Perfectly Imperfect Art

I’ve been interested in contemporary art since college, and it’s been a dream of mine to one day display a small but significant collection of art. In fact my husband and I recently contemplated the purchase of a piece by Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon just last weekend, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art 10th Birthday Auction (if you click through, BTW, that’s me and the hubby in that top pic!).

But like most of my friends, our desire for an art collection had to take a backseat to an even stronger desire for food, shelter, and clothing, so we make due with home-sourced works of art and other creative endeavors. That’s one reason why I am a huge fan of the Skirball’s art studio. Visiting the studio offers a great way to unlock the special creative genius within your own family or circle of friends.

Nieces hard at work in the Family Art Studio, while their Aunt Jenn snaps pix.

My nieces hard at work in the Family Art Studio, while their Aunt Jenn snaps pix.

The Skirball’s drop-in art studio, a.k.a. Family Art Studio (or Studio Schmoodio, as a smarty-pants colleague once suggested for a name), is ideal for a group of friends or family wanting to partake in the artful assembly of recycled and repurposed ordinary materials, turning misfit minutiae into mini-masterpieces.

I’m not a parent but have regularly brought all six of my nieces since the Skirball started offering the drop-in art studio during busy summer and holiday weeks. You definitely don’t need to have kids to enjoy the studio, but kids always raise the bar when it comes to fearless innovation in hands-on art making.

I’m proud to share the story of a recent sleepover at my house with Ava and Claire, two of my six nieces, who were at a loss for sufficient dolls.  Looking around our place, they expressed to me their wish to have baby dolls for their bigger dolls to hold. Finally, Ava glanced over at the book shelf, full of the miscellaneous detritus of my life (don’t judge), and she suggested using a set of tiny spools of thread in a rainbow of colors as the “babies.” The girls even matched the color of the thread spool to the outfit worn by the “mama doll.” In true Skirball studio style, it was good fun for us to repurpose stuff that was right in front of us.

I’m also totally captivated by the story of Caine’s Arcade.  He’s another young guy who reminds the adults in his world about repurposing simple materials and cultivating our desire to create.  I had the chance to meet Caine and play in a “pop-up” version of his arcade at a recent Unique LA show. [And for those wanting to follow in Caine’s footsteps, stop by the Skirball on Saturday, October 6, to take part in the Global Cardboard Challenge.]

Left: That’s Caine back there behind his cardboard creations. Right: My husband, Victor, lines up to meet the famous Boyle Heights artist.

Left: That’s Caine back there behind his cardboard creations. Right: My husband, Victor, lines up to meet the famous Boyle Heights artist.

Continue reading

What’s a Shofar? Ask Marcus Jonas.

Shofar and Case, Maker: Marcus Jonas. Oakland, California, ca. 1870s. Wood and ram’s horn. From the collection of the Skirball Cultural Center. Photograph by John Reed Forsman.

What’s a shofar? It’s a ram’s horn that is hollowed out (through a pretty messy process) and polished. In Jewish tradition, it is blown during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. Some interpret the shofar’s blast as a call to reflect, a call to repent, a call to listen to the voice of one’s own conscience, a call to do good deeds, or a call to express prayer with breath.

When I take high school students through the Holidays gallery of our core exhibition, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, we make sure to stop at the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur case. Inside is this shofar and case (pictured above), which like many objects throughout the gallery tell a fascinating story. Continue reading

Like Music to Your Taste Buds

It is a joy to see the Sunset Concerts buffet filled with people enjoying my food and lively conversation.

It is a joy to see the courtyard filled with people enjoying my food and lively conversation. Photo by Jared Steven.

Sunset Concerts 2012 are over, but as a colleague reminded us in pictures, “What a summer it was!”

For me, the pleasure wasn’t only hearing great tunes or watching the showmanship of the artists, but enhancing the fan experience with good food. Each week, as I planned the menu for each of the popular pre-concert buffets, I drew inspiration from the feel of the music, the cultural and culinary heritage of the band, and the fresh summer bounty. It was fun to create something original, with music serving as my muse.

For the Sunset Concerts performance by La Santa Cecilia, among many dishes inspired by the band’s Latin American background, I created lamb shoulder braised with guajillo peppers, cinnamon, and orange. As I greeted guests, many asked me for the recipe. I’m happy to share it now with all of you. Enjoy it year round… and be sure to dine at Zeidler’s Cafe for next year’s season to see what I come up with next! Continue reading

We Miss You, Sunset Concerts!

It’s Thursday at the Skirball, and you know what that means…Sunset Conc…– Oh, wait…The usual hum of set-up didn’t greet me when I arrived at work this morning. There’s no stage over the lily pond, and not a peep from the courtyard. You mean there won’t be a sound check?!

Sadly, summer is gone, and with it went Sunset Concerts 2012. But what a summer it was! And you know what they say: time flies when you’re having fun. On this first post–Sunset Concerts Thursday, here is a look back at all six shows of the season, highlighting the joy they brought, and will always bring, to our community.

Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga kicked off the season in late July. Visitors danced from the very first note until the band left the stage. Here, Samba and a bandmate start their own synchronized dance. Everywhere one looked, one could see people learning the steps and joining in. Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga kicked off the season in late July. Visitors danced from the very first note until the band left the stage. Here, Samba and a bandmate start their own synchronized dance. Everywhere one looked, one could see people learning the steps and joining in. Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Probably one of the most memorable moments of the night: What began as Samba and three ensemble dancers grooving… turned into a party onstage! The concert vibe was incredibly upbeat all night long! Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Probably one of the most memorable moments of the night: What began as Samba and three ensemble dancers grooving… turned into a party onstage! The concert vibe was incredibly upbeat all night long! Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Continue reading

The Lolly Gag

Our free series of Alexander Mackendrick matinee screenings starts today with Whisky Galore (1949). Coming up on October 9, we screen The Ladykillers, which Entertainment Weekly has called “one of the greatest comedies ever made.”

In the mid 1970s, PBS in New York City ran a retrospective of Alec Guinness movies filmed at London’s famed Ealing Studios. It was my accidental introduction to a series of amazing British comedies, including not only The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) andKind Hearts and Coronets (1951) but also the work of American/Scottish filmmaker Alexander Mackendrick. He directed Guinness in both The Man in The White Suit (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955), both of which are frequently cited as the pinnacle of Ealing films.

The Ladykillers, which we will screen on October 9, is an achingly funny tale of robbers who are almost able to pull off the perfect crime. As they scheme to rob an armored car, the gang pretends to be a string quintet, “rehearsing” (by playing record albums) in order to allay the suspicions of the little old lady from whom they are renting a room. When the landlady, Mrs. Wilberforce, accidentally uncovers their crimes, the miscreants decide they must kill her!

Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness are the most widely recognized members of the cast, but it is filled with faces like Jack Warner and Cecil Parker whom you will undoubtedly recognize from other British movies.

Continue reading