Our beloved Joesph Hawa passed away the morning of June 27, 2019 surrounded by family and the love of all his friends, artists from the Village and the Santora Building of the Arts.
Joseph moved to the United States from Lebanon in 1996 he attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago and also studied art at Northwestern University of Illinois. After studying in Chicago he relocated to Santa Ana with his mother in the late 1970’s.
Most of us who were lucky enough to share time, collaborate and be inspired by him got to know him from his 20 + years as a resident artist in the Santora Arts Building. Joseph has been an active member of the artist community in Santa Ana since the mid 1990’s.
Joseph’s lifetime art works capture light, color and feelings. He loved nature, animals and the beauty of the naked woman’s body as well. He had a loving and kind heart and his joy for life was evident in all he did.
The Santora will never be the same without him. It is definitely the end of an era. He leaves us countless memories of late night conversations about philosophy, life, politics, art and joy!
In the early days you could always find Joseph at Memphis in the afternoons having a meal and he also loved his bowl of vanilla Ice Cream at the Gypsy Den. If you ran into him he always asked you to sit down and join him, he listened and he shared whatever was on his plate. He also loved to listen to classical music for hours, mostly while he painted.
Joseph was a mentor to many and a friend to all. He has touched so many lives along the way. He believed in us, he cheered us, he challenged us to be better artists, to create community, to care for each other. He said to me once “I have many children; they are all over the world, you are one of them Baby” His love and light had no boundaries.
It is a sad day in the village for all, but make no mistake that Joseph’s presence will forever last in the walls of the Santora and in the hearts of all he touched.
We love you forever Joseph! To Infinity and Beyond my dear friend!
July 6th Artwalk Celebration of Life:
Promenade gathering at 7:30PM
Bring Flowers, Pictures and Candles to Share
Some quotes by Joseph:
“The most important work of a painting is to capture light.”
“Paint what you feel, not what you think you should.”
“Art is not brush and paint, It’s what we think … transferred
to the canvas.”
“Nobody does White on White like me”
Tribute by Alicia Rojas, Community Artist
Photos provided by Kathie Warren, Souls of Santa Ana and Alicia Rojas
While Spring has called many Southern Californians out to nearby scrublands to observe Superblooms, we can stay right here in Santa Ana and find a world of color and beauty thanks to our vibrant arts community. But we can't just sit back and appreciate the arts, we have to support them and this month brings several exciting opportunities to engage local artists in community projects that give them visibility and enshrine them as part of our local arts legacy.
Artists Village Banners Project
The Santa Ana Artists Village is home to dozens of galleries, artist studios, arts institutions and arts events like the monthly DTSA First Saturday Artwalk. If you've ever walked the Promenade or adjoining streets, you may have noticed around 40 street pole banners demarcating the area. Dowtown Santa Ana is refreshing these giant outdoor banners and local artists have the opportunity to submit their work to be on display outdoors. Please visit the Artists Village Banners Project for details and to submti your design. If you have questions, please contact the project curator, Andrea Harris.
OC Edge Show at OCCCA
In May, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is excited and honored to present O.C. EDGE, the premier exhibition of Visual Artists from the Santa Ana Arts Registry. Local artists who have joined the Santa Ana Artists Registry are invited to submit one piece each for the show which runs the month of May in one of DTSA's most esteemed contemporary galleries. Download the submission information here and you can follow up with OCCCA Executive Director Jeffrey Frisch for more information about participating.
Investing in the Arts Grant
The City of Santa Ana Arts & Culture Commission will be awarding a total of $70,000 to support ambitious projects that embrace experimentation and focus on process, as well as emerging artist essentials, such as materials, supplies, or business and website fees. Learn more about the grant process (including mandatory information meetings!) on the City's Investing in the Arts Program Page or contact the grant administrator, Tram Le.
Story by Ryan Smolar
Photo of Artist Village Banner specs by Andrea Harris
Photo of Dino Perez by Matthew Martinez
All other artwork provided by event/program producer
Somewhere I have Never Traveled
Katelynn Mills + Child Workshop
April 6th- May 18th
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 6th 6-9pm
Artist Talk and Art Workshop to be announced
The Painter’s Room is proud to present “Somewhere I Have Never Travelled”, an exhibition of
paintings and drawings by Katelynn Mills + Child Workshop. Engaging with a highly generative
mode of creating, Katelynn Mills has applied her systems theory, The Cybernetics of Painting, to
her studio practice and approach to education. For this show, Somewhere I Have Never
Traveled,” she takes images from the history of painting, and runs it through a system of
organization in which the picture is divided into ~50 to 70 cells. That system is then run through
a second ‘system’: children. Children contribute a strong element of indeterminacy and chance
due to their wildly different interpretations of color and scale as they work on their respective
cells. The final paintings, which take 1-3 months to complete by a workshop of 5-13 year-olds,
are then assembled after many hours of mystery and happy confusion. Adding a sort of
feedback loop to this exhibition, Mills will also be showing select closely observed drawings of
her kindergartner’s paintings as well as other works made outside the workshop which have
influenced, and been influenced, by the workshop pieces.
Though the theory behind this project takes on a hard, critical edge, the viewer may not readily
perceive it upon first viewing. It is through the poetic nature and “serious play” of the process of
making these paintings that the ‘child-magic’ within each of us may be activated. Further, this
project speaks to the significance of trusting in the unpredictability of the creative process. It
requires an abundance of Good Faith for such young students to blindly follow the Teacher’s
instruction: work very hard and accurately on a strange, abstract composition for months on end
without any real perception of what all that focus will amount to. Similarly, it takes a great leap of
faith for an instructor to lead a group of over 100 children in such a state of organized chaos.
This project reveals the joy and beauty of traveling beyond the pre-determined.
Santora Arts Building Basement 207 N Broadway Santa Ana CA 92701
The Painter's Room is run by IPA DTSA | IG: @thepaintersroom
The sun rises and three hundred thousand people, riled from their sleep, bring life and color to the streets and avenues of this city in the heart of Orange County, California. Santa Ana, on a mere 30 square miles, boasts a vibrantly multifarious history. And yet, in this city of shifting demographics, seemingly endless restructuring and gentrification, you run the risk of missing the depth of that history. And it is here that the role of art as an engine for conscious empowerment and change is made evident. You may, for example, walk downw the streets of Downtown, and catch, on the side of a building, or tucked behind a trendy eatery, perhaps even emblazoned onto an electrical box, the earthy tones of a mural by “The Heavy” art collective led by Bud Herrera and Kimberly Duran. You will notice the intricate color combinations elaborated using aerosol and paint. You may even be attracted by the playful contradiction between muted earth tones and vibrantly colorful hues which work so well in combination. Perhaps it is the subject matter that draws your eye, that synthesis of cultural icons that transgress the racial and national divides of this hybrid city. Frida Kahlo’s likeness dripping with indigenous beauty and articulation. The beautiful walnut skin tones of revolutionary women carrying the symbolic weapons of a forgotten revolution begging to be remembered, peaceful Buddhas floating through space or the reimagined Catrina, with an Hindu Ajna, or third-eye, agape, looking out beyond the confines of the canvas. Whatever lured your eye to this, their canvas, it has put you face-to-face with art that is in a dialogical relationship with its community.
The Heavy has created over one hundred murals in Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties and has even collaborated with and sponsored artists in Mexico City, thereby becoming one of the most prolific artist groups in the area with a formidable body of work. Both artist’s share close ties to the communities wherein they work. These are ties built over decades of personal experience growing up in those communities, and working with organizations, both social and educational, that make up the human tapestry of populations in flux. “They are changing the panorama of the city” a Univision anchor said during a story highlighting their work in the community. However, their recent notoriety belies a history of struggle and hard fought success, both as individual artists in two separate cities and then as the collaborative duo who’ve garnered attention for their murals and financial support they’ve received from the city to continue their work. The Heavy Art Collective serves as an example of the dedication, inventiveness, and activism of Chicanx artists in Southern California. Look into the eyes of the children who’ve been privileged enough to hear them speak and you will see how years of artistic experience and success, when used to connect with the community, are already inspiring future artist and activists. What does the future hold for this art’s collective? If you ask them, they will say that it will benefit the community, a project that will engage the imagination of future generations, something that will revive the hidden histories of the city, that will acknowledge the multiple voices of the people who fight, live, laugh, love, struggle, and thrive in our beautifully contested communities.
The Painter's Room is pleased to announce the inaugural exhibition of paintings by the Independent Painter's Association (IPA DTSA), a group of nine artists who will be running the space in the basement of the historic Santora Arts Building.
The exhibition space was previously Basement Projects, run by local artist Christian Ramirez from 2016-2018. Ramirez has now expanded and updated the mission of the space, teaming up with Vonn Sumner, a painter and professor of painting & drawing at Fullerton College, as well as several other painters including: Julia Bass, John Brosio, Randall Cabe, Gabriela Castillo, Annie Compean, John Scane, and Jason Umfress. These painters are diverse in background, experience, and artistic sensibility, but they all share a commitment to the history and contemporary practice of painting. The group meets in the space regularly for discussions, critiques and debates, thus the name of the gallery: The Painter’s Room.
“Roll Call” is an introductory exhibition of paintings by each artist, representing who they are as painters individually, and creating a visual dialogue between them collectively. The show, then, is a visual companion to the ongoing dialogue about painting that the group is having. Unexpected similarities and echoes arise from the installation, exposing the painters’ shared love of the medium while still presenting each of their very distinct artistic personalities. The exhibition is rich and rewarding for painters and those already familiar with the language of painting, as well as accessible and rewarding for the most casual, uninitiated viewer.
We are also proud to present, in collaboration with Martinez Gallery, “Soft Self” featuring new works by Santora artist and IPA member Julia Bass. Julia’s paintings are informed by her relationship to nature, with a process that brings printmaking, painting and collage together to create personal and emotionally affecting works with universal appeal.
The Painter's Room will feature an array of diverse exhibitions by artists outside of the IPA group. The space will also host an eclectic range of events and happenings, relating to but not limited to the practice and discourse of painting.
The Painter’s Room: “Roll Call”
Martinez Gallery: “Soft Self” New Works by Julia Bass
March 2 – March 31 2019
Story and photos submitted by The Painters Room
Santa Ana Secret Society is excited to announce an ART & DJ Pop-Up in the basement of the historic Santora Building during the March Artwalk. The event is in collaboration with the art collective IPA (Independent Painters Association) DTSA, who will be hosting exhibitions in the basement at The Painter's Room and Martinez Gallery.
Growing up in Santa Ana is special for the diversity of music that is heard all around the city. In that spirit, we've lined up an eclectic mix of DJs for our first Pop-Up in the basement. Artists include DJ Serrano, who will be spinning a metal mix, DJ CaliSalvi playing 1960’s and 1970’s classic rock and DJ Ayy.2 throwing down his collection of hip hop, dancehall, 90’s R&B, and house music. The Smiths and Morrissey will be in heavy rotation during DJ MachOMenos’ set interspersed with some new wave and post punk. DJ Agüita de Melón will set the pace with some cumbia records, including cuts from Acapulco Tropical, La Luz Roja de San Marcos, Rigo Tovar, La Luz Roja de Acapulco along with classic standards by Juan Gabriel, Los Tigres del Norte, and Garibaldi. And finally, DJ Bian_cuh will get the basement moving with some dance floor hits during her sets. All DJ’s will be playing vinyl only during the DTSA Artwalk, EL DISCO ES CULTURA.
Santa Ana Secret Society will also be hosting a merchandise booth with art prints, enamel pins, shirts, and original art. IPA DTSA will be hosting a group exhibition at The Painter's Room, and local artist, and IPA member, Julia Bass will be showing works at Martinez Gallery.
Story and photos provided by Santa Ana Secret Society
In 1999, the City of Santa Ana partnered with California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), alongside local community activist Don Cribb and director of CSUF’s art gallery Mike McGee to convert and refurbish a historic Santa Ana building into a functional year-round art center in the heart of the Artists Village, now known as Grand Central Art Center (GCAC). Now in its twentieth year of existence, GCAC is a renowned and respected force of creativity and innovation, producing four to six exhibitions per year. This art center isn’t an ordinary art gallery. The 45,000 square-foot building is home to three large gallery spaces, as well as a theater space, and rents spaces to third-party businesses like Gypsy Den, Hipcooks, and the Claudia de la Cruz Flamenco Institute. GCAC also offers twenty-six gorgeous apartments of varying sizes and art studios for graduate students in the Art Departments at CSUF. GCAC also offers an exceptional international artist-in-residence program with an apartment and studio space available.
Originally built in 1922, the Grand Central building in downtown Santa Ana was a single-story building between First and Second Street that functioned as a large centrally located marketplace with contained stalls for independent vendors, butchers, and grocers. This was to be a gathering center for the area, with fresh foods and goods available to its community members. In 1924 the building was expanded, adding two additional stories to the Grand Central building and providing a larger main entrance onto the 2nd Street promenade. Although the building was purchased and renovated by the city of Santa Ana hoping to revitalize the downtown area, and in the early 1980s, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributor to the Downtown Historic District. The building is also listed as a landmark in the California Register as well as the Santa Ana Register of Historical Property.
In 1997, the Grand Central building was renovated and improved with the CSUF goals of GCAC, taking on extensive remodeling to the building, structure and offerings, priming it for the greatness that was just around the corner. Exhibitions began in 1999, and with the leadership of a handful of directors, GCAC has proudly continued the mission of the original Grand Central building and market, to provide a hub for the city of Santa—only now, they are a hub for the arts instead of produce.
Throughout the lifespan of GCAC, they have produced over 100 exhibitions of fine, performing, visual, and experimental arts. In the early 2000s, GCAC was well-respected and known for being a huge supporting and driving force in the movements of Lowbrow, Pop Surrealism, and cutting-edge subversive arts.
Although the art center shifted its focus to more experimental and relational art movements like Social Practice with the acquisition of John Spiak in 2012, GCAC’s current director, GCAC has maintained an excellent reputation for being a place where innovative and compelling art is shown, supported, and welcomed.
Some of the most notorious exhibitions in the history of GCAC have brought amazing art and artists to the art center, but for a long time, the center struggled to integrate into the neighborhood, it stood out as an iconic place for art, but seperate from some aspects of the Santa Ana cultural community. After its first ten years, there was a stronger connection to be forged between Latin arts groups and audiences in downtown Santa Ana and the Artists Village. The Santa Ana community continues to strive to embrace this unique and groundbreaking art center as a place that has not only embraced but also celebrated the native Santa Ana culture, community, and issues.
Although many non-artists may be puzzled, at first, by the anti-object nature of relational art, GCAC (and Spiak) have found a beautiful way to explore relevant and thoughtful social issues through a variety of art styles and projects that engage and entertain the masses. Today, GCAC is celebrated for its ability to present fascinating concepts and issues in beautiful and exciting ways that forces visitors—regardless of education level—to confront personal and political issues through visual information and outside-the-box creative expression. It is inspiring to see how much change is possible through community activation, and how diverse and innovative art can be when artists are given the opportunity to think local, global, and personal all at once with the support and space to showcase their thoughts, creations, and talents.
With twenty years of exceptional exhibitions under its belt and a drive to connect with people in meaningful ways, this historic space and groundbreaking programming is leading the way for the future of art and art institutions, holding us all accountable for our thoughts and actions, and provoking people to think and feel more genuinely and more compassionately with every new project.
Story by Evan Senn
Photos by Brian Feinzimer, Robert Gutierrez, Andrea Lisa Lee Harris
The Highlight Reel: the author's favorite GCAC Exhibitions Over the Years
Best Intentions: Robert Williams
March 3 – April 29, 2000
The Days of Janice Lowry
May 5 – June 24, 2001
Von Dutch: An American Original
December 7-January 26, 2003
Modern Myths Ancient Fables: James Lorigan
September 6-October 26, 2013
100 Artists See Satan
July 3 – Sept 19, 2004
Heaven on Earth: Thomas Kinkade
April 3 – June 20, 2004
The Saddest Place on Earth: The Art of Camille Rose Garcia
Oct 1 – Dec 18, 2005
Beautiful Mutants: Mark Mothersbaugh
Sept 1 – Oct 21, 2007
Original Photography by Andy Warhol
April 5 – June 15, 2008
Interruption: Joe Sorren
Nov 6 – Dec 31, 2010
Weapons of Mass Delusions: Laurie Lipton
May 1 – June 13, 2010
Nov 5 – Dec 31, 2011
Choas Job: Restrain Order: George Herms
Sept 3 – Oct 16, 2011
Empire: Bale Creek Allen
May 7 – June 12, 2011
Feb 5 – April 17, 2011
Cheers! And Focus: ISM: 10 Project
July 7 – Aug 12, 2012
Cross Cut: Aili Schmeltz
Nov 2 – Dec 31, 2013
Flora Kao: Wind House, Abode That A Breath Effaced
June 7 – Aug 10, 2014
Kenyatta Hinkle and Tyler Oyer: Exploring the Nowannago
Aug – Oct, 2016
Sarah Rafael Garcia: SanTana’s Fairy Tales
Feb – April, 2017
Jen Hofer and John Pluecker: AntenaMovil
June – January, 2017
Kim Zumpfe: outside the length of a room / OR / diving into the blue sun
May 5 – Sept 9, 2018
Rebecca Chernow: #superbloom
Nov 4, 2017 – January 14, 2018
McCallium and Tarry: Exchange
Mar 3 – May 15, 2018
Yevgeniya Mikhailik: A Slow Conflict
Feb 2 – April 14, 2019
Orange County isn’t exactly the place that comes to mind when you ask most people where they can find a burgeoning art and music scene. But every Thursday, musicians, poets, artists, dancers, and music lovers from all walks of life gather at The Coollab Project in Santa Ana to create—and stir up—a diverse melting pot of culture and talent unlike anything else for miles.
“Everybody Gets Love”
Though the open-air courtyard of 4th Street Market is filled with beautiful sounds every Thursday evening, perhaps the most incredible thing about The Coollab Project is the community that’s sprung up around it. Everywhere you turn, you’re greeted with smiling faces and invitations to converse. Strangers become friends, and for a few hours, the social barriers we’re all so used to just seem to melt away.
This radically inclusive spirit is infectious. Regulars of The Coollab Project tell a similar story of stumbling upon the event, having a blast, and now coming back every week. For many, it’s the community they didn’t even know they were searching for.
It is, however, the platform that Coollab Project Founder Vinson Muhammad, who goes by ALäZ, was searching for when he moved to Southern California from Macon, Georgia. “The purpose of The Coollab Project is to bring artists together for cool collaborations through music,” said ALäZ. “When I moved out here from Georgia in 2016, I wanted to build something that would help musicians, including myself, get their message out to the people.“ His positive energy and message, along with undeniable bars and trumpet chops, have gone a long way in shaping the community of The Coollab Project.
“Respect the Mic”
ALäZ has one request of his fellow Orange County dwellers: don’t sleep on the talented musicians right here in our backyard—instead, come through and give them respect. Styles you’ll hear in one night at The Coollab Project range from jazz and hip hop to spoken word. The event’s host, Rocky Angelini, is an emcee and musician who epitomizes this kind of variety. Unafraid to twist, bend, and blend styles together, Rocky is definitely an OC artist on the rise, and his live performances are legendary, complete with live looping and incredible dance breaks.
House band Apollo Bebop take the concept of musical flexibility to the next level. A modern jazz fusion band led by emcee Brian to Earth, there’s not a style they can’t play. And if you show up in need of musicians to back you up, just ask. They’ll be happy to sit in on a song. No practice required.
In fact, just about every musician at The Coollab Project is willing to lend their talents, and one of the most exciting parts of every Thursday is the jam session. After the Open Mic participants, Apollo Bebop and Rocky Angelini, as well as the night’s featured artist—that’s right, there’s a 15 minute headline slot each week—have performed, all musicians are invited on stage for an improvised jam. The musicians set the tone, rappers and singers trade bars, and the B-boys, hula hoopers, and dancers in the crowd all let loose. It’s truly an experience to behold.
The Coollab Project is truly a hidden gem in Orange County, but the ambitions of the musicians and artists there are far-reaching. The group has seen explosive growth in 2018, and they’re optimistic about the future.
A major part of the soul of the Coollab is its location. There is an intentional effort at the Coollab to honor the ancestors and residents of the great city of Santa Ana. Despite various challenges and wide-spread misconceptions, every Thursday we are reminded of what truly makes this city beautiful—the people. Artists and audience members practice supporting each other financially and are encouraged to take the support beyond the event to local businesses and organizations throughout the community. With this type of collaborative energy, it is only a matter of time before everybody sleeping on Santa Ana and the OC gets a serious wake up call.
Exciting things are indeed happening in Santa Ana, and The Coollab Project is at epicenter of the city’s blossoming music scene. Next time you’re looking for a live music fix, a fun Thursday night out, or even a great spot to impress your date, head to 4th Street Market from 7–9:30 p.m. to support your local artists. You can also support The Coollab Project by purchasing an official T-shirt for $20 at the event, or by following us on Instagram @TheCoollabProject.
Story by Randall Head
Photos/Art provided by The Coollab Project
Sometimes creating an arts “masterpiece” has little to do with paints or pigments. And the
“Arts Roundtable” that was held on Friday the 25th of January at the Frida Theatre in Downtown Santa Ana demonstrated that there are other kinds of “masterpieces” being created.
This Arts Roundtable was the 5th in a series of what was described as a process for creating a network and support system for practitioners of the arts, crafts, and industrial arts. Before the event started, I sat in a seat, and was thankful for the Mediterranean food provided usurping my usual pre-show popcorn and drink. Instead of the pre-movie fare of previews, and commercials, I was able to preview in the conversations and interactions around me what this roundtable would be. To name a few, I spoke with a film producer, a film maker, an artist/muralist that I had become familiar with almost twenty years ago, an engineer, a fabricator, and a ceramicist. All of these personalities were in attendance to ensure that they would be active participants in a cohesive, articulated, and supportive community of artists, artisans, and crafts people.
The program for the evening reviewed and celebrated the past roundtables over the course of two years throughout Orange County. Selected speakers spoke of how the results of those roundtables impacted their work and resulted in their own personal successes. One resulting partnership resulted in a school, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and an industrial designer working together to create an art installation that was displayed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Another presenter spoke of his international status as a filmmaker of food for an internationally renowned online food network. The two-hour program was engaging and served to remind those in attendance of the importance of creating and maintaining a network of engaged and supported creators. It was noteworthy, and pointed out, that it was the creative community that wanted to be connected formally. The online “arts registry” was the response.
Over twenty years ago I opened up two galleries in Santa Ana. One in the Santora Building, and another on Main Street. Any connectivity I had to other creative forces were made by me in order to survive; and any support given to my gallery and artistic endeavors were usually limited to my galleries being used as backdrops for redevelopment and sought after gentrification. (But that is another story). I would have been ecstatic to open my galleries with the support and networking capabilities that the “Arts Registry” presently provides. To me, the product that individuals like Robyn McNair, Ryan Smolar, and Madeleine Spencer have been able achieve and create (with the support of others who I’m sure should be mentioned) is nothing short of a “masterpiece”.
Is the masterpiece finished? I’m certain that it is not. After all, art is more than just a product, it is a process. And I for one, can’t wait to see how this masterpiece evolves in the ongoing process of Arts Roundtables.
Learn more about the Santa Ana Artists Registry >
Story by Matthew Cruz
Photos by Matthew Martinez
ABOUT THE ARTS ROUNDTABLE SERIES
This event is part of a multi-event series, the Santa Ana Arts Roundtable events organized by Santa Ana’s downtown improvement district, with the hopes to connect and empower artists in-person and online at SantaAnaArts.org. The Arts Roundtable series kicked off in 2015 at Santa Ana High School and has traveled to the Bowers Museum, OC Heritage Museum, Segerstrom Center for the Arts and now The Frida Cinema with the mission of building resources to help artists and arts organizations connect and thrive in the Santa Ana.
The Santa Ana Arts Roundtable V was created to showcase the launch of the Santa Ana Artists Registry by the Santa Ana Business Council, Downtown Inc., major arts institutions across Santa Ana and SanArts Conservatory and the City of Santa Ana under the banner of SantaAnaArts.org.
The proposition was simple and straightforward: We would meet at my place around about 12:30, when the afternoon light was just right. And after a few minutes of catching up, we would sip tequila with beer chasers on my front porch, where I would ask Rogelio Reyes (a.k.a Roger Eyes R.) all about his four-month long endeavor to finish 6 medium-sized portraits of day laborers, live, during the coming art walks in downtown Santa Ana. Yes, simple: while I sit before a T.V. dinner table with my typewriter on it and conduct the interview, he paints a portrait of me with my whole arsenal of media at his fingertips—a face-to-face meeting, as it were, and a brutal peeling/picking of artistic minds.
The way I saw it, there was no real better or more fitting way to accomplish this task of outlining what he plans to do and just how he plans to do it. I had to catch the man in action, as he’ll be seen during the bleak icy first Saturdays of the months to come; see what makes him tick; see his style bleed upon paper, and hopefully by being one of the first to hear him speak about blue collar/hump-busters/hard-working/laborers, I could really get an understanding as to why he chose to paint those who truly make the world go round, for the first time in his artistic career.
He’d seen them all his life; regarded them as something familiar yet too removed from the world that his art tended to gravitate toward, and wanted nothing more than to revolve around: his inner-thoughts, his own world.
But after several brush-ups and lengthy conversations with assorted laborers at his last job, he felt inspired to make them come through in what he calls “Pop Impressionism.” He basically pops all the colors in a painting that you wouldn’t normally pop--as is my understanding. At first I thought he’d coined the style/technique, but he reassured me that wasn’t the case.
And the portraits will be, aside from his Pop Impressionistic approach, straightforward, because he wants to make sure that the message is received by as many of those who see the portraits. And that message is that laborers are everywhere, and you more than likely have several in your very own lineage.
So, as he drew some starter shapes on the 12 x 10 newsprint paper he had up on an easel, using some black Higgin’s ink I had leftover, he went down the list of the types of laborers he’s (so far) considering.
1) Basket weavers of the Juaneño tribe, natives to the southern tip of the coast now known as Orange County: These, he said, will be drawn from old sepia photos he managed to get his hands on, and are to be interpreted by Roger in “oranges and yellows that pop.”
2) A Ranchero: Possibly tilling the soil of his fertile land, or one of a rancher humbly standing in front of Irvine’s meadowy green and grassy hills as they roll seemingly forever behind him, off into the distance. The concept for this portrait is also dependent on what old photo(s) he’s able to scrounge up and that inspire him.
3) A Business Owner: In red. Roger is considering hitting the pavement and searching for a living breathing subject that hits the spot for this one. He feels it just might be the right type of subject to sort of round off the whole collection: One for the little guy.
He tells me he’s not quite sure who or where to start asking. But he’s not worried. Plenty of time, still, he says.
He eyeballs my hair and adds a couple of more ink lines in a downward motion. I type: B. Owner…To Be Determined.
4) Orange pickers: a fairly obvious choice—but equally a must, considering where we are. Possibly a picture of him committing himself to the kind of work that was once rampant around here not too long ago; before the burnout strip malls and the heavy industrial goliaths arrived and shaved them off the map, roots and all.
Also from sepia photos. Roger plans on doing this portrait in blue.
Bold, I told him. He agreed.
5) Shop Owner(s?): Although similar to #3, he’s considering making it a portrait of a man and a woman who run the show of some small shop, along for the drudgery of earning an honest American buck together. Also T.B.D.
6) Female Machinist for Aerospace: This one is a little down the line so there’s not much to go off of yet, he tells me.
This brings us to the first Saturday of May, the 4th, Spring of 2019: Artwalk. By this time Roger plans on having all six portraits finished and displayed at the promenade, by the fountain, in the heart of the Artist’s Village, finished and ready to then be hauled to the Fourth Element Gallery in DTSA, where they will more legitimately displayed as a collection of finished works with all the lights and the little signs beside each painting that give you the titles and a brief description of each one.
But the money melon is the actual experience of standing beside Roger Eyes R., seeing him paint, but also, actually having a conversation with the man. If you find yourself walking toward the fountain on the promenade in the coming months, and you happen to spot Roger, wearing his paint-stained white lab coat, looking like a mix between John Lennon (circa ’75) and Roy Orbison in his heyday, you should talk to him. Tell him where you’ve been. Tell him about what in the hell was bothering you all day today, and why it was a mean gorilla’s hair up your ass. Tell him about your walk down Santa Ana’s dark alleys, feeling the bricks with your fingertips, taking a long drag, thinking that things (and truly believing) could really be a whole lot better than now. He will listen. He will paint. For all the right reasons.
Story by Eric Cocoletzi
Photo by Brian Feinzimer
Santa Ana Arts News
News, opportunities and updates for the creative community.