Artist Lionel Popkin’s “Six Positions of Uncertainty” is about the attempt of finding how to live with one’s self in isolation. [Photo by Luis Chavez]

Where Compassion Intersects

By Nicole Borgenicht

Entering the exhibition building, a three-room gallery installation entitled Three Structures Touching opens an empathetic forum. This show is a collaboration of artist Maj Hassager from Denmark with Quinn Research Center founders Carolyn and Bill Edwards. It comprises structures symbolizing a freeway going through the neighborhood and displacing black residents. In addition, videos and photography on African American history shows challenges, work and goals in the Broadway district of Santa Monica.

The executive director of 18th Street Art Center Jan Williamson said, “Three Structures Touching is African Americans from the 1800s to present-day Santa Monica and traumas in the black community. While Recovery Justice is present-day trauma and how artists respond to it.”

Next, the Recovery Justice explores the unique ways artist create in lieu of the pandemic and incidents during this difficult period. A rather uplifting portrayal of people uniting is a piece called One Mask One Love One Heart, to heal globally, of all 18th Street artists. This is an outdoor mural 10 x 30 feet and a small piece indoors by Susie McKay Krieser and Yrneh Gabon featuring beautiful colors with an upbeat message. Another positive message is by Rebecca Yousseff, The Sowing Imperative, of beautiful paintings on grocery bags that pulls out images of birth and air from destruction.

In a different direction is a piece with subtle power: Out of Many, One, of a border wall, and hundreds of sneakers locked inside a net with handcuffs draped on the side by Yrneh Gabon, all about barriers. Run Johnny Run by Lola del Fresno depicts a video of a black man running and the horrendous recent shootings, alongside a large architecture drawing in red to indicate redlining discrimination in neighborhoods. Other expressions of sadness comprise Debra Disman’s Less installation made through tying, stitching, knotting and more into a hanging curtain of thick string-like elements. Then walk into and grasp a sense of loss – not feeling alone inside due to the multitude of symmetrical stringy lines.

Starkness derives from Melinda Smith Altshuler’s Ascension, Suspension – Cultural Blindness/Correcting Visioninstallation at center are suspended chairs tied together with thick electric cords. Along one side are small pictures of homeless tents and on the opposing wall hang large photos of portable restrooms. Altshuler shares that these are the things homeless live without, no electricity, seeking a toilet, no chairs, and other comforts we take for granted. “The suspended, bound chairs represent out of reach, out of service,” she said. Perhaps it is an idiom for the display, and way to focus in on the homeless crisis.

A universal moment struck with Lionel Popkin’s video art entitled Six Positions of Uncertainty showing nothing but a carpet and a man leaning over moving around in the attempt of finding how to live with oneself in isolation. We all have dealt with this in one way or another. There’s a humorous side of how the positions are simple leans in one direction or another, but clearly a discomfort making a very small space a central part of life. Popkin also did an installation of a room where hung notecards with a few words are above; it is called Room to Look Up? George Floyd 8:46 with sad written phrases above like, “I can’t breathe” clearly showing the tragedy we have witnessed and reviewing it in a set environment.

The overall impression from these art images is one of caring about everyone. In the mural by Lola de Fresno is The Innocents, all generations of people search for a new home, and Fresno describes it as ending the pandemic and defending the Asian community from prejudice. And yet another meaningful mural tying the themes all together is one that surprises visually of a large map with noted restricted areas and then a mattress in the middle. This is Mattress from Displacement Series, by Luciana Abait to represent problems in the world are ours as well. Abait’s other art is a construct of maps sinking to show new perspectives on climate change.

Moving in positive directions, Julia Michelle Dawson’s painting Women in Black portrays three women from different cultures walking together. There is also a bright painting in her studio of three yin yang symbols via colored fish whirling together as an artistic rendition of the standard emblem. There are many more art and studio gems along the walks, inside studios and throughout the space.

Marcus Kuiland-Nazario’s curated piece Sea Change Lab is an open trailer for ongoing entertainment in the field of art. A poet types on an old typewriter rhythmically as if a snare with humor improv exaggeration to a guitar, bass and the international, melodic, fun sound of a mandolin. Altogether creating a new art out of different arts, Kuiland-Nazario keeps the flow changing, as with the earth and sea we are all connected.

One fabulous aspect of the Recovery Justice: Being Well and Three Structures Touching shows is that many of the artists are from different ethnicities and countries uniting in compassionate creativity.

Recovery Justice: Being Well

Three Structures Touching

By Appointment through September 10, 2021: 3026 Airport Ave – Santa Monica Airport (across from Barker Hanger)