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

 

“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.

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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.