Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE HIDDEN ARTIST: Jennifer Gunlock

CONNECTION TO NOHO: Lives and breaths and "trees" there

MEDIUMS: mixed-media, photography


I’ve always been enamored by trees.  As a child, I collected leave specimens into my tree album from my Chicago neighborhood, and I still have it to this day. Trees have also been focal points in my own artwork, but no tree that any artist or I have ever depicted quite stands out like Jennifer Gunlock’s.   

My interview with Jennifer was at her one room apartment, which also served as her art studio. I entered through a piece of pastel-colored tulle she’d cleverly hung to keep the bugs out from the small, sparsely furnished guesthouse she lived in. I immediately noticed half of the room provided her with her basic needs; a bed, a computer, bathroom, and kitchenette, while the other half was clearly dedicated to her work. For along one wall, only a few feet away from where she slept, hung six large pieces of art paper placed side by side to make one huge canvas and on it were the beginnings of a mixed-media project that would represent perhaps only one-fifth of what was to be an over 20 foot mural for the “Fires of Change” exhibition (a collaboration between the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, the Landscape Conservation Initiative, and the Flagstaff Arts Council) in Flagstaff, AZ next September 2015.
"Smoke Signal" Jennifer Gunlock

Its no wonder Jennifer was chosen for the exhibition given these perennial wood plants have been a central theme to her work for a few years now. At first glance, that’s exactly what you see; images of tall conifer-like specimens contrasted against a sparse background. But a closer look reveals Jennifer’s trees have taken on an urban quality; shaped and textured by none other than her own photographs of often overlooked designs and all found within our own natural and city environments. For the “Fires of Change” project she used such images, overlapping them to become the trunk and branches of her trees; sunlit reflections of a skyscraper’s windows, blown-up details of a fire engine grill, or the charred remains of an ancestor tree lost in the Kaibab National Forest.

"Mothership" (sequoia) Jennifer Gunlock

Jennifer’s trees are hybrid transmitters. They still own their natural state, but then you'll notice an antennae or a resemblance to a cell phone tower. There’s something timeless about them; nostalgia crossing over to futurism, all of which gives the viewer a unique opportunity to delve deeper into her urban forest and wonder if they are trying to communicate something to us. And that they will, when her “Fires of Change” mural is complete and on exhibit at the Coconino Center of the Arts in Flagstaff next September.

In the meantime though, Jennifer Gunlock’s work is on display from November 23 to December 19 (artist reception December 6) at the LADCA/Canoga Park Youth CenterCome see her forest for the trees. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


CONNECTION TO NOHO: Makeup Artist at the 800 Gallery for "Elements of Art and Fashion Show" 

MEDIUM: Cosmetic makeup and face & body paints


We’ve all seen it at birthday parties, festivals, and school events––eccentric butterflies, cuddly kitty cats, and treacherous pirates­­––children’s faces metamorphosed by the wonderful art of face painting. It should actually be called the art of making joy because nobody does it more joyfully than Alma Magaña.

Alma’s that rare occurrence where everything about her and around her is somehow touched by creative energy. You’ll agree once you’ve read her resume and found she's held two fashion degrees, has designed anything from menswear to lingerie, studied cinema makeup, and patented cosmetic tools. But her real love––what feeds her soul––is the art of body painting.

Face and body painting has been a part of our history for a long time. Once used primarily in the theatre, it became more popular during the 1960s hippie movement when people painted themselves with symbols that showed allegiance to the movement and a protest against the war. It wasn’t until the 80s that face painting really took hold and became a way for kids to enjoy themselves––or for Alma to enjoy herself today.

I met Alma during my day job, which turned out to be her day job too as a film costumer. We did the usual––you know, the "I do this/you do that" chitchat. And then she blew me away with a photograph of her most recent face painting session. That’s when I found, to my utter amazement, that while this petite woman endures the demands of TV production––the long hours, multiple clothing changes, continuity, and actors’ insistent comfort requests––she simultaneously creates and plans her other life as face and body artist. And it all began, she said, with her interaction with kids and the reward she felt as she watched their expressions and little eyes grow big with the pure excitement of being transformed into a fantasy character. But the joy doesn’t stop there––not after you’ve seen what Alma’s art does for us big kids.

With Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) upon us on November 2, Alma has been creating face art that touches not only the recipients of her fine hand, but her soul as well. By transforming bodies and faces into whimsically painted skeletons, she memorializes the death of her own mother who lost her life way too early for both of them. Based in this wonderful Mexican tradition, death is a positive step forward into a higher level of consciousness. Painting one’s face and body into a skeleton is a chance to overcome the fear of death and to embrace the souls of the deceased. Alma only wishes that her mother were here today to see the beautiful work she does.
Courtesy of

When asked how it makes her feel to do her art, Alma told me she's stimulated by the creative collaboration between the subject, the photographer, and herself. It never feels like work to her, but a creative outlet. She said "it's my element, my zone" and expresses all her art values while bringing happiness to all involved at the same time.  

As the world turns out negative events and challenges us daily, I'd say we could all use a little more happiness. Alma Magaña will be painting joy onto the faces of young and old at The 14th Annual Día de los Muertos Festival in Canoga Park on Sunday, November 2 from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Whether you're embracing a personal loss or just wanting to say "boo!" to it all, let Alma lovingly transform you! 

Follow Alma on Facebook or on Instagram @RockStarFaceArt.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


CONNECTION TO NOHO: Her former "office" was at Republic of Pie and she has facilitated the creation of murals in and around NOHO 

MEDIUM: Photography 


That “place on the other side of the hill,” otherwise known as the San Fernando Valley, has always held a stigma of being uncool or, at worse, the land where porn was born. Thanks to Erin Stone and the rest of her comrades at 11:11, 818 might very well become the new 213 when it comes to the Los Angeles art scene.

So, who is Erin Stone? Her person is often times synonymous with 11:11, a grassroots nonprofit organization she co-founded to focus on San Fernando Valley’s creative community. Even I had trouble pulling her out of that mix so I could explain what makes her tick. Erin is a photographer and a great one at that. Her portfolio runs the gamut; commercial work, family portraits, events, headshots, and album covers, but personally, I think her conceptual art is her core. That’s because Erin is a true artist and visionary––someone who dreams. But compared to ordinary people, her dreams come to life, whether it’s a 2-D photograph or a 3-D organization that's gonna change the Valley’s reputation forever.

At the time of our interview, we talked at length about her thought-provoking piece called “Teeth: A Reoccurring Dream” which hung at 11:11’s semi-permanent pop-up gallery on the corner of Yolanda and Ventura. I hadn’t known, until Erin filled me in, that dreams of losing one’s teeth are quite common, and Erin had been having that same dream for a long time. Anybody can Google “dreams of losing teeth,” which I did, but somebody like Erin decided to make a photographic story of her experience instead. I guess you can say she sorta faced her demons by doing so and made an effort to understand why she kept having that dream. My Google search told me why or at least it gave a general answer. Losing teeth in a dream is a common symbol of anxiety. Teeth represent power and losing them, according to what I found, is attune to having a sense of powerlessness. I can’t say what goes on in Erin Stone’s head, but I can say there aren’t many of us who can do what she is doing for the Valley and not have some kind of anxiety about it. But, if you take a good look at the series of photographs that make up “Teeth,” I betcha you’ll find the answer.
Pictured first a woman holds several oversized teeth in her muddy hands. By the smudges on her cheeks and the disheveled clothes, she appears to have been run through the mill. The look on her face is one of terror, maybe even panic.  As Erin explained to me, the model is emoting embarrassment for the loss––as if she’s involuntarily lost control of a situation. 
In the next photo, the teeth are in the process of being buried by her. At first glance, you think she’s ridding herself of the evidence when in actuality she’s planted them. This is symbolically illustrated in the last photograph. A tooth, once hosted by a living soul, has been reborn––rooted in the mouth of Mother Earth where a new life has been generated.

There is no getting around the fact that Erin’s conceptual photography is indeed exploratory. Her artist statement reads that her goal is “to share her understanding of experiences and questions around intimacy, sexuality, insecurity, loss, and personal growth.” It’s a known fact that anxiety tends to come up during times of transition and often points to concerns experienced by the dreamer in waking life. Perhaps with Erin Stone, she has had some anxious moments in her life. I’m sure her thoughts and ideas have been entertained and discarded, they’ve come alive and died––birthed and rebirthed. Whatever the process is, I’m sure glad Erin Stone is dreaming because we are about to have one rockin’ art scene and it’s going to begin with the area code 818!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


CONNECTION TO NOHO: Lives there and enjoys late night grilled cheese sandwiches at Sitton's Coffee Shop on Magnolia



David Estrada was referred to me with only a mention that he had done some art involving the "American Indians." Patterned into assuming he painted scenarios of Native American life––perhaps sleepy villages at river front edges or portraits of dark skinned natives wearing feather headdresses, I searched him out on his website but found something entirely different. And when I finally met David, I was further enlightened, especially after I realized I'd made a few stereotypical assumptions about Native Americans which, in essence, happened to be the crux of his art––or shall I say, his political art (for the sake of definition, political art offers a perspective––direct or indirect––on social relations).

Sunday morning: I didn't meet David in North Hollywood where, by all rights, a working father of two would've been sleeping in if not for our interview, but in the studio space he rents at an art co-op located in an industrialized area of Glendale. Finding him was not a problem for all I had to do was follow the jazz music emanating from inside. A cropped-haired man dressed in a white t-shirt and Wayfarer-style eyeglasses greeted me in the lobby of the building, which was covered wall to wall with the landlord's display of miniature clay heads. Those heads equally lined the stair's wall and up into the open space of the second floor where David had laid out his most current mixed media project––something called FOLLOW––which he said was a reaction to Shepard Fairey and his alleged plagiarism of other people's images (seems the guy never formally credits the originators).
Follow by David Estrada
Well, I knew who Fairey was, but I felt I needed a translation of the black outlined face and white-washed background before me. David explained the irony behind the piece––literally behind the white, that is––original vintage cartoons and photographs placed next to Fairey's stickers of the same, but stolen imagery, and all with an order to OBEY. Thus, David's reaction to "follow."

But I wanted to know more about his Native American work. As it turns out, David is half Native American himself, but the honor and respect he has for that part of his heritage is huge and very likely the motivation behind his innate sensitivity to political issues often unnoticed by the most politically correct of us. And it all began with his interest in sports teams and their mascots––specifically racistly-named ones like The Washington Redskins or closer to home as in The Indians, depicted in David's triptyc of Burbank's John Burrough's High School.

Photo of John Burroughs H.S. exterior. (note the Jeep Cherokee)
John Burrough's H.S. was built in the 20s, according to Wikipedia, and further Googling revealed that the school indeed incorporated an American Indian theme, namely for one of their sports teams, the Chieftains, during the 50s. Currently, any usage of Native American folklore has been reduced to a single feather in the school's logo––a little less offensive, but offensive all the same. Using these imageries was wrong then, but even more wrong now, according to David and many people who support the elimination of ethnic stereotyping. 
High School Confidential #1 by David Estrada
In the case of Native Americans, usage of their historical imagery makes one think they are not real, a myth, or something that no longer exists––a dead culture. Moreover, it's a lack of respect. A good example, David gave, is the use of the infamous feathered headdress for purposes of costume entertainment. In Native American culture, each of those feathers are earned by the one who wears them. It would be like you or I donning a shtreimel, a fur hat worn by married Jewish men, particularly members of Hasidic groups, and expecting that to be ok with those of the Jewish faith. Why, this ethnic stereotyping goes as far back as the 19th century minstrel shows when they featured blackfaced actors on stage and thought that was ok.

High School Confidential #2 by David Estrada

But back to David's John Burrough's triptyc, called High School Confidential. The three images clearly are a statement to this fact and asks what would it be like if a high school banner endorsed a Jewish profile or an African American's as its mascot imagery? Or worse, could you imagine the repercussions if any Islamic symbolism were used? You see––wrong.

High School Confidential #3 by David Estrada

David Estrada's political art doesn't rub anything in anyone's faces, but it does make ya think. 
Ultimately, he only wants us to be more aware and informed for no ignorance is bliss. And once we understand, it's up to us to decide what to do with the information. Personally, I would like to thank David for helping open my eyes a little bit wider. As for the rest of you, you may consider thanking him too, or better yet, show your support by liking him on his Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


CONNECTION TO NOHO: Lived at 11911 Weddington from 1941-1949

MEDIUMS: Pen and ink, pastels, watercolor

I’m a spiritual person to a certain degree. I practice a metaphysical faith and try to affirm positive reinforcing statements about my life, but I have to admit I fail miserably at simple things like meditating and quieting of the mind. I prefer to say I get my “connection” and inner peace by performing my art. That’s because I believe I’m an expression of something larger than myself. And so it goes with Janet Lamb although she’s tapped into something at a much more sensitive level because she IS a sensitive, often referred to as a medium; someone who uses his or her psychic or intuitive abilities to tune into the spirit energy surrounding a person. Only Janet’s special gift is a constant communication from her heart center that is graciously and generously given to her recipient in the way of a symbolic energy drawing.

When I first met Janet Lamb at an 11:11 art gathering, she stood quietly in front of me and observed my face in what was neither confrontational or a discomforting way. Rather, she seemed to exude an inner calm and peace in the midst of the wide-open space filled with chatty gallery patrons.  And suddenly, out of nowhere, she offered to read me. Admittedly, I have always been somewhat of a skeptic when it came to anyone claiming psychic ability. Perhaps the onslaught of PSYCHIC READING signs spattered across the valley Houdini’d me into thinking they were mostly frauds preying on unhappy misdirected victims. But Janet got my goat, so to speak. How could I refuse an offer from someone willing to draw a portrait of my inner aura? Game on.

The outside temperature on the day of my late afternoon appointment with Janet must have been near a record high of 99 degrees. Upon entering her home, the first thing noted were rainbow lights dotting the walls of her living room from sunlight refracted through crystal pendulums hanging on her western facing windows. My sister who’d been visiting me that week and I took a seat at her dining table where glasses of cool iced tea were placed before us. The interview and our readings began. I went first.

Andrea's energy drawing
To watch Janet sketch was clearly a magical moment. Without pause, she began to map out four hemispheres on her rectangular sketch pad with lines she said depicted elements of my personality; light for my soul, water for reflection, fire for inspiration, and earth or my earth walk. She told me each set of symbols laid within these drawn boundaries revealed fragments of my life specifically placed on the paper at the present moment, meaning NOW. In other words, if a drawing was to be done a day or even hours later, the symbols might change based on any changes in my life from that present moment to the next. (Pictured on the left is my energy drawing)

Exactly, what had just happened here? Googling later, I found that during the advent of Spiritualism in the mid 1800’s, some mediums were more suited to private explorations of “automatic writing.” This involved the medium seated in front of a mirror lit by candlelight while he or she held a pen over paper ready to write any message that would come to them through a semi-trance state. But Janet hadn’t gone into a trance. She was as present and cognitive in the moment as my sister and me. This basically bashed any apprehensions I might have had about mediums before sitting down with her.

Turns out, Janet’s spiritual awakening happened to her in 1982 after attending a workshop of Luiz Gasparetto, a Brazilian intuitive known for channeling artists like Renoir, Monet, and Picasso among others. It was then she discovered she too was a HSP (highly sensitive person) and learned how to artistically express the energies she felt from other people. Although Janet’s drawings are nothing like Luiz’s and encompass a style all her own, they most definitely are a language from a dimension unseen.

So what of my reading? All I can tell you is she was spot-on as she was also of my sister’s. I can also say that Janet and I were strangers before this meeting and she didn’t know beforehand that I was in a huge transition in my life or that I had a big heart or that I’d had certain life-altering events (depicted by breaks in lines) which have led me to where I am today. She didn’t know if I was spiritual or if I used the feminine or masculine side of my brain, which, by the way, I’m definitely reasoning with the masculine side these days. And what did I walk away with when my energy moment was symbolically drawn before me? Well, because Janet only weighs into the positive by complimenting and emphasizing one’s strengths, I can say I came away empowered, hopeful, and with a great sense of ease knowing my life is always changing and with each change there is always good. You may learn this about yourself too by contacting Janet Lamb for readings here . She does not charge for her services but will accept your gracious donations.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


MEDIUMS: Acrylic paint on everything
CONNECTION TO NOHO: Board Member and Director of Public Arts Initiative of The Museum of the San Fernando Museum

I sat with Roger on his front porch in one of those stackable plastic chairs you buy at Home Depot. We overlooked his drought-parched lawn where the only green was a long straggly sunflower planted inside a paint bucket. The soft accent of climbing ivy clung to the wall behind us. Having met Roger on several occasions in the past, I knew he was a laid back sort of guy. But that late afternoon he seemed a little tired. And who wouldn’t be after working almost every day of the week for the last couple of months on a park project with a bunch of high school kids?

You see Roger is all about kids, artists, and community. He’s the roundup guy who brings together San Fernando Valley’s business owners and residents with public art. He started PAI (Public Art Initiative) after he hooked up with The Museum of the San Fernando Valley via Scott Sterling, an old school buddy and the museum’s current president. Since then Roger has coordinated several art related activities into community events in Northridge, Reseda, and Canoga Park as well as bid many mural and beautification projects around the valley including one for the Department of Transportation in North Hollywood. Roger’s most current project has he and his art colleague, Emily Goff, overseeing the design and installment of several hand painted tiled columns in Maryland Park, a once deserted lot in Glendale, with Daily High School sixteen and seventeen-year-old students. He couldn’t tell me enough about how pleased he is to work with these kids’ raw energy and vision; admitting he learns from them all the time.
While I was with him, I was able to get a quick mini tour of Roger’s art studio located in a guesthouse in back of his home. We maneuvered our way along a wall of wooden pallets being saved for a future art project and across an overgrowth of weeds and a low pile of broken concrete. In the middle of the yard lay materials for a shower room install; a mosaic of broken tiles; much like what he did to his kitchen counters inside his house. We then stepped into the place where his 2-D dreams are made. I’d been deceived by how small the building looked from the outside because inside he had built a long rectangular storage area in which the outside walls served as “practice” areas for his on-going mural projects. They’d been well painted over again and again, almost as if to look like large pieces of abstract art themselves. After seeing this, there was no doubt in my mind that this guy is damn serious about his public art. A great example of his work can be viewed on an exterior cement staircase on Figueroa (just south of the 134) in Eagle Rock where he painted his controversial Tai Chi muralI have to admit I’d driven past it several times, never realizing I actually knew who did it! (Click here for more images)

Finally, I asked Roger about his personal art; work that seems to hover in the world of realism. I’ve often wondered why artists draw or paint themselves so I asked him about his self-portraits. Roger said, for the most part, it’s an exercise––like doodling. Choosing a subject such as him self makes it convenient to study someone without interruptions. For instance, he never has to worry about anybody’s “sitting” time limits or comfort levels.  And his finished portrait doesn’t come without surprises either––like discovering a set of scrunched worry lines between the brows of the very focused Roger Dolan, a man dedicated to bringing art and community together.

Footnote: You may keep an eye on Roger and the kid’s progress at Maryland Park by visiting his Facebook page. Also, The Museum of the San Fernando Valley gives walking tours of historic buildings in NOHO. Information about these can be found on the NOHO Arts District or The Museum of San Fernando Valley's websites. 

Monday, July 7, 2014


MEDIUMS: Acrylic Ink, charcoal, body paint
NOHO CONNECTION: Sales at Harman press in NOHO

I met Nicole Palmquist at a Starbucks across the street from 11:11’s semi-permanent pop-up gallery on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. She’d just picked up the artwork she contributed to one of their latest themed shows about street art in Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, Nicole enlightened me as to how she operates in this oftentimes-nocturnal Robinhood world of city painters.

First of all, Nicole’s street name is Booleep. When asked how she came to call herself and her abstracted anatomy animations this, she said, “The name came from a sound. The guy I dated was a gamer. For me, it became the sound and action of the moment when people meet or overlap. You know, the moment you meet and connect with someone.”

But back to the street thang. Although, I’m a huge fan of street art, I haven’t the faintest idea what goes on out there or how art like Booleep’s gets on the sides of buildings, garage doors, and dumpsters. I came to find out that stealthily gratifying an otherwise vacant wall space with one’s vision is pretty much standard– you slip out of the car, usually under the cover of night, and quickly spray paint against a stencil or do it freely by hand. But letting the public know you just participated in the public art movement is altogether something of a different animal. And Nicole runs her secret operation with a criterion unlike other street artists. For instance, she doesn’t instantaneously advertise her work out into the viral stream of Instagram because, true to her belief that art should be absorbed on an individualized basis, she prefers to let her images make an organic connection with the people who happen upon them, like she did in places along the Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset junction. 

That pretty much explained this sense I got from Nicole who definitely has a personal process and seems to channel her E.T. or anatomical-inspired images from “somewhere else.” And once created, she has these long-necked guys tell her who they are –– like Holeheads, Smoking Guys, Neckholes, or Toothheads. Better yet, her biggest thrill is what her viewers think these characters are emanating to them –– the intimate relationship between the viewer and viewee, especially in the case of probably one of her most popular characters named Eyehead, an eye who has been equated with several emotions from paint dripping sadness to all-out curiosity.

Overall, I think the biggest aspect of Nicole’s work is seeing Booleep come to life right in front of your eyes––line by methodically drawn black line. She’s participated in a number of live art shows in and around Los Angeles (this is how I originally met her)––drawing or painting on medium-sized to huge pieces of paper, canvas, plywood, and bodies. Yes, bodies, giving the term “live art” its true meaning as she beautifully did at a recent Ego Fine Art Gallery group show event.

Finally, every artist has a dream; a goal they wish to attain during their career. Nicole’s amounts to a three to ten seconds of airtime in an aim “to take back (advertising) space,” similar to taking back physical advertising space in the streets, with the “ultimate goal of maintaining public art––keeping it quick, simple, and accessible.” Bravo Nicole! A blip, or should I say, Booleep on the screen!

You can see Booleep come alive at Evolve, a benefit art show on July 10th. And remember, all her work is for sale and commissionable…except for the bodies of course.