Along the Velvet Trail.

When someone murmurs on about velvet paintings, where does your mind drift to?

Psychedelia with fluorescent mushrooms, bug-eyed elves, and vivid cheshire cats that beg to be viewed with a black light from Spencer’s?

Or, do you imagine demure women that belong on a Pacific isle?

Either way, Carl Baldwin and Caren Anderson want you to see velvet paintings as more than just a pop culture throwaway. Frustrated with the scorn, disdain, and loathing that has surrounded the art form, they sought to change the minds of the masses: Velvet paintings are often relegated to as the 50 Shades of Gray of the art world. Knowing this, Carl and Caren knew they needed to educate the public about this expressive art form.

Carl was my Velvet connoisseur for the day.

They did what any art savvy folk would do: together, they opened the Velveteria museum in Portland, Oregon in 2005. After spending almost 10 weird years in the Pacific Northwest, they packed up, and relocated to Chinatown, Los Angeles in 2013.

Here, is where over 3,000 paintings from almost every continent richly adorn each wall. From Polynesian princesses, to David Bowie, no one leaves without seeing something that sends their hearts a flutter. They even have a black light room with the art you haven’t seen since high school/college – but of a higher quality, and much more trippy, as the kids used to say.

Sauntering slowly through each room, Carl become entrenched in each layered detail, and minute description – it was utterly blissful having my own personal docent. Especially one that has such delightful fervor and kind passion for what the uninformed describe as, “a tasteless art form”.

Throughout the attentively curated walls, there are hand written notes, that describe in deep detail about the artist, and their work.

                                      Lots of love and effort.

There are also boards of information that entail the process, and the different qualities of velvet: not all velvet is on the same plane of existence.

To stay relevant in the world of celebrity, Carl mentioned they procure the latest celebrity/politician artwork from an artist in Mexico.  Some of these paintings are just a tad surreal. The details on each work can at times be beyond belief. How one can paint so finely on fabric is hard to wrap one’s mind around.

                The good ole days.

Before I ruin your experience of the full splendor of a velvet playground, you should just probably go. An hour should be fine for most, but allot more for a true, in-depth pleasure cruise down the velvet trail.

One more thing: please keep me posted on the new artwork: I’m hoping there’s a fancy Taika Waititi by now.

 

 

The Velveteria 

711 New High St, Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Open:

Thursday – Sunday

11:00 am – 6:00 pm

Admission: $10

 

Happy Endings Every Time

Living in Los Angeles, no one is a stranger to the ubiquitous Chinese Foot Massage centers: you get an hour of fingers digging into all of your reflexive foot zones for a mere $20 bones.

Such a steal, why isn’t everyone there?

To be honest, most think of these as the “Happy Ending” massage places. The tawdry, flashing neon, the curtains, the sparse English. I blab on to many friends and acquaintances about how I’ll only go to these since they are the cheapest – the weight of the stares after I mention this makes me consider hiring a porter.

“Well, you have to be careful with those…you never know what you’ll get…”

A cheap, full hour massage with a Mandarin lesson included?

Yes.

Let me explain to those feeling apprehensive:

For one hour, usually around 20-35 dollars, depending on what you want and the area of LA, you’ll lie flat on a somewhat cozy, well-laundered towel coated easy chair. They soak your feet in scalding water, while they massage your head and arms and upper back with an oil you would never buy in fear of a rash – it works fine, sans rash. Then, they make your feet feel like they owe you an apology for existing – this can be a mixed bag. Afterwards, you roll over for the back portion. Men usually take their shirts off, and if you are a woman with no fucks to give, you can take off yours as well – it’s done discreetly.

Yes, it’s not the most private – you are in a room of other people getting a rub down. But they put a towel over your eyes, so you can sort of chill out. And yeah, they do whisper to one another, in Chinese. If you are super sensitive, this might not be your cup of Oolong.

I went to several while exploring the vastness  of the Peoples Republic of China on a recent trip, and I can attest: these are true, honest to God, Chinese massages. Even the pricing is similar. With people that probably just came from there a few weeks ago.

An additional perk that you won’t get at your Healing Hands place?  A punch card with $20 off if you are a lonely person/regular.

I’ve included some of my favorites below if you need some cajoling:

Hollywood/East Hollywood

Good Hands Massage

Sunny Foot Massage

Monterey Park – if you have time for a hop to the SGV

Serenity Spa 

Mental.

It’s been exactly (ok, over) 4 years since I began to medicate with pharmaceuticals. My mental state prior was comparable to a shelf of my grandmother’s fine china, on the San Andreas fault. Trembling and unable to compose myself enough to do what needed to be done, I quietly sulked at home, avoiding reality at any cost.

You’re probably curious at this point; why is a blog about mental illness on a LA culture blog? Especially when it hasn’t been updated in a minute.

To most, I appear as in control woman who travels constantly  (while not blogging) without issue as I post photo after photo of bucket list destinations (not on my blog). When others mention their anxiety of planes and air travel, I commiserate along beside them. Three side eyes and an eye roll later, my story is being demanded by my grounded company.

Being a high functioning (read: heavily medicated) anxious person makes others naysay your affliction. I confess, I had an EXCELLENT therapist who was a total hardass that made me take responsibility for my emotions, and taught me to be more introspective when I’m in the trenches. I gotta say, it makes all the difference. That, and being on a low dose of Lexapro with a dash of Xanax improved my standard of living. Instead of rattling dishes, I could finally relate to my spirit animal: a goat.

Seriously?

A goat doesn’t give a single fuck about anything except eating. And scratching it’s itchy spots. And spawning. But mostly eating.

I visualize that when I am seated at a gate, or on a plane, when I’m feeling like the fault line is going to crack, and send all the saucers and tea cups to their fiery death. Or, I yell at myself in the toliet closet to “snap out of it” while dancing and singing like a goat would do if she could.

Sometimes I think I should have went with Cheetah, but they’re just as anxious as me.

The mind is a powerful, pissed off demon at times. I refuse to let it hold me back from doing the things I love the most.

So, if the idea of being a goat can get me through a trans-pacific, or Atlantic flight, I think I’ll take it.

With a side of Xanax, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

Hoppin’ around downtown LA

They ate everything.

They ate everything.

Rabbits are often referred to as pests, generally to our seasonal produce. Australian artist, Amanda Parer created a public installation that examines the vermin that are responsible for eradicating wildlife, while escaping annihilation by humans. Intrude was created from sewn white nylon, inflated and illuminated from the inside. Introduced to Australia by European settlers in 1788, rabbits are responsible for creating an imbalance to the country’s endemic species. Yet, our feelings for these fluffy, adorable creatures are fairly complex. Her work examines the cocktail of emotions we have for these furry nuisances.

They represent the fairytale animals from our childhood – a furry innocence, frolicking through idyllic fields. Intrude deliberately evokes this cutesy image, and a strong visual humour, to lure you into the artwork only to reveal the more serious environmental messages in the work. They are huge, the size referencing “the elephant in the room”, the problem, like our environmental impact, big but easily ignored.

Amanda Parer

 

For a very limited run, Los Angeles will be welcoming in the nylon scourge. You can view them downtown starting June 5th, through June 11th at these locations: Bank of America Plaza, Wells Fargo Center and FIGat7th. They will be available for photo shoots from noon to 9 p.m. each day.

After their take over of the West, they will complete their North American tour to New York, Denver, and Houston. For more information about Intrude, you can keep going down the rabbit hole here.

More about the artist: http://amandaparer.com.au/

 

Cheers!

For everyone’s whose eyes I borrowed, thank you.

Your thoughtful browsing of my posts are always genuinely appreciated and loved. This baby of mine is over a year now, officially 13 months in parent-speak.

I will continue to lurk in alleyways, and investigate fascinating areas to find some interesting locales for your minds to be enriched.

Promise.

 

 

 

Before Abbot Kinney was littered with decadent shops and gourmet cafes, it once belonged to the bohemians, green space, and the eccentrics. The boulevard’s galleries showcased the neighborhood talent, and praised itself for being an artist’s refuge from materialistic L.A.

Lucky for us, the hyper-gentrification didn’t sell all the soul from Abbot-Kinney. In some unexpected nooks and crannies, there is some art lurking in the open. I almost missed The Chaplin Zoetrope, if my lovely friend had not pointed out to me as I was walking into traffic.

 

While I was searching for the name of the person responsible for saving my inattentive heinie, my eyes landed on the stack of informative cards perched under the exhibit. The card’s map specified all the public art in the area, along with a web address of other projects that all art-appreciating Angelenos should be aware of.

 

A map to several pots of gold

 

On the reverse, the numbers explain each installation, with their whereabouts included. Thanks to Robin Murez, who commenced the Venice public art project in 2005,  she hoped to inspire a sense of community amongst all the various citizens dwelling in the Venice area. Along with unifying the residents, Robin wanted bring about a sense of wonderment and delight with each piece.

A list...of visual treasures.

 

They are always open to suggestions, and needing assistance with: locating sites, creating, inviting, organizing, installing, landscaping, CAD drawings, permits, funding, photographing, and media.

While I’m crafting my thank you card, I recommend investigating these visual treasure troves before they’re bulldozed for a new Prada store.

Website: www.venicepublicart.com

Author.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 11.22.10 PMIn the middle of my daily drudgery at the office, a text popped in with what I hoped to be my future. Travel Channel created a reality show that needed contestants, and was holding auditions TODAY. The hope was to find the luckiest of all ducks: he/she would be the host of their own travel web series. Upon reading (skimming) the guidelines, I hustled my big blue eyes over to my boss, hoping that that extra swish of mascara would allow my early retreat from work. Without mentioning much, he signed off on my early departure, gave me a spank, and wished me the best of luck.

Rushing off towards the Tastemade Studios, with my newly acquired bruise, I started gathering bits and pieces of odd travel tales. Not really knowing the rules, because I, uh, read it so closely, I closed my eyes to see what I could conjure up.

Hmmm….monkeys? Sure. Anxiety problems? YES. Mild mention of extreme poverty of India, which shows my adventurous side? Well, yeah.

While my half-assed meditation was in motion, I felt a nudge and an almost paper cut on my arm. “Hey, you might want this.” I bypassed lunch, so I was sort of anticipating a pack of fruit snacks. Instead, he handed me a paper with all the rules and guidelines that we should probably know.

After a quick read over, my meditations were fairly useless. “2 minutes to describe where you’re from, why and what made you love travel, and how you like to travel”. Whaaa? Ok. While scrambling my shit together to form cohesive sentences, a camera with a lovely female voice asked me what part of the process I was in. Clearly, I do not audition often (read: at all) so I was fairly dumbfounded when I faced with this question, and in front of a looming camera.

Welp.

Here we go.

Everyone loves illicit drugs and personality disorders, so of course I am going to take that road.

“Well, I made sure to take my Xann-I mean Xanax (leave street slang at home) today, so I am feeling great. (illicit drug reference – good!) I’m not gonna hide like I want to, because I am so anxious right now” (mention of panic disorder – I’m totally in.)

Lucky for me, I did indeed make the highlights of the L.A. auditions – which the above picture is from. Unpleasantly, I did not make the final 15. A blessing in disguise really, because yours truly does not advertise herself well – unless I can wear a sandwich board.

Also…I was sort of not thrilled with the idea of being known as “the lady with monkey problems”.

“Nobody intends to put up a wall!”

Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the GDR, June 15, 1961 – 2 months before the Berlin Wall was erected.

Bring home a piece of oppression.

Bring home a piece of the oppression.

After 26 years of Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall tumbled down. The haunting combination of barbed wire and cement that segregated Berlin, crumbled by force to reunite the communist-controlled East, with their capitalist West neighbors. East Germany’s way of life that was cultivated under Soviet rule tumbled out as well.

Does IKEA have prints of these?

Does IKEA have prints of these?

Fortunately for us history buffs and curious cats, the Wende Museum has fought to collect, and preserve the remnants of the communist-era. Currently located in Culver City, the collection contains artifacts, personal histories and archival documents that record life, expression and politics during the Cold War period from 1945 to 1991. They have amassed a variety of media including: design objects, periodicals, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, posters, furniture, clothing, films and books. A bragging right of the Wende is that they are one of the few institutions in the world to hold an almost complete run of Neues Deutschland, the official newspaper of the central committee of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the controlling party of the East German state. Not many can proclaim this: due to the emotionally charged end of the Cold war, a lot of articles were destroyed, or defaced.

I think he looks dashing as a pink head.

I think Lenin looks dashing as a pink head.

The Museum commits its acquisition resources largely to those artifacts, artworks or collections that either make an important addition to core strengths or fill significant gaps, and/or are threatened with imminent destruction or dispersal. This includes historically or culturally significant items likely to be sold to a private collection and removed from public access.  The Wende also attempts to acquire artifacts at the request of scholars in need of specific resources unavailable elsewhere. – The Wende Museum

Despite all my rage, I'm just a Lenin in a cage.

Despite all my rage, I’m still just a Lenin in a cage.

A few of the odds and ends that were recently acquired from the surveillance state were the Stasi espionage cameras and recording equipment, outfitted in various briefcases. For the dames, a purse to discretely snap photos of would-be escapees, radicals, or tunnel diggers. Among the photogenic spy items, there were also various wire tapping devices, just to remind you that you never know who was really listening in.

It's how I keep up with the happenings in my neighborhood.

Talk directly into my briefcase, and tell me about your weekend.

Not all of the Wende is Lenin, and Stasi: they also obtained articles from the East German 6th Sports and Gymnastics Festival, held in Leipzig. From jerseys, helmets, medals, to even the athlete’s sneakers, it is a rather complete assortment.

A locker room, without the unpleasant odor.

A locker room, without the unpleasant odor.

If athletic events don’t interest you, the various records and and play bills might light up your intrigue.

Porgy, is that you?

Porgy, is that you?

At the end of the tour, you’ll find yourself surrounded by relics from the checkpoints at the Wall. One can only imagine the fear and anxiety that permeated German citizens as they crossed.

2015-01-23 02.51.13 1

The Wende Museum is currently in the process of relocating to the Armory, in Culver City, as the tiny confines of the current location do not allow for full displays of all the various collections. Once completely moved in, they plan on accessible hours and days for the public to visit. There is no set opening date, they are still looking for investors and donations to fund the new location. As of late, they only allow guided tours on selected days of the week, since most of the pieces are in a warehouse and storage, wrapped up, in boxes, or in cages.

 

The Wende Museum

5741 Buckingham Parkway, Suite E
Culver City, CA. 90230

Phone: (310) 216-1600

Open to the public on Fridays, from 10am to 5pm, except holidays, guided tours to the public are on Fridays at 11:30 AM and 2 PM

Admission is free.

 

 

Being vegetarian for over 20 years, most people assume that I would be against taxidermy. Unbeknownst to my nearest, I have a slight affliction towards post-mortem animal sculptures. Mostly the blame lies towards my upbringing: I was raised by outdoorsmen, hunting and fishing types that would up-cycle their kills. My uncle had his basement turned into a natural history museum exhibit. From woodland creature pelts, to moose legged lamps, one could really learn a lot about the animals of the upper midwest.

He would've really brightened up my living room.

There’s always room more lil helpers like him.

While I was dog sitting this weekend in the San Fernando Valley, I was blinded by the bounty of this oddities shop on Magnolia Blvd. Careening my sleigh to the first available spot, I hurried myself in. I was greeted immediately by one of the owners, Erick, who was busily cleaning and arranging new product. Right away, he offered his assistance, since I was eyeing up his taxidermy rodent selection very hungrily. He also mentioned that all the animals that were available for purchase all died from natural causes. I appreciated that, since I felt a little crappy about my lusting for a top-hatted mouse, that was next to skulls of various creatures, bottled insects, a bat, and all sorts of curiosities. They also display a sign stating that all wildlife was ethically sourced, so you needn’t feel guilt when your coin purse starts doing all the talking.

Eye see you.

Eye see you.

Erick also dropped an interesting tidbit: they offer a taxidermy class, if any are interested in making their own animal militia. They also can help you put your dusty Ouija boards to use, as they offer occasional seances.

She was a huge fan of beef jerky.

What do you say about a leathery mermaid?

In the very back of this multi-roomed emporium, I met a lovely mermaid with a mildly shrunken head. I’m thinking she might make an excellent centerpiece during the holidays. Besides the lovely maiden of the sea, stacks of lonely Ouija boards, bearded lady t-shirts, movie posters, vintage comics and old cameras, and hell, even wax busts of no-name dames.

If you ever want to give me a gift, this is it.

If you ever want to give me a gift, this is it.

If you ever find yourself roaming Burbank in need of a turtle skeleton, or squirrel eyes, maybe even some Star Wars comics, please do yourself the biggest favor and visit the wonderfully macabre, Bearded Lady. Your shelves and dreams will never be empty again.

 

Bearded Lady Vintage and Oddities

3005 W Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, California

(323) 696.5219

Hours: Tues – Sat: 10am – 7pm/Sun – Mon: 12pm – 7pm

Online Store: https://squareup.com/market/beardedladyvintage

 

Located in a tourist-laden part of Santa Monica, the 113 year-old Camera Obscura perches nonchalantly on the cliffs. A short jaunt from the famous pier, the 50s type font on the camera’s housing begs you to take a gander.

You can scope out climbing trees for afterwards.

You can scope out climbing trees for afterwards.

One of three left in California, Robert F. Jones constructed the camera in 1898, and gave it to the city in 1907. For 50 years, the camera delighted beach goers and peeping toms on Santa Monica beach. By 1955, it was relocated to the nearby Senior Recreation Center.

A-ha!!!

A-ha!!!

The Camera obscura dates back to the ancient Greek era, as it was one of the earliest optical inventions. Scholars believe that these types of “cameras” were utilized by Renaissance painters like Leonardo Da Vinci to project live images onto the canvases to assist them in painting. By the Victorian and Edwardian times, it had become a popular attraction in the US, and across the pond.

Peeping Lauren.

Peeping Lauren.

I was rather pleased to see a diverse blend of persons queuing up for their opportunity to view the beach through a Renaissance lens. We have come so far when photography is involved, yet we sometimes forget what novel inventions we have left behind. The camera obscura is free, and all you have to do is wait your turn once you sign in. Once you’re in, they give you the key, and you can spend a large chunk of time spinning the wheel, exploring the beach of Santa Monica, or the car culture on the other side. A fun side adventure for all ages. Bring grandpa along, so he can prattle off tales of how this was the only camera he had as a boy, while his great-grandchildren struggle for a grainy snapshot with their iPhone 6’s.

Ahoy, thar be peeping toms ahead!!

Ahoy, thar be lookie loos ahead!!

 

Camera Obscura

Senior Recreation Center

1450 Ocean Blvd.

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Hours: Mon-Fri 9am – 2pm Sat 11am – 4pm

Phone: (310) 458-8644