“Nobody is dressed up! that’s so LA,” my friend Ruth texted while I was parking my car at 1:59 pm at the Marciano Art Foundations parking lot. I was in a hurry as our reservation was at 2. As I had to book this three months ago to get in I didn’t want to miss it. My delay had been caused by an outfit I could not make work; it was so unexpected that it threw me off. Unsuccessful for the first time on my styling journey I stubbornly tried various options until I finally gave up and jumped into my 40’s style suspender pants. This only took two tops and two necklace try outs… done. I patted the grumpy dog, who hates to be alone at home and rushed out of my apartment, which looked like a tornado went through my wardrobe…
Nobody is dressed up? She was right, I rolled my eyes just slightly at the baggy jeans and tees, yoga pants and other fashion foes, walking through the unadorned visitors waiting for the important doors to amazing design to open. Focus on happy; the next ticket availability was only in February and we were part of the chosen crowd today, arty or not.
My chic femme friend sat texting on a concrete bench. “I love your jacket,” I said. It was a ladylike Chanel type design but with rocky studs and combined with black pencil pants it elegantly touched her with a fierce ReBelle vibe. “You look fantastic,” she answered with a smirk of disbelief and adoration after having been bombarded with my texts of my oh so gruesome styling disaster with this other thing….
“Let’s go in before we miss it…”
The guard girl at the door gave us a run down of what not to do. Between us we probably visited a thousand art galleries, museums and other high profile places worldwide in many decades of our adventurous lives. Do we look like teenie boppers to you?
The banal rules spoken from a high horse of millennial superiority was - and we tried to be nice and forgiving grown ups here - strange. “It’s okay, we know the drill,” we said smiling.
“I am just doing my job,” she answered defensively. There must have been something in our tone that didn’t sound too pleased.
But good to hear that photos were encouraged, just no flash. Cool.
We went into the design-void, low budget university type cafeteria. My friend ordered a fruit filled crumble cake which crumbled into pieces before landing on the plate, twice. We accepted attempt number two. “Maybe that’s why its called crumble cake?” tried the pale cookie attendant.
We sat down on a bench and tried the oatmeal covered pieces. The oatmeal was a bit dry…
“You have to come with me!” snarled a voice. I looked up at a physically mighty man in a security guard uniform.
“What? What did I do?”
A strange CIA vibe splattered all over me when he continued that I had parked my car in a wrong place. I trotted behind him like in into an interrogation room. I thought of hand cuffs. Did he just say “move”?
They gave my Mini a parking place in the furthest corner “by the wall.” Images of the Berlin wall or the infamous attempt to wall the Mexican border came up when I was passing a hundred empty parking places closer to the entrance. Walls are controversial. I was pushed against the wall. You’re such a drama queen, my inner voice said with a giggle. This is not a punishment just a coincidence.
Inside the Marciano art foundation, a huge concrete bunker with elevator doors showing emblems of the former Masonic temple, we experienced a brief moment of Awe looking at AI Wei Wei’s displays of dissident sarcasm, at least that’s how we interpreted a million pistachio shells covering something like 20 square yards, a big space for sure. The rough gray walls stretched up to cathedral heights, fascinating in their nearly threatening massiveness. I would have easily believed that this had been a prison before, surely not a temple.
“Don’t come closer.”
A guard stepped in our way.
“Don’t you see, there’s a line.”
There was a line under my foot. Was it part of the installation? Were these real nuts? They were pretty big for real nuts.
“You’re not supposed to step on it.” On the line OR the pistachios!! Aha. A protecting-the-art line. Another guard came over to assist the first explaining to us punks that we are looking at art here. Not real pistachios but hand made porcelain pieces, which did not even matter, what mattered was that nothing was to be stepped on here. Or touched or breathed at. Not the line, not the fake nuts. Ai Wei Wei lives far away in Berlin I had read, what would he say to this?
Okay. We keep our distance.
The next floor covering installation looked like big pasta pieces turned to stone, but my $1,200 glasses had let me down; these were a million chopped off tea pot spouts. What happened to the million of ruined teapots? I thought. “What a waste,” I said to Ruth.
The mythological bamboo and paper kite creatures illustrating epic tales and popular legends dating back to Chinese antiquity at the end of the hall were truly fantastic; I’d hang that snake into my future castle probably in France any time. The flexible bamboo structures and their skin of light weight silk had a dance like feel to them, juxtaposing the heaviness of this art bunker.
To go down the stairs to read about the pieces we had to get in line. 20-30 minutes wait. We just looked at each other. No. Thanks. We were rather content behind the railing looking up and down at the art and at the visitors standing on the lower level motionless like cursed salt statues staring at walls with words. Walls again.
It slowly dawned on us; perhaps we were not used to this, perhaps we had never before experienced so many Millennials playing art guards with stern faces. Did you see the movie Equilibrium?
Talking about foreshadowing of dystopia; we were in the the elevator with Zoe Saldana, one of my favorite SciFi heroines. “The next exhibition is on the third floor," said her husband, artist Marco Perego with his sexy Italian accent and pushed number 3 of the elevator panel. We decided to be curious enough to also test level 2. I pushed number 2.
The floor looked rather empty, so I asked the guard girl if there was something to look at here. She pointed to the end of the hall, “If you want to adore the staircase.” Wait, did that even make sense? Was she sarcastic? Bitter? Out of her mind after standing guard for hours wishing to be home with her cat instead of pointing stupid visitors to the entrance of the installation? What was it with everybody’s snappiness?
The exhibition here was small compared to level 1 but touched by magic, I even felt sorcery around the round candle plastered table en-wrapped by gorgeous music. To find its source we entered the next room, where it snowed white paper confetti. A beautiful cartoon girl projected on the wall played a black baby grand. This was a perfect picture opp and pictures were encouraged, how wonderful. I love the informal act of sitting in front of art pieces, humbly on the floor. So I did.
“You are not allowed to sit on the confetti.”
“The confetti everybody steps on?”
Ruth nearly dropped my phone therewith creating this wonderful art piece.
I laughed. I got up.
I’ll take a picture standing. We are flexible.
“You are not allowed to put your handbag on the floor.”
I was already in my place and so the picture was taken while the handbag was waiting on the confetti thousands of people had stepped on with shoes that had just come from streets where LA people often spit on the ground for reasons I’ll never get. Add dogs, buds, trash and other street ick and billions of bacteria and viruses populating the ground make you sick just thinking of them. But my handbag was not allowed? Don’t argue, said a mothering voice within. My bag back over my shoulder I asked Ruth if she had had one of those wet Kleenex.
We left the room and its melancholy of longing sounds with smiling sighs.
“I am just doing my job,” said the guard girl at the door.
We continued to be reprimanded before we even did anything out of the unusual norms of this place. They saw us coming like a red alert and, just as a precaution, stepped in our way.
My friend, a well behaved elegant woman with a lot of grown up patience started to make sarcastic remarks, after she had been told not to touch the railing of the balcony we were breathing semi fresh air on. I had just pointed to my car below us squeezed into the utmost corner and parked in by now.... My friend responded to the guard that she did not see her point, that she had stood on countless balconies before.
The guard whispered on the side, “we had visitors complain before…”
And then there was the fashionista’s play ground.
Level 3 evoked my respectfully exited Wow! when the amazing colorful mirror wall presented itself, a playground for Goddesses and fashion geeks. I love mirrors and these were even colored and framed like windows to look out at your self. I often feel that art becomes truly artful through our interactions. The intention of many artists are to evoke feelings, thoughts, to disrupt or enlighten, to provoke reactions and even action. When you come out of any show, art, movies, theater and want to change your life that’s mission accomplished to me.
Our interactive pictures with the installation became art in my eyes.
We were nearly through but there was another one, the psychedelic goal of an archer perhaps. “This gives me vertigo,” said Ruth and wanted to turn away when something in me asked me to dive into the dizzy making imagery; my inner little devil, the rebellious agent provocateur knew what she wanted.
So we took my picture in front of the dizzying piece. That’s what we thought anyway.
It tuned out to be a little video where a male voice says,
“Your hair touched the art work.”
I looked behind me, I was a step away, how could it have touched?
“No, it didn’t,” I answered.
The entitled young man’s voice vibrated with disdain, how was it possible that I did not obey? That I continued with my video and - talked back?
He insisted. Yes, it did. I insisted back. No, it’s physically impossible.
My friend and I walked away. We have to go now…
He followed us shouting how rude we were. We were rude? We are the guests here.
“You are rude,” I countered.
My hands trembled. Where was the darn exit??? His anger felt like entrapment.
“I have to work here for minimum wage,” he whined aggressively. Was this our fault? What did he see in us? Rich, entitled chicks who usually hang at Saks? I rather dwell in the 5th dimension…
“Rude, rude, rude…” it echoed behind me.
I hate being “sentenced” for something I didn’t do, to be called guilty without proof, to have to defend myself against judgments that seem irrevocable.
So I flicked him off.
He came running up to me, out of his mind and came so close that my heart stopped for a second. The little man in his big shoes frightened me. Where was the freaking exit?
We were relieved when we, the trouble makers, were ushered out. He was still shouting. One of the other guards who were “not supposed to give out names” whispered “His name is ….” Nice to see somebody on our side. I have the name, the power to complain about the angry boy. Should I?
I have never been this glad to leave an art exhibition or it was unfortunately bad art.
I could have just laughed it off right at the beginning. The piece was like a hallucination, I could have just let him have his. I am a confident midlife-wise woman. But my adult self had made room for my inner child and she wanted revenge for the helplessness she had felt being falsely accused many times not to talk about ancient memories of witch hunts.
We both threw teenage tantrums triggering each other like in a therapist’s bible.
I had caused a scene by saying NO.
I acted silly, but do I regret it? NO.
What I learned is that my wounds exist. That my anger needs a creative outlet and my despair still needs bandages of love and forgiveness.
I had been tripped.
My New Year’s mantra was I am ready (even if I’m not)
I am ready to feel all of me, greatness and darkness. I was ready to be raw and real in front of my woman friend. Who did not judge me. Who did not abandon me. She stayed right there. And I know she dislikes tantrums. She felt that this wasn’t necessary but that it was “okay.”
A friend on IG posted as one of her New Year’s goals to “avoid drama.”
As long as we’re not Zen gurus, I responded, there always will be drama. It’s what we do with it that counts because when it happens, there always is a message; avoiding challenges and confrontations is au contraire to our path to self awareness.
After I posted the mirror images my friend Patrice said; they are “windows to our soul.” On the art floor surrounded by mirrors the boy was a message that women need the courage to say NO without fearing to be burnt at the stake and more, that we need to know we are supported by our empowered community.
Another woman friend commented that we looked rebellious.
My rebel suspender pants of the 40’s, Ruth’s “Chanel with an attitude” outfit and our heels exuded confidence. Our mannerism was that of queens not princesses. We walked and laughed and talked with the power of midlife goddesses. That’s an affront to male authority, an attack of rules set in stone outmoded or not. Women behave a certain way, they are modest, lady-like and quiet. They are always polite and heaven forbid “they give you the finger.” Especially not when you could be their grandma. Cause boys will be boys, they are naturally rambunctious. You have to be nice to the boy ‘cause girls are born nice and grandmas? They pat their grandson’s heads with an understanding chuckle after they just cut a girls braids off…
Looking back I think the guards were afraid of us. Looking at the pictures I see their eyes watching us afraid of the not so concealed weapon of woman power.
We were judged by our cover.
Outfits communicate. Outfits talk and sometimes they’re loud.
Outside I asked the parking attendant to move the other cars so that I could exit. I joked being in the furthest corner; “It surely wasn’t a punishment just a coincidence.” He looked me up and down and grinned.
“You are a bad girl.”
Next time when you wear fierce fashion with all your heart and wear your soul on your sleeves you may also want to carry a warrioress’ shield.