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Artists in their studios… A time for new ideas

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“Sacred Landscape IV #17,” by Hung Viet Nguyen

In the studio, and busier than ever

When art calls, no one sleeps on the job

by Bondo Wyszpolski

At the drawing board. John Van Hamersveld is creating new work while you’re reading this

We’ve been keeping in touch with most of the local galleries, but what are the artists themselves up to, at least those in good health and with time on their hands? Well, most of them are doing what they’ve been wanting to do anyway, which is to make more art.

Right now, there’s nowhere to go to see the work in person, but with the intent of keeping artists and their work in the public eye we’re including some updates and some images. The important thing is this: people are still being creative. Here’s some of it, and more next week, too.

John Van Hamersveld is an iconic figure on many levels, from his hundreds of album covers to his “Endless Summer” poster and his many murals throughout the South Bay. His productivity is astonishing, and what is he up to now at his home in Palos Verdes?

“I have had the time to work on four books and some drawings,” he replies.

William Sandell was in a two-person exhibition at the Manhattan Beach Art Center a couple of years ago, and he creates work that looks like old arcade games, the kind of stuff you’d find in dusty attics but which somehow, when polished, seems more magical than ever. He lives and works at the Brewery in Downtown Los Angeles. Three hundred artists live there, he says, “and how we’re all coping with this pandemic lockdown is a hot topic.”

Work in progress by kinetic assemblage artist William Sandell

As for himself, Sandell explains, “I’m a retired filmmaker and longtime kinetic assemblage artist. I have a nice little woodshop in my studio and it’s filled with dolls’ heads, old pulleys and motors, and bins of lightbulbs. Shelves filled with old toys, broken phones and pianos. Boxes filled with junk. So, I have all the materials I need to keep on creating my art. The stay-at-home life we’re leading now isn’t so bad for me, artistically speaking. With all the normal everyday distractions narrowed so severely, I find myself focusing on building my crazy assemblages, and that’s a good thing.”

Ben Zask is also an assemblage artist, living in Portuguese Bend, and a work he’s just completed is titled “World on the Window,” which, he points out,” can be considered a pun on “window on the world. “I created it to represent how upside down the world feels. I put the chains on the window to represent our confinement.”

Zask also notes that this piece illustrates “how this pandemic has affected my work.” He’s having to resort to using materials he already has on hand, because “I no longer have the luxury of hunting for things which I used to enjoy doing.” Furthermore, “Time has become a contradiction; on the one hand I have plenty of it, and yet I’m finishing pieces as if I have some urgent deadline… That might be the wrong word to use… I posted my metal pieces that I completed during the past three weeks on Instagram, benzask.”

“World on the Window” by Ben Zask

A sense of urgency is good, of course, but now the word “deadline” (which we see at the newspaper almost every day) is a little more ominous under the present circumstances.

Lynn Attig has been heavily involved in numerous South Bay art organizations, including the Pastel Society of Southern California, and they’re continuing, she says, to make good use of their time by sharing pictures online and by creating virtual exhibitions and art challenges.

At first, Attig was shocked by the shelter-in-place directive, but then realized that her studio is an ideal place in which to be, and she’s trying to get to it every day. On top of that, now with ample time: “I tried something new… soft pastel on velour! I chose some colorful birds from my recent visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

“It is important for me not to get caught up in the negative news deluging us every day,” Attig continues.” My heart bleeds for those who are ill and dying, and for the tragic state of our country and the world. I hope my art can bring people some joy and a brief respite from the despair of the pandemic. We all need to find hope to go on, and for me, art is the answer.

“If you want to find me, I’ll be in my art studio in Redondo Beach or escaping to our middle-of-nowhere cattle/horse ranch for some plein air painting.”

Morris and Phyllis at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Soft pastel on velour, by Lynn Attig

Jerry Kotler lives in Palos Verdes, but he’s photographed large portions of the South Bay. But here, let’s let him explain:

“Although some back issues have limited my ability to get around recently, I still managed to crank out some photos.” For example, “In the first 3 months of this year, I captured about 2,800 photos. From these, I selected 190 to work on and ‘develop’ into finished images.”

He does this with color and texture enhancement, and the results are often stunning. If there’s a hidden richness inherent in the image, Kotler always finds a way to bring it out.

“My interests are mainly landscape and architectural, with some occasional candid street shots with people. I would also divide my work along other lines: artistic vs technical. The latter are photos that exhibit good photographic craftsmanship in terms of sharpness, dynamic range, etc.”

Anli Lin Tong is not a painter or sculptor, but rather a concert pianist and teacher who resides in Palos Verdes, so we’re injecting a little variety into this story as well. And what is Anli doing that might be a little different than usual? First of all, she teaching lessons on FaceTime Skype, and, second, she’s judging a piano competition of online video submissions in lieu of live auditions.

Concert pianist and piano instructor Anli Lin Tong gracing the Malaga Cove Fountain. JamesKaoFoto

She’s also taking a big “leap of faith” by releasing live performance recordings. Until now, she’s been quite ambivalent about this. However, she says, “as we’re seeing in the past week, people are posting live or recorded performances of every genre online. Some of my friends, likewise, have asked me for my performances to share, to ‘uplift’ their spirit.”

Despite some hesitation, “It finally feels right to do this… I’ve decided to share a couple of ‘shorter’ pieces for starters, to see how people may react. Thus far, the feedback has been positive.” Anli explains that the footage is unedited, and adds that one day she may upload better quality sound recordings.” Locally, she has been featured several times with the Beach Cities Symphony. And, personally, I think she is a wonderful performer.

Hung Viet Nguyen has a unique and recognizable style. His paintings have been exhibited in many galleries and also in several Laemmle Theatres.

“I spend most of my time creating artworks in my studio,” he says, “and luckily my studio is also part of my residence. So, during Covid-19 social distancing I still work in my home studio, the same as before. But, seeing too many people suffering from this crisis, I’m not at ease at all.

Enhanced photography by Jerry Kotler

“I used to go walking at the beach at least three times a week. Now, under the new rule, I must stay at home. I understand it is the right thing to do, but I start to worry more about the next uncertain things. To cope with that, I have to keep myself busy. Besides working on my paintings I have also set up an area to exercise.

“During this time I have worked on a few new paintings. I just finished two medium size paintings and will finish the next large one soon. I noticed that my recent paintings have brighter colors than the previous paintings; somehow I feel they are optimistic while the world is in chaos. Is it what I need at this moment? Is Art the solution for me to escape?”

This is just a handful of the many fine artists living in or having shown their work in the South Bay. Next week we’ll catch up with a few more. In times of crisis, the arts rise to the challenge, and I feel we’ll be seeing a wealth of creativity in the weeks and months to come. ER

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