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8:37 AM - Weds 5.12.21

On Art, Death, And "The Big Lie" of 99-Cents Only Stores

Went to LACMA with Jane yesterday.

We got there early, so popped into the nearby 99-Cents Only store - I'd been telling Jane for a while that I wanted to take her to one because I really liked them (As opposed to the faux "99-cent stores" in my neighborhood).

(My nostalgia towards/affection for 99-Cents Only stores started when I visited Chris Showerman here in LA before eventually moving here myself. We went to one while I was visiting - I remember, in particular, how he bought a ton of microwave burritos that were, like, two or three for 99-cents - and I was really taken with the place, perhaps associating it with the hopeful possibility of moving out to LA and not least not when I could get two or three microwave burritos for a buck.)

I haven't actually been to a 99-Cents Only store in some time - there isn't one in my immediate neighborhood (And with the Pandemic, the loss of my WW job, and the move to self-taped auditions, I'm rarely in the vicinity of one) - but even the last times I'd gone, I'd noticed the encroachment of some higher-priced items, putting the lie to the "99-Cents Only" name.

But when we went in, I was shocked to see at least half the items in the store, if not more, were over 99 cents.

And while Jane had been impressed with the size of the place - The store on Wilshire is the size of a city block - she was understandably underwhelmed by a "99-Cents Only" store that should really change its name to "The 99-Cents Only - Except For All The Shit That Isn't-Store".


We went back to the museum, and after waiting in line for a bit, were let in.

The exhibit that made the biggest impression on us is the first one we saw - Yoshitomo Nara.

Initially, neither of us was overly impressed - The first things we saw were paintings of a character that, to me, wouldn't have looked out-of-place on a child's birthday card or an old "Hot Stuff" comic book from the 1960s (a simply drawn, impish child that looked a second away from making some mischief).

But as we made our way through the exhibit - and it was substantial - it grew on both of us, both in terms of the sentiments expressed, the emotion that was put across, the mixed media involved, and how some things were meticulously drawn/painted, while others were so crudely rendered they might lead you to think, "My child could have done that...!".

That last bit was particularly interesting to me because I draw, and my "thing" has always been to want to draw well (Which basically means, "I want to draw a thing and have it look like the thing").

It's an ongoing discussion I've had with Jane - She's very much into the "imperfection" of an artwork (Like my drawings, for example). I don't want to put words in her mouth, but I'd almost say she thinks imperfection "is where the 'Art' is".

She's prone to saying, "You draw or paint a thing perfectly, and...then what? I can take a picture of that".

And she's not wrong.

But it doesn't stop me from wanting to draw well, to draw accurately, to capture the thing I've set my pencil-and-paper on - Even if you can just take a picture of a person looking at you, I still really like when I draw a person, finish, and can see them looking out at me/the viewer, reading the expression on their face and imagining "what they must be thinking" as you look in their eyes. I like that I can (sometimes) do that with a simple #2 pencil and a sheet of typing paper.

I am starting to see, however, that being able to do that might not be "art" so much as it's just "good draftsmanship".

And I can see how the "imperfections" of the artist might cause you, as a viewer, to consider both subject and artist when you look at the work, to consider that this is not an objective view of the thing, but how the artist "sees" it.

Then "imperfection" isn't "imperfection" so much as point-of-view.

(Of course, there's all kinds of visual art that isn't representational and has nothing to do with drawing. But if you've read this far, I imagine you "get" that.)

But all that said, I still want to become a really good "draftsman". I want to be able to draw whatever-it-is as accurately as possible, because I think it's cool to have that level of skill.

But drawing well maybe is not an end in itself, as much as it is part of an artistic "process", like learning music theory so you can "follow the rules" or "break them" at will. So you have "control over your effects" and develop a "style" that stems from your strengths rather than your deficiencies.

Anyway, Nara had the biggest effect on us, though we enjoyed our time at the museum in general (We really liked some gauzy fabric houses - though we both agreed that, as an art installation, it could use some human inhabitants - and I enjoyed "Metropolitan II" by Chris Burden, as I always do when I visit LACMA).

Well, I should say we enjoyed our time at the museum "in general"...until Jane got a call telling her that a friend back in Santa Fe had died.

I don't want to get too much into that, because that's not my story to tell, but it was a sad and sobering reminder of mortality (A subject the two of us talk about a great deal).

We sat together for a time, as she absorbed the news, then had lunch (Very tasty and healthy and crazy expensive).

After lunch, we looked around a little more, then, inspired by what we'd seen, headed to Blick Art Supply to buy a few things (I don't remember what Jane bought, but I got a couple of sketchbooks, a new can of fixative, and a couple of erasers recommended by an employee I designated "Art Girl" who I found very charming).

Aside from the intrusion of unpleasant and shocking reality (Her friend who died was only in her 50s), it felt like a day well-spent.

And on that note, I find myself wanting to write more, but I think I'll save the subject matter I have in mind for another entry (Or perhaps a podcast).

Till next time...



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