

the northwest Lee Flats region of Death Valley National Park also has even more Joshua Trees than Joshua Tree National Park itself,

Segment of Lee Flats Panorama by James Hatton (Google Maps)

Segment of Lee Flats Panorama by James Hatton (Google Maps)

AND you can visit Death Valley in the same trip, perhaps even swinging up to the spectacular Saline Valley Hot Springs. (But that’s another blog post in itself.)

Saline Valley Hot Springs by Onur Azeri (Google Maps)

Saline Valley Hot Springs by Onur Azeri (Google Maps)

LA I-405 Traffic

However, any urban dweller is likely to inexplicably find themselves at a frustration saturation point. Whether it’s the endless traffic jams or aggressive idiocy of those people packed into overpriced residential closets around you, you may find yourself ready to dive off the Hollywood Sign. That’s when it’s time to get away. It might sneak up on you before you even know it.

About to jump over the Hollywood Sign

Let’s face it; from LA, Death Valley is too far a drive for most people, and Pearblossom Highway is sort of bleak. Joshua Tree is only a couple hours away, and after you pass through the endless surreal fields of windmills near Palm Springs and ascend the steep climb to Morongo Valley, there’s something magical about the whole stretch of desert along Highway 62.

Aerial: Mt San Jacinto, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree Natl Pk

During one of my first excursions to the area, my friend and I stopped for gas in Twenty-nine Palms, and while we were fueling up, a jeep pulled up to the next pump, and an attractive gal jumped out, tossed her hair, smiled, waved at my friend and I, and ran inside the gas station. Her disheveled bug-eyed boyfriend then jumped out of the jeep, ran over and nearly shouted, “she’s my girlfriend, just so you know…” as he agitatedly eyed us defensively. We cautiously eyed him, bracing ourselves for an attack.

Then something unexpected happened. He said, “Hey, wait…” and looked at me closely. “I’ve seen you somewhere… on TV… you’re…” he paused, “Richard Simmons!”

Richard Simmons in the NY Times

We all burst out laughing.

I’m no stranger to mistaken doppleganger recognition assumptions, of course. But it was the first time one seemed to dissuade an attack.

Arthur's Dopplegangers

Myself, Christopher Lloyd as J Emmett Brown, Bruce Dern, Albert Einstein, Graydon Carter, Jack Casady, and a Wookie.

But my friend had visited from Vancouver, and during the short winter months, we arrived at the park as it got dark, only able to view it from the car headlights, during the long windy drive through the park. It was like a long uneventful and disappointing sequel to “The Blair Witch Project;” eerie Joshua trees appeared and receded as the headlights illuminated them, yet nothing notable ever happened. We finally reached the other highway and returned to LA. My friend seemed content, having visited the park, but I felt disappointed.

Joshua Tree National Park North Entrance Road

Joshua Tree Park Dusk 2

Joshua Tree Park Dusk

Desert Couch

Joshua Tree is a puzzling and inhospitable environment. I’ve often had the feeling that people moved there because they wanted to get away from LA, not because they were drawn to something there. But I’ve learned that seems more true with Barstow than Joshua Tree. The desert plateau is littered with abandoned cabins, gradually deteriorating under the relentless abuse of the sun and winds, but often still showing the remains of their residents 30 or more years ago; record players and old TVs often sit next to old mattresses or couches with springs popping through any remnants of upholstery, like the chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” movie.

Desert Shack Silhouette

Desert Shack Mattress

A joshua tree in a desert shack window

While exploring an abandoned cabin, a flash photo revealed a pair of eyes in the dark corner of the ceiling; closer investigation revealed a dodo-like bird that looked like a winged porcupine. Locals later told me this was a “desert puffin,” creatures that reportedly have a knack for creeping into people’s cars unnoticed. However, I had revealed myself as a tourist, and they were just having a little fun with me. Google still didn’t have any listings for “desert puffins” and the closest look-alike I could find was the roadrunner, which reportedly nests about ten to twelve feet off the ground, often in cacti. I didn’t know that they’re also capable of killing or warding off a rattlesnake’s attack, but fortunately, I didn’t have to watch it take one on.

Desert Shack Resident Roadrunner

During my excursions to the area, I’ve also seen rare desert tortoises and burrowing owls.

Desert Tortoise

Burrowing Owl Video:

Yet the most unusual wildlife are the people living there.

Despite the inhospitable climate, the region holds an unmistakable draw for artists and creative types. Perhaps it’s because light has a beautific surreal quality there; the “golden hour” before sunset seems to last all day long. But artists, even those craving solitude, also thrive amidst creative communities, and there seems to be a vast network on the plateau. This network, thankfully, also seems to lack the pretense of LA’s westside art scene. The residents are just doing what they love there, and some of them are exceptional.

Marine Barbershop

The region has long attracted both the eccentric (if not insane) and exceptionally creative. Somehow these “creatives” live back-to-back with the expansive Marine Training Base, which is puzzlingly located far from any trace of water. The artists I’ve met speak with mystical acceptance and curiosity about what goes on there; such as the night-time “balloon flares” that shoot up into the sky, hover, and illuminate the desert below like weird Skynet searchlight UFOs from Terminator movies.

Terminator Skynet

Dune Buggies at Giant Rock: Marine Base on horizon

The Marine Base is off-limits to civilians, but it’s un-fenced, unlike many hundreds of miles of California ranches. Surrounded by miles of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, the desert roads lure dune buggy ORV drivers onto the outskirts of the base, but Marine deputies then nail the drivers, as well as every passenger, with expensive trespassing tickets.

Dune Buggies at Giant Rock 2

One dune buggy driver told me how he had driven out across a desert field to a small shed, which had an armed guard standing next to it. He greeted the impassive guard, inquiring, “I guess I shouldn’t be here, huh?” The guard replied simply, “nope,” and then the shed door burst open and a whole platoon of soldiers emerged from the underground tunnel, surrounding him with drawn rifles, and escorting him off the base. Yet this impertinent driver seemed determined to push the limits, seeing how many times he could tread over the base boundaries; he unravelled tale after tale of taking friends over the hills and dunes, all of them eventually having to pay trespassing tickets.

Giant Rock

Giant Rock with Cars

This unusual encounter occurred near “Giant Rock,” north of Landers, NW of Joshua Tree itself. Slightly further out this desert road, literally in the middle of nowhere,  was an apparently abandoned Western Movie film stage. (This turns out to have been the still active White Horse Ranch )

Desert Shack: "Occupied Not Abandoned"

The nearest paved road was lined with deteriorating shacks adorned with “for sale” signs, like some bizarre real estate joke.

Giant Rock (map) ( and ) has a colorful history, however, due to it’s close relationship with the somewhat better known nearby new-agey “Integratron (map link).” ( ) Despite its dubious claim to be the largest single rock on the planet, it’s nowhere near as impressive as the Mt Kyaiktiyo golden rock in Myanmar, but unlike the golden rock, women can visit it too.
( )

Golden Rock in Myanmar, Burma


Integratron Model

The Integatron was built by George Van Tassel, a UFO enthusiast, who believed he’d been gifted with a vision for a structure that would rejuvenate a person’s cells and extend their life. This vision was channeled through him, rooted in his regular meditation sessions, and drawn from information aliens had bestowed upon him during one of their visits. The domed building was supposed to have a spinning disk around the exterior, but it never turned, and birds found that it offered a great spot to build their nests. There is actually an airstrip between the Integratron and Giant Rock, which welcomed UFOs and participants in his popular “Spacecraft Conventions,” which drew 11,000 participants in 1959. George Van Tassel was an aeronautical engineer who worked for Lockheed, Douglas Aircraft, and as a test pilot for Howard Hughes at Hughes Aviation. His shared interest in spruce led him to get Howard Hughes to contribute some of the funds for the Integratron’s construction. The circle of concrete crowning the dome is said to weigh two tons.

Integratron Inside spruce dome

Today, the Integratron offers yoga classes and sound baths with Tibetan Bowls and Gongs, but any aspirations for offering eternal life seem to have fallen by the wayside.

“Van Tassel had learned of Giant Rock from Frank Critzer, a gold prospector and desert dweller, who had excavated under the massive boulder to construct a dwelling of several small rooms protected from the fierce sun.” Van Tassel’s father had fixed Critzer’s car in Santa Monica in exchange for a claim in any gold mine he might start. There was gold nearby too; decades earlier, in the mountains just west of Landers, gold fever-stricken miners had been killed by bandits near Big Bear while some large mines like those on Big Bear’s “Gold Mountain” were in full swing. Following the first World War, Critzer had immigrated from Germany and served in the US Merchant Marine, but had been instructed to leave his sea life for the this desert plateau to help his lungs.

During WWII, rumors began to circulate that Critzer was a German Spy because he had a large radio antenna nearby. In 1942, three deputies from Riverside County came to interrogate him, despite Giant Rock being in San Bernadino County where they had no jurisdiction. He barricaded his door when he went inside to get his coat, and they threw a teargas grenade in the window, which detonated the prospecting dynamite he had inside. Critzer was killed and the deputies were injured. His residence under the rock was later filled in.

Van Tassel built and lived in buildings adjacent to Giant Rock while he was building his Integratron. They were torn down by the BLM after Van Tassel’s death in 1978. The adjacent hill is now named, “Spy Mountain,” and in more recent years, a chunk of the boulder cracked and fell away due to natural causes. Indigenous natives had long considered the boulder a sacred site.

As you depart from the eternal-life-aspiration-filled property of the Integratron, the roads, lined with small desert ranches, seem troublingly mundane. But don’t be deceived; the hills and valleys nearby are filled with other amazing gems. This is why Pioneertown is one of my favorite areas in this part of the desert.
(next: Pioneertown)

Super Adobe and Affordable Housing for the New Millenium

Recently, I stumbled upon the work of “The Cal-Earth Institute,” a small enclave of atypical desert adobe domes near the infamous Deep Creek Hot Springs and Adelanto Detention Center, along the highway to Barstow. )

Here’s a short clip about their work:

Here’re some of the structures built by their alumni:…

They seem like something from a Hobbit Village, and are steeped with tons more character than the bland cookie-cutter housing developments that are springing up across the Mohave Desert, even in the lots adjacent to the Institute.

The organization was founded by an architect who hoped to find a way to offer affordable housing to communities anywhere. The super adobe buildings are constructed of a series of sandbags filled with local earth, tied together with barbwire, formed into arches and domes, and covered with adobe. They claim they can withstand severe earthquakes without problem, and anyone can learn to build them cheaply and efficiently.

They have open houses nearly every month, or group visits can be arranged. I hope to check them out more thoroughly in the near future. Until I can report more, check out their website and facebook page:…

The Imprisoned Path to Asylum at Adelanto

Yesterday in New York, a young woman from El Salvador gave birth to a boy that she and her husband named in memory of her brother, who had been brutally beaten to death by gangs in her home town when the couple refused to help traffic drugs for a gang there. After the incident, the couple and woman’s mother made the arduous trip to the US, via a network of boats and cab drivers, a several month stay in Guatamala, and a tunnel near Tijuana. After they entered the US, they applied for asylum in San Diego. Apparently they thought it would be easier to use the tunnel than to apply for asylum at the border CBP office; they made no delay with their voluntary application. I visited her husband, a young man at Adelanto, yesterday. His bail bond is set for $15,000, and he had an initial trial earlier yesterday morning; his next trial to present evidence for his asylum case will be on November 30th.

With the help of an interpreter, I learned that he is afraid to tell other detained immigrants there where he is from, in case some of them are tied into the gang that killed his brother-in-law. He mentioned that not only MS-13, but also MS-15 and MS-18 are active in his home town. He had been a carpenter, working for a construction company that frequently moved him around his home country.

Advocacy groups in NY, CT, and CA are trying to help raise funds for his bond. The woman and her mother were able to get released from detention with help from the wife’s grandfather, who is a legal US resident. The husband was in detention at government-run Victorville Prison for three months, where he described the food and treatment as vastly better than the nearby, private, GEO-run Adelanto Detention Center. (In recent months, there has been an effort to move detained immigrants out of government prisons into private detention centers) He has been at Adelanto so far for two more months. His contact with his wife and her family has been minimal, although, unlike many others in detention, he has been able to contact them by phone.

Adelanto East Lobby Kiosks for Detainee Phone Funds

To make phone calls, the 2000 Adelanto detainees need to have money deposited in a kiosk at the detention center. GEO takes a 30% cut on contributions for the detainees, and the detainees are eligible to work for a dollar a day helping serve the food or clean the detention center. Another detainee said that often the burritos that were served were still partially frozen.

He seemed excited to learn that his wife was in labor, but I sat there wondering what it must be like to leave a country for your own survival and not to know if you’ll ever see your newborn son, or how long it would be before that could happen. Why does an asylee and refugee get thrown into prison for months, if not years – as we have witnessed, for the privilege of becoming a US citizen? These are not “illegal” immigrants. These are people applying for legal citizenship for their own survival and safety. Then their bail is set for an astronomical amount.

As the interpreter and I left, we were escorted through three remotely locked doors, by a security guard station with a wall filled with handcuffs and desk filled with surveillance monitors, through a metal detector. When you visit someone, you cannot take paper or pencil with you, or even a cough drop. We retrieved the contents of our pockets from our locker, exchanged our locker keys for our drivers licenses, and walked a narrow road from the East to West detention facilities. A man in a car sat near the parking lot, like a high school security guard. He instructed us that the driveway was only for ICE or GEO staff, and that next time we needed to walk all the way out to the road and back through the parking lots. The visiting room lobbys were mostly empty yesterday, but the parking lots had no spots for visitors, forcing us to park along the desert road nearby. I was less bothered by that than our other elderly visitors; furthermore, the heat, which has sometimes been 110 degrees, was not bad yesterday. After all, I thought, at least we’re free to come and go as we please. As we re-grouped, impatiently dealt with the traffic from the nearby Dr. Pepper bottling plant, and sought some fortification from Starbucks to resume the 85 mile drive home, we shared our stories.

Terry had visited a man from Kenya who has been detained at Adelanto since November of last year. He had a hearing with judge Jose Rosaperez, who has a reputation for being the most racist, with a high asylum denial and deportation history. The Kenyan been experiencing heart pains, and after continual complaints was permitted to get medical attention at a hospital nearby, in handcuffs. They thought he was lactose intolerant and shouldn’t consume any dairy, but the detention center of course won’t give him soy milk or an alternative. Carmiel had visted a man from Jordan who was also struggling with many of the same issues, which brought to mind a cross-country plane trip I’d taken, sitting adjacent to a man from Jordan who’d come to school in the US to become an electrical engineer, but was unable after numerous immigration steps, to secure employment in his field, and opened a gas station between Bakersfield and Fresno. He had extended an open invitation for me to visit him and his family there. So much for the bigoted complaints about immigrants stealing our jobs.

Trump and the GOP continues to utter empty threats about the migrant “caravan” trying to make its way to our border, assisted by gangs and other unsavory people. They leave at 3AM to escape the brutal heat of their journey. They are fleeing gang violence that is a consequence of U.S. destabilization of their home countries, assisted by an illegal network that can only profit from the migration as long as it’s prohibited. Trump is now threatening to allow no one to cross the border, sending military to the border to defend us from refugees!?! What an utter lie and waste of taxpayer money. Please, please, please – contact your representatives and senators and implore them not to support this inhumanity with your tax dollars.

If you’d like to contribute to the El Salvadoran man’s bond, contact me, and I can put you in touch with the three organizations that may be able to help him. I’m not sharing his name for his safety.


I received the good news tonight that two organizations on the east coast have successfully raised his bond, and he is being released Tuesday to be flown to NYC. We’re trying to arrange his transport to LAX at this point.

Brett Kavanaugh: Perpetuating Travesty in DC

In the mid-1970’s, C’s water broke. She wasn’t even in high school yet. Her parents, who had been in complete denial about her pregnancy – and the uncle raping her – rushed her into their car and the mother pressed her head below the windows so the neighbors wouldn’t see her as they rushed her to the hospital to give birth and put the baby up for adoption. Their denial had been so extreme that they had never considered abortion – incestual genetic risks aside, and they were pro-life anyway. But it simply wasn’t possible that she was pregnant, as far as they were concerned. The father was one the lead administration at UC Irvine – VP or President – and would go on to a better position at SUNY Stony Brook. They were irate at what she was doing to the family’s reputation.

The day before, she had told me her parents wanted her to return to Orange County where they would buy her a condo; I wondered if this would be an effort to coerce silence about her history.

As we lay in her apartment together after she shared the story, she immediately tried to change the subject like it hadn’t really mattered, as she continually did, but I wasn’t listening anymore, I was in shock, wondering how a family could treat somebody like that.

Well, the GOP is doing the exact same thing now. Statistically at least 17 of the 50 Kavanaugh yes voters will have at least one family member get raped; probably more, actually because the pro-lifers have bigger families. They will deny, and claim that somebody is trying to interfere with their reputation or political success. Then they will ignore and support the continued perpetration of the crimes because they don’t have the courage to face them. Their complicity will make them guilty-by-association for the rapes of their own family, but their denial will leave them dissociated and incapable of making choices for the good of their families, communities, towns, states, and country.

There will be others, of course, whose corrupt nature will swing the other way, like the ex-wife of the man I met a year ago, who falsely filed abuse charges against him in a custody battle, and “ruined his life.” This wouldn’t be possible however, if our culture didn’t have such widespread sexual assault and abuse, and institutionalized resistance to actually addressing the problems.

So take a look at the list of people voting yes for Kavanaugh after a sham FBI investigation. Whose family is going to suffer the effects of rape first?

Lamar Alexander Tenn. – Y
John Barrasso Wyo. – Y
Roy Blunt Mo. – Y
John Boozman Ark. – Y
Richard M. Burr N.C. – Y
Shelley Moore Capito W.Va. – Y
Bill Cassidy La. – Y
Susan Collins Me. – Y
Bob Corker Tenn. – Y
John Cornyn Tex. – Y
Tom Cotton Ark. – Y
Michael D. Crapo Idaho – Y
Ted Cruz Tex. – Y
Steve Daines Mont. – Y
Michael B. Enzi Wyo. – Y
Joni Ernst Iowa – Y
Deb Fischer Neb. – Y
Jeff Flake Ariz. – Y
Cory Gardner Colo. – Y
Lindsey Graham S.C. – Y
Charles E. Grassley Iowa – Y
Orrin G. Hatch Utah – Y
Dean Heller Nev. – Y
John Hoeven N.D. – Y
Cindy Hyde-Smith Miss. – Y
James M. Inhofe Okla. – Y
Johnny Isakson Ga. – Y
Ron Johnson Wis. – Y
John Kennedy La. – Y
Jon Kyl Ariz. – Y
James Lankford Okla. – Y
Mike Lee Utah – Y
Mitch McConnell Ky. – Y
Jerry Moran Kan. – Y
Rand Paul Ky. – Y
David Perdue Ga. – Y
Rob Portman Ohio – Y
Jim Risch Idaho – Y
Pat Roberts Kan. – Y
Michael Rounds S.D. – Y
Marco Rubio Fla. – Y
Ben Sasse Neb. – Y
Tim Scott S.C. – Y
Richard C. Shelby Ala. – Y
Dan Sullivan Alaska – Y
John Thune S.D. – Y
Thom Tillis N.C. – Y
Patrick J. Toomey Pa. – Y
Roger Wicker Miss. – Y
Todd Young Ind. – Y

Two Who Dared and the Little Polish Boy

Shortly after I moved into my apartment a dozen years ago, I met an elderly woman named Maria who offered to sell me some plants. She was quite friendly, but moved at a pace much slower than my frenzied lifestyle, so I didn’t take the time to get to know her. A few years later, a termite infestation forced our temporary relocation during fumigation, and subsequently, I met her older brother Peter. I was moving a number of musical instruments, and he inquired if I was a composer; he’d like to have a poem he wrote set to music. I invited him in to my apartment and we began to chat about his story.

Peter and Maria had been children in Budapest during the Nazi occupation, and were kept in hiding. Polanski’s film “The Pianist” bears many similarities to Peter’s story. The last time they heard from their parents were during a phone call where they said goodbye. They were raised Jewish, but were not very religiously observant. Some of their friends and classmates had been shot point blank by the Nazis, in front of the school they’d attended as children. As they told me the story together, their faces clenched and they recalled that the school had been torn down. “It should have been made into a memorial.”

Years after the war, while looking through an old “Life” magazine here in LA, Peter discovered a photo of a small boy with arms raised, rifles pointed at him by a group of Nazi soldiers. Peter was haunted by the photo, and several years later, woke in the middle of the night with a sense of the presence of the boy. He was inspired to write a poem about the child, and it now is exhibited in the Museum of Tolerance, also slated for exhibition in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Peter has made his life’s work the use of the poem and photo for holocaust education, travelling around the state to meet and educate adults and children.

Years earlier, when I first arrived at Hampshire College as an undergrad, in 1981, a number of us went rock climbing and hiking in Vermont. One of the friends I made during this pre-college trip was an amiable fellow hippie named Timmy. As our lives progressed, he managed to win the heart of a gal I’d dated a bit, to my dismay, but I found it hard to hold much of anything against him. After our graduation, he made a sizable alumni donation, helping secure the school’s endowment. My boarding high school had closed due to financial problems the summer I graduated, so I was happy somebody was taking steps to prevent that happening to my college too. Actually, when I looked for colleges, a priority for me was that the school seemed stable enough to last a while – often not the case with alternative colleges. As time went on, Timmy made a number of financial investments for economically challenged countries. He explained how it all worked to me, and I couldn’t explain the economic details again, but I was dazzled that somebody could do that, help the country, and make money at the same time.

But behind the scenes Timmy was developing a condition that gradually made it difficult and nearly impossible for him to walk, and when I’d see him at alumni events, I often was saddened by the progression of his disease.

Last year, he released a documentary he’d been working on, “Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War,” and then I noticed that it was slated to be shown at Neighborhood Unitarian Church, next to the Gamble House in Pasadena, so I decided to attend the screening.

What I didn’t know about the film beforehand was that it was the story of his grandparents who were Unitarian ministers in Wellesley, MA. They had traveled to Prague during the late 1930’s, working underground together with Quakers to help Jews and Unitarians escape from the Nazis. I hadn’t realized that Unitarians were also targets of the Nazis, and the Unitarian church there once had 4000 people in it – the largest in the world. Their efforts ultimately resulted in a casualty; their marriage. But over the course of the time they spent in Europe, they saved thousands of lives. Among those was a German writer named Lion Feuchtwanger. He was smuggled over the border into Spain cloaked as a woman, and evacuated in the minister’s wife’s berth aboard a steamer to the US. The writer settled in the Pacific Palisades, and had a beautiful home in the hills above the Lake Shrine there. By strange synchronicity, I had just learned of the home shortly before seeing the film. It now serves as a German artist’s colony called “Villa Aurora.”

Another one of our college alumni also knew of the coincidence; he lived across the street from it, and arranged a screening of Timmy’s film there. I invited my neighbors Maria and Peter to join us for the event.

I was unsure how they’d react; I wasn’t sure if it would stir up extremely uncomfortable emotions rather than serve as an inspiration. Maria responded, “it is ALWAYS difficult, but we must do it.” We were all excited by the upcoming trip, which had much more of the character of an expedition than a short trip near the beach.

Then came the innocent questions that I was somewhat surprised by my limited ability to answer; “What do Unitarians believe?” Although I’d been one for 9 years in NYC, primarily because I was invited to participate in their choir, Musica Viva, I didn’t know the dictionary definition claims they don’t believe in the holy trinity and don’t believe that Jesus is the son of God. In NYC, our controversial minister, son of famed Senator Church, and an inspiring speaker himself, had been involved in a scandal when he left his well-loved wife for a member of the congregation, and had been featured on the cover of “New York” magazine. Yes, I had been perplexed when Wiccan sermons had been delivered to the suit-and-tie-clad upper east side congregation, and I’d heard people mention that many Unitarians would get upset if Jesus was mentioned on Christmas, but often things seemed just like any (very well funded) protestant gathering on a Sunday morning. Yes, Leonard Bernstein had cut the first check for the organ, and the executor of his estate, Schuyler Chapin was on the board; Blythe Danner and Renee Fleming had performed with us, but after all, it was the upper east side. Gossip Girl hadn’t come along yet, but gossip and reputation often overshadowed any sort of religiousity, and frankly, my dear, I didn’t give a damn; eventually all I cared about was the great music we got to perform. I never expected to have to explain Unitarians to someone, and it was usually adequate to tell people that many interfaith Jewish/Christian marriages were performed by Unitarians.

“What do Quakers believe?” Maria turned to the dictionary for the answer. Although I knew Quakers had Christian foundations, I was surprised the dictionary definition was surprisingly less inclusive than the un-programed meetings I’ve felt welcome at, and bore more resemblance to the protestant religions I’d gradually developed a distaste for. Un-programed Quaker “meetings” have no minister or leader, and attendees or members sit in silence until they are inspired to stand and speak to the group. Programed Quaker “churches” often mix this style of meditation and worship with a sermon and music, in a style familiar to anyone who’s ever attended a church, but with silent reflective periods, uncharacteristic of many other religious institutions.

So after our religious research, we drove west on Sunset to the sea, and into the hills above, where we watched the film together, with Timmy, who now uses his full name, Artemis. Afterwards, he was kind enough to have Peter read his poem:

To the Little Polish Boy Standing with His Arms Up
by Peter Fischl –

I would like to be an artist
So I could make a painting of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns point at you

I would make a monument of you and the world
Who said nothing

I would like to be a composer
So I could write a concerto of you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns point at you

I would write a concerto of you and the world
Who said nothing

I am not an artist
But my mind has painted a painting of you

Ten Million Miles High is the painting
So the whole universe can see you now
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat
Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns pointed at you

And the world
Who said nothing

I’ll make this painting so bright
That it will blind the eyes of the world
Who saw nothing

Ten Billion Miles High will be the monument
So the whole universe can remember you
Little Polish Boy

Standing with your little hat on your head
The Star of David on your coat

Standing in the ghetto with your arms up
As many Nazi machine guns pointed at you

And the monument will tremble so the blind world
Now will know

What fear is in the darkness

The world
Who said nothing

I am not a composer
But I will write a composition
For five trillion trumpets
So it will blast the ear drums
Of this world

The worlds
Who heard nothing

it was you
not me

Then Maria shared her emotions, recalling the feeling of her childhood in hiding from the Nazis. The intimate upscale screening audience seemed to have numerous connective threads with the family, and a couple had been students of Artemis’s grandmother. Artemis recounted the advice given by his grandmother when he initially came down with his disease; “you must NEVER give in to self-pity. You are destined for GREATNESS!” Coming from someone with her history, this sage advice took on a deeper meaning than it would have from, say, a new age guru. Incidentally, our fellow alumn Ken Burns recently signed on as executive producer for the film, so it may be televised soon, although it already has enjoyed a remarkably robust screening schedule across the country.

As we drove home that night, Maria asked about my religious beliefs. She insisted that we all should have much more religious tolerance, and after all, we’re all praying to the same God, and most religions are more alike than different.

Then she began to tell a story, previously undisclosed to anyone, about her bout with cancer in the early 1980’s. She had ended up in a bed in Cedar Sinai Hospital, waiting for surgery. Having officially converted to Roman Catholicism to escape from the Nazis and come to the United States, she had told the hospital she was Catholic when she was admitted. During a pre-surgery visit, the doctor heard her saying a Jewish prayer. “So you’re Jewish then? It says here you’re Catholic.”
“I was afraid to tell anyone,” she admitted.

He pulled back the curtain to reveal the Star of David atop the hospital and pointed to it. “You’re afraid HERE?” he inquired. She breathed a sigh of relief.

As Maria continued, she alluded to the anti-semitic behavior that she has found everywhere; and supported her continuing decision to keep her faith mostly secret. I choked up as I realized the war had been over for 40 years when this happened at the hospital, and she was still afraid to reveal her birth religion.

Incidentally, Cedars Sinai security threatened to arrest me for taking that picture. Apparently they’re a bit photo-shy.

Maria pulled through that surgery, and both her and Peter have endured a number of medical challenges. Peter recently suffered a heart attack during a visit from his children, perhaps brought on by the excitement of the event, but seems to be doing well now. When I asked if I could share his poem with you, he became elated.

A couple of years ago, I was about to pull into our apartment building’s garage, and discovered Maria lying in the driveway. A neighbor had pulled into the driveway too quickly, hit her, and knocked her over. Soon an ambulance arrived and she was whisked away, leaving me unsure if she was going to survive. But she was back in a couple of weeks, and after that event I decided I should really nurture the friendship. I discovered that she spent time with spiritual master Krishnamurti after synchronicity brought them together. Then she became a dance and movement instructor, and acting teacher, following her time as a student at UCLA.

Maria just celebrated her 86th – I mean 29th – birthday, and since we discovered our birthdays are two days apart, we celebrated together. At Disney Hall, we listened to a number of works by Dvorak, followed by a lunch with her favorite waitress at Denny’s. As dessert was presented to her, she confided, “I think chocolate ice cream could bring about world peace. Whenever people start fighting, just give it to them, and…” She gestured a calming motion with both her hands, and we smiled together.

“Ice Cream” by Sarah McLachlan

Your love is better than ice cream
better than anything else that I’ve tried
and your love is better than ice cream
Everyone here knows how to fight

and it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down to the place
where we started from

Your love is better than chocolate
better than anything else that I’ve tried
oh love is better than chocolate
everyone here knows how to cry

it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down
it’s a long way down to the place
where we started from…


I’m not usually weeping a 6am, but this piece did it. It’s such a beautiful story and incredible writing. Thank you.

Welcome back, Arthur — with such a eloquent story as well. One to remember oddly enough over the holidays. Perspective.
Thank you.

Hi Arthur, good to hear from you! Fascinating and moving story. It strikes some chords with me because my grandparents (and mother) escaped from Berlin in the late 30s, moving first to Switzerland, then France and ultimately to Chicago with the help of the Quakers. In recognition of the assistance they gave in helping people, particularly Jews, to emigrate to the US (something very few other American organizations, religious or otherwise, chose to do), he and my grandmother ‘converted’ to Quakerism, although neither of them were religious. They were Jews by ethnic inheritance, but my grandfather (an intellectual who pioneered the new field of social work and wrote most of the original textbooks before becoming a professor at the University of Chicago, then head of the department at Berkeley University) , and grandmother (an artist and early developer of polarity massage along with her friend Dr. Randolph Stone) were actually agnostic proponents of secular humanism and pacifism. I think they attended a few meetings, but mostly remained close friends with some of the Quakers who had helped them and worked to help others escape from Germany, France and Eastern Europe. Most of their families and friends did not escape in time and were murdered by the Nazis.

Turrellian Realm Part 2: Mondrian Hotel

When I first started looking into Turrell’s work, I was intrigued to discover that he’d contributed work to the Mondrian Hotel on the trendy Sunset Strip. I decided I’d take a little jaunt to the place to get a look at the works myself. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the works, however. They seem to me somewhat derivative, reminiscent of a whole slew of video works from the early 80’s by Nam June Paik and others I’d seen and helped install at the UNM Albuquerque video art show in 1983 by Robert Gaylor and Gary HIll. Bob Gaylor’s piece focused on the moody character of homes illuminated by their TV sets, and the character of that light as seen from the street. Hill’s installation at that show had two rows of monitors facing each other, each displaying a different color, that used a custom computer program to randomly change the hues as you walked between them.

In a podcast for the National Gallery, Turrell alluded to the problems encountered during the project. He was originally going to collaborate with famed designer/architect Philippe Starck on the lighting for this West Hollywood Hotel. Once the project was underway, Starck ran off with a model he met there, (if I’m not mistaken, Cindy Crawford’s husband Rande Gerber runs the nightclub in the hotel) and after six months Turrell completed the project himself.

It’s not clear who the model was, or where it fell in the chronology of Starck’s personal life. The designer, who may have designed the mouse in your hand, has designed about everything under the sun, including the offices of French President Mitterand. His daughter Ara, apparently a successful artist herself, told The Telegraph that her mother died when she was 14 of breast cancer, and her father recently married his fourth wife. ‘But my father loves to be married,’ she says happily. ‘He sees it all as such fun. He loves to have children. Anyway, he’s been faithful to all his wives. He was with my mother for 22 years.’

Starck claims on his website that he, “designs his hotels and restaurants in the same way a director makes a film, developing scenarios that will lift people out of the everyday and into an imaginative and creative mental world.” Indeed. Welcome to West Hollywood. I wasn’t sure if the steep price tag of a room there would transport me into Blue Velvet, Pulp Fiction, or Driving Miss Daisy, but the lobby’s fragrant synthetic carpets alluded more to Best Western than west of Crescent Heights. A google search for Piet Mondrian’s last name today will lead to more results for the hotel than the artist.

On each floor in the elevator lobby of the Mondrian is a small television-shaped aperture, with a translucent screen. Each floor’s aperture is lit by a television on the floor behind it, tuned to a different station. The claim is that each network broadcasts its own unique range of colors.

During my excursion, I shot short clips of the works on each floor, never expecting even to upload them to YouTube. This composite video allows you to compare the images of all twelve floor’s works to decide for yourself if each station has its own unique color range. (It’s a rather large Flash file (15 MB) and may take a couple of minutes to load.)

This high-profile project opened the door for Turrell’s involvement on the night lighting for the landmark Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct near Nimes, France.

(Click for image source info and more wonderful pics by the photographer)

That exposure from that project subsequently led to extensive plans for a project along the Thames River in London, lighting the bridge and river banks. Unfortunately, the Thames project was ultimately scrapped:
“…the uncompleted and now abandoned Thames Light Project, a £3 million scheme to create a work of light art within 500 metres of the River Thames, London’s own Heart of Darkness. This would have defined the area by highlighting river frontages and landmark architectural features. The Square of Light would have linked buildings on both banks of the river from Somerset House, across Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank Centre site, encompassing Jubilee Gardens and the Royal National Theatre. Turrell’s idea was to choreograph an integrated lighting scheme installed in the water, under bridges, and on tops of buildings to be seen by aircraft passengers.”

Turrell’s earlier work with LACMA’s Art & Technology program led to a variety of pieces that explored the more personal nature of light perception and our environment. Some of these looked like salon hair dryer helmets, others were beds you would lie on, as you were slid into a light environment. He has described how man has used light to create an illusion of safety within his environment, and in the process, alienated himself from it. The architectural illuminations described in this post perhaps exist to traverse the territory between these more personal projects, and those which enthrall me, his Skyspaces. My favorite Turrell work that I’ve yet experienced is his Skyspace at Pomona College. His skyspaces strive to bring the sky down to the viewer, and of these, the ultimate epic work for Turrell is Roden Crater, an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona, that he has been gradually honing into an architectural calendar and camera obscura on the scale of the great pyramids. More on these next….


Bob Gaylor stumbled upon this post and gave me a little update: the work I referred to is called “Suspension of Disbelief, 10 PM.” This link to his website has an image and description:!Suspension-of-Disbelief-10-PM/zoom/c16qd/image3iz
Well, confound it! WordPress is doing everything in it’s power to prevent me from either linking to the jQuery overlay pic for the work or posting a screenshot. It’s in the “Work before 1987″ section; there’s an image of several homes with picket fences in front of them.

Take a look through his projects! He worked with Turrell on the reflection holograms included in the 2014 LACMA show.

Retracing the path into the Turrellian Realm

For starters, let me clarify one thing. I’m not an art historian, I don’t play one on TV, I don’t even play one on YouTube.

I sometimes harbor disdain for them too — well, the arrogant ones anyway. I find nothing as offensive as the art snob who responds to a curious inquiry about an artist with attempts to instill shame for not knowing the artist’s work. Of course this isn’t unique to the art world; many a music major has attempted to wield intellectual superiority in a similar fashion. A recent visit to a literary benefit sent me scuttling out the door with my tail between my legs. Yes, it’s true; I don’t know the majority of the writers on the shelves these days, and they let me know it.

In the realm of modern music, the problem is compounded by the fact that many modern composer’s works can only be found on compilations, so it’s quite a feat to compile a discography of their works. But in any of these realms, it’s a wonderful encounter with another person who simply loves to share their creative discoveries. So if you’re a “just the facts, sir” sort, I may not be your best resource. However, my musical and artistic quests are somewhat of an obsessive labor of passionate curiosity. My parents claim I’ve had this tendency since childhood. Apparently there’s no cure.

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art had its NYC O’Keefe exhibition, although I had ignored her works as cliched tourist illustrations while living in New Mexico, I was soon to be found trying to locate Steiglitz’s old studio to see what had become of it (a rug shop), trying to locate the buildings O’Keefe lived in and painted while in NYC, and eventually even visiting Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. What I discovered when I arrived at her NM ranch was that the Mars-like landscape had been realistically painted by her, a discovery that shocked me.

And I got a few nice pictures of my own.

Small surprise, then, to find me sitting silently for an hour in the Orange Grove Quaker Meeting House in Pasadena.

Synchronicity has led me here, and ironically, as Quakers are notorious pacifists, later in the day the death of Bin Laden would be announced nation-wide.

This was the space where I found peace during grad school when I felt my world was un-ravelling, and the threads gradually wove themselves back together. What drew me back again was the discovery that this must’ve been the room where, 70+ years earlier, the child James Turrell was encouraged by his grandmother to “go inside and greet the light.” Today the light outside is spectacular, heralding Spring’s arrival with trees in full bloom, and there is light within those around me as well.

An octagenarian woman who bears an astonishing resemblence to an Edward Gorey illustration is celebrating her birthday today. Despite her somewhat severe posture, I know that she’s one of the sweeter members of the meeting. Over coffee and birthday cake, I’m tempted to ask if she knew the Turrells, but decide against it. Or rather, the choice was made for me by the visitor zealously informing me of the Quaker history of feminist and homosexual tolerance. Some day I may bring the subject up with the birthday girl. Time will tell.

Light is a familiar metaphor for spiritual realization in many religions, of course. We discuss enlightenment without giving this much thought. For the Quakers, there is a long-held understanding that every person has a divine personal intimate connection to this “light,” and sitting quietly becomes the first step in becoming aware of this presence. Then it becomes possible to let it illuminate the actions taken throughout the day. Early on, Quakers thought of this as the light of Jesus, but over time, the broader inter-denominational influences have included the teachings of many other faiths.

Turrell understood early on that going into the light was both a literal and metaphorical inspiration for his work. As his work has evolved, I believe it becomes less possible to just “look” at one of his works; you experience it. You become engulfed by it. You are changed by it. He has confessed a fondness for the liminal light of dawn and dusk. He told the New York Times, “My spaces are dim because low light opens the pupil and then feeling comes out of the eye as touch, a sensuous act. Sure, you surrender. You surrender when you go to the doctor. A doctor’s office is a body shop. We’re talking about healing the soul.” This points to a deeper aspiration within his art, and might give a clue as to the direction his life’s work has taken.

Turrell went to Pomona College, not far from Pasadena. Although the school’s alumni included many famous artists, including John Cage, Turrell enrolled in the perceptual psychology program, and that choice has unmistakably shaped his work. While many psychologists attempt to improve patients lives through discussion, or psychiatrists through pharmacology, Turrell works with perception, and you can bet your HMO plan won’t cover it. Optical illusions, implied planes and geometric shapes are often a major component of his installations. He was the subject of a lawsuit when a visitor fell and injured himself trying to lean against a wall “that wasn’t there,” leading to the first time that the “effect of a piece of art” had been the subject of a courtroom case. Time and time again, he has tried – and often, in my opinion, succeeded, in creating works that bring the sky into a room, transporting you into it.

Shortly before the Woodstock Festival would happen on the other side of the country, before man would land on the moon for the first time, he and artist Robert Irwin worked with an innovative program started by LACMA to pair artists with pioneers in the aerospace industry called the Art & Technology Progam. During this period, he moved into a building known as the Mendota Hotel, at the corner of Hill and Main Streets in Santa Monica.

The building still stands, and it’s my next destination.

I park a few blocks from Hill and Main, and make my way down the hill.

As I pass the church a block away, a film crew runs after me, begging me to play the part of “Doc” in the band “Set Your Goals’” music video adaptation of “Back to the Future.” The irony of my time traveling historical search isn’t lost on me, so I don a lab coat and run down the street after a Bricklin as the camera begins rolling.

When my 30 seconds of fame have elapsed, I proceed back to the future myself, snapping a few “Hill Street Views” exterior shots of the Mendota Hotel building.

The tree has gotten a little bigger.

This is where the foundations of much of his work first began to be realized.

Turrell painted over the windows in his studio here, and experimented with techniques to create apertures for light to enter his studio.

During this time, he became intimately familiar with the tungsten street lamps, the stop lights on the corner, the passing bus lights, and of course, the sun and moonlight. He also collaborated with a film lighting designer, experimenting with projected light.

He often had showings of his aperture experiments, and attracted quite a bit of attention.

Mere blocks from here, above the Santa Monica Pier, is the Camera Obscura, a landmark that has been bringing the secular light inside for tourists for over a hundred years.

Here’s a link with some information about it’s history, and here’s an interesting link showing a video of what you see inside it:

One can’t help but wonder if it helped inspire Turrell to try turning his own studio into a camera obscura as well — one of his many projects in the space, and an element that can be found in many of his later works. It’s highly unlikely he wasn’t already well familiar with the principle of a camera obscura, but perhaps this landmark prompted further light play.

I walk up to his old studio, open the door and walking inside. I walk up to the counter, greet my barista, and order a venti black coffee. Yes, it’s a Starbucks now.

I stay for a couple of hours until they close at 8PM.

The buses still run down Hill Street, the tree has gotten enormous, many more lights surround the building.

I become enamoured by the play of the light around the room as sunset approaches.

Light reflects off the walls of the room, and I see the figures of cars reflected across the room by their windshields. As the sun sets, the street lights come on, and the character of the light changes completely.

As last caffeine call is announced, I show a barista a 1969 image of the building. Fascinated, he informs me that the building is now owned by Bill Cosby. Then he kicks me out.

Next up: a visit to the Mondrian Hotel


Wow…you came out of blog retirement in a remarkable way. Do I perhaps sense an upswing in the process?

Fantastic blog, Arthur!

I was not familiar with James Turrell before and I thank you for turning me on to him. My grandparents became Quakers (although they were basically pacifist agnostics) once they arrived in the US because the Quakers were the only group who actively helped Jews escape from Nazi Germany in the early years of WWII. They not only arranged to get them out, but brought them to America and helped them establish citizenship and find work. Through them I’m slightly familiar with the Quakers, or at least with their ideology.

Having friends in Flagstaff, I’m now determined to visit them and while there, take an excursion out to Turrell’s Roden Crater. Like you, I’m intellectually adventurous and could easily follow a path of tangential interests and associations around the globe and back if I had the time and funds to do so.

Thanks Lisa, let’s hope so. Danger, you got ahead of me… I hadn’t gotten to talking Roden Crater yet. I SO want to see it now. I played at a music fest near there years ago – word is they don’t want visitors until it’s finished, although it’s hard to tell if that’ll happen in our lifetime.

Over the course of the last year, I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to locate that music video I made the cameo in, I never was actually sure I’d made it into the final cut.

Well, here’s the link to it. See if you can spot me running after the Delorean.

Although this post is so old I doubt anybody will actually even see this comment….

Wide Angle View at OCCCA

Curator Gina Genis has assembled a remarkable exhibition of photojournalistic work at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana. This outstanding show, entitled, “Wide Angle View,” includes 16 renowned photographers. Despite the interference and copyright restrictions of some of the photographer’s agencies, Gina was able to gather and present a broad array of gut-wrenching imagery reflecting the aftermath of US military efforts around the globe, disasters and poverty in the US, and lighter subject matter, like the photographer’s families, children, pets, and the Burning Man festival.

Reflecting upon the 1994 suicide of photojournalist Kevin Carter, Gina asked, “how do these guys unwind when they get home?” Personal images in this exhibition provide a glimpse into photographer’s lives when they’re off the job, and are a welcome complement to the frequently traumatic incidents they’re forced to document and share.

Pulitzer winner Carolyn Cole’s photos document Iraq after the US occupation, including a mural of Saddam Hussein’s face being painted over. Her photos of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil disaster include a huge sea turtle being lifted out of the muck, a dead dolphin being towed through oil coated waters, and an oil coated pelican struggling to move its wings.

Michael Robinson Chavez exhibited photos of families living in the dumps of Iraq, and personal shots of his travels in Peru.

Rick Loomis’s photos documented war victims in Iraq and Afghanistan who had lost limbs, including a soldier who still swims – with help – after losing both legs and an arm. His photos from the Burning Man festival were gorgeous.

Sports photographer Donald Miralle documented the Iron Man World Championships in Hawaii, and featured a bicyclist with two wooden legs who competed. Some of his photos were shot from underneath the swimmers in the water, and one particularly striking shot was of the swimmers diving into the water at the start of the race, shot from below them. He also showed a number of wildlife shots from Tanzania.

Sandy Huffaker takes the viewer underground, into the Mexican-US border drug tunnels. His lighter subject matter included all manner of people with their cel phones; kids at Comicon, a man on a Segway, on his cel phone, with Southland fires looming behind him.

Heidi Laughton’s photos documented her work with the Red Cross in China, and her own chemotherapy ordeal.

Deanne Fitzmaurice’s photos tell the story of an Iraqi child who picked up a bomb, thinking it was a ball, alongside a road. His father doesn’t have the heart to tell the armless boy that his brother died during the incident.

Fitzmaurice’s lighter subjects included the San Francisco burning of a Bush Effigy during the Obama election victory, a stunning surf photo, a beautiful image of the Golden Gate bridge reflected in a series of water droplets, and one of my favorites from the show, a man reclining by the Les Tuileries Garden Fountain, shot from the humorous angle that made him appear to be urinating to the height of the fountain.

Also included in the exhibition were photos of a Lakewood, NJ homeless tent city and Infrared images of Iraq army raids by Benjamin Lowy; Hazel Thompson’s series, “I am Jonas Myrin;” David Bathgate’s photos of Afghanistan and of his wife and Afghan hounds; Tim Wimbourne’s photos of Pakistan flood victims; and Abir Abdullah’s Bangladesh cyclone survivor shots, including a land-locked boat, complemented by shots of his son playing on a water slide.

Wide Angle View runs through March 26th. Orange County Center for Contemporary Art is at 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana, CA 92701 (714) 667-1517


Sounds as though this is a MUST SEE. Can’t wait to get down there.

Illuminated September Art Openings

Well, fall is upon us, and it seems everybody in town is scheduling their openings and exhibitions for the same times on opposite ends of LA. But there are some pretty interesting things coming up, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.

This weekend, perhaps to distract us from the anniversary of 9/11, Chinatown will be bustling. Among the events there, The Flock Shop is having their 3 year anniversary, and Micol Hebron and Ilene Segalove will be opening at Jancar Gallery. The Armory for the Arts in Pasadena will be opening a show of Steve Roden’s work. Roden is a talented sound artist who runs a great blog and is also included in the “Glow” event later this month in Santa Monica.

I’m eagerly awaiting the unveling of the Peace Project at Gallery 9 on the 25th, but a little frustrated to learn that a couple of my favorite light art events occur the same night on opposite sides of town. Illuminating LA will be the annual Glow event at the Santa Monica pier from 7PM until 3AM, and meanwhile, downtown at Pershing Square, Lilli Muller’s Autumn Lights festival will run from 7PM until 1AM. Both events have a plethora of innovative cutting edge light art – from illuminated static and interactive sculptures to more mundane, though genrally quite interesting, projected video art.

Here are some videos of last year’s Autumn Lights Festival:…

I’m just back from this month’s downtown art walk. I had pretty high hopes for tonight, since LACDA was showing a collection of works, but wasn’t too excited by anything. There were so many bands and DJs on the street that my friends and I were hoarse from shouting at each other within just two blocks of meeting each other. At one point, my friend remarked, “I really have a problem with these people who see it as their privilege to dump their noise on me.” I’m usually pretty open minded about experimental music and sound, but the volume of the bands on the street seemed more reminiscent of a war zone, and I felt assaulted more than entertained.

What I did enjoy was the “Temple of Visions” at 719 S. Spring Street. Amid murals of visionary psychedelic art, a nearly naked model was glaring at the onlookers as her body was painted by the DJ, leaving me to wonder why she was doing this if she didn’t want everybody staring at her. But the psychedelic art was pretty remarkable, and doesn’t leave you with a physical come-down afterwards. One of the more interesting collections of works are by the bathroom in the gallery; three dimensional holographic paintings of psychedlic mandalas and creatures that morph into different images as you move around them. Some of these are for sale as postcards too, but seemed less interesting. Apparently the holographer worked with several artists to assemble composite images for these works.

So if anybody wants to meet up and check out some of these events, let’s go!


The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: West Side Openings 7/10

July 10th West Side Art Openings

They say there’s no accounting for taste. Well, let me be your Deloitte & Touche; friends don’t let friends buy bad art.

You may not know the paintings of Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jerry Garcia, Rik Okasek, or Paulina Porizkova. You might be missing out. But if you know them for other things, there’s a reason for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rather fond of Joni Mitchell’s paintings. But I like her music a lot better.

It may come as no surprise that Dennis Hopper’s works at Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station practically scream “Don’t you fuckin’ look at me!”

This forgetable collection of works is a reminder that one might be better off peeling the sheetrock off the brick wall, knocking the back out of a frame, and hanging it over the wall than taking an actor seriously as an artist. Maybe it’s a case of the “Emperor’s New Clothes Art Syndrome,” but Berman has been known to occasionally show remarkable art by people famous for things other than their artistic creations. He probably is just showing this stuff because, well, it will sell. His better offerings include a recent glass-topped kneeling skeleton coffee table, I think by one of the members of Sonic Youth. This exhibit sure didn’t do much for me, and didn’t leave me chomping at the bit to attend MOCA’s show of Hopper’s works. Obviously Hopper knows more than a little bit about art, but these prints certainly aren’t masterworks. I’ll certainly miss his filmic efforts though.

Tucked in the back corner of Bergamot Station that night was another opening, blaring the Richard Strauss soundtrack from Kubrick’s “2001.” Copro Gallery was showing cartoon paintings inspired by Kubrick’s films and executed by Carlos Ramos. Also on display were mildly disturbing works by becca that verged between fashion illustration and hello kitty art, littered with splotches of paint suggesting a darker reality surging through these picturesque candies, like the monster in Alien emerging from the gut.…

There was something about these works that caught my fancy. But what I found myself more distracted by were the Laguna Art Museum’s In The Land of Retinal Delights catalog. And the candied pretzels. Not to mention the well-coiffed gals sauntering about the galleries.

Escaping Bergamot Station, my friend and I made our way to the more pedestrian 18th Street Art Center’s open house. The parties were dying down by this point, but I finally saw the Highways Performance Space. I have heard for years of friends having performances there, but had never seen the space, and didn’t realize it was housed in an artist’s community. They’ve got an intriguing little exhibition of Wagner-inspired costume designs, akin to illustrated novels. The art center hosts a number of resident artists, and two had open studios; maybe they’d have been better off waiting another month or two.

But what really made the evening worthwhile were the kinetic and light art works at Bleicher/Golightly Gallery, overlooking the beach in Santa Monica, near the 3rd Street Promenade. The exhibition, curated by Joella March, entitled, “Turned On – A Survey of Kinetic and Light Based Art,” is described as, “a group exhibition of 12 artists working in a variety of mediums and genres who incorporate light and technology in their finished product.” The works varied from Rube Goldberg-esque sculptures to cartoon doll sculptural fantasms to evocative translucent sculptures illuminated by video screens, and each work was utterly clever and brilliant.

Life Is A Dream by Tim Hogan

Recycled Childhood by David Brokaw

Waterfile #710 by Joella March

Angel Seat by Jim Jenkins

woMAN… by Stephen Anderson

South Jump by Kyle Chew

Nail by Kunio Ohashi

Blackbird by Brian Stotesberry

Two Happy Carrots by Jim Jenkins

By far my favorite work in the show, though, was Suitcase Project 2 by Kyle Chew. This piece was a suitcase on rollers that illuminated the floor as it rolled around through the crowd. Certainly cause for alarm during your next airport visit. Somebody call Homeland Security!

Suitcase Project 2 by Kyle Chew

So in summary, let me suggest you buy all the works from this exhibition instead of any of Dennis Hopper’s. If you like Hopper’s work, buy a Blue Ray of one of his movies. You’ll get more satisfaction out of it. Or hire a contractor to rip the sheet rock off your wall.


Funnily enough I saw Dennis Hopper’s work last night and couldn’t figure out what looked dingier — his work or Berman’s gallery. I’ve heard (from people I trust) that he actually took a few really good photos in his time. The fact that I can’t remember whether I saw any of his photos or not might be a testament to the zeal of my 2-1/2 year old daughter as we ripped through Bergamont Station, but more likely it’s just that there wasn’t anything that really caught my attention.

Note however, that I do remember a magnificent photo by Sebastiao Salgado in the Peter Fetterman Gallery, a series of amazing sculptures in another gallery, and a somewhat puzzling photo series in a third that examined the lives of Mexico’s nouveau riche.

Yet, against all my prejudices and prejudgements, I’m forced to acknowledge that there has been some excellent work done by celebrities better known in other areas. Viggo Mortensen is an outstanding painter, David Lynch is also a hell of an artist, David Byrne’s done some very interesting work, Richard Gere’s photos of Tibet are amazingly good, Jeff Bridges has done some fascinating panoramic B&W photos on various film sets he’s worked… I even like some of Dennis Hopper’s art, particularly photo portraits he took of other actors such as Paul Newman and Dan Stockwell.