This past weekend Michele and I headed down to Long Beach to install her video and check out this years crop of sound works installed for their annual audio-art festival. The show was bigger this year, and a good crowd showed up, but I didn’t find much work I found interesting this time around. Last years show was a real stand-out to me, got to see if I have photos lying around of that I can post later. There were a few things this year that grabbed my attention of course, notably D. Jean Hester’s field recording style audio tour of the SoundWalk (which made me want to carry a mic and headphones around everywhere I go), and Flora Kao’s sound sculptures. Michele’s video installation too of course, but I may be a bit biased towards that one.
Down there we met up with Rise member Mike Feldman and some others friends in the music industry, and talked a little about what failed to capture our attention this time around. We came to the conclusions that there was a bunch of work that had some technical things going on, but failed to bring any conceptual drive to it, and a bunch of work that was more traditionally “fine art” with sound added as an afterthought or not really bringing anything to the work. That and the usual sprinkling of works that either are rehashing of older artworks (when is an homage merely a copy?) and stuff that just didn’t work out at all. The event is so large that we may have missed a third of it altogether, so perhaps there was more out there which would have impressed us. I really wish it could extend to two days, as now its getting a bit large to take in during the course of one evening. Criticism aside, it really is a fantastic event every year – pretty amazing to see/hear sound art taking over a whole neighborhood for a night, and to run into little projects in every little nook and street corner. If anyone else was there and has some other project to point out that I missed, leave it in the comments please.
The representatives from Johnnie Cochran’s law firm stressed this morning that JC (yes, he did compare Cochran to the other JC) didn’t want to be remembered by his infamous statement during the OJ Simpson trial. Instead his legacy should be that of stressing the importance of education. In fact it was at this school, originally named Mt. Vernon Jr. High, that Cochran learned the art of debating. The reason for my visit to the school was to celebrate the unveiling of several new murals created by Raul Paulino Baltazar (Otis BFA ’09) and Melly Trochez (current MFT/Art Therapy student at LMU). Raul has extensive experience as an arts educator, particularly with at-risk youth, and completed the Teacher Credential Preparation track of the Artists, Community and Teaching Program at Otis, then under the direction of Jerri Allyn. Although he was not one of my students, I was eager to support him and see what he’s been working on for the last year.
The morning began with presentations by Principal Schmerelson, Johnnie Cochran lawyers (who volunteer time mentoring the schools aspiring debaters), and Raul and Melly. The two fielded questions from the audience of family, friends, press, teachers and most notably “the top” students at the school who will be trained to give murals tours to their peers. One student apologized on behalf of the school for those who threw rocks and soda bottles at the muralists while they began their project. Apparently, once Raul and Melly engaged the students and community in the planning of the mural, they gained their respect and as evidenced by the tour of the school. One school security guard remarked “Isn’t our school wonderful? The students no longer deface it with graffiti!”
All and all the presentations were inspiring and encouraging. The principal referring to Raul and Melly as “World Famous Artists,” the Buddhists monks chanting in front of “The Five Harmonious Friends or Brothers” mural, and Raul encouraging the students to touch the mural on the basketball quart as a gesture of good luck. However, I was surprised by Melly’s choice of words when she tried to encourage female students to push themselves, by stating that through this emotionally and physically draining process she learned “I have my limits. I can’t do everything a man can do.” And I was disappointed to see a few low res images and at least one typo in the brochure produced by Hugo Hopping, who’s supposed to also produce a catalog for the project. But those minor details did not detract from the overall experience of the colorful and complex designs, with diverse symbolism and styles, representing the rich diversity of both Los Angeles and the student body at Johnnie L. Cochran Middle School.
Appointments can be made to see the murals by contacting Principal Scott M. Schmerelson (323.730.4315). You can also call or email Raul himself, but I won’t post his contact info here.
Last Friday, Jeremy and I went to Skylight Books in Los Feliz to hear my office-mate at Otis, Peter Gadol, read from his new book Silver Lake. I know him as the grad writing faculty who often sits at his computer with headphones on, office door shut, preferring the quiet solitude. He probably knows me as the undergrad ACT faculty who’s open door office policy disturbs said solitude. Despite our different office styles, we get along quite well and I was curious to learn more about his professional endeavors outside of Otis. His reading was well attended mostly by friends and fans, including many Otis Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty and both current and former students. I must admit Jeremy and I initially listened with a critical ear to the authenticity of some of Peter’s descriptions of the architectural firm shared by the two main characters in Silver Lake (Jeremy is, after all, an architect himself). However since having bought the book, by the end of chapter two I was hooked, wrapped up into their emotional lives, and couldn’t wait to get home today to continue reading, in order to find out how Carlo really knew Tom and what happens to disrupt his life with Robbie… I’ll leave it at that, as you have to read it for yourself. For now I’ve forced myself to put it down so that I can get back to work in the studio.
Terri Cohn, San Fransisco based writer, curator, art historian whom I met while at Vermont Studio Center, has been writing about her experiences there and just posted part one of a two part online exhibition of art and writings by VSC June residents, and my work is included. Check it out.