April 7, 2012 - Meltdown Comics (Los Angeles)
Well, I decided to go check out this exhibit opening night so I can tame my curiosity and also to see if what the curator, Julia Vickerman, delivered on what she said the show would deliver on…A “Tribute” to Kristen Stewart.
When I Googled “Definition of tribute”, I got this.
Now, when I think of tributes of certain people, I usually envision something along the lines of the 1st definition of the word, “tribute”.
I tend to think of seeing uplifting/inspiring images, pictures, sculptures, etc. of the person being given the tribute…more of an honoring of someone or something. I get that not everyone interprets “tribute” in the same way, and I also had to keep in mind that this is art and that anything is up for interpretation. Now, I’m no expert, nor do I know any distinctions as it relates to art. However, through my years, I’ve come to appreciate art and I know what I like and I know what I don’t particularly care for.
I usually like art that stirs something within me that has me experience what the artist may have been feeling when creating the piece or stirs something within me that has me feel moved, inspired. I also tend to gravitate towards art that might cause me to THINK or provoke something within that I hadn’t known was present for me. Of course I like art that looks pretty…and I’m still discovering myself as I relate to art. I learned something new about myself tonight.
I am also not a trained professional, so please keep in mind that what I express can only be communicated through what I experienced in the moment while I was there through my own filters, views and interpretations. This is not the truth.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS:
My friend and I managed to snag a parking spot at the back of the comic book store after circling the neighborhood a few times looking for a spot. (Welcome to LA, where that’s a pretty normal occurrence.) As I put the car in park, killed the engine and unfastened my seat belt, the first thing I noticed was a paper mache pinata of something that looked like Kristen Stewart hanging right in the door-way. This pinata was wearing a Minor Threat t-shirt, dark skinny “jeans”, chucks, and her right hand in her hair.
I immediately had a few questions come up within me. 1. Why was it ‘hanging’? It seemed similar to someone hanging with a noose…at least that was the interpretation I made up through my initial experience of seeing that. 2. Why was it a pinata? I mean, don’t kids usually beat the shit out of those things to claim fun goodies when it’s broken up? Like candy and money? Was that symbolic in any way? I mean, what was the point of that? Were the artists saying Kristen Stewart is pinata material?
I don’t know, but those were the questions that came up for me instantaneously and it is where my thoughts took me.
Hm. So far, it hadn’t even been 1 minute and it didn’t seem like a “tribute” to me..what an interesting first impression.
"Okay, it’s art. Be open," I thought.
As we approached the back door, there was a sign that said we had to walk through the front of the store to get to the exhibit. We walked around and the store itself was pretty fun to go through if you’re into comics, colorful animation, superheroes, Pokemon, fun Japanese things, Manga and all sorts of cool things. I’m not gonna lie, I got distracted along the way as we were heading to the back of the shop, where the energy seemed interesting.
When my friend and I finally got to where we were going, we had to get stamped with some weird fading paw-print looking stamp before we walked in. The stamp looked like my dog had beat me up a few days ago and the bruise was starting to go away.
As my friend and I were about to walk into the exhibit, I overheard some woman ask some guy who seemed to be knowledgeable about the exhibit if Kristen Stewart knew about the art show. He then said something to the effect that he didn’t think so because one of her publicists/an agent (whoever) was at the exhibit earlier tonight and didn’t even hear about the show until now (it was around 8pm when I got there..the show started at 7pm). Somehow, I don’t entirely believe that.
First of all, don’t quote me, as this is something I had heard in passing. I have zero interest in quoting anyone verbatim as I was not involved in the conversation. Second of all, I don’t know if any of that is true. Honestly, Kristen’s people could have been there and I wouldn’t have been able to point any of them out. Third of all, IF Kristen Stewart didn’t know about the exhibit, she probably knows now. It would be naive of me to think that she didn’t know somehow or that she didn’t have some friends there checking it out themselves.
Anyway, we walk inside and there are numerous pieces of artwork on the wall with none other than Kristen Stewart as the main focus, of course. There was a photo opportunity in the center of the room for people to take pictures of themselves in the wood cutout. At least I think it was made out of wood. Anyway, the person’s head would be attached to a horse’s body, on which Kristen Stewart was riding and something on the side that said something to the effect of ‘Let’s be friends!’. Lots of people seemed excited to stick their heads in that little hole to be the horse Kristen was riding. I didn’t know quite what to think of that. I think I was mostly perplexed and confused.
It was quite crowded with quite a few “Hipsters” (no offense, but that is what that article called the artists and my general experience of the audience tonight were mostly people with hipster-ish qualities, which, wasn’t as surprising as it was interesting.) Most of them were absorbed with what was happening around them and each other… a few people were looking at the art work and commenting quietly to one another, and I think I just mostly walked around with a scrunched up face trying to figure out what the fuck I was looking at. Generally, people seemed pleasant though my only interaction with anyone there was my friend and the couple of guys behind the merch table.
"The Runaways" soundtrack played in the background as I walked around the gallery observing, people watching and looking at the artwork. There was a group of people to the left of the entrance chit-chatting about whatever as they stood in line to get spirits and possibly order the "Kristen Stewart inspired drink" called "The Lip Biter". Don’t ask me what was in the drink because I didn’t get one and I didn’t want to wait in line to overpay for a drink I didn’t particularly want to consume, no matter how much alcohol may have been in it. Maybe I should have done that, but I wanted to have a clean perspective on the exhibit.
As I looked at the artwork and different creative expressions of artists on the walls, I honestly didn’t know what I thought about any of it. As I write this, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. A lot of thoughts passed through my head with each piece and the thoughts that passed through my mind would typically be one of the following, depending on what I was looking at.
"Oh. Wow. That’s….interesting."
"Yeah, I’m not so sure about that."
"What was the artist thinking here? And what was he/she trying to express?"
"Uh…that’s…a little much."
"Oh my god."
I admit, there were a few things I laughed at, mostly because I thought they were either clever or ridiculous and maybe out of wanting to experience something other than the continuous experience of feeling appalled most of the time. Other times, I scratched my head not quite understanding the point of certain pieces, but I guess as long the artist gets it…?
And rarely did this thought pass through, though it did a couple of times.
"Oh ok, that’s actually nice."
There were some shirts being sold with a silhouette of Kristen’s eyes, nose, mouth…those, in my opinion were tastefully done and from what I was told, the items that seemed to sell the most.
There was a TV in the corner that seemed to have some sort of interactive capability to it though I don’t know exactly what..there were a few pieces that I could appreciate and some of those things were derived from movies she’s done, like “Panic Room”, “Adventureland”, “New Moon”, “The Runaways”. Of course there are other pieces of artwork being displayed and I wasn’t there long to get a full experience of ALL of the artwork in the entire gallery. I think I wanted to stay long enough to get an impression and then leave as fast as I could. I don’t usually feel like that when I’m going to an opening.
There was one piece that I liked that was replica of Jesse’s bummer tape he gave to Em in “Adventureland” with the tape from the cassette structured in cursive saying “I think I’m falling in love with her”. I don’t remember who the artist was who created that.
A lot of the pieces/prints ranged from $20 to a $2000+ depending on what it was. I don’t know if anyone bought any of the pieces, at least while we were exploring. I didn’t feel compelled to spend any money on any of it and when I go to galleries, I usually want to buy something, even if it’s something small.
For the brief time that I was there, from what I could gather, it seemed like some artists tried to express what they think Kristen may be going through with regards to her fame or status. Some of it was depicted in what I would interpret as pleasing or respectful and other times it was depicted in what I would interpret as sarcastic and over-the-top, borderline disrespectful. A lot of the artwork had titles that didn’t make sense to me and to me, the pieces felt so abstract, I had a hard time connecting to any of it.
Also, there were things that I saw with my two eyes that I had a hard time reconciling with the word “TRIBUTE” as it is defined in the dictionary or even how I have it.
TO THE CURATOR, JULIA VICKERMAN:
If I could give Julia feedback, what she seemed to have wanted to land as an experience for those who see this exhibit, did not, for me, come off as a “tribute”. Maybe she should define what she means by that word so everyone would have an idea of what she was trying to convey. Overall, my general experience of this art exhibit seemed anything but “tribute-worthy”. It seemed much more of a make-shift room filled with artwork, paintings, prints and t-shirts showing an artist’s and a group of artists’ “obsession” over a sadly objectified celebrity, while subtly mocking her “quirks”, her fans and how Kristen may deal with her fame.
As someone who appreciates Kristen’s professional career, and as an advocate for her respect and peace, this exhibit in my opinion, did not entirely pay homage to that or to Kristen as a person. I will not describe art as good or bad as that’s difficult, given that art is art, and is always up for interpretation for the person experiencing it. However, I will describe art as done in a tasteful or distasteful manner.
I won’t describe this exhibit as tastefully done. In my experience, it was not, for the most part. There may have been a few moments where I felt that the artists highlighted and depicted aspects of Kristen that may have accentuated her talent as an actor or who she is as a person, but that was rare and not present in every piece.
I will say, it’s tough to not appreciate the kind of impact Kristen makes, given the amount of time, energy, resources that it took to even put this thing on…so, in that regard, it’s something to notice.
If you go, I can’t say that most of you will probably like what you see there, unless you are open to artistic views and can manage to not take things personally or as an attack on your favorite role model. Some of you might see it completely differently. I don’t know. You may have a similar experience as I did and you may not.
Whatever the artists’ intention was with this art exhibit marketed to be a “Tribute to Kristen Stewart”, came off poorly delivered. I’m compelled to wonder, if someone is going to have an authentic tribute for someone, wouldn’t somebody have contacted Kristen’s people? Perhaps even had private viewing for Kristen herself, her family, friends before the opening? Maybe even invited her to the Grand Opening? Like I said, I’m no art expert and I don’t know what protocol is or what is customary, however, I do have friends who are artists and I’m pretty sure they would have delivered something like this differently. Needless to say, the artwork displayed at the exhibit was something that I didn’t particularly care for.
If you happen to check it out, feel free to comment/message me. I’d love to add your experience on this post.
PLEASE DO NOT TAKE MY EXPERIENCE AS COMMUNICATED HERE AS FACT. They are thoughts and opinions based on my experiences.