“Life in This Ocean” Artist Talk
On November 1st I had the opportunity to attend a free artist talk at the Annenberg Community Beach House Gallery in Santa Monica. The gallery is located in a beautiful public beach center about a 30 minute walk North from the Santa Monica Pier. The Art exhibit, entitled “Life in this Ocean” is on view until January 6th, 2019. The exhibit is free and open to the public and consists of the works from four diverse women united by the Ocean and their experiences as women reflecting on life. The exhibit was co-curated by artists Deidre Sullivan-Beeman and Kathy Tazlitz. The other two artists are Donna Bates and Lena Rushing. The moderator for the talk was Genie Davis.
All four artists are completely unique in their mediums and subject matters and yet all four speak to the power and presence of the Ocean and humanity. The exhibit reflects a year of work. Many of the pieces were made specifically for the exhibit, some were in process and one or two were created pre- exhibit invitation.
Deidre Sullivan-Beeman says she did her pieces, called “Dream Ocean,” specifically for this show, playing with the theme of water. Her work represents the high and low tide of life. The final results are unique in that instead of reflecting the traditional blue, they exude an orange warm tone, as if painted with the sun’s reflection as it dips into the sea. These dreams reflect aspects of womanliness and naturalism, including “resilience and imagination.” Deidre typically paints girls with an animal that she calls a Daemon or spirit guide. She holds a BFA from USC and she feels that has impacted her work, for she prefers to create a narrative in each piece. She also breaks from reality.
For example in one of the images she felt a seahorse Daemon had to be as big as the girl subject. She sees these animals as glyph or symbols. The sea horse is Nordic representing the good life, or spiritual wealth. For her water is part of the subconscious. Deidre is a fan of Carl Jung and he apparently felt glyph are part of human DNA. Take a stop sign any where in the world and people know what it is. She feels that she is always investigating the moment a girl becomes a woman, but not in a sexual sense. Her Spirit animals are male and antagonistic and are there to help the girl find herself. Yet the animal is also her soul.
All four artists represent different mediums. Deidre uses what is called Tempera Painting, or egg tempera. There are examples of tempera painting that date back to the age of the Egyptians. She studied with Robert Venosa and the techniques of Earnst Fuchs, creator of the Fantastic Realism movement. Each of Diedre’s paintings consists of about 40 plus layers. She starts by drawing her design onto paper and then transferring it to canvas.
For this exhibit Deidre changed her palette to orange. Apparently this was influenced by the California light, which Deidre says the French see as being as good as the light of the South of France for landscape art. She uses what is called the Zorn pallet, which typically consists of 4 colors, but she uses 14 in a Natural pallet, plus the white of the egg tempera. For this exhibit her first layer was a pre-tempera, while usually she starts with a gold mix of her own creation. She loves the earth colors and sees her process as like cake decorating.
Diedre’s co-curator Kathy Taslitz uses a more modern medium and subject matter to convey her message. Kathy has created a series of large aluminum Emoji smiling faces. She started as a sculptor and moved into mixed medium and color. Kathy moved from Chicago and has lived in Los Angeles for ten years. She loves the mid century architecture and Hollywood Culture, the diverse neighborhoods. Most of her body of work is inspired by nature. She is the mother of three and is constantly aware of the connection and disconnection of the current culture. She does not see herself as a feminist but as a humanitarian. Kathy pointed out that Los Angeles is a city where one can cocoon into one’s own neighborhood and not leave.
Kathy calls her work in this show “Everything is great. Not really.” She says the emojis represent mask we all wear; what we put out into the world. We live in a world where it is hard to be real and vulnerable. Technology gives us a means to brand ourselves and craft an image to the world of success projecting manipulated idealized versions of ourselves. She made the masks from aluminum laser cut to give them an industrial consumerist look. To also reflect the consumerist theme she uses bright colors, in particular she is partial to a certain shade of pink since much of her work does have a female perspective. The series reflects existential stories of fear and insecurity our current culture hides. She loves the yin yang of this particular show and its artists.
Kathy particularly commented on one of her pieces called “Pussy Anxiety’ showing a cat looking out from the crevice of a tree. She says the tree represents being boxed in and tension. It is a play on cat calling and the glass ceiling women are trying to break. She says we do live in a patriarchy. It is also a conflicting image of being boxed in and empowering oneself. Kathy says the curves represent the tension of masculine and feminine. To Kathy we live in a world where we all need to feel and be real.
The third artist, Donna Bates, has created five paintings in a series called ‘American Warriors” portraying strong women characters, not pin-ups or portraits. Her images reflect her punk rock roots as the work is a mix of leather metal graffiti and fantasy in paint. Donna says she likes to paint women of color because she loves to play with lights and shadows. She likes to portray independent women. Three of the paintings are from a show she did in Chicago called Warpaint and Curlers. Two were done specifically for this show. Donna uses photo shop as a tool to test colors and ideas.
The Warpaint and Curlers series reflect how women use their purse and makeup to get through life. These images are about the battle scars women wear. Makeup is war paint. Arrows are things we confront and turn into weapons. The two pieces done for this show are symbolic of the Statute of Liberty. She sees women as gate keepers. Donna’s pallet choices change with each painting. However she says that if she ruled the world, all women would wear red lipstick. She loves graphic bold backgrounds.
To Donna all women are princesses or queens, the star of their own movie. In her time there was not allot for women to achieve, secretary, teacher, maybe nurse. From her view all the fairy tales we are told are lies to keep us down. Donna was born in Hollywood but not typical. She thrived on rock n roll and soul music. Her influences are film noir, graphic novels and graffiti. Her girls, as she calls them, are “bad ass
The fourth artist, Lena Rushing, used two different mediums in her choices. Lena paints but she also creates multimedia wooden box collages. Lena was born in Huntington Beach and grew up in the Los Angeles 80s early 90s pop culture. Her work is inspired by the California pop culture. Her box collages have a steam punk feel to them. For this show one of her paintings was selected and two box collage works. Two of the three have women as their subject matter, while the third was specifically created with this show in mind and so its subject matter is ocean sea life and not people.
Lena says she has been painting for twenty years, and then started to get into what she calls her zen box art. Painting, she says, was stressful and so she does the boxes along with the painting, simultaneously. Lena says she usually paints very dark things with monsters and nudity, but she tamed it down for this show, knowing it had to be family friendly. She calls her series her “Untamed” and says it emphasizes “nature’s vast beauty and rebellious spirit.”
Lena says that for her box work she starts by picking a pattern for the background. She also has a special ink she likes that makes the boxes look antique. For this show she had to invent new ways to create elements, such as the jellyfish in her one work called “The Deep.”
Lena likes to tell a story with her work. For example for her box entitled “Adrift” we see a woman with hair anchored to the ocean and sharks swimming beneath her. Lena says the woman has made friends with the sharks. We are tethered to obstacles and are conquering fears.
The painting “There’s always One,” she knew she wanted to paint peppermint striped hair. She says it is a play on the idea that there is always one who gets in your way. It is to emphasize the obstacles we all share. She loves this one particular shade of turquoise and it is prominent in this work. Her box pieces are typically more earth and dark tones. She has tried to play with other colors with them, and it never felt right. Lena feels that this show is significant because it is four female artists lifting and supporting each other up.
The show is ongoing until January. This is a Beach=Culture program and is produced by Santa Monica Cultural Affairs. Tweet and Instagram #ArtSaMo @SMBeachHouse. The Annenberg space is open 8:30am to 5:30pm. The Gallery is open from 9am to 4pm. See the Annenberg Beacg House Website for exceptions.