Tell Me Something Good: Conversation Series Starts at Galerie 102

TOT_3512-2913147591-WBy Demitri Corbin

Galerie 102 Conversation Series is Sunday, December 15 from 2 to 4 pm at 102 West. Matilija St., in downtown Ojai.  For more information visit galerie102.com or call 805-640-0151.

Just on the heels of it inaugural opening, Galerie 102 kicks off the first of its Conversation Series, public discussions with the gallery’s roster of artists, Sunday afternoon, December 15.  Owner and director Jolene Lloyd will moderate a discussion with artists Jon Rajkovich and Devin Oatway. Their work is on display in “We Are One, We Are Many,” Galerie 102’s current exhibition.  I caught up with the three panelists just after the Thanksgiving weekend.

I first met with Jolene at Galerie 102 late Monday morning.  We started off chatting about the origins of the gallery and what brought her to Ojai.

JL:  I’ve been here for 6 years.  I love the art and architecture, the beautiful surroundings and I wanted to surround myself with beauty…I had been driving 2 hours a day with my children and just got tired of the ugliness of Venice Blvd.  I wanted to see beauty, have a life filled with beauty.  I just had this epiphany and thought about it in a different way…

DC:  And how did the gallery come about?

JL:  This space became available – it’s a live/work space, it was built in 2006 it was built for live/work but the work part has not taken off- I’m truly the first business in the space.  It’s like the Heaven’s opened up and it all came together, like divine intervention led me and said, “do this.”

DC:  And how did you find your artists?

JL:  I did the studio artists tour for the first year and I became aware of artists in Ojai.  And I had a clear vision of the type of artists I wanted… contemporary, conceptual, thought provoking – all the artists fall within that category about art that really turns itself on end, tell you something every time you look at it.  Devin isn’t a formally trained artist like others on the roster who did go to art schools; he’s an outsider artist that thinks outside of the box, that pushes limits, goes beyond creative and will push and provoke the viewer to see art, shape, form in a different way.  For instance, Jon’s  work here …

Jolene point to sculpture next to me by artist Jon Rajkovich.

JL: (cont’.) that piece called Double Dutch – see the splash of color on the back.  That piece was dedicated to Jon’s studio partner who died of leukemia at age 31.  On Double Dutch he left the bond, he did not want o cover up the bonding … Jon is one of the really great artists from Milk & Honey that really intrigued me.

DC:  Milk & Honey?

JL:  Milk & Honey is a book of California contemporary artists, and Justin Van Hoy was the editor, graphic designer and he was a partner in THIS gallery in LA.  Justin died 3 days before the gallery was to open.  It’s like his spirit was guiding the gallery.

DC:  Let’s talk about the Conversation Series.

JL:  This will be the first in the series.  We’ll talk about what the process for each artists, what motivates them their background, beginning inspirations…

DC:  How does it feel to have had a successful opening?

JL:  Oh, I love it!  It’s great privilege, a joy and a life’s dream.  To be maintaining a gallery of emerging artists is more than I could ask… I feel blessed.

DC:  Tell me something good!

JL:  I am very inspired for the future of gallery arts in Ojai.  I plan to keep the gallery full curating new artists, every 6 week  a new show.  I’m scheduled through the Fall, presenting new artists to Ojai.

DC:  Thank you, Jolene, it was wonderful talking with you.

JL:  Thank you, Demitri.  I’ll see you on Sunday.

A few days later, I contacted Jon Rajkovich by phone in his Culver City home.

DC:  Hello!

JR:  Hello!  How are you?

DC:  I’m good.  Still recovering from the holiday.

JR:  Me too.  I’ve got my in-laws and parents still here.  I’ve just escaped to the back patio, my wife has the kids.

DC:  Where do you live in LA?

JR:  We’re in Culver City, a funny little area called PicFair Village.   We enjoy it.  My wife and I moved around.  We lived in Silver Lake in an area called Frog Town….

DC:  So, I did a little research and came across something I didn’t catch at the opening: choreography – tell me a little about that.

JR: (laughs)  Whoa, I haven’t been keeping track of those videos!  I’ve avoided them, you’re always afraid to look at what you’ve done!  Dance come from sculpture, it’s like an object in space.  I’ve notice how people walk around a sculpture, it affects how a body moves around it … it’s the same language sculpture and dance.  And it breaks up being alone.  Sometimes people help to balance that stereotypical isolation that comes with being an artist.  I stared working with dance in graduate school and started a dance company called Sinergismo – we just thought it was such a funny word – they’re still performing regularly…dance balances out isolation, you don’t have to store it, it happens quickly, the body becomes form itself, personifying sculpture.  Dance can be characters related to one another.

DC:  Jolene me that she found you in the book, “Milk & Honey: Contemporary Art in California.”  Tell me more about your relationship with your studio partner, Justin Van Hoy … was he your mentor?

JR:  I was in college while Justin was in undergrad, we met at parties but we weren’t close friends … but it’s funny, our paths kept crossing by chance so a serious relationship made since.  I moved into a studio in Lincoln Heights  and Justin had his office in the studio.  The “Milk & Honey” book was a crossover of graffiti artists, all part of the same circle and we complemented each other.  Justin was the curator, writer, graphic artists and it was fun seeing what to gain from one another.  He had the ability to organize and bring people together.  He wasn’t able to party, he certainly couldn’t party after his transplant.  We shared workspace, that’s how our relationship started.  I miss him.  It was a year ago.  There’s still kind of a void … his space is still left the same.

DC:  How did Jolene contact you?

JR:  Out of the blue!  She called and said, “Can I come by your studio?”  Usually you make an appointment but I said, “Sure, come Sunday.  Bring friends!”  So, she came, hung out and invited me to come up to Ojai.  My wife and I love going up, so it made sense.  It’s great to be in L.A. but being outside has its advantages.  It’s an intimate community.  It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves.  I think it’s off to a good start.

DC:  That’s good, Jon, thank you.

JR:  Thank you, Demitri.

DC:  See you on Sunday.

JR:  Yes, see you Sunday.

The very next day I stopped by to have another chat with painter Devin Oatway.

This chat would actually be our third, the first (http://theojai.net/galerie-102-opens-an-interview-with-featured-artist-devin-oatway/) being our conversation prior to the Galerie 102 opening, the second being one in which we were both distracted and, outside of discussing the new David Hockney exhibit at the de Young, yielded nothing new.  This time I surprised Devin with a question about the former occupation that put him in the spotlight.

DC:  Let’s start with acting.  Tell me about that.

DO:  Oh!  You know half of the people I worked with then are A-list stars, on tv series, winning Emmys, Oscar nominations – it’s always in my face.  I was a serious actor.  I mean, I did commercials and stuff but I studied the Method, sense memory … it can never not be a part of me – the business – not at all.  Not all actors are Hollywood people.  It will take several years for Google to drop that dumb movie I did when I was 17.  They’ve been showing it ever since on the Disney Channel.  I want to have a different way to build a different reputation as an artist and someday the acting will be a footnote.

DC:  And life as an artist?

DO:  Life is good.   I’m happy to sell – I sold a big one.  I’m ambitious.  I’d like to sell them all.  But I know I have to have patience.  I’m looking forward to the art markets Jolene’s entering me into – less local, more national…those prospects – the art market.

DC:  You sent me your link to Art Slant, tell me about that.

DO:  It’s a cool way of connecting and all the dots between galleries, shows, artists, there are lots of images to show.

DC:  How would you describe your process?

DO:  You know how in the movie they show Basquiat working all frenetic – I’m like that.  My work is more child-like, that’s what grabs me when I’m painting … it combines with my more mature side, like I guide the child feeling, like I’m collaborating with myself –

DC:  You’re your own collaborator?

DO:  It’s like I paint and then another artist coming along and doing something else to it.

DC:  Will you be able to articulate or navigate all the questions that will be coming at you during the Conversation?

DO:  Talking about art is a very delicate enterprise.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of articulating it and being with Jon, what questions we’ll answer.

DC:  How does it feel when you finish a piece?

DO:  It depends…when it’s good I feel really good, a sense of accomplishment … like finishing a sentence.  Then I put it away, organize, categorize paintings … it’s like Picasso said, it’s like a journal of my thoughts.  It’s satisfying to look at what’s going on, not in a psychological way but more of a Zen way of making something.  I don’t think about it.  It will be interesting to see what happens at the Conversation.  When I paint, it’s like I’m taking direction from something, some faculty of me.  Then I sit back and something will say, like I’m taking orders, not like I’m trying to say something, another faculty says, “Now you’re done.”  It’s very whimsical.

DC:  That’s great.  Thanks, Devin.

DO:  Thank you.

Galerie 102 Conversation Series is Sunday, December 15 from 2 to 4 pm at 102 West. Matilija St., in downtown Ojai.  For more information visit galerie102.com or call 805-640-0151.

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