Thursday, December 17, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO:  She was a "geeky teen who used to live there"

MEDIUMS: painter, photographer, textile artist, and jeweler


Chloe Cumbow is about as hidden from the world as any artist can be. A somewhat recent L.A. returnee, she settled in Reseda where you will find evidence of her beautifully painted utility boxes that have begun to dot its streets. Chloe can be seen in the late hours of the night perfecting the wings of a swallow flying among the oranges of one her box paintings or removing yet another sad incident of tagging on her most recent box of the world map gloriously painted upon it. She's at every local art event with her Nikon camera, snapping pictures of other's works and the onlookers enjoying them. She draws on the lives of artists like a sponge—learning from them and living among them. But the best association that can be made to Chloe Cumbow is Fun-A-Day. 

Chloe at work on her utility box in Reseda

Chloe gave Fun-A-day to Reseda by way of Rhode Island. She learned of it from someone who brought it there from Philadelphia, where it was originally created by a group called The Artclash Collective and is now in its twelfth year. The premise is simple. After the holidays, wintertime is sluggish, so why not do something? They invited people to participate in Fun-A-Day by encouraging them to do one creative thing EVERY day for the month of January, only with these few rules: it is free to participate in, you can make anything (art, written word, music, etc), it's for all ages, it's not juried, and it's noncommercial—meaning no judgements and it's not done to make money. After the month has passed and the participants take their thirty items or the one item they spent thirty days making, they install their own work at a designated pop-up gallery that has been publicized, and have a no-admission-paid art opening for the community. This is usually scheduled for sometime in February with dates and location TBD. Why do this? Cuz it's FUN!

A participant in 2015 Reseda Fun-A-Day
It takes a lot of hutzpah to put on any event, but just because Chloe is, well—Chloe, she's been able to oversee three of these by now. She does so with diligence, dedication, and the determination to keep Fun-A-Day as it originated—with the same rules and allowing the participants to be hands-on and not mandated by anybody else's guidelines. It's sorta like letting go of all formality—having nature take its course as a free-for-all. But it works and it's fun at the same time. I sat in on the planning committee for the upcoming Fun-A-Day and listened as Chloe asked the group to think about the diverse mini events they might have within the main one—what musicians to invite to play, the possibility of poetry slams, perhaps some belly dancing, who would help with promoting it, and who would volunteer snacks and beverages. The show of raised hands was all the evidence needed of who would follow the leader. From the looks of that meeting, this Fun-A-Day is certain to be much more than just fun!

Chloe Cumbow is a strong example of what community should strive to be. During our interview, she said, "Home is where I live." If you think about that statement, she's absolutely right. We don't just live in our apartments or houses, we live in community with others—our social family. Thankfully, Chloe is helping to remind us of that by being that family and making it fun at the same time.

Learn more about the history of Fun-A-Day at Everyone and anyone is invited to participate in Reseda's January event and you may learn more about that by visiting its Facebook page. 

2015 Reseda Fun-A-Day


Saturday, November 14, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO:  Former gallery manager of the Lankershim Art Center under the umbrella of the L.A. Printmaking Society

MEDIUMS: Acrylic and digital paint


My interview with Preston Craig, otherwise known on all his promotional material as Preston C., was set at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Ventura Blvd. Although I had some difficulty locating this CBT (for I rarely dose myself with caffein at any coffee establishments), I didn't have any difficulty finding the 6'5" artist as he sat waiting for me near the window. Preston had been referred to me by an artist friend. She told me if anyone needed recognition, is was this man who had recently created a series called Twisted Teddys. Twisted Teddys, I asked? Yes, she said, you know—a teddy bear drug addict, a teddy bear dominatrix...teddy bears like that. Sounded twisted to me. But as it turned out, Preston's Teddys aren't that twisted after all. The "twist" comes in how he plans on using the images of them. 

"Napa Red" by Preston C.
First, a little about Preston. Originally from Louisiana, he earned his MFA from the Academy of Art in SF and a BA in Applied Arts from the University of Louisiana and has traveled the world to do his scenic work. To look at his fine art examples though, you wonder how the same artist would paint a series of Teddy Bears. 

"Gangsta Teddy" by Preston C.
As it turns out, these chubby characters, painted in the guise of an image we hold dear to our hearts, were the brainchildren of Preston's master's thesis project. He needed a relatable model to bring awareness to social issues he has cared deeply about for a long time. Thus Cruci Teddy, inspired by his Catholic upbringing, addresses childhood sexual abuse, Gangsta Teddy; gang life, Homeless Teddy; the increasing homelessness in LA as well as everywhere, and Porn Star Teddy because he knows personally of porn stars who have gotten trapped in the lifestyle and can't escape. The list goes on. He went on to say that the imagery touches on our childhood innocence that sadly gets tugged in directions we sometimes can't control because of of our environment. Ultimately, it is Preston's goal to have his otherwise not so innocent Teddys marketed in several forms, from trading cards to plush toys, to help support and benefit non-profit organizations with programs that address these social issues.  
"Steroid Teddy" by Preston C.
After my meeting with Preston, void of any coffee at all by the way, I gave some thought to the cross-over of his fine art landscape and portrait paintings to his pretty controversial hipster-looking Teddy Bears. I realized this gentle giant had done something he probably hadn't expected. He grayed a fine dividing line between people of all ages—the ones drawn to his more conservative work and the young who only wish they could paint like him—by bringing them together about the social issues that affect us all—whether we have had personal experience with some of them or second-hand exposure via media attention. I guess Teddy Bears are kinda like the heroes of our childhood, but take a look at Preston's. Maybe his Teddys will be the heroes of our future—a more, helpful, integrated, and aware one—I would hope. 

Monday, October 12, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO:  Long time artist and resident who enjoys tea and pie at Republic of Pie

MEDIUMS: Photography and fashion design


 European transplants, especially artistic ones, have always interested me, both in Chicago where I'm from and in Los Angeles where I've resided for over twenty-five years. In my opinion, there's something quite different about them—some kind of class or style that most Americans don't have. Of course, they've always been opinionated about almost anything American, but for me it was a refreshingly different perspective on what many Americans, including myself, often dismissed or took for granted. But nothing prepared me for what I would learn during my interview with Dietmar Kohl.

I'd been slowly meeting Dietmar on Facebook. What attracted me to him were his photography posts of downtown Los Angeles. The guy definitely had an "eye" for content as well as composition, but more importantly, he possessed the rare gift of being able to get close to his subject matter. So, I made an appointment with him on one of those now seasonably hot Los Angeles October afternoons at the Republic of Pie on Magnolia. We sat on a truly spring less couch in the back of the restaurant—you know, the kind you can't get out of because your butt has landed closer to the floor than you expected. At first, Dietmar was a bit shy with me and spoke quietly. He wore a black ball cap he'd studded with skull and nailheads that he wanted me to see and told me he'd been designing hats like it, as well as leather jackets, for a store on Melrose Ave. And then we talked about his photography.

Dietmar is originally from Vienna, Austria. He came to the U.S. during the early 90s with a resume and portfolio full of fashion and graphic experience, then married the woman of his dreams. But misfortune struck. His wife later died of a rare lung disease and Dietmar was struck by a car, which disabled him for a period of time. Slowly, he has been recreating his life and getting back to fashion, but he is always photographing—everything, everywhere, and anybody, especially those who many Angeleno's choose to ignore—our homeless residents of the streets, viaducts, abandoned buildings, and bridges.

Turns out Dietmar has been not only photographing the homeless since the 90s, but he's been getting right next to them too—so close in fact that he can fully empathize with their plight, know a little of their histories, and enable them to trust him. Now, who does that? All we do is hurriedly flip coins in their direction or complain they are eyesores in the light of  the gentrification happening around us—and that's spreading like a bad rash. But did you know mental institutions deliver mentally ill patients to the streets in vanloads because they can't care for them anymore? Did you know that although many of us got through the economy downturn in 2009 that the repercussions of all those jobs lost, the houses taken away, and even the economy's present revival (which has become quiet evident with the insane rental increases and new construction) have those people still kicked to the curb?

Did we ever consider that the "filthy miserable lechs" laying on skid row in downtown Los Angeles are there because they've been treated as nothing more than subhumans, offered no place to sleep, let alone a decent place to clean themselves in other than a cold concrete institutionalized shower room? Dietmar told me these things because he's been close enough to see them in these horrid circumstances. And after awhile—after he can actually call these people by their names given to them at birth, he photographs them.

I think there are many reasons to write about Dietmar today. He is wonderfully talented and deserves recognition for all his work. I mean, the man isn't even from America and he has more soul for the human race than any American I know. It is my hope that Dietmar's photographs will get into everyone's faces, especially these iconic and sad documentaries of our brothers and sisters. I pray they will be used to bring more awareness and fundraising to give these poor people back their dignity by giving them a place to rest and clean their bodies. Dietmar said we all live in a ghetto and it's so damn true. All we have to do is open our eyes and see it all around us. But we have to do more. We have to get so close we can touch them—like Dietmar Kohl has.   

Monday, September 7, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO:  Had long distance relationship with a guy who lived on Cahuenga Blvd. and married him.
MEDIUMS: Up-cycled canvas, mixed media, and acrylics

Alyse Hart at her home studio.
Hallelujah! I met another phenomena of a left and right brainer—Alyse Hart. Quirky, personable, and a great story teller, Alyse revealed her creative journey (still in it's toddler stages) to me as we sat in her living room slash gallery tucked in her home atop an actual hill in Woodland Hills. Although still a mystery to both of us, we'd become friends through some mutual acquaintance on Facebook and had been watching each other's work voyeuristically. I was initially drawn to her use of bold colors, but after our interview, I discovered I was dazzled by much more—her uninhibited ability to allow a canvas to come alive on its own.

Never Alone by Alyse Hart
To understand  her art, we must first touch upon Alyse's life and career. Originally from New York, half of her family (mother and sister) took a creative route while her father and she settled into business. Alyse made a successful career in sales, but after speaking to her, I got the distinct feeling that her right brain (the alleged creative side) had been grappling with her left (the logical side) for quite some time. As a matter of fact, she even wrote a workbook about it called A Woman's Guide to Corporate Recovery, a pre-flight plan to help women map out an alternative lifestyle. But Alyse's own right brain take-over didn't begin until she participated in a hippy-styled Topanga art experience where the painting instructor guided Alyse onto her own creative path.

Electric Angel by Alyse Hart
I have to admit, Alyse's story made me giggle as I imagined her in the middle of Topanga Canyon beneath a tent with sage smudge wafting around her head. I mean Alyse's general appearance is as far away from any granola-munching hippy if ever there was one. But as she spoke, I realized there was a much deeper level to this picture. She told me she'd actually gotten physically sick in her class, excusing herself many times with an upset stomach. But it wasn't the sage that made her ill. Alyse was having a breakthrough—her artistic self was fighting to get out. And it did in a flurry of pink paint. Pink, I discovered, puts people in touch with their nurturing side and gives them a sense of hope—that everything will be okay. If pink is what Alyse began her journey with, it is certainly the color that enabled her to trust in herself.

Untitled by Alyse Hart
I'm taking liberties here to say I'd like to be the one who coined the phrase "we are all expressions of something larger than ourselves." I'd also like to add that if anyone is evidence of this it is Alyse. Her objective, void of any of her physical discomforts (she admits to actually having sweats) before a canvas, is to lead herself to freedom—to be metamorphosed into her authentic self, inside and out. She stays true to her out-of-boxness and does not hesitate to do as she is being directed by the ethereal energy that surrounds her so as not to lose her spontaneity. She remains alert to what her canvas is trying to convey to her. In other words, she'll use the remnants of an image on an up-cycled canvas she salvaged from the curbside and let it be the inspiration for a new piece or if a hint of something—say a fish—is poking about in the paint she's just covered the canvas with, well, a fish it'll be. The results are colorful, fresh, and inspirational—a no-bars-held look into Alyse's world...a world that definitely needs to be shared. 




Tuesday, August 4, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO:  Installed tile at the NOHO Park Aquatic Center and loves the thrift shops there

MEDIUMS: Ceramics and mixed media


I stumbled upon Ellen Rundle on my way out of the Canoga Park Art Walk the other week and was immediately drawn to two ceramic boxes in front of her jewelry display. Being a fan of  3-D art, I was taken by her ability to take what could've easily been a 2-D painting and give it depth—drawing the viewer into an altogether other dimension, albeit an 8x10 inch one. Needless to say, I bought one of her pieces. The focal point of mine was a Joshua tree tucked inside a small box on the side of what appeared to be the cliff side of a mountain centered in the desert. And like all art interpretations, it reminded me of my time in New Mexico and warmed my heart. 

Ellen's one of those surprises in life. To look at her rather conservative style on the outside, I never would have thought all this curiosity and self-expression would be on the inside. It turns out she is one of those left brain-right brain phenomenons; a woman who spent almost twenty-seven years in IT and as an art director/graphic designer, finally leaving her last position twelve years ago at the Getty to become a full-time fine art ceramicist. But as it turns out, clay has always been her first love. 

Her home is a gallery of sorts—hers and other favored artists' wall hangings and assemblages stretch all the way from the outside of her front door, through the house, and onto the patio. She is constantly creating in her studio (which consists of potters wheels, a glazing station, and a kiln) arts and crafts jewelry from years of bead collecting, abstract wall sculptures from recycled clay and glass, and all her ceramic wonders. 

Ellen explained to me how working at the potters wheel has always been a kind of meditation for her, bringing her into a place of sensitivity and sensuality—keeping her centered. And that's where she began her ceramicist journey, throwing pots at a studio on the westside during the early 80s and selling them to nurseries from the trunk of her car. In fact she still does that, but she's added so much more to her resume in the way of her slab artistry—tile installations to floors, fountains, and showers seen here on her more architectural website, and her most recent steam punk assemblages she created for a themed show at La Galeria Gitana in San Fernando, a gallery that tends to peak Ellen's interests in unexpected subject matters leaning toward the mystical to the macomb. 

It is a pleasure for me to own one Ellen's pieces and I encourage you to visit her work at  La Galeria Gitana's upcoming exhibit, Reflections of LIfe, running from July 18- September 18. 

Ellen is also available for any graphic design needs and you may visit that website at



CONNECTION TO NOHO:  Lived in NOHO and showed her work during monthly art walks at Lankershim and Magnolia
MEDIUMS: Mixed media and music

Originally from Buenos Aires, Patricia Krebs already knew at a young age that she was born to be an artist—although the general advice of her family and friends was for her to build a more traditional safety net and become an art teacher instead. And so she followed her heart—and still does. She's never pressured by current trends or intimidated by the superior egos that can often make up our contemporary art world.  Mostly, this soft-spoken woman has learned to calm even her own voices of adversity to hear only one—that of a long ago college instructor's and a phrase made famous by a sneaker company to just "do it." And indeed she does.

Magical best describes her work, which, if it has to be labeled, falls somewhere in between narrative and illustration. But Patricia's roots began in the unexpected world of puppetry, a place she most likely was able to express herself, having been so intensely shy. So, after she was conventionally schooled in painting, Patricia set off to become a paid apprentice of sorts and worked for a puppeteer, mastering puppet construction, which later gave birth to the beautiful and expressive characters she now sculpts and paints. The inspiration for her 2 and 3-D paper clay actors is a cross between the monsters of Muppet world and the creatures from the infamous Where The Wild Things Are children's book. Yet, she has unearthed her own branding of characters that possess carefully studied noses and unusually expressive eyes for being so long and narrow. But what really makes them come alive is Patricia's music.

Patricia concurrently studied guitar and singing lessons along side her painting back in Argentina and has recorded Spanish voiceovers here in the states for major movies such as Corpse Bride, Happy Feet I & II, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. What really blew me away though were the music videos she made of two songs (seen here) on her soon-to-be-released CD, Amuzikanto, that she wrote and produced herself. I sat mesmerized as I watched and listened to Color, a song about red/rojo that Patricia beautifully performed with her puppets, and I remained in awe of the story and texture of the more professionally animated Sueno Que Suenas Un Sueno. No words better describe these two musical endeavors or the rest of her album than her own: "This project is a musical whim of the little girl I still am, and it is also a celebration of all the musical influences that converge in me." A celebration indeed—of magic, color, sweetness, softness, and peacefulness—just like Patricia herself. 

You many follow the lovely and rare talent of Patricia Krebs on Facebook and please make sure to contact Cactus Gallery for her TBD upcoming release party of her CD.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

THE HIDDEN ARTIST: Jacqueline Myers-Cho

CONNECTION TO NOHO:  A Jacqueline's Coloring Book party was given by a friend who lives in NOHO

MEDIUMS: acrylic, oils, and mixed media


Rumi said, "There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen." And this is what Jacqueline Myers-Cho said to me: "I go to my studio everyday, and I ask it and my art how I can contribute to you today. I listen and I work on that until I feel I need to work on something else." True to own her words, Jacqueline's studio walls and surfaces were lined with ongoing projects––portraits of animals to celebrities all with pensive eyes or gritting-teeth smiles, printed fabrics ready for assembly into aprons, bags, or dolls, and numerous sculptures.

Many thoughts came into my head while I interviewed Jacqueline––trusted intuition, natural process, circular flow, passion, marketing guru. She sat across from me at her work table with a set of handmade mermaid dolls in front of her. She held up one with more curl in its tail than the others and turned it over in her hands a few times, contemplating it. After a moment, she told me she would give an explosion of delightful color right at the tip of it––a decision she made based on a creative instinct she uses to do all her work. If, for instance, she's used a zipper in one of her mixed media pieces, she will ultimately incorporate the effect of those metal teeth somewhere in one of her paintings. She often repeats images she's used, reducing or enlarging them, allowing the observer to see her art within her art. One project lends itself to another as if one medium indiscernibly speaks to the other and she is the instrument in which it manifests. Jacqueline, quite simply, is a living example of the old phrase, "goes with the flow." 

Jacqueline Myers-Cho does indeed flow where her heart tells her to go. Beginning as a costume designer in theatre, she listened to her calling and entered the art world instead. She's lived in Minnesota, in the south, and Hawaii where she made a successful career as a painter of the Islands' beautiful flowers. But after she married and had her little girl in California, she developed her notable characters called "big heads" and has been at it ever since. Yes, they are slightly reminiscent of Margaret Keane's doe-eyed beauties of the 60s, but unlike them, Jacqueline's girls are playful and romantic...almost magical. No wonder her clients often commission her to have portraits done of themselves or their animals.


What struck me most about Jacqueline was her innate intuition to market her work. Rather than implementing a typical by-the-book business strategy, she uses pure and simple people skills to engage her Facebook audience. And because she wears different hats all day by working on several pieces at a time, everyone just naturally wants to know more about what's cooking in the kitchen. And on an even broader scale, she's published Jacqueline's Color Book Vol. One (big headed girls) and Vol. Two (Monsters). But Jacqueline's ability to seduce her viewers doesn't stop with social media or publishing. She is ever present at many open air art performances, painting for her audience at venues like Ladie's Night Out in Burbank.

On many levels, I was impressed with Jacqueline. Why, on my own Facebook page it reads, "We are all Ambassadors of the Universe here to express something larger than ourselves." Not only do I believe this, I think I actually found a living archetype of it in Jacqueline Myers-Cho. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO: Lives, fathers, and works there

MEDIUMS: sculpture, digital collage


If life is art, then is art a mutation of life? I’d say yeah––in the case of Joshua Levine’s work. At first glance, his beautifully painted resin sculptures are automatically recognizable to the viewer. It may be a Chihuahua, a fawn, a lizard or something larger as a Panda Bear or a Longhorn Steer. As a matter of fact, Joshua’s living room walls were lined with all of them––“trophy heads,” as he calls them. In juxtaposition to all the toys scattered about the floor when I arrived (Joshua is full-time artist and a dad to a twenty-month-old energetic little boy), these heads sort of melded into the daycare scene. But as playful on the outside they may have appeared, their conception originated in the mysterious realms of science technology, specifically genetic manipulation.

Take for instance, his exquisitely gold leaf-like painted “4 Ocular 2 Auditory Golden Horned 3 Face” in which I made an association to a deer. Now, I might have simply called him “Fred,” but Joshua created this animal hybrid from a more methodical place and named him as if he was indeed scientific experiment. As a reference for me to better understand where part of his inspiration came for his creations, he mentioned the Vacanti mouse, the lab mouse that had what looked like a human ear grown on its back. The Google maniac that I am, I found out later this was an experiment “created to demonstrate a method of fabricating cartilage structures for transplantation into human patients.” All in all, this example only touches lightly on the world of genetic engineering or what Joshua may know of it and uses in his fantastic art.

More interestingly, I was touched by what Joshua brought into his work from his Jewish heritage, specifically the atrocities at Auschwitz by the maddest scientist of all, Josef Mengele, whose inhumane medical experiments are known around the world. I guess one cannot help but connect the worst examples of genetic altering to the most progressive today. And although six eyes, four ears, and five horns, on an animal you would otherwise consider a pet, might feel a little disturbing, Joshua gave them human eyes to soften the palette––pointedly, blue ones marked for the Aryan Race, something Mengele supported and executed thousands of Jews to help create for Hitler. In this sense, Joshua’s work is asking us to be aware that science has its place in history, good and bad, but we must always REMEMBER what happened.

So much lies in our imagination. Why, I’ve always said if a person can think it, it’ll most likely happen. This theory of mine starts way back to the old SciFi movies about space travel––and look at us today. A Star Wars reality with hybrid creatures may not be as far off as we think either. Just think of it. The idea of being able to genetically engineer a cow with more udders to feed us or a puppy dog who can lay on two laps at once. And as Joshua suggested during my interview with him, science may very well develop what he's already touched on in his sculptures––backup appendages and body parts. When one fails, grow another...ear, eye, leg, finger, or er, you know. Whatever is in store for us in the scientific future, thank you Joshua for opening our minds to just those possibilities. 

You may follow Joshua on his Facebook page for his newest experimentations. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE HIDDEN ARTIST: Kristine Schomaker

CONNECTION TO NOHO: Looked for artist studio in NOHO Arts District 

MEDIUMS: acrylic on canvas, new media, sculptural


One of the most curious aspects about Kristine Schomaker’s real life is her second life––literally. Known as Gracie Kendal, an avatar she created to represent herself in a virtual world called Second Life, Kristine has been able to blur the line between virtuality and reality. Before we get to that though, we have to start with Kristine’s beginnings and her inherent love for art and community.

As a young girl Kristine was exposed to her uncle’s art collection where her initial love affair began with the arts. But Kristine didn’t want to end up a “starving artist” (which by my own estimations sometimes means going “at it” solo), so she schooled for a MA in Art History. You can’t stop a true artist from emerging though. After viewing the spontaneous and gestic dripping artwork of Sam Francis, she became inspired to paint and was quickly drawn into art “community” instead. Fresh out of CSUN, she and her artist peers fashioned a critique group where they painted and supported each other on a monthly basis and soon after she moved into one the most humming art communities of all in LA’s downtown Brewery where she is now the President of the Brewery Artwalk Association.

But what of Gracie Kendal a.k.a. Kristine Schomaker? Well, with the help of Second Life’s various tools, Kristine was able to create colorful abstract “skins” for her avatar, much like the paintings she did in her real life, and the Second Life community ate them up. Soon Kristine found herself selling digital copies of those skins to real people for real money and not just for virtual currency from their avatars. Yet, Kristine’s success story isn’t as quite as simple as that. There’s always a story beneath the story, you know.

If you’ve ever glanced at the fantasy world of Second Life, you realize instantly that it allows you to create the dream version of yourself––that ultra magazine-styled mannequin-like avatar with perfect body measurements, hair, and clothes. Like most of us, guys and gals alike, Kristine is a just regular kinda person who bumps and grinds through life. But when asked by a teacher to delve deep inside herself to explain why she lived such a colorful second life, Kristine discovered she had an issue with her own self-acceptance and an eating disorder to boot. That’s when her colorful digitally painted Gracie Kendal crossed over into reality and became a series of 3D mannequins. They’ve become a large part of Kristine’s life and have been photographed all over LA––their “skins,” a sculptural representation of her painterly work. And the process is ongoing. Soon her slim-lined mannequins will be a more realistic plus-sized version and an additional credit to her own self-respect and acceptance.

I’d like go back and mention again Kristine’s involvement in community––especially that of the arts. She helps other visual artists become a presence in the art world with her firm, Shoebox PR. Born in the throws of social media, Kristine figured out a way to benefit other artists by mapping out marketing strategies for them, further feeding her passion for "making it happen" and adding balance to her own life. She is also the social media coordinator for the Southern California Women’s Caucus of ArtIt's been a pleasure to know Kristine. It just goes to show that what appears to be colorful on the outside, like that of the skins of Gracie Kendal, is most likely vibrantly interesting and colorful on the inside––like positively-driven Kristine Schomaker.  

You may follow Kristine on Facebook and Twitter

Friday, January 2, 2015


CONNECTION TO NOHO: Writes "The Hidden Artist" for the NOHO Arts District website

MEDIUMS: acrylic and mixed media on canvas


I’ve often wondered how I’d respond if I were interviewed by someone like me for a blog such as this. I have to admit, when I agreed to contribute a visual arts article to the NOHO Arts District website, I didn’t know the first thing about peeling away the layers of a complete stranger to find a story. So I Googled “an idiot’s guide to artist interviews” or something to that affect and printed a wallet-sized guide to help me along. I’ve never referred to it once––not with my first interviewed artist, Nicole Palmquist (aka Booleep) all the way to my most recent, Jennifer Gunlock, thus creating the “wing it” approach, which has basically been narrowed down to this: GOD, HELP ME WRITE THIS F**KING ARTICLE!! And here I am again in the same conundrum, only a trifle more difficult because I’ve decided to interview the most hidden artist I know––me, Andrea Monroe.

When I first met Andrea, she was a shy and insecure child who often spent time by
My Bumble Bee with sisters, Susan (far left), Frances (middle),
and me (far right)
herself contemplating the creation of life. With this curiosity, she investigated all forms of plants and animals; purchasing snails and newts from the Ben Franklin store or observing the delicate wingspan of katydids and cicadas in the springtime. By third grade, she wrote a short story about an imagined princess among fanciful creatures in the forest (inspired by a classical piece of music she’d never heard before; Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major) and was published in the local newspaper. And she 
drew. A lot. So much so that at age nine, her mother scraped up enough money to send her to the Art Institute of Chicago for one semester. Andrea has always joked about the polka-dot Bumble Bee she’d made with those greasy oil pastels and the fact that it won an honorable mention from the school and toured the world––while she never had.

Flash forward through Andrea’s life. She graduates from high school (but bypasses college) to work hard, quit, or get fired from positions in the commodities field, advertising, photography, modeling, and retail fashion. Her motto is “experience everything through living life” so she plays hard too and while doing so, she creates things; clothing, jewelry, poetry, a beautiful home, and art, always hearing the distant echo of her family telling her  how “talented” she is (while she secretly wishes someone, ANYBODY, would tell her what she’s really talented at). Then she meets her future husband, moves to LA, has a son, and is eventually inducted into the film industry as a costumer which spans into a twenty year career (and counting) and with a pension to boot (the kind her father always advised her to work for, but she defied). FINALLY, in 2003, she begins to paint, showing an innate ability to exercise her creative right side of the brain while continuing to support her family with the logical left, all the while listening to another conflicting echo. Like a bad seed planted in her mind, she remembers the words of the only psychic she ever visited back in 1990 who told her, “the artist in you struggles to get out and be recognized.” And so it was for half of her life and still is. 

"Jesus" from the "Byzantine Pop Art" series by Andrea Monroe
The title for my blog, The Hidden Artist, literally came from the fact that my own work hides in two closets and on several walls of my house. Back in 2003, when I began to paint on canvas for the first time in my life, I did a series called “Byzantine Pop Art,” inspired by my religious belief that I (we) are all an expression(s) of a higher being and I (we) have the capability of expressing it in my (our) own unique way. In these paintings of Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Elvis Presley, and my rendition of the Last Supper, I crossed religious figures from my Catholic upbringing with a modernistic touch by replacing natural skin tones with unexpected colors and depicting facial shadows as shapes. One gallery looked at this body of work and referred to it as “paint by number” technique, and although they liked it, they did not represent me. About a year later, another gallery actually sold one of these paintings to an actor from Desperate Housewives for way less than I should’ve priced it with a discount on top of that, teaching me a big lesson about time and worth. This ultimately sent that first series into the depths of my closets for an unlimited sentence (although giclee copies of them can be viewed at the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science). Point blank, if I did not know my artwork’s worth, it was either priceless––or worthless––or somewhere in-between. Purgatory.
"Sirf and Turf" from the "Raw" series by Andrea Monroe
Luckily, that experience taught me a huge lesson and was the beginning of my introspection of my own self-worth. It was only later, after I painted whenever I could (in between film jobs and raising my son), the mourning of my parents’ deaths, and the realization that my marriage had increasingly become an unhappy place to be that I began to write. For one and a half years I wrote a memoir by which became the exercise and means to write a novel––a pretty funny chick lit novel called the Devil and Me that lives in a different type of closet on my computer desktop (more about that when I write a new blog called The Hidden Writer, ha ha). Later still, I finally got divorced. I’m a rare bird. I’ve used conflict all my life to create things in my life, whether it was a new job, a new living situation, or a means in which to express myself, and my divorce was no different. This is when I painted the series I call “Raw,” a symbolic almost Aboriginal-style of intense pattern and color that represented my emotional state at the time.  And just as intense are the poems I wrote to “illustrate” these paintings. And where are they, you ask? You guessed it. In the closet…and on the desktop.

"Will Rogers: I Never Met a Woman I Didn't Like" from
"The LA Series" by Andrea Monroe
That brings me to my present day endeavor that I’m just in the midst of painting. I call it “The LA Series.” Inspired by a “call to artists” to paint something about Northridge. It was then I came across a style that incorporated so much of what I love; pattern, color, history, portrait, textile, and my unique tongue in cheek expression. So far, I’ve completed biographical paintings of Doheny, Wilshire, Mulholland, Pico, and Will Rogers who all happily reside––where else? In my closet (except for "The Halversons Were Here,” the Northridge piece, because it currently hangs in The Museum of San Fernando Valley in Northridge).

In the end, you might wonder, what is she waiting for? Why doesn’t she just get it out there? Well, like the paintings were created in the first place, it was the right time for them to happen. And I guess there will be a right time for them to be seen too. My dream is for them to be viewed together because in my experience of seeing how artists display a painting here or there just doesn’t cut the cake unless its a well curated show. That type of limited exposure never seems to represent the work properly or have the public or exhibitor take the artist seriously. I also think that kind of representation gives some viewers a chance to devalue your art. My day will come. In the meantime, I write a blog about those hidden artists who might be in a similar boat as me. I feel your pain and you deserve the recognition. More than that, you need to be respected and paid what you are worth. In my case, I might have to become a “dead artist” and my work discovered and deemed a treasure trove when it's found in my closet, but in my heart, I already know how valuable it is.

Andrea Monroe has been a member of the San Fernando Arts Council, the Public Art Initiative (through the Museum of the San Fernando Valley), and has showed at several 11:11 A Creative Collection themed shows in Tarzana. And if you you look hard enough, her custom painted clogs will be seen on Lily Tomlin's feet on Netflix's new show Grace and Frankie airing sometime in 2015.  You can follow Andrea Monroe ART on Facebook.