Artists opened their homes and studios Saturday for the second Del Rey Art Walk, and the only thing in common among the wildly varying types of artwork was the Del Rey neighborhood used as the backdrop for the event.
Artists from amateur to professional showed their artwork, which varied in type including religious-themed oil paintings, psychedelic abstract photography, fantastical sculpture and tribal-looking objects. There was a style for every kind of art lover.
This second art walk was sponsored by the Del Rey Neighborhood Council and the Del Rey Homeowner and Neighbors Association. I was looking forward to discovering the artists whom I didn’t get to see at the first art walk in December and to revisiting those whom I had gotten to meet to learn what they had added to their portfolios in the last six months.
First stop was The Teale Street Sculpture Studio, a newcomer to the roster for this art walk.
The warehouse space is impressive. It’s a giant warehouse made over like a whitewashed studio of the gods with dozens of models of human body parts lining one wall.
When I arrived, students were wrapping their clay pieces in wet towels and plastic to preserve them for the next session, and art-student-turned part-owner of the studio, Robin Thayer, offered to show me around the space.
Thayer introduced me to photographer Dennis Sylvester who rents a studio on the periphery of the main studio space.
Sylvester was showing his collection of photography, mostly of nature, mostly abstract, which oftentimes he enhances on a computer to bring colors to their most psychedelic, acid-trippy state.
A must-see is “Frida’s Vision,” an extreme close-up of an abalone shell he photographed while touring Frida Kahlo’s estate. Neon pinks and blues melt together in a composition that looks like something you would see under the lens of a microscope.
Sylvester has traveled all over the world to photograph his subjects. Two photos from his water collection include abstract images of boats’ reflections on the Nile in Cairo called “Africa Ablaze” and the reflections of floating island gardens in Xochimilco, Mexico, called “Painted Water.”
“I try and catch things in transformation, going from one state to another,” Sylvester said. “From either physically into a spiritual realm or physically into an abstraction.”
His interpretation of Big Ben in London, which won first place in a Cal State Dominguez Hills art contest, is ominous with heavy shadows and also light with vibrant colors fighting for space against the dark.
I then stepped outside into the rock garden where students Sarah Danays and Dan Sakoda were carving their stone pieces.
Danays, a professional artist, also takes classes and uses the studio to execute her goth-fantasy sculptures that involve sculpted seashells, human anatomy and sometimes blood.
She was working on carving the lower body of a woman out of white alabaster for her next creation.
Sakoda creates animals out of various types of stone. He had a penguin, fish and bear on display, and he was working on a frog. Sakoda reduces the forms to smooth, minimal lines.
Next, I traveled a few blocks over to see art walk organizer Charlotte DeMeo at her house on Juniette Street. She was showing her artwork–floral watercolor paintings and must-see sculptures she carves out of gourds and weaves from pine needles. The creations are adorned with beads and feathers and found objects such as branches, all leading to a tribal-esque creation that is unique and eye-catching.
Since the last art walk in December, DeMeo also began experimenting with burning and drawing on leather, which lends itself to a Native-American feel.
The response to the was favorable, DeMeo said.
“The reaction that I was really pleased about was that the artists wanted to do it again,” she said. “It was the feeling that they got with people coming in and praising their work. Even if they didn’t buy anything, hearing that positive response encourages you enough to want to do it.”
DeMeo’s home also showcased the work of longtime friend Kirk Robinson, a former resident of Juniette who has since relocated to Nevada.
Robinson was displaying his photos of wildlife from his adventures in Africa, as well as animals on his ranch in Nevada.
My favorite was a stirring close-up of the profile of a horse. Robinson is so close to his subject, you can see his reflection in the horse’s eye.
Another of my favorites of Robinson’s collection was a photo of an old, weathered sheepherders' loading dock that was featured in a publication capturing a “Day in the life of Carson Valley.” The snow-capped Sierra Nevadas are just barely visible behind the decaying wooden structures.
As in the case of DeMeo and Robinson, the art walk was as great for bringing neighbors and friends back together as it was for discovering and enjoying artwork by local artists.
“It’s a great community activity,” said Eileen Miller, who was attending the art walk. “It’s fun to see people walking down the street and go, oh they’re going to the art walk too.”
Miller and Dave Tebo used to be neighbors of DeMeo’s and have come back for both art walks.
“We both went to the one in December and we loved it,” said Miller. “It’s so great to go into people’s houses and see the art that they’ve done, and they seem so happy to have you come in and see it. It’s a great experience.”
DeMeo added that her longtime neighbor on Braddock Drive, Bill Berger, saw the art walk in December and really wanted to be a part of it.
“I’ve known Bill for years and didn’t realize he was an artist this whole time,” DeMeo said.
Next stop was Berger's house where he was displaying his work in his expertly self-landscaped garden.
Berger said he takes images he finds in magazines and newspapers and manipulates the images on the computer, multiplying, flipping and rotating to create a kaleidoscope effect, which he then draws by hand with colored pencils.
The effect is abstract and awesome, as one image of Rudy Giuliani morphs in to more than a dozen different expressive faces.
“I draw from a picture that I’ve taken or something that I’ve seen that for some reason I see a lot of things I can do with it, in the shapes or lines or what have you,” Berger said.
From Berger’s backyard, I found my way to Davide Piubeni’s studio several streets over.
Piubeni, a native of the Italian countryside, was trained in painting churches and frescos in Italy and has traveled and painted all over the world and now lives in Del Rey with his family. Many of his oil paintings are religious themed or local landscapes.
His rendition of "The Last Supper" shares a wall with scenes of Ballona Creek and the bluffs overlooking the beach in Playa del Rey. He also paints the bustling canals of Venice, Italy, and busy street corners of Venice, CA.
Even with chunky brushstrokes and a heavy application of paint, Piubeni’s artwork is light and refreshing. It doesn’t take itself or its subjects too seriously. In his version of "The Last Supper," participants look childlike and innocent with their inquisitive expressions and oversized eyes.
And though Piubeni’s local landscapes and Patrice Springer’s local landscapes are only a couple of blocks away, they are worlds apart in style and treatment.
Springer studied art in college but hasn’t pursued painting as a career until now. She said she is inspired by the terrain and missions of Santa Fe and went about painting the missions and landscape of Southern California.
Her landscapes look reminiscent of those of Monet. With light, quick brushstrokes and a loose application of paint, the overall effect is lovely. Plants and trees jump off the canvas and pop against the more subtle treatment of the missions.
“It’s a joy,” Springer said. “I just love color and love to splash it on.”
Seeing the artists in their own environments, such as Springer in her Southwest adobe, Native-American-styled living room, is the most context an art appreciator could ever hope for.
I loved seeing how the artists have decorated their homes, what they choose to surround themselves with and glimpsing what inspires them in their artwork. It's an intimate study in art history, and why I love the concept of this art walk so much.
Springer summed up best the appeal of the art walk. “It’s great that people can come and enjoy other people’s own vision of the world,” she said.