Beast Coast to Best Coast: Its art art everywhere…

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When I worked in DC, I used to walk out the front door of my office building and across the street to the National Portrait Gallery, to think.  I’d stroll and think. It was the perfect place to do so; with free admission you can simply pop in for 15 minutes and roam the halls, rubbing elbows with America’s earliest painters or modern photography exhibits, just long enough to get your mind working in a different direction again.

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Now when I walk out the front door of my office building, I quickly find myself at Michael Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  It’s a block east of CNN’s LA bureau on Sunset and Cahuenga. A news ticker streams the headlines across the street to Amoeba Music, one of those old dinosaurs–a real live record store.  If you were wondering where to find the best pizza in all of Hollywood, let me just tell you, this place is like walking into and out of Brooklyn just crossing the threshold.  If you tweet Joe’s Pizza @joespizzait they will give you 15% off your order.  They’re on Hollywood Blvd. and Wilcox.dc3

Note to self: Don’t get derailed by the costume shops and bewildered tourists muddling over the pink and black, flecked terrazzo streets. Hollywood Blvd. can seem like a strange place, but the buttoned up hipster kids are really just programmers and the cats with the full sleeve tattoos are the graphic designers. Trailer Park, the entertainment marketing agency that puts out the slickest movie trailers for blockbuster films and designs campaigns for the latest video games, is just up the boulevard.

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Walk down Wilcox to Selma and you’ll see one of the most precious gems of all. The empty building directly on the corner gets buffed over almost every day because almost every night street artists put up new wheat pastes.  If you catch it at the right time, you can find some pretty epic work.

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Art that is born from a determined, rebellious spirit and put into action, long after the rest have resigned to the morning. Art that knows no boundaries, for better or worse, in the search for a voice.  The same way that a good and gritty ground game in a campaign can achieve an eloquent brilliance. Or epic disaster. But somehow still give everyone a good laugh.

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During the election, it was awesome.

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I started snapping them with my iphone whenever I was quickly passing by, then posting the photos to Instagram.  Different artists have found the posts and its connected me to new friends and collaborators. The pieces I’ve spotted have been so unique and special to me, for their content but also for their ephemeral timeliness, like pop culture hitting you on the head with a hammer. Then disappearing the next night. A real live street art twitter.

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That’s the fortunate thing about doing what I do, in the place I do it.  We consistently embark on new creative endeavors.  Surrounded by corporate news headquarters and small powerhouse production shops, 15 minutes to the local government of Downtown LA, and never too far from a coffee shop for those long and caffeine-fueled brainstorming sessions. We strike a chord between fine art and street art.  Guerrilla film-making and presidential advance.  Nestled in the craziest little neighborhood, but ready to travel anywhere, in the name of inspiration.

Meet Bob Marley at E Street Cinema

Spoiler Alert! So if you are the big tree, we are the small axe.

I’ve written about DC’s E Street Cinema before, when I saw the awesome documentary “Beats Rhymes & Life” about A Tribe Called Quest. Aside from being able to drink wine and beer in the theater, super-Deutschland-style, they always have good movies! In fact, its pretty much the only place I’ve gone to see a movie in the last 6 months. Playing now is a chronicle of the man whose face and voice are perhaps more recognizable around the world than any other man. The film is the work of profound director Kevin Macdonald who also directed Life in a Day, a patchwork compilation of homemade footage taken from 80,000 submissions from 192 countries, all capturing a single day. Easily one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in the last year.

Through Marley, Macdonald conveys a sense of international unity under universal love, as he highlights and nurtures the very things–from simple to profound–that make us human. One of the most important of those being music. The documentary follows the life of the legendary reggae superstar beginning with his birth in Nine Mile, Jamaica as a “half caste,” as he himself states in an interview. From the pangs of straddling a multicultural identity, to the hollow void left from never having known his father, we see a child reach out passionately for music, the one thing in which he finds solace. He finds his voice.

With his son Ziggy Marley as the executive producer, the film sets out to portray Marley not as a global icon, not even primarily as a musician, but simply a man. From his evolution from a shy, young teen to profoundly inspired religious Rasta Man, the audience gets a sense for the truly spiritual path upon which this man trekked. Above all things else, his devotion to Jah infused and empowered him with a righteous gift and the relentless energy to pursue it.

But saint? No. Particularly taboo is, of course, Marley’s hasty marriage to ultimately his lifelong colleague and band mate Rita Marley (he left the country the very next day for Delaware to live with his mother for a bit) and his ensuing infidelity which resulted in 11 children from 7 different mothers. Its perhaps difficult for some fans to really examine the contradictions surrounding his unfettered love. In a rare recording from a BBC interview, when asked if he was married, he simply said, “No.” He explains that he is not married because the only law he follows is Jah’s law. The rest, he says with a chuckle, he can make up for himself. The film allows the audience to rest in those very real contradictions that sometimes forever remain inexplicable. Imperfect, but so human.

What struck me most about the film–about Bob Marley’s life and then life in general–was that he was just one man. Pursuing endlessly, aggressively, fervently, lovingly the thing inside of him which gave him peace and allowed him to give peace to others. In his music, he channeled a greater good. Something that will forever be on the planet Earth as long as humans are alive, from here on out. Something so powerful that, sitting in theater 8 of E Street Cinema holding my Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA about 60 minutes into the approximately 144 minute movie, widened my eyes and made my heart bottom out. Even though I knew the story, seeing him bring two opposing political leaders of Jamaican street warfare gangsters onto the same stage to shake hands and be blessed was–and still IS–a blessing. Blessed in the music!

A liberal arts professor at my university once told me that there are more images of Bob Marley around the world than Jesus. Marley is a stunning film and really feels like an honest look at his life from a historical perspective. Its inspiring and chilling. Go see it now!

Or if you’re one of those instant gratification addicts, you can watch the full feature length film here for $6.99

Peace and love lil raggamuffins!

–Aimee

Why you should be coming to DC’s SW Waterfront, like, now.

this post is dedicated to Ashley and Flora ❤As a young professional transplanting to DC, I was overwhelmed with all the little nooks and crannies that took on their own characteristic neighborhood vibe.  Columbia Heights tasted like a $2 can of Pabst and pupusas. Georgetown smelled like brunch and breeze, with expensive perfume wafting in the air. And the Hill was strong coffee and late whiskey nights, for sure.

But as a California girl with a particular fondness for seeing the ocean every day, I needed a place with access to water and an undone attitude that belied the career driven ambition of the District.  Enter: the SW Waterfront. DC’s smallest quadrant. Now don’t get me wrong, the Waterfront is notorious for being somewhat… vacant.  But it makes up for what it lacks in general diversity, with its anonymity.  In a city where you can and will run into everyone from exes to employers on a jumbling and boisterous Friday night metro ride, its a fantastic thing to feel incognito. Under the radar, as you stroll along the Riverwalk, past the hauntingly serene Titanic Memorial.Or come down to Nationals stadium (technically SE but by a stones throw) and watch the hometown heroes of no one’s home town–The Nationals–play some good old fashioned baseball. I always try to go to the games they play against the Dodgers so I can see my boys in blue and annoy the Washington fans.After the game you can always swing by the new restaurant Station 4 if you’re feeling like something a bit more upscale after sitting in the bleachers all day.  I must admit, despite their close proximity to the SW Waterfront metro stop, I have never actually eaten here.  But they do have Peroni in this beautiful, curvaceous Italian-sex-kitten tap.Last summer we saw Thievery Corporation perform at the pop-up tennis court Kastles Stadium at The Wharf. It was an amazing show and its always nice to hear live music by water.

The late, great Chuck Brown came out and joined them for a song. I’m so happy I got to see this DC legend in-person before he passed. Mad love to you, man.But the real star of SW is, of course, the rowdy and rockin’ Cantina Marina.  For us So Cal types, it feels a bit like the grungy beachy vibe of VeniceThe palm trees may be plastic and the view may be of the Anacostia River, but my goodness!  With a drink in your hand and Bob Marley or the Chili Peppers blaring over the flirtatious chatter of the patrons, you might as well be anywhere you want to be.  So maybe the water is always  bluer just over the horizon. But for now DC’s sunny evenings and impending summer days have me heading to the SW Waterfront.

See you there cats and kittens!

-Aimee

Blind love for SONG 1: Mixed media outdoor exhibition at the Hirshhorn museum

hirshhorn3For nearly two months the Hirshhorn museum, with its circular shape and unique design, has served as the canvas for an experiential artistic exhibition.  California born and based artist Doug Aitken has transformed the iconic building into a living, 360-degree film reel, projecting his original short film SONG 1 on the entirety of the building every night until May 20th.  The short is set to the tune of the hypnotic “I Only Have Eyes for You” which bellows on repeat from speakers surrounding the museum out onto the National Mall and through the busy streets.

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Beginning at sunset and concluding at midnight, the artist’s vision of “liquid architecture” blurs the lines between reality and fantasy.  He fashions a multimedia outdoor experience that makes the audience feel like they are both watching and a part of the exhibition.

hirshhorn2The song which provides the soundtrack for the exhibition, originally written in 1934 but best remembered for the 1959 recording by The Flamingos, opens with a proclamation of blind love. The kind of jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching tunnel vision that leaves you dangerously enamored and unaware of everything else. The kind of love blindness that would get you run over by a car if you weren’t careful.
2012-04-05_21-22-16_286The characters in the film, who each seem alone in the midst of the same intensely personal journey, traverse the rounded exterior walls of the Hirshhorn in varying ways so that the film cannot be viewed entirely from one vantage point. The singers helplessly pose questions into the night, unsure about their own surroundings, unable to make the simplest conclusions about reality.  In the fog of passion.  Sitting in the sculpture garden, staring up into the projection–or walking around the building for a new perspective, the singers beg us to answer, “Are the stars out tonight?”  We can’t help but look up into the real darkened sky hovering above our heads. They are. And Venus is low. We go off into a tangent conversation about her as we gaze upward, still humming the song to ourselves.

2012-04-05_21-24-56_20In that song I’ve heard a million times but will never hear the same way again, a dizzily delirious lover laments that he’s unsure if he’s in a garden or a crowded avenue.  And as the characters in the film swirl in and out of different urban scenes, the audience too feels the confusion.  At times they are standing in parking lots upon which the actual trees around the Hirshhorn cast perfect shadows, seamlessly bending reality into art. At other times, blaring sirens screech down Independence Avenue disrupting the focus and yet, somehow mimicking the disorienting effects of this blind love by breaking down and building up the substance and content of the piece, itself.

hirshhorn1Like real blind love, the exhibition swirls around its viewer in vibrant colors and perfect harmonies, familiar images cloaked in compellingly provocative newness.  Even loneliness. Its unsteady and surreal.  Sounds from the city seamlessly harmonize with the sobering but sweet vocals.  Crowds may go by, but the art carries on. The images are evolving, twisting, turning, pulling at your heart in a landscape, cinematic spell.

The installation is entering its final week so be sure to swing by the Hisrhhorn so you don’t miss this amazing experience. With its music, imagery and incredibly powerful moments, its never the same thing twice.  A visual and emotional spectacle as delirious, exciting and confusing as love. A kind of blind love.

But who doesn’t appreciate a well-timed “shoo-bop-shoo-bop.”

That’s all for now cats and kittens.

–Aimee

“George W. Bush The 9/11 Interview” Advance Premiere Screening on the day of the DC earthquake

What can a DC earthquake and National Geographic teach us about social consciousness?

Yesterday the DC area was rocked by an earthquake that lead to the temporary evacuation of most buildings downtown.  As my office building overflowed with people descending onto the sidewalk, hurrying outside mumbling, chattering and bursting with the adrenalin that accompanies any natural event, I was struck by a thought.  My, how quickly our trusted, modern society can deteriorate.  Phone lines down.  Texts not going through.  Emails bouncing back.  People flooding the sidewalk.  Everyone passing around misinformation on the epicenter and magnitude of the quake.  A bit of confusion descends upon us simple humans and our norms begin to crack in an emergency situation.Being a Southern California native, I have lived through several earthquakes, most notably the Northridge earthquake of 1994 which awoke us all in a fright, knocked down parts of our highways and destroyed our homes.  Having this experience I was unafraid and unaffected by yesterday’s events.

Until…I was invited to the National Geographic Channel for the advance screening of the new documentary “George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview” scheduled for a US premiere this Sunday, on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  In this personal, candid interview with the former president, he tells the story of 9/11 in his own words. This is his first and only interview on this subject.  It explores the decisions made by the former president on the day of September 11th, 2001, as he focuses on describing what he calls “the fog of war” that swept over the highest branch of our government.

There were times when I got teary eyed, watching our nation struggle with the harsh reality of death and the surprise of the attack we faced that fateful day.  Other times I laughed out loud at our former president’s explanation of the unfolding events, or else cringed at some of his responses.

photo courtesy of National Geographic Channel, Photo credit: Whitney Johnson

As the sad but familiar tale unfolded, recounting the day hour by hour, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the immense way in which our country came together during this time of despair and mourning.   Specifically, I was reminded by the importance of having a strong emergency preparedness plan.  A strategy for those times when mobile phones don’t function, the internet is useless, and everyone is trying to get in contact with someone.

But even beyond that, I became suddenly aware of the fact that it doesn’t need to take an earthquake, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster to have and express concern for those around you.  The national tragedy that crashed into our lives on 9/11 surprised us all.  None of us wanted to be thrust into this position.  And yet, just like an earthquake, tragedy can rattle us in the most unexpected moments.  It is the way in which we work together that increases our chances of survival and success.

This is just a personal reflection.  A solemn remembrance of those we lost and that which we’ve learned.  And at the same time, positive encouragement for us all to be patient with our neighbors and considerate of the frail and imperfect foundation upon which we have built society.  Humans can be such simple and scared little beasts.

Tune in to National Geographic Channel this Sunday to see this groundbreaking documentary.  And if you’d like to actively participate in remembering 9/11, MyGoodDeed and HandsOn Network have partnered to organize the largest day of charitable service in the United States history.  Go to 911.org for more information and get involved!

Peace and Love people.

–Aimee

Martin Luther King Memorial Opens Today

Today the Martin Luther King memorial opened to the public for a sneak peak before the official dedication this Sunday.  Standing at 30 feet, a very serious and intensely focused Dr. King gazes out at the tidal basin.  In his sights stand Thomas Jefferson across the water and behind him sacred American sites honoring Abraham Lincoln and the ever-monumental Washington.  According to NPR’s Eyer Pedalta, “the memorial is the first on the National Mall that honors an African American and the first that honors a person who did not serve as president.”What strikes me most about the monument, aside from his ominous presence–the strange and lovely sight it is to see the carved stone face of a such a remarkable African American man in America–is simply the design of the monument itself.  It’s modern.  Dr. King rises up from stone.  Like one of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures, he is not a free standing figure but emerging from Earth.  Suspended in breaking ground.  As if he’s about to speak. Around the statute are marble walls with quotes from the Reverend.  Its inspiring.  Its beautiful.  And still a bit edgy.  A stone’s throw from the Vietnam memorial stand the words, “I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America.  I speak out against it not in anger but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and above all with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as a moral example of the world.”President Obama is scheduled the officially dedicate and open the site this Sunday, the 48th anniversarry of Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech of 1963, which happened within site of the new memorial.  If you’re in DC you should check it out, or you can watch it live on CNN.

What do YOU think about it? Like it?

–Aimee