A retrospective at such a young age (53) is unusual but telling for this prolific artist, Gary Baseman. His show opened last night at the Skirball Cultural Center with a creative “House Party” – a theme carried throughout. Baseman is from a family of Holocaust survivors, and touchingly reproduced his family home inside the walls of the museum.
The show’s moniker, The Door is Always Open, is a direct sentiment of Gary’s father, and used in honor of him. Replete with his whimsical and sometimes macabre images in 2 and 3 dimensions, the rooms contain actual family furniture, and collections of memorabilia that was sometimes disturbing. The books of survivor stories were part of the display – stories his parents kept, but did not have the heart to read. Baseman himself led a group of media and guests through the dining room, bedroom, studio, hallway and more, accompanied by Skirball curators who help tell his story.
Gary’s voice sometimes trembled with emotion as he talked about his family and how they survived the terrifying times – one painting in particular touched me. The birch forest that is inhabited by his ancestors, nightmarish edgy cartoon creatures peeping in and out of the dark trees harkens to the story of his father’s escape into the forest where he sought refuge from the murderous invaders intent on extermination.
As we walked through the Baseman ‘house’ live characters played among the rooms, bringing to life the dream fantasy reality of Gary’s art. The use of social media was prolific, as snapshots were tweeted, blog posts formulated, and video clips hit the internet. The Skirball social media savvy was in evidence with a special hashtag set up to give communicators a great way to tap into the stream of consciousness that was all Baseman, All the time – #basemanshome. The site filled up with images from the Open House with Nightmare & the Cats on stage with Gary painting, along with the creatively inventive ways the Skirball staff made the work accessible and interactive – with mask making, mural painting using cutouts of Baseman’s iconic images, games to win t-shirts, buttons and stickers. It was a Mardi Gras of friends and patrons, like the set of a Fellini film, ala Los Angeles.
It was the first day of my volunteering at the Skirball Cultural Center, where I feel a kinship to their mission to bring the community together to foster and nourish LA culture for Angelenos of every hue and background. More than being part of the art market, exhibitions of art, support of the arts – the Skirball is about the FUNCTION of art in building society. I’m starting out under the generous wing of Marilyn Delanoeye, VP of Hospitality and Private Events. I’ll be using my business acumen and strategic planning skill set to assist with a new technology system, Ungerboeck, brought in to help capture the elaborate planning needed to support the prestigious organization that attracts so many special events to celebrate life’s passages. Especially with the new, spectacular Guerin Pavilion scheduled to open this fall. I’ll be doing a case study for my UCLA Social Media Marketing Class (http://www.smmucla.blogspot.com), with Huffington Post scribe Beverly Macy, on how to use Social Media as the perfect way to bring the opening of the Gurerin Pavilion to the forefront of the Los Angeles crowd, and beyond, as international organizations are drawn to our vivacious city.
What a way to start off at this incredible place of Spirit Manifested – with The Door is Always Open. I intend for this to be the beginning of a flourishing, powerful passage for me, aligned with an organization with heart and soul, as I reinvent myself as a communicator in the world of art, spirit and creativity. Thanks, Skirball, for putting out the welcome mat.