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Artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter sat in his Talmadge studio surrounded by glass vials filled with scents. Behind him was a long piece of paper mounted on the wall filled with handwritten notes.
“This is somewhere in between a storyboard and music notation,” he said.
The scribble- and doodle-filled paper is essentially a map of memories. It’s the visual breakdown of four short memoirs by San Diego writers, and Goeltzenleuchter has singled out several moments in each of the stories that he hopes to bring to life through smells he’s laboriously mixed by hand. It often takes him weeks or even months to get a scent just right.
Goeltzenleuchter picked up a small vial of liquid, dabbed some on a blotter and held it under my nose. At first, the smell wasn’t recognizable, but as he told me more about the moment it’s meant to evoke, my brain slowly began realizing what it was: body odor. But not the gag-inducing kind; instead, he’d emulated the type of sweet sweat that seemingly contains weirdly pleasant pheromones that some folks admit to enjoying.
“It’s a story about a former lover who’d passed and [the writer] described his smell,” he said. “The way she described it, she talked about the parakeets and how even the parakeets liked his smells so much they would nibble on his armpit hairs.”
Goeltzenleuchter is one of 10 local artist to be awarded this year’s San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst grant, which give artists $20,000 to work on new projects. He teamed up with the literary nonprofit SD Writers, Ink and started work on “Olfactory Memoirs,” a collaboration with emerging and established writers that set out to reconstruct memories through smell.
The project will be previewed in a mostly private event happening this weekend (if you’re really itching to go, email SD Writers, Ink to see if there’s any room left). The “hybrid olfacto-literary performance” will feature readings by Krisa Bruemmer, Eva Friedlander, Anitra Carol Smith and Brian Thedell. Using a machine made by San Diego artist and engineer Dave Ghilarducci, Goeltzenleuchter will pump the scents he’s made in and out of the room at the right moments in each story.
He hopes the sequence of scents will help tell the story in a more powerful way.
During our interview, I got to whiff a handful of the smells he’s been working on over the last year. One scent in particular has been challenging him, he said, because the memory it’s meant to evoke is so detailed. He held a jar of liquid under my nose that smelled a lot like pot.
“When I get this right, it’s supposed to be weed that’s smoked in the 1970s on the boardwalk at Mission Beach,” Goeltzenleuchter said.
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
While wandering around Cabrillo National Monument in the dark with my eight-month-old baby in tow on a recent Saturday night, I couldn’t help but wonder how A Ship in the Woods, an experimental arts group, had managed to convince park officials that “Convergence,” the ambitious art exhibition they curated at the park, was 100 percent safe.
Some art installations were set up on cliffs overlooking the ocean, and as I held my kid tight while carefully navigating my way over cords leading to lighting and generators, I was slightly worried that someone with a cocktail in hand might not be able to safely traverse the challenging landscape.
The morning after the show, there was a series of Facebook posts worried about the whereabouts of one of the participating artists. When I saw the concerned messages, my mind immediately flashed back to those steep cliffs and snaking cords.
The missing artist turned up fine, though, and as far as I know there weren’t any serious problems the night of the show. Everyone I talked to who attended praised A Ship in the Woods and Cabrillo for piecing together a memorable night.
But it seems that park officials ultimately might have had some of the same sort of concerns I did. All of the installations, which were supposed to be on view through the end of November, were suddenly and surprisingly taken down. RJ Brooks, one of the founders of A Ship in the Woods, wrote this in a Facebook post:
“We regret to inform everyone that this ‘Convergence’ exhibition has concluded and all installations will no longer be on view. We apologize for anyone who had planned to see this exhibit before our posted November 29th closing. ‘Convergence’ was an experiment, and the nature of experiments means that you make changes and improve each time. We look forward to taking what we learned on this first attempt and coming back next year with an even better exhibition. We will be posting further documentation of the show shortly so watch out for updates….”
Calls to Cabrillo park officials were not returned in time, but Lianne Thompson Mueller, the curator who headed up the efforts for A Ship in the Woods, said it had been a positive learning experience.
The early closure , however, means pieces that took a considerable amount of effort and time to install were only up for a few days. Mueller had to quickly find someone with a dump truck to take down and move a large rock installation by Allan Sonfis (she’s still looking for a location to reinstall it) and Hugo Crosthwaite’s stunning “Sirens Song,” a series painted directly on columns leading to the visitor center, are now gone.
There had been talk about leaving Crosthwaite’s paintings up for even longer than the duration of the show, but I stopped by the visitor center Monday and the columns had been freshly repainted white.
I happened to be at Cabrillo not because I needed to see the missing installations for myself but because I’m interested in the monument’s relationship to the arts. The fact that “Convergence” was allowed to happen at all is fascinating, since national parkland is more commonly associated with red tape than provocative events.
The park has a unique artist-in-residence program, so on Monday morning I tagged along with one of its current artists, Jason Rogalski, as he led a group of students from San Diego Refugee Tutoring down to an old military bunker that was recently turned into an art studio.
I’ll be keeping tabs on Rogalski as he uses his residency to conceptualize and eventually construct a new permanent piece of art for the park. Let me know if you have any questions or comments about how Cabrillo National Monument connects with the arts.
A group of musicians from Barrio Logan has launched an effort to travel the world making music outside the confines of a recording studio. To get things going, the group, The Holyfield, has been making music in Chicano Park, in alleyways, tattoo shops and even in the middle of Logan Avenue.
Frank Luna, one of the group’s members, said making music outside in the neighborhood they grew up in helps inspire new songs. He also said it’s been a good way to get to know their neighbors.
“We met a whole new group of people who don’t know who we are or what we’ve done and we learned about what they do,” he said.
Luna said next month The Holyfield, which also includes members Real J Wallace, Winter Inter, Dayla and Blackstacie, will set off on a tour aboard Amtrak trains where they’ll write and perform music inspired by the countryside. Eventually, he said they want to make music all over the world and maybe even in outer space.
“This is our first step toward us producing a second album in outer space, maybe while orbiting the planet,” he said. “I know it sounds silly and kind of dumb when I say it out loud, but with private companies getting into space exploration I don’t think the idea is all that crazy.”
Luna’s got a track record of making things happen, so perhaps a trip to space isn’t that far off. He’s one of the founders of ThChrch (The Church), a building on Logan Avenue that housed a recording studio, record store, art gallery, performance space and retail shop for a few years before the brick-and-mortar location was closed and temporarily went online-only a few months ago. He calls ThChrch an incubator where a group of artists and musicians help other artists and musicians turn their crafts into viable careers. Luna counts Beat Box Records as one of its success stories: The record store was housed rent-free in ThChrch before it recently opened up its own location at 2148 Logan Ave.
“The Church, what we ultimately do, our tagline is, ‘Learn, master, apply,'” Luna said. “It’s about putting yourself in the middle. There’s someone you can always help and there’s someone you can always learn from.”
Luna said they’re looking to reopen ThChrch in Barrio Logan eventually, but part of the goal of making music outside in their community was gathering feedback in advance of the reopening.
“We were listening,” he said. “Trying to figure out, what does Barrio Logan want or need when it comes to art, music and business?”
• Speaking of Barrio Logan, the Union-Tribune’s James Chute talked to community members there who are keenly aware of the fact that the influx of artists in the neighborhood could mean gentrification isn’t far behind. Carlos Beltran, one of the founders of former Barrio Logan art gallery Voz Alta, told Chute that there’s something unique about Barrio Logan that could help keep the kind of development that destroys a neighborhood’s character at bay.
“It’s hard when money wins,” he said. “But Barrio Logan, there are a lot of activists here, and when the community needs to get together, they do. I just think everybody needs to work together.”
• Earlier this year, Pinback frontman Rob Crow announced he was quitting music. In an incredibly open Facebook post last week, he explained what was happening to him at that time and announced his newest music project, Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place. (Consequence of Sound)
• SDSU professor John M. Eger wrote about the same Graffiti Education & Mural Arts Program I wrote about last month. He notes that the new juvenile diversion program has finally been approved and classes will launch early next year. (Huffington Post)
• Thrillist thinks its found the seven biggest burgers in San Diego.
• CityBeat’s Seth Combs talked to a ceramic artist in Baja California who’s helping kids envision better futures for themselves.
• KPBS asked cast members of La Jolla Playhouse’s “Indecent” how they’d react if they had to worry about being arrested because of a controversial performance. That makes sense, since “Indecent” was pulled from Broadway and its cast was thrown in jail after its premiere in 1923.
• The Museum of Making Music opens an exhibition focused on sounds below 262 Hertz on the frequency spectrum. (Times of San Diego)
• This big-time Los Angeles art collector is not happy with the way Rep. Scott Peters voted on the Syrian refugee bill. (Los Angeles Times)
• Thanks to a new bill, next year California’s craft distilleries can start serving cocktails onsite and enjoy other privileges similar to those of breweries and wineries. Old Harbor Distilling Company can’t wait to serve cocktails, but first it needs to raise some capital. (Eater)
• The Old Globe is serious about engaging new audiences. (Broadwayworld)
• The County of San Diego produced a video that tells more of the story behind those colorful ceramic tire treads on the outside of a new parking garage downtown. I wrote about the new public art project by David Adey in a past Culture Report.
• In last week’s Culture Report, I told you about Matt D’arrigo and his organization’s creative placemaking efforts in National City. Check out these photos from last weekend’s event when a group of volunteers turned a parking lot into an artsy community meeting space.
• The relatively new nonprofit Rising Arts Leaders landed a sizable grant that’ll help it in assisting emerging arts leaders in the region. (press release)
• Barrio Logan’s Low Gallery will open “Lasters’ Medicine Wagon Sideshow” Friday evening. Gallery owner Meegan Nolan describes the opening of the new show of artworks by CM and Grace Kelly Laster as an experience that’ll be the “least corporate Black Friday of your life.”
• The third annual Barrio Art Jam featuring over 20 artists and six bands is happening Saturday night.
• Viz Art Ink in Carlsbad hosts a holiday event every year. It’s also a place to get artsy holiday cards if you feel so inclined.
• Glass artist James Stone is opening up his studio on Saturday afternoon.
• The San Diego Museum of Art stays open late Friday night.
• Intrepid Theatre Company is hosting a staged reading of “Called to be King” Tuesday night.
• Small Business Saturday is a thing that exists in order to get people to support small local businesses and stop shopping at the big-box stores on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
• The businesses on Adams Avenue have launched a new event. It’s called the Adams Avenue Spirits Stroll and it offers folks a chance to sample holiday cocktails at a dozen participating locations.
• John Waters Christmas Show is making a stop in North Park on Monday.
• Digital Gym Cinema in North Park is showing a crop of new indie films starting Friday.
• “That Obscure Object of Desire” is screening at the Central Library Monday night.
• El Cajon’s first-ever Holiday Lights on Main event is happening Saturday.
• South Park presents its artsy take on the whole tree-lighting ceremony thing by unveiling a custom tree made by an artist.