I met Jose Luis this morning at Self Help Graphics. From the get go I was struck by how far away from the corporate world I am. After staying up most of the night painting, I was typically slow this morning and didn’t leave my house until 10:20. I was supposed to meet him at 10:30. Even on a good traffic day it takes more than 10 minutes to get from my house to East L.A. I called him to apologize and tell him I was late, forgetting that I was meeting another artist. He was in Elysian Park picking up some equipment and not ready to leave yet. Phew!
Turns out they were filming a documentary on Self Help Graphics. Not only did I get to meet some of the artists there, I got a crash course on linoleum prints, monoprints, and got to see some of the collaborative pieces they were putting together for an up coming show. All very cool.
In hindsight, it seems inevitable that I would jump in and help on the shooting. And I really did try very hard to keep my mouth shut and just plug in cables, make sure nobody tripped over anything… fill in whatever holes were left open but you know… its me so…. I gave some tiny little suggestions on camera angles and then um.. maybe one or two art direction type suggestions. Shocking you say?! Well it gets worse…
Alex (with a Russian sounding last name that admittedly I cant remember and wouldn’t be able to spell even if I did…) was being interviewed for the current show he had curated: a commemoration of the founder, Sister Karen and a remembrance on the 10-year anniversary of her death. He didn’t feel too comfortable talking to the camera so I sat down in front of the camera (out of view) so he could have a human face to talk to. Well… I kind of got very engrossed in what he was talking about and sort of kind of forgot where I was and to my horror … asked a question (ever open your mouth and realize as the words are coming out that maybe just maybe you shouldn’t be asking questions when someone you really don’t know all that well is FILMING?! but the microphone had already picked up my voice and there was nothing left to do but make an “oh crap I’m SO sorry” face and finish the question and then quickly look up at Jose Luis who was standing above me with the camera and hope that he wasn’t about to knock me senseless). I admit that I was out of line and it definitely was not my place but it did spark an interesting conversation that Ophelia (another artist) joined in on so hopefully I didn’t ruin anything. I don’t think I did because they invited me back. Besides, no one suggested duct tape to keep my mouth shut (I take that as a good sign) and when Ophelia was interviewed Jose Luis encouraged me to participate.
In both interviews, Ophelia and Alex were brought to tears talking about Sister Karen. If I had to boil it down to the essence I think the thing this woman gave them that still touches them so deeply today is hope. A simple thing that is so easy to underestimate yet powerful enough to elicit that response ten years after her death. She believed in them as human beings and as artists and devoted her life to encouraging their work and ensuring they had a safe place to express themselves.
Afterwards, Jose Luis took me to his favorite street vendor for freshly made blue corn quesadillas filled with a mushroom that grows on corn (again– I don’t remember the name…) with a side of cactus and Mexican soft drinks. Another very L.A. experience sharing a meal with random people on the street. I loved it!
Finally, I got shanghaied into going to an L.A. city commissioners meeting on Olvera St. This is where I had major flashbacks of the worst Disney production meetings. The point of this part of the agenda was to approve the project to save a Siqueiros mural. They did that within the first 3 minutes (it should be noted that this project has been on the table for 6-7 years). Then they debated whether or not to add a paragraph thanking the people who volunteered their expertise in crafting the proposal. At issue was the wording: should we call them “volunteers” (some felt that word minimized their contribution) or “contractors” (but they weren’t paid and “Contractor” implies pay and is this ethical?….) or maybe “volunteer contractors”. As they spent an excruciatingly long time discussing the thank you paragraph, I checked my voice mail and email, surfed the web a bit on my phone, googled the commissioners, day-dreamed, possibly took a nap, and came up with a pretty good plan for world peace. Wish I could remember what that was….