by Carolyn Blais
photos by Bona Hong
The Happening Gallery certainly lived up to its name during its grand opening celebration on Saturday night, March 27th. The little gallery located on Lincoln Blvd in Marina del Rey was packed full of wide eyed spectators, each with a hankering for some fine, fine art. Thankfully, they were in luck as there was no shortage of amazing art work happening at The Happening Gallery.
Having been invited to the opening by artist Betzi Richardson who I first met at Santa Monica Fine Art Studios last year, I was quick to recognize her work at the front of the gallery. Richardson’s design style involves a process of first sketching, and then taping off and painting bit by bit, these very small rectangles, each painted in various shades of the color spectrum. The process, though painstakingly labor intensive, lends a magnificent result. With the thick layers of paint and small rectangles, I at first glance thought the paintings to be fabric that had been cross-stitched like a Navajo blanket. My date thinks the paintings look like blown up digital images, where the individual pixels are made visible. I too can concede to this interpretation but then again can also allow my mind to almost vividly see the images of nature that Richardson says are her very inspiration. One such piece on display was created after a trip to a place called Max Meadows in Virginia where the artist was struck by the vibrancy of blue rivers, green trees and amber flames of fire.
In a small alcove on the right, front side of the gallery my eye catches three narrow, oblong pieces of art. The works depict male and female nude figures, often taken right from the artist’s sketch book and implanted into the greater design. Artist, Michele D. Lee explains to me how she then paints over the sketches, adding texture by using a variety of items from stencils, to combs, to leaves and sticks that she may happen to find when out on a walk. Lee, who paints from live models, divulges the story behind one of the pieces in her “Untitled Nude Series” where a woman is seen with arms raised apart, stretching high above her head. The real woman the painting is based on is reaching to the heavens after having freed herself from the bonds of a tumultuous relationship. The artist was commissioned by a man in Florida to create a 14 foot tall painting of the figure to adorn a wall in his home, utterly touched by the beauty and power of the story behind its creation. I too am moved by these paintings whose powerfully strong figures I find reminiscent to Greek Gods or Roman statues.
The artist with the most interesting medium on display is Karen Makoff. I have an uncle who every Christmas uses newspaper to wrap his gifts. Thus I am shocked to see his unique usage of newspaper may very well be considered true art, as Makoff makes it so in her work. “My Heart” is a 20 x 24 acrylic painting on canvas that depicts a woman in muted colors, striking a sensual pose. The artist usually sketches her images first, and then covers them, though not completely with newspaper, followed by a plaster-like substance that she applies with a spatula. Then comes the paint and lastly, the words, which she writes in the corners and outer edges, and which make up her very thoughts at the time of creation. These paintings bring me back to a time of adolescent angst, though I’m not exactly sure why this is. I am intrigued by them nonetheless and of course, love the unique usage of newspaper, as I know my uncle will be thrilled to learn of as well.
Founder of The Happening Gallery, Natalie Gray, sought to create a “wonderful place for artists and art lovers alike, a museum-like space with a friendly attitude.” See for yourself if she succeeded but I’ll give you a hint: she did!
WHAT: The Happening Gallery – Grand Opening Celebration
WHERE: The Happening Gallery, 4047 Lincoln Blvd, Marina del Rey, CA 90292
WHEN: Saturday, March 27th 6-9 PM