At Last, Good Public Art in West Hollywood
Going through last Sunday's issue of the L.A. Times, I noticed a photograph of Cardinal Mahony standing in front of what appears to be a painting of a group of praying women and children. Please, do not get agitated, I am not going to talk about the church sex scandal. What interests me is that this photograph represents the first public appearance of the major artwork commissioned by Cardinal Mahony for a new cathedral. Well known California painter John Nava, who lives in Ojai, created portraits of well over one hundred saints using real people as models.
Visiting John Nava's studio in Ojai, I saw the amazing progress of this project. The completed paintings were scanned and the images e-mailed to Belgium, where the best tapestries in the world are still made, only now with the help of the latest technology. Last summer, the finished tapestries were exhibited in the Medieval city of Bruges, where they were woven.
But here in Los Angeles, to see two dozen of these monumental tapestries, we have to wait until the cathedral is complete. I was allowed to see them on condition that I would keep it quiet. But now it is another matter. On the front page of the Times' California section, in the photograph of Cardinal Mahony, one of these tapestries is prominently displayed, but not unidentified. The caption under the photo informs that he has just returned from the Vatican and most readers would mistakenly assume that he was photographed in front of one of the Vatican's frescoes. Whether it is negligence in acknowledging the artwork or an editorial oversight, in any case the L.A. Times owes John Nava an apology, and should give its readers accurate information about the artwork so prominently used in the photo.
And now about something completely different. Last Sunday afternoon, driving in West Hollywood, I noticed new public artworks installed along Santa Monica Blvd. In previous years, public artworks displayed on the grassy meridian there, were substandard. Now, they merit attention and deserve to be mentioned.
The Pontiac convertible, filled to the brim with soil, is transformed into a gigantic flowerpot by Laura Hadad and Thomas Drugan. A few blocks further east is Keith Sklar's installation of a brightly painted set of garden furniture of gigantic dimensions turning passersby into dwarfs. Cute, but not very original. The most interesting is the third work, a very large stylized figure of a coyote made out of hundreds of wood planks made by Michael Stutz. And finally, the most ambitious work is the one placed on the northern side of Santa Monica Blvd. at Plummers Park. Stephen Glassman's installation is made of mature bamboo trees harvested from nearby Schindler House on Kings Road. Quite a provenance. Tied with black cords, bamboo trees form romantic and seemingly fragile constructions raising high and spreading wide. It is tempting to climb over or to sit on it, but it is not allowed and not advisable as the structure is rather fragile. All art works will be displayed for six months, though I am not sure if this one, so seemingly delicate, will last that long.