Diane Gamboa's Messages in Many Media for L.A. Festival : FACES

September's Los Angeles Festival may still be a couple of months away, but for artist Diane Gamboa, who's involved in four curated festival programs, the work has already begun.

Gamboa has spent the past two weeks at East L.A.'s Self-Help Graphics making her 14-color print, "Malathion Baby," which will be featured in the atelier's September show "Portraits: L.A. Culture Shift" along with prints by Chicano artists Eduardo Oropeza and Leo Limon, native American Indian artist Jean LaMarr, and Japanese American artist Keisho Okayama.

"I've been affected by the spraying--it's kind of made me sick," noted the diminutive Gamboa, 32, "so I just couldn't resist working on a piece and making some kind of comment on the question of malathion spraying. But you probably couldn't tell looking at the print--aside from the title and one small fly hidden somewhere in this piece--that it deals with that question."

Gamboa said that that one small fly--which indeed is quite "hidden" in her print depicting various "characters" that make up Los Angeles' culturally diverse population--is "kind of like the ridiculousness of their finding one tiny fly and then going and poisoning everybody (through the spraying) for the next few months."

But as one of the five artists featured in "Chicana Art in Los Angeles" opening Sept. 15 at Loyola Marymount's Laband Art Gallery (other participants are Laura Aguilar, Barbara Carrasco, Margaret Garcia and Yreina Cervantez), Gamboa will present very different works--a new series of figurative paintings based on basic Mexican wives tales and myths.

"I heard these things growing up as a child," said Gamboa, who noted that one of her works will be called "Bloody Coffee" and will based on the myth that to keep her husband faithful, a wife should put a few drops of her menstrual blood into his coffee. "They used to drive me nuts when I was younger, but lately, in the last few years, I've become very curious about these recipes and remedies. And now that I'm taking them to use as themes for a body of paintings, it's really (helping me) understand myself, my mother and my culture in a way I never have before. . . . To me or you they may sound absurd, but for some people, they take these things very seriously and they really are reality."

Gamboa is also very involved in costume design, including paper fashions, and will have one of those paper fashions included in the festival's mammoth "Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation" at UCLA's Wight Gallery from Sept. 9-Dec. 30. In addition, she will design props and about 20 costumes--including some paper fashions--for Daniel Martinez's theater piece, "Ignore the Dents," which will be performed Sept. 7 and 8 at the downtown Million Dollar Theater (Gamboa's brother, playwright Harry Gamboa, is also part of that collaborative effort).

And in addition to the four festival programs, Gamboa is also working on two additional shows--an exhibition of paintings and drawings at Long Beach's Williams/Lamb Gallery and an installation of paper fashions at William Grant Still Arts Center--which will open at the end of this month.

"You name it, it's like every medium I work with, I'm working on at the present time," the busy Gamboa said, noting that the one thing she'd really like to do but hasn't yet is design jewelry. "I'm sure I'll need a break when it's all over."

THE SCENE

Barbara Kruger's controversial red, white and blue mural addressing the "fragile grace of democracy" on the south wall of the Museum of Art's Temporary Contemporary is finally completed. The work, originally commissioned by MOCA in 1989 to be included in the exhibition "A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation," came under much public discussion prior to its final approval by Los Angeles' Cultural Affairs Commission and the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Said MOCA Director Richard Koshalek: "We believe that our city will be enhanced by the addition of this great work of public art. The endorsement by several city agencies of this work proves that L.A. remains in the international forefront of supporting new ideas and sponsoring their realization."

The mural is in the shape of an American flag and includes stripes made of nine questions such as "Who is bought and sold?" "Who is beyond the law?" and "Who prays the loudest?" It is scheduled to be on view for two years.

The first of two shows aiming to explore the diversity of work produced by CalArts alumni opens Thursday at Ruth Bachofner Gallery. "Variations CalArts: Painting," features works by Nat Dean, Nancy Halvorsen, Mark Norris, Pierre Picot, Rena Small and Laura Stein, and runs through August 4. The second CalArts alumni show, "Variations CalArts: Sculpture and Photography," is scheduled to open August 9 and run through September 8.

Santa Barbara's massive "Pulse 2," a series of 11 events and overlapping exhibitions running through Oct. 26, gets under way Friday evening with an opening reception for UC Santa Barbara's campus-wide exhibition, which runs Saturday through Oct. 21. The UCSB show includes sound sculptures, water sculptures, computer-controlled interactive sculptures and other works in the University Art Museum, the UCen Gallery, the College of Creative Studies Gallery and several outdoor sites throughout the campus.

Also included in "Pulse 2"--an acronym for "People Using Light, Sound and Energy"--will be shows at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, the County Administration Building's Channing Peak Gallery, and other locations. In all, about 80 works by 60 artists will be presented throughout the city-wide exhibition, which is organized by the University Art Museum and its curator, Phyllis Plous. For information or a schedule of events, call the museum at (805) 961-2951.

OVERHEARD

"Criticism is a great thing, because it means someone is really taking your work seriously. . . . You don't usually get much serious criticism when your show opens, because nobody's really brave enough to walk up to you at your opening and tell you what they think of your work, especially if they think it stinks. So reviews, whether good or bad, are great because it means someone's really put a lot of thought into your work, maybe even more than you did. "--a young, emerging male holographer, explaining the ups and downs of being an artist to a young non-artist friend.

CURRENTS

"The Garden of Eden," an early masterpiece by American landscape painter Thomas Cole, is now on view for the first time since 1831 at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Tex., which acquired the painting last month. Officials cited "museum policy," however, in declining to release details of the purchase of the painting, which was long thought to have been lost and has been known only from preliminary drawings, contemporaneous descriptions and a James Smillie engraving produced as the frontispiece to an 1831 Bible. The painting depicts a lush tropical paradise peopled with a diminutive Adam standing near a crouching Eve, each with arms raised upward toward a thundering waterfall, distant mountains, and a rising sun. It was painted in 1927-28, immediately before Cole's related painting, "Expulsion from the Garden of Eden," which is now at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

The arts may have found a new base of support--the traditionally uninvolved working man. According to a new study by the American Council for the Arts, arts support among the working class rose by an average of 14.2% in 1989, enough to prompt the council's Amy Segal to declare: "This is a clear, precise trend among working people to support the arts from their own pockets. Dollars from individuals in the workplace are especially significant since they broaden the donor base and increase community involvement." The increased support from the working class (a total of $22.84 million to the 41 arts funds surveyed) comes at a good time, since the study also found that corporate giving to arts funds failed to keep pace with inflation, and rose by an average of only 4% in 1989.

The California arts council has awarded fellowship grants of $5,000 each to 63 California visual artists. The CAC provides grants to individuals in different areas of the arts each year, with next year's grants going to performing artists. Visual artists will again be eligible for individual fellowships in four years.

Los Angeles-area artists receiving grants included: painters Olga Antonova, Charlene Knowlton, Laura Lasworth, Renee Petropoulos, Lari Pittman and Franceska Schifrin; sculptors Phyllis Green and Ronald Pippin; mixed-media artists Dede Bazyk, Rudy Mercado and Peter Seidler ; printmakers Susan Hauptman, Ilee Kaplan, and James Murray; fiber artists James Bassler and Karyl Sisson; and ceramicist Roseline Delisle.

DEBUTS

CalArts graduates John Dugan and Randy West have their first commercial exhibitions at La Brea Avenue's Jan Kesner Gallery Friday through Aug. 4. Dugan, a 1990 graduate, creates black-and-white photographs of constructed environments, while West, a 1986 graduate, has created an installation dealing with the camera's power to capture and suspend time. The two are showing with 1986 CalArts graduate Miki Warner, who has previously shown at Melrose Avenue's Newspace.

Yasuma Morimura uses appropriation, staged photography and masquerade to question the relationship between Japanese and Western cultures in his first show, at Venice's L.A. Louver, Tuesday through Aug. 4. In addition to his visual art work, Morimura is also an onnagata (a female impersonator of Kabuki theater).

Los Angeles painter Gary Matteson has his first-ever exhibition at the downtown American Gallery through July 15. Matteson's works include paintings on stretched Astroturf, as well as representative works from his ongoing Gorbachev portrait series.

HAPPENING

Noted video artist Bill Viola today at 1 p.m. will talk on "Arts Funding and Free Speech" as part of the "L.A. Festival of Freedom" sponsored by the L.A. Coalition for Freedom of Expression. Viola recently testified before a Congressional subcommittee on the reauthorization of the National Endowment for the Arts. His talk will be held 1 p.m. at the Long Beach Museum of Art, where two of his works are featured in the current "Waterworks" exhibition. Information: (213) 439-2119.

Suzanne Muchnic contributed to this column.

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