Monday, October 29, 2018

SUNNYLANDS AND THE ANNENBERGS: HOW THE OTHER 1% LIVES









Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Sunnylands, former estate of billionaire couple Walter and Leonore Annenberg, comprises 200 acres in Rancho Mirage.

From Walter’s New York Times obituary: “The lavish way of life enjoyed by Mr. Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, was most visible at Sunnylands — completed in 1966 at a cost of $5 million — where the couple spent the winter months.

“An airy, Astrodome-size extravaganza of glass and Mexican lava stone, pink marble floors and clustered plantings, the 32,000-square-foot house — surrounded by well-guarded fencing — sits on acres of rolling terrain. A well-primped, mock-English country landscape in the desert, with trees, hills, ponds, waterfalls, it has a nine-hole golf course and even an artificial swamp for the birds that Mr. Annenberg liked to watch.”

The Visitor Center, designed by LA architect Fred Fisher, is all glass, steel and sleek, low-slung furniture, with stupendous mountain views. Don’t miss the very cool bathrooms. There’s a café and a gift shop. There’s a continually changing exhibit or two.

The first time I went this consisted of gifts the Annenbergs had received from various heads of state: a bully-mouthed bass from George Bush, a golf-themed lamp.

Last June (the estate is closed during the hot summer months), it was “Carved Narrative,” showcasing the work of José and Tomás Chávez, artist brothers from Guanajuato, Mexico, who produced a half-scale version of their world-famous fountain, “Las Paraguas,” for the entry court of Sunnylands.

The front garden and grounds, designed by The Office of James Burnett with horticultural consultant Mary Irish, are water-conserving, lovely, and free. I thoroughly enjoyed strolling about in the 96-degree sun and taking photos so bright and Disneyesque that they look like they’d been photoshopped.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.






THERE ARE ALL SHOTS I TOOK
ON THE GROUNDS OF THE VISITOR CENTER



Monday, October 22, 2018

ANGEL CITY PRESS



Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Established in 1992, Angel City Press has since published on average between five and 10 gorgeous books a year, in the areas of film-making, architecture, music, and art.

“No other press so single-mindedly focuses on the social and cultural history of LA,” says founder Paddy Calistro.

Just browsing the catalog is a treat. A house that has put out books on both ex-nun artist Corita Kent and Hollywood costume designer Edith Head to my mind definitely has its heart in the right place.

All Angel City Press’ books are image-driven, with an emphasis on historical photos. Printed on sumptuously heavy stock, they run around $35-$45.

Calistro and her husband, Scott McAuley, are co-publishers. Calistro also oversees the editorial content of all publications. Both come from Northern California, and arrived in LA during the 1970s.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.




Thursday, October 18, 2018

BEYOND THE NOISE OF ANY POSSIBLE INTRUSION

MAGIC AUTUMN LEAF,
ON THE GROUNDS OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT'S FALLINGWATER
MILL RUN, PA


I have had many months of "coping." You know what I mean--day after day of administrative, car, computer, medical, and people snafus. Plus it is finally dawning on me, at my age many men and women have "retired!"

That is not in the cards for me. I own no home. I have no spouse, no children, no family to fall back on financially, no safety net other than the one I have scrimped for and saved, and I am thus poised to continue to work for the foreseeable future.

And thank God for it! Otherwise I would be stuck with my own obsessive thoughts and probably sink into torpor-like despair.

Plus store up your treasure in heaven and any earthly security is illusory at best. Plus I love my work (which extends far beyond "just" writing) and would do it whether or not I got paid.

Plus the world is ending in twenty years, anyway.

Plus it's October and that means planting month in the garden. With the freakishly hot weather here n early July, followed by a baking hot summer, I really did begin to despair that my California native garden would endure. I lost some plants and began to question the wisdom of investing such a huge amount of time, labor, angst, and heart.

But the days are shortening, the nights and mornings cooling, the shadows lengthening, and my spirit healing. Yesterday I sat on my balcony and exulted in the afternoon sunlight illuminating the blood-red leaves of the crepe myrtle, and the mourning dove in the crown of the black walnut, and the thriving succulents lavishly crowding my chair.

I am slowly re-reading Romano Guardini's The Lord, a book that helped along my conversion many years ago now.

"For the greatest things are accomplished in silence--not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of the inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice. Spiritual conception happens when the heart is quickened by love, and the free will stirs to action. The silent forces are the strong forces. Let us turn now to the stillest event of all, stillest because it came from the remoteness beyond the noise of any possible intrusion--from God. Luke reports:

     'Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph' "...

I feel ever closer to the angels, and especially close these days to Mary. If we long for the glory and dignity and essential-to-ongoing creation-ness of women, we need only look to the Blessed Virgin.

Christ, out of gallantry, took the bullet.

But he crowned his mother Queen of Heaven and Earth.

HEAVENLY NATIVE CALIFORNIA BUCKWHEAT



Friday, October 12, 2018

THE ART OF AFRICAN BLACKSMITHING AT UCLA'S FOWLER MUSEUM

The "Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths" exhibit installation at UCLA's Fowler Museum.
(JOSHUA WHITE/JWPICTURES.COM)


Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

I can’t say enough for the Fowler Museum at UCLA. It’s set into a little dell beneath Royce Hall, so en route you get to see the sweep of the campus and let your heart be lifted by the old-growth trees, green lawns, and the dear young students making their way in the world.

It’s free.

It’s the perfect size. You can tour the whole thing in an hour and a half.

It has a great gift shop, especially if you like batik throws, corn husk dolls, and change purses made of soda can pop-tops.

There’s always at least one exhibit about a facet of global anthropology, history, geography, or culture you never even knew existed and turns out that you’re dying to learn more about.

Through Dec. 30, 2018, for example, you can catch “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths.”

Most scholars believe that sub-Saharan Africans began smelting iron around 2,500 years ago. The artifacts on display range in date from the 17th century to the present.

There are agricultural tools: hoes, sickles, axes, and adzes.

There are blades in the form of spears, axes, knives, and swords that were used both in battle and as insignia of property, prestige, and political power. There are bracelets, neck torques, earrings, hair ornaments, and small-scale iron blades used in bodily scarification by certain sub-Saharan Africans to indicate status, identity, and life transitions.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

Monday, October 8, 2018

NEWLY-RELEASED INMATES AND THE POETIC JUSTICE PROJECT


ACTORS DENNIS APEL AND RYAN DUNN
FROM "CROSSING THE LINE."
PHOTO BY CYNTHIA SEMEL.

Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:

How the Poetic Justice Project is ‘unlocking hearts and minds’ through prison theater

The Poetic Justice Project (PJP), based in Santa Maria, “advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated people in the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment, and redemption.”

The PJP began in 2009, in conjunction with the William James Association’s Prison Arts Project.

The stats are staggering.

One in 104 American adults is behind bars.

The State of California alone has added 21 state prisons in 30 years, with the prison population expanding from 23,000 to 170,000.

Taxpayers pay $11 billion per year to operate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Our recidivism rate is its 70 percent — twice the national average.

Enter Deborah Tobola, the PJP’s founding artistic director, and a widely published poet and children’s book author. Tobola, 62, worked for more than 12 years teaching writing and managing an arts program in California prisons.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 


Sunday, October 7, 2018

AS WITH PLANTS, SO WITH PEOPLE




"Back in her garden, Vivian Wiley picked two leaves from a saxifrage, one of which she placed on her bedside table, the other in the living room. "Each day when I get up," she told [research scientist Marcel] Vogel , "I will look at the leaf by my bed and will that it continue to live; but I will pay no attention to the other. We will see what happens."

A month later, she asked  Vogel to come to her house and bring a camera to photograph the leaves. Vogel could hardly believe what he saw. The leaf to which the friend had paid no attention was flaccid, turning brown and beginning to decay. The leaf on which she had focused daily attention was radiantly vital and green, just as if it had been freshly plucked from the garden."

--The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird

[FROM WIKI: "The book has been criticized by botanists such as Arthur Galston for endorsing pseudoscientific claims.According to Galston and physiologist Clifford L. Slayman many of the claims in the book are false or unsupported by independent verification and replicable studies.

Botanist Leslie Audus noted that the book is filled with nonsensical "outrageous" claims and should be regarded as fiction.]

Philistines! Killjoys!







Wednesday, October 3, 2018

MASTER WOODWORKER SAM MALOOF: FURNITURE WITH A SOUL




Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

Sam Maloof, Southern California master woodworker, is known as a pioneer of the post-WWII Studio Craft movement.

Born in 1916 to Lebanese immigrants, Maloof was the seventh of nine children. The family was raised in Chino.

With neither college degree nor formal training, he was known for creating a 2-D design on paper and a 3-D design in his brain.

His wife of 50 years, Alfreda, was not only his business manager but the heart and soul of his vocation. “Her faith and love sustained me,” he said. She died in the fall of 1998.

His woodworking vocation was launched when, still single, he rented a bungalow and thought to replace the cheap furniture with pieces of his own that he fashioned from castoff plywood and red oak floorboards salvaged from railroad cars.

He and Alfreda Ward, a teacher and artist, married in 1948. He landed a job with designer Millard Sheets, head of the art department at Scripps College, but the pay was low and the couple started out with next to no money. Five years later they bought several acres, dotted with semi-derelict buildings, in the Alta Loma district of Rancho Cucamonga.

His first work area comprised an old shed and a chicken coop. Unable to afford even a router or band saw, he crafted his early works from the 1950s — a table with “tree branch” legs and a cork top, for example — almost exclusively with a lathe.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE. 

A VERY EARLY MALOOF CHAIR
HIS WIFE, FREDA, EXPERTLY WRAPPED IT WITH CLOTHESLINE.