The Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College hit the 'hood on
February 13, 2011 and did the good times roll. These are the people
who pair chamber music (I know!) with historical sites - in this case the old Santa Fe Depot building, a/k/a SCI-Arc.
Their clever planner included a short walking tour of selected studios. The Da Camerans provided copious eats and drinks at these stops. (Ya notice what's important to ya.) A visit to any one of these studios is an experience to lift the heart and broaden the outlook. Each is happy to arrange studio visits, Da Camerans particularly welcome.
Nancy Uyemura's studio was a serendipitous choice for the tour, because it was a summer art scholarship from Mount St. Mary's which brought the realization that art was her life major. Uyemura's pieces, which reflect on the history of her community, were an excellent start to the meander down
the avenue. Her mixture of collage, acrylic, mixed media, and the materials
of her public pieces ("anything that lasts a long time") was a happy precursor to the music to come, with its own surprising blend of disparate parts.
A hop across Traction and down one level was David Hollen's studio.
His works spring from a fascination with the perfect engineering of nature.
(So he says, I promise.) Case in point: A dried thistle-like ball lying on
a work table. Hollen speared it with a pencil and (carefully) pointed to its perfect merging
of geometry and biology. Holding up the dried orb, he showed how this small piece of desert flora related directly to
several sculptures on the floor. (Yes! I see it!) Inspired and unique. Best part of Hollen's work: It can live anywhere, from small and dear to majestic and massive.
Skip a couple doors to the east, and there was Robert Reynolds, a man in touch with his whimsey. Most notable was a Rube Goldberg of a construction made of a giant bellows attached to an in-line row of antique children's desks. On each lift top was a small neon of Arabic writing. At the door was an astonishing eight-foot sculpture covered with strolling ancient Persian-like figures. Lots of Middle Eastern commentary. Then there are the pieces that scream Asian commentary, and the pieces that- well, you get the idea.
Printmeisters Ritta and Alan at Traction Press take us on a trip backward (or forward) to labor intensive, old world craftsmanship. How do they do it? With the tons (literally) of old world machinery they have collected - like the rhythmic platen press, which makes Traction Press one of a handful of shops in Southern California that can do that gorgeous relief printing. Alan says the quality of their work is possible only by reversing the modern model: All processes - that's every single one - are done under one roof. No outsourcing here. They make fabulous anything, from corporate presentations to invitations fit for a royal wedding.
Last stop before concert time was Sia Aryai Photography. Strangely, the best word to describe Aryai's photos is painterly. His new series is a collection of head shots of pubescent girls in obscuring white makeup which erases ethnic distinctions. Startling to be able to see, then, the pure spirit and identical lifespark we all have. (At least, at that tender age.) These prints were probably the bargain of the tour. In addition to the studio, his work shines at the Gallery Aryai at 8467 Melrose in Los Angeles.
Then there was the concert at SCI-Arc, where four guys and a bunch of
strings were simply sensational, even to the least educated ears. The JACK Quartet (how does the Da Camera snag people like this?) is astonishing.
Who knew that music written by a guy living in the 1300s could sound like smooth wild honey, and still reveal the underpinnings of the modern atonals? Or that (fingers scraping on) Glass could be rendered positively mellow? Or that voices could be so present in madrigals played by two violins, viola and cello?
The last piece, by Xenakis (so contemporary he lived still in 2001), was fabulously attacking and bizarre. It's a shame Hitchcock never met this guy. Talk about a tense, scary movie score. The piece was so difficult and (to the untutored ear - that would be mine) so disjointed it seemed impossible to even contemplate reading the notes.
A peek at the sheet music after the concert revealed ink blots and directions that looked to need a Rosetta stone. Except for one notation that read: Woolly Mammoth Balls. (I remember that part!) As the cello guy said: It's seldom pretty but always beautiful. So many, many thanks to the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College for bringing such special performers to our neighborhood.
It was one of those days that represents the best of what life is down here
And why we continue to love it.
(In the Arts District since
the precondo-icene era)