The Dhu Varren Barn – Photography by Rheagan Martin showing @ Sagebrush Cafe

“The Dhu Varren Barn” is a collection of photographs of a single barn in Michigan.

As Rheagan Martin has it in his description of his new photography show at Sagebrush Cafe, “The barn on Dhu Varren Road will not last long. When I moved into a house on the farmland, I had no idea that the barn was on the last undeveloped parcel of land in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. But as long as the reluctant city council denies plans for its development, the barn still stands.”

Dhu Varren Barn 1

The photos in this show capture the Dhu Varren Barn under different conditions of weather and light, inviting thoughts of the tension between continuation and change. 

In an age of rapid change, we tend to think that we are the non-permanent part of our landscape.

The world we were born into has been swept away by Twitter, by Apple and by Amazon. We’re half a hashtag away from a brave new world and we gleam in the cast off glow of our personal devices. We’re the blue-lit faces of the future, but in the whiz-bang of tweets and updates we hardly have a breath to wonder what’s next.

We are undergoing a sometimes torturous and sometimes joyous metamorphosis into a new society, which is difficult to acknowledge because we have never known what it’s like to be whatever it is we are becoming. We know, like the caterpillar knows, only where we’ve been.

The iconic Midwestern barn naturally symbolizes this sense of change. It is a literal picture of where we’ve been. But the barn – static, totemic, stoic – here is also suggestive of an idea that re-frames our sense that we are changing against an unchanging background.

The barn in spring offers another context. The barn in sunset too. It complicates the simple sense that we are changing against a permanent backdrop. Because our legacy includes the land – what we’ve done to protect it, to cultivate it, to store its fruits, to love it, in our way.

We have a legacy, but there is an open question as to what that legacy means today and what it will mean tomorrow.

Which light, striking an old barn on Dhu Varren Road, is the real light – the one that tells us the truth about where we’ve been and where we’re going?

 


 

This barn won’t last long, Martin says. The world is changing around it.

In an interesting turn of metaphor, the barn in these photographs becomes a double-edged symbol. It represents a changing world, standing here as the emblem of a past that has already been left behind. The distance between this Barn and Us – with our sense of being rushed toward an unknowable future – is wide, and getting wider.

These photos speak into that distance.

Dhu Varren Barn 4

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time.”  – William Blake

 

But the Dhu Varren Barn is also the vessel of a certain beauty – the kind we experience when we encounter an object outside of its time, an object that has endured. It is the past – still miraculously present. The past still intact and wholly itself.

When we hold an object like this in our hands now, or in our gaze, we feel that we are reaching back through time, and for many of us it becomes a moment of dumbfounded wonder. We don’t have words to put to this feeling of being stretched across time to touch the past, here, with our cell phones buzzing in our pocket and the news cycle chasing us like a shadow. But without words, we still feel the wonder. That’s why we keep going back to stand in the field and look at the barn. (At least, that must be why Rheagan Martin did it.)

So, the barn is a symbol of a part of the past that is still with us. It may feel fleeting and it may actually be fleeting, but for now it is still here. It’s part of our landscape, however anachronistic it may seem.


You wonder – How can this solitary barn be so active in its symbolism, so two-edged? How can it represent a changing world running full speed from any thoughts of an agrarian past while simultaneously representing the constance of that past, its ability to endure?

What should we say this barn means?

Is it a chance to reflect on a fleeting, pastoral American life, a message about how quickly and how far we’ve come toward changing into something new? Or is it a sign that even amidst all this change, something remains intact? Is it a link to a romance with the land that may flicker but never entirely fade?

Rheagan Martin’s photographs meditate on these questions, which spring to mind in the more poetic rooms of our brains, even if we don’t put these words to them.

“The Dhu Varren Barn” does the work of bringing us to a strange piece of land where the past and the present are hewn – together and apart.

 

The Dhu Varren Barn 

Photography by Rheagan Martin

Showing at Sagebrush Cafe in Quartz Hill, CA

Full Circle – Paintings by Stevie Chun @ Sagebrush Cafe

Does it sound paranoid to say that we’re seeing circles everywhere? No matter where we look – circles, and circles within circles. 63F40D16-0969-45D8-AA58-6D0E0A948240.JPG

They are in our eyes, double circles of pupil and lens. They are in the sky, one blazing sphere burning down at us by day as another struggles through the night, grasping always to be complete. There are circles made by man down here. There are children swiveling the hoola hoop until they let it fall at their feet. And it all repeats. Cycles. Circles within circles.

It’s all connected. It’s all about connection.

As Stevie Chun writes in her artist statement for the show:

The circles in “Full Circle” signify events in life. These life events are monumental in shaping who we are as individuals while connecting us to one another, all of them, big and small.

For this series, Chun is painting with ink and watercolor and attaching the paintings to wood. Each piece features a multitude of circles, which Chun describes as a “modest shape” but one that also “has many symbolic meanings across cultures. Circles represent the complexity and completeness of life. In this circular form we can all be connected – able to find common ground.”

A11F83B1-EB4F-4CE8-A2EA-4E94DB40B937.JPGAn ancient symbol of unity, the circle also evokes notions of the cycle of life, tying it to the most fundamental mythologies of origins – life emerging, cresting, blazing a fullness of being, and returning from whence it came.

The images here recall the feeling of first seeing deep space telescope images from the Hubble – bright galaxies wheeling reaching back toward beginnings too dim to recall.

But the brightness is what we see in those telescopic images. The fecundity of the cosmos…shining like a party in the distant corners of the sky. Each image, like each piece in Chun’s “Full Circle,” is a celebration of this well-spring, this energy.

Showing Now:

Full Circle

Paintings by Stevie Chun

at Sagebrush Cafe

42104 50th Street West

Quartz Hill, CA 93536

Reconciling the Horizon – June Marie Milham

There is a school of thought that says we can only know the world through the senses. What we see and hear and feel is not just an impression of a more objective world – what we see and hear and feel is the world.

But what happens when the senses are confronted by contradiction? What happens when we aren’t sure what we’re seeing or hearing or feeling? How do we reconcile the facts that seem to say that the world is not one thing, but several things at once?

June Marie Milham’s current gallery show at Sagebrush Café wades into questions like these, using vibrant colors, mixed media, and complex geometries to approach the concept at the heart of her show – “Reconciling the Horizon.”

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The work in “Reconciling the Horizon” brings to life a line from Allen Ginsberg:

Detach yrself from Matter, & look about

At the bright snowy show of Iowa

Earth & Heaven mirroring

eachother’s light

This isn’t Iowa, but Milham’s art evokes Ginsberg’s very intentionally as a means of exploring the ways that the horizon is a location of collapsed concepts, a place where earth and heaven are no longer distinct but instead become blended into one sensory experience.

There is an emphasis here on elements of composition. There are tricks of colors, weighted one against another. There are layers of paint (and language too) that play like memories within the moment of each piece, just like memories inhabit each moment of our own waking lives.

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In her statement for the show, Milham talks about how the horizon is a site where things that we usually see as opposites actually meet, pushing us to reconsider the relationship between present and past and between emotion and intellect.

At the horizon, we see that these notions really do mirror one another. Opposites, yet somehow complicit in the very essence of that which exists on the other side of the line.

But there is a high and a low. There is a sky and an earth. These opposites cannot stand together. They must stand apart. Our senses tell us this is our reality. But the theory that our world is only what our senses tell us won’t suffice as a full explanation of what happens along the line of the horizon, that site where opposites collapse into one another.

Milham’s new work takes up this idea as a focus and offers a fluid set of responses – some joyous, some calm, some challenging and wild – and she invites us to reflect with her on this strange place of division that, by some magic, is also a place of reconciliation.

 

Showing at Sagebrush Cafe

42104 50th Street West

Quartz Hill, CA 93536

A Special Art Show: Hosted by Bravery Brewing & Sagebrush Cafe

Bravery Brewing and Sagebrush Cafe have teamed up to craft a beer together. To celebrate the event, Bravery is throwing a beer release party with an emphasis on collaboration and the arts.

Two local small businesses, bringing their strengths together.

And you can be a part of it.

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Artists  interested in displaying art at the event should send in their work (following the guidelines listed on the flyer) before May 5th.

The show will be held on May 11th at Bravery Brewing.

It’s going to be a blast. If you don’t get a chance to submit and participate as an artist in the event, you can participate by coming out to celebrate the artists of our community as well as a couple small businesses that are known for showcasing local talent in the Antelope Valley.

Cheers!

Sagebrush Cafe Arts & Crafts Fair

Sagebrush Cafe will host its biggest ever Arts & Crafts Fair on Saturday, April 6th from 10-4.

 

10th Anniversary Arts & Crafts Fair Poster

This year will be bigger than ever: 30 Vendors – All Local Artists & Artisans

10 am to 4 pm
April 6, 2019
the First Saturday of April

Come on out to support local culture in the Antelope Valley!

Find Locally Made:
– Fine Art
– Pottery
– Gifts
– Handbags
– Jewelry
– Literature
– Soap & Candles
– Who-Knows-What-Else!?!

We’ll have activities for kids – crafts and face painting – as well as activities for adults. It’s going to be a big day. Sagebrush Cafe is turning ten years old, after all, so we wanted to do it up this time.

Bring your friends, fam!

Food – Drinks – Arts – Crafts – Good Times

Sagebrush Cafe

42014 50th Street West

Lancaster, CA 93536

 

What Air Ordered – Photography by Gabriel Malikian @Sagebrush Cafe

“What Air Ordered” is a show of photographs by Gabriel Malikian that may put you in mind of journeying. But that is not because it is a set of exotic landscapes with pictures of far-flung places. It’s something else.

To put it one way, Malikian is giving us an invitation in “What Air Ordered.” The show is a collection of photographs inviting us to rethink the things we see every day.

If you have ever walked a street that you usually drive, then you know that the adjustment changes things, transforming a semi-conscious commute into a new experience. It’s not just the speed that changes. Somehow, it’s a different street.

The photographs in this show are not “domestic” images that have been reinvented through a camera lens. This is not a show about commuting – and that is not the point here. What the photographs are doing is capturing street-side, roadside and nature scenes in ways that emphasize geometry and color and manage to intimate meanings pitched just above the co-valence of the parts and their whole.

In a related way, there is an idea in this show that brings home the point that what we see is determined by how we look at the world around us. When we embark on a journey, we begin to look actively at the landscape in ways that we often don’t look at our own neighborhood. In drawing attention to this notion, you might say that “What Air Ordered” becomes a journey of ten images, images that consider both what we see and how we look at things.

As a photographer and writer, Malikian is probably more invested in this what/how relationship than most people. And this interest is certainly part of what you will see when you look at the show on display now at Sagebrush Café in Quartz Hill.

But there is more to it than that. To get at some of the other ideas that animate both the show and the artist, we sat down and asked Malikian a few questions:

Gabriel Malikian What Air Ordered
-Tell us about your experience taking pictures in Montana. Did the specifics of the region invite a different approach to compared to the places you have spent more time with a camera (like Los Angeles)?

Very much so. I was in Billings for work on a film shoot and I suffered a back injury a week into filming. I had to be replaced at short notice, which is no easy feat so far from LA. The agitation my injury caused around me informed my need to creatively get something out of me, so I made a point of walking around Billings with my camera and focusing on taking photographs. This also served to prove to myself that I wasn’t irreversibly injured (my work demanded a functioning body).

In doing so, I found places in the small city that were novel to me. Uniquely American and discarded. Uniquely hidden or protected. I felt the pioneer mentality play out in the places I visited and felt it move through me. I turned down offers from friendly strangers for a ride to wherever I was going – in favor of seeing what else was hidden from the roadside. I had read about the Terrain Vague movement around that time, so I wanted to find what about the city had been left for nature to reclaim and break down.

In Los Angeles, there is a knowledge I have of its various neighborhoods. They each have an aesthetic and feeling that I know well. I know that a photograph in Echo Park will emote one thing, while in Boyle Heights other feelings can be distilled. Nothing about my time in Billings was predictable.
-Are there any photos in your show that have a surprising story behind them? Any photos that you were able to get that made you feel really lucky?

I can’t say that any if the photographs have any special stories behind them, except perhaps those in Montana. I can’t really say I feel like those captured in LA or in the desert are less special to me either.

As far as luck, I think timing played out in interesting ways in almost all these photographs. I found myself in the right places at the right times. But, that happens when a person puts themselves fully into their work. Many other photographers have captured incredible images, and timing played a huge role. As a photographer, you have to explore and be curious or your lens won’t find those moments.
-In spending some time with the photos in “What Air Ordered” we were struck by the idea that the show seems to pose some questions about how we collectively try to move forward into new territory, mentally anyway, but we do so inside a physical landscape that is littered with yesterday’s artifacts. There is a sense that objects and scenes from mid-century America (and from last year) show us how flawed our ability to move forward may be – or, alternatively, these scenes comprise an ironic commentary on our tendency to get tired of things, set them aside, and let them just sit there rusting while we play with our shinier, newer ideas. Does this observation fit with your own sense of this collection? Is this sort of idea represented in your work more generally?
There is a generally pervasive attitude that abandons the troublesome older thing for whatever is convenient, flashy, and works. People have abandoned Detroit. Because of the ease of access to the next best thing, last year’s model is set aside. Sold back. Put out in the trash. It could be fixed, but why bother? Why even learn how to fix anything?

Psychologically, many people do the same thing. Maybe this will fix my aching heart. Maybe if I just travel the world I will understand. If I just had that, I’d finally be happy. Conversely, to celebrate and repair the broken and forgotten brings a genuine sensation of achievement. I once watched my friend puzzle over a broken camera from the 1920s. She fixed it. The film we found inside was incredible and we marveled for a month over it, wondering what the story must have been. If we just threw the thing away (it was only worth $10) our imaginations and her accomplishments would have been cheapened.

I see yesterday’s artifacts as both beautiful reminders of hardiness, as well as living history. From a material point of view, we don’t make things as long-lasting or as physically heavy as we once did. This makes these items and scenes feel foreign, but one could say the same of our forward progression. Plastics replacing steel sheeting. Engineered obsolescence. The next firmware upgrade.

The weight of these old things informs, emotionally, the tone of my photographs. I feel it stops me in my movement and forces me to reflect on what was, both internally and in a larger sense.

There is indeed an irony in our charging forward to fix yesterday’s problems. I think there is ample opportunity to stop moving and study the past, of what has been. Perhaps in a literal, visual sense, my photographs utilize sparse scenes and older items to provoke a movement inside, and back in time. It may be that the happiness or fulfillment we want is not in a new house or car, it might just be in understanding that which has already happened. To meditate on a certain nothingness (a seemingly barren landscape, actually a space of huge mental potential energy) or the nothingness of the carcass of an old building, can have more impact on our lives and mental wellbeing than keeping abreast of the eternally shifting contemporary.

Every photograph is a piece of history, so it’s fine to get stuck in the past.


 

Take a look at a few more thoughts on “What Air Ordered” over at Sagebrush Cafe’s blog page. 


 

Between You, Me, and the Joshua Tree

The idea behind this show is almost straight-forward, close to simple. The images selected for these collages are drawn from our local landscape here in the Mojave (and from ideas inspired by that landscape). So the art is a celebration of the natural world around us.

Between You, Me, and the Joshua Tree

Mojave Inspired Collages

by Eric Martin

Showing at Sagebrush Cafe in Quartz Hill starting February, 2017

But it’s also a recognition of the sublime that exists within that natural world, the silent substrata of the Numinous that infuses all things. It’s a way of taking a long pause to look again at the sights we learn to take for granted (and so stop seeing) and to find something sacred waiting there in the space of that intentional breath.

 

June Milham says that we may be losing sight of the sacred in today’s world. We may be too immersed in the details of our material lives, in our posts and tweets and updates, to take that necessary, intentional breath and let ourselves be surprised again at what silently waits for us in the desert, the ripeness of the natural world, each moment’s gravidity, pulsing with something that we recognize but cannot name.

And this is, technically, an image of the sublime – that which exists beyond the reach of our apprehension. It’s something built into our surroundings, just around the corner of what we can put into words.

These collages are little meditations on that idea, trying to be that breath, for a moment, where we see again the things that we have learned not to see. Making a brief celebration of our desert landscape.

Desert BeingnessThere are maps used here that sometimes play the part of the sky, a two-dimensional ground tilted up to imply something equally expansive but far more porous.

There is some idea here also that this palimpsest of texts – images, book pages, maps – might mimic the way we are forced to look at the world through all the words in our heads. There is something that comes between us and the Joshua tree we may happen to be staring at.

And we want to step past that mediating field of words and abstractions to approach the sublime, which is, in its way, both the ultimate abstraction and the ultimate reality. We want to take that Joshua tree and remove it from its background and see it for what it is.

Between You, Me, and the Joshua TreeBetween You, Me & the Joshua Tree

Mojave Inspired Collages

by Eric Martin

Showing at Sagebrush Cafe 

42014 50th Street West

Quartz Hill, Ca 93536

http://www.sagebrush-cafe.com

 

About the Artist: Eric Martin is one of the owners of Sagebrush Café. He started participating in gallery shows with his collage art in 2010. Martin is also a writer and English instructor and the editor of this site. You can see some of his essays at Pop Matters, the Write Launch and Steinbeck Now.

Conjuring Marz

If you grow up in a family of artists, it’s not always easy to be an artist yourself. Instead of being “the creative one” and standing out, your creativity is given automatic comparison. Any artistic freedom and open-ended exploration of ideas can be dampened by a sense of a pressure to compete or to perform at a certain level. It can drive you away from art entirely.

Maggie Poster JPEG

With an artist for a mother and two artistically talented older sisters, Maggie SanFilippo was not always sure that she wanted to enter the fray. She followed her own path. But – and here’s the thing – that path seems to have always pointed back to art.

Doing costume design in the film industry and working for years as an entrepreneur in the area of vintage and hand-made furniture, SanFilippo never strayed far from art, even if she didn’t think of herself as an artist. She works in fields where design and aesthetics are central. Her furniture work in particular had her hustling to rescue and refurbish furniture, applying some imagination to give life back to thrift store finds and in that way bring new ideas to life.

She found herself naturally drawn to musicians and photographers. Maybe she tricked herself in a very quiet way into becoming an artist despite the fact that she wouldn’t have given herself that title. Or maybe she was just waiting for the right encouragement.

When her boyfriend and business partner, musician Ainsley Hubbard encouraged SanFilippo to take her occasional sketches and run with them, the moment seemed right and she did.

In Conjuring Marz, SanFilippo’s show at Sagebrush Café and her first solo show – you can see the process of “running with it” at work in a collection of pieces combining sketching and water color that become a sort of jazz-couture style: firm lines and inventive improvisations of color, gesture and attitude that bring to mind both Ella Fitzgerald and Coco Channel.

And there is a very deliberate harkening back to the past in Conjuring Marz. SanFilippo was inspired to create some pieces for the show while she was watching Feud, the television series about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, figures of glamour and great emotion – and a scrappy determination to insist on themselves and on their own success.

The style that is at work in Conjuring Marz calls on a certain understatement that hides in plain sight. Many of the pieces contrast vivid splashes of color with images of composure and self-possession. There is something in the drawn figures that the color points to, but the faces aren’t giving anything away.

So the joy that seems to shout itself from the bright and quite direct works in the show becomes at least a little bit complicated. There is something else here too.

Many of the figures in the drawings are wearing sunglasses, holding something back, maintaining a cool secret. That, in a way, is what elegance is – flair that is at the same time somehow restraint.

In Conjuring Marz, SanFilippo gives us a set of pieces that seem like the result of a meditation on this dance between the said and the unsaid. There is a sense that the stage sees what the actress wants to show but those inevitable off-stage incidents, those episodes in the wings are what stand behind the knowing smile when the actress takes her bow.

Conjuring Marz

Showing @ Sagebrush Cafe

42104 50th Street West

Lancaster, CA 93536

 

 

Women and Nature: Collages by Ulrica Bell

Energy is a difficult element to pin down. But you know it when you see it. And you feel it right away when you see Ulrica Bell’s collage work.

The energy jumps right out at you.

Bold colors and innovative patterns highlight Bell’s collages, which are being showcased in a new show at Sagebrush Café in Quartz Hill this summer. “Women and Nature” is a collection of new work that promises a fusion not only of mixed media components but also of ideas.

Queen of the Wind

As an artist, Ulrica Bell seems to call on a variety of influences in her work as she knits together a body of ideas, sometimes taking chances, often asserting a palpable confidence, which may be borne from years of teaching. Bell went to college on the east coast, at Bryn Mawr, and built a career in the classroom.

Today, in person, she cuts a striking figure with a balance of deep sympathy and no-nonsense honesty. She clearly sees past the first layer of things – and people – and her artwork invites us to do the same.

If we are going to dance, then let’s dance. If we’re going to speak, then let’s say what must be said. Take the straight path, she seems to say, and we will be where we are going.

What form will this message take in “Women and Nature”?

As an aside: These observations are based on conversations, on encounters with Bell’s work in person and online, and on her social media persona. In sharing a few thoughts there is much left to tell – and to figure out. The art of Ulrica Bell is something to conjure with, to quote a phrase. Something to see for yourself.

Bell is an active and award-winning Antelope Valley artist. At MOAH’s Cedarfest, Bell won a prize for her mixed media work. But she also shows paintings and plans to bring original poetry into “Women and Nature.” These things point to a certain diversity of character that makes Bell difficult to summarize (if one were to try).

This little speech is not a summary. It’s more of an invitation.

“Women and Nature” will be showing from late June at Sagebrush Café.

Ulrica Bell Women and Nature 2

Paris: A Living Fantasy – a photography exhibit featuring the works of Hannah Wilson

Event: Paris: A Living Fantasy – a photography exhibit featuring the works of Hannah Wilson

Location: Sagebrush Cafe | Opening Reception: Saturday April 30

Hannah Wilson is showing photographic works at Sagebrush Cafe in Quartz Hill. Those of you with keen eyes and extended attention spans will remember that Wilson has been featured on the AV Arts Blog in the past under a different name – Darla Dear.

Sagebrush Paris Show Poster final

Back in 2012, we caught up with Wilson for a little interview and we thought we’d dust it off now to celebrate her new show of photos. In the intervening few years, Wilson took her camera and moved to France.

If you would like to meet-and-greet and pick the brain of this Parisian-American, Sagebrush Cafe will be hosting an opening reception for the new show on Saturday, April 30th at 5 p.m.

 

A Few Questions for Darla Dear

Hannah Wilson is an Antelope Valley native who has taken her camera, her sensibilities and her computer to Long Beach where she studies and produces a blog on fashion and fine art. Her blog and Etsy page go under the name Darla Dear and you can find a link to her page on our side-bar here at AV Arts Blog.

 I had a chance to interview Wilson about her new blog and her inspirations. 

Darla Dear Fine Art Photography & Design  |  Interview

 

iPhone case by Darla Dear on Society6

What films, if any, have inspired or informed your photography (your aesthetic)?

The french film Amelie is not only one of my favorite films, it has inspired my photography greatly.  Aside from being really entertaining and quirky, every single shot in the film is art.

What inspires me most directly is the use of color.  I’m pretty sure that every single frame in the entire film contains the same distinct shades of deep red, green, and golden yellow. Seriously, the next time you watch that movie, look for the colors!  I very rarely take photographs in black and white, I love color too much.

 

Are there any favorite…objects, places, people, types of people, landscapes, cities, times of day…to photograph?  

My favorite time of day to photograph is when the sun is beginning to set, when the light turns golden.  The warmth and the indirectness of the sunlight at this time of day make everything look more beautiful.  My preferred subjects are nature or inanimate objects.

I tend to shy away from portraiture, probably because photography is more of a personal creative outlet for me, and interacting with another person takes away that element.

Where does the name Darla Dear come from?

In a small way, I chose Darla Dear because I used to know an amazing woman named Darla who influenced my life in a positive way.  I also chose it because I thought it would make a very whimsical pseudonym for me, as the photographer.