Posts Tagged ‘Ventura art scene’

Beyond Local: A Film Maker’s Request

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Mission San Buena Ventura

I reside in the quirky town of Ventura California, which is located approx 50 minutes drive up coast from Los Angeles, and approx 30 minutes drive down coast, from Santa Barbara. If you do not know much about the place, you may not pull off the freeway. Why would you? (There are a lot of reasons to do so, actually)

One of my friends and colleagues, a young Brooks Institute of Photography graduate (read that: saddled with a large student loan) has been spending her time shooting and filming the music scene around California, and more particularly in our funny little town.

The reason I call Ventura quirky, is because it never really seems to find it’s way.

Saddled with a City Council, which has given rise to all manner of community embarrassment the past ten years, via large numbers of City generated actions, it has a history of perpetually seeking to validate itself through embrace of the various Arts. There are a few regular, valiant, “rogue dissenters” in City Hall, to be sure, but they are generally silenced by the majority via the power of an odd City Charter, which enables a few to rule and determine the fate of many. (The mayor is not elected as such. The council members choose the ring leader)

Recently, a predictable re occurrence was seen in the City’s attempt to brand itself as a “Music City”,  after the fine Artists took the former monicker: “Art City” out of the gutter, where City Hall had tossed it, and made Art marketing their own once again, after the City canned it’s fiscal involvement, officially.

The rebirth has been a largely privatized, independent success,  led by Bell Arts, run by Josh Addison via new Board Chair, Jim Rice, Green Art People, and Stoneworks Gallery, led by sculptor Michele Chapin, and the vast number of incredibly talented Artists who all generously contribute in whatever manner they deem fit and possible.

But back to that former Brooks Student and her film project, “Beyond Local”. Her name is Angela Izzo. When one meets “Angie” she seems a bit ditzy and unfocused. Not much different though, than many brilliant creatives I have worked with in Entertainment Industry based projects over the years. She came to me awhile ago after she developed a concept and trailer for the film, and asked me to help her get it funded.

I did not. This is why.

I wanted to see if the new Music City would get what her Film project was about. It seems to have been treated with a vote of no confidence, as after a fund raiser for her at the Museum of Ventura County, she managed to raise 50 dollars when someone handed the donation to her.

Consider how that would feel, if you were in Angela’s position.

Spend a fortune on education here locally (Brooks Institute) for an Industry career. Discover an amazing depth of musical talent in your Community, which stretches itself to reach towards the International Stage. Realize that your training and schooling enables you to tell a story that could empower those Musicians, further brand your town, and validate the modus of Brooks Institute.   Ask for help to fund the film for a paltry sum of 8k which would make it happen. And someone hands you Fifty Bucks. A great gift, 50 bucks. But only one person, at a Museum event? Really?

There it is. The new Music City.

Money talks. The room really is sort of quiet, regarding Angela’s project. So this blog is my typically unedited view of my town and an effort to put a light on both the film and the path we as a Community may want to consider. If what I am saying makes you uncomfortable, I am sorry for that. Real Artists are funny. They typically like to see their fellows succeed, as it bodes well for the tribe.

Here is the Kickstarter page for Beyond Local.

Only a short time remains on the Crowd fund site, to meet the project goal. We should do this. For a large number of reasons. But really, I am supporting Angela because I see a lot of validity in her concept, and the story she wants to tell.  No Artist I know likes to ask for money. For whatever reason we tend to feel embarrassed by the act. (I too am no exception) I think the reason for this is because as artists we frequently do not comprehend the true worth and value of our life pursuit and passion. We need to.

As a Community, the Musicians could make this happen. So could the City. It is going to be interesting to see who really sees what this project means and gets behind it. Though I know Angela can complete this film for 8k, a 40k budget would be far more appropriate. Then Angela and her small crew would be paid to document what without a doubt, has got to be one of the deepest music talent pools that I have ever seen in a small(ish) town, and expose them on a more global stage through the Art of Cinema.

The bands and stories are the important thing. This film is the tale of people who deserve more support and recognition than we could ever give them by ourselves in the purchase of a song or album on itunes. It is the opportunity to provide a vote of confidence in our Artists. Whether this film funds or not, Ventura really owes the Arts a lot of loyalty, because in them, is health and security for the future of the town. And yes, Rock and Roll is a valid part of the Arts. It is the texture of a substantial portion of US popular culture.

Here are a few links to Angela Izzo’s work.

We Govern We.

Neal Casal.

Gypsy Death Star.


All the images in this blog were shot Friday night. Beautiful place Ventura, but really the only reason to live here is……..


It should always be about our people.

IMG_4120 puuadj.4089b puuadj.4150b puuadj.4158bc


Monday, April 4th, 2011
Art City

Art City

I have a lot of friends who are into music. They all range in experience, depth, scope, and level of monetization.

Music is one of the High Arts of course.

How a person begins in any Art germinates in a fascination with it. I remember mine. Getting to play my Hawaiian Grandfathers Zither. I must have been about 6 or 7.  Guitar lessons at 8. Then on to the Arts in school, where I took choir, learned to sing in church, band practice, learning to read and write music. It was part of the education process in America at the time.

I have been aware that my family has always been involved in several things. They were warriors, musicians, artists, or dancers. As I grew up, in touch with the various facets of selection available by virtue of my heritage, I selected my areas of interest, and followed those in my life path. It is how I wound up where I am today, for what that is worth.

But what I learned in doing so, is how pursuing an interest will open the windows of perception up to a person. That opening, in turn may shed a light upon a pathway which no one sees but the participant. As a photographer and film maker, and someone who understands and enjoys mentoring, I always appreciate getting to watch those folks find their way. It makes me smile and can make my heart sing. In a world that grows increasingly dark these days, I need that.

In any society that wants to develop a living, vital culture, we all need the Arts. “Art is life” as my friend Joe Cardella, the Publisher of Art Life magazine for over 20 years, always says.  It defines, encourages, prods and yes,  may often disturb one. I like being disturbed. The effect tends to force me examine why I feel and believe what I do.

My son Josh gets that. I think he has always enjoyed the process of surprising me, as well as disturbing the old man. Makes me laugh actually when I think about it. He is a prodigy. I became aware of it when he was quite young, seeing a charcoal he had drawn of the Mona Lisa from memory. I think he was 6 or 7 at the time. Then later, hearing him play classical music on an electric piano with no lessons, from memory. He can do things that I cannot. Different inherent tool set than I. God does that.

I enjoy seeing the tool set in each person, and how they learn to utilize it to pursue individual visions and dreams. I got to watch a little of that the other night at a local bar. It was a place which I had not visited in awhile. For a number of reasons. (another story)

“Hey Dad, Robin Ryder has gotten me a gig performing at Bombay, it is Thursday” Josh had said over the phone. “Oh cool, I am around. Donna and I will come. I can bring a camera. What are you going to do?” I had asked. “A stripped down set, maybe me and Nick, my drummer. I need to find someone to open”. ” Well, you could ask Mason (Mason Van Valin) but he may have a problem performing at a bar since he is 17″ “Yea, lemme talk to Robin and see”. And that was it.



Thursday rolled round and at 9 pm, Donna and I were seated towards the front stage, which is at the entrance to the bar-club. Josh was already there with Nick, and dressing the stage wearing workout shorts and a sleeveless tee. Robin Ryder, talented son of a friend of mine was at the mixing board.  People began to wander in that we knew.

It was sort of fascinating as different groups arrived. The back bar area was having an event for ladies only and women strode in, sort of arm in arm. Made us smile as we realized what that was about. Kind of cool actually, considering that we live in a cow and oil town which recently has been headed towards becoming a published center for the Arts.

At around 10:15 a thin and sort of striking looking guy came up on stage. Deftly pulling a guitar out, he launched into a smooth set of bluesy rock. Matt Zeltzer, a friend of Josh’s did his music up, dashed with a cover of a Stones song. It was pretty interesting watching the 24 year old perform. You could see where he might go with it. Jeans, denim shirt, old guitar, and an easy demeanor, he engaged us all. It seemed like only moments that Matt was on stage, and he was rapidly stuffing the old guitar back into a soft case.

Matt Zeltzer

Matt Zeltzer

Josh fronts a concept and group called Love’s Secret Domain. He has been writing and producing his own music for a few years. He has been a one man show, designing and building the electronics that synthesize his sound. He is an emerging artist. I get that. But what I was pleased to realize as his show began, is that my son’s work makes me sort of uncomfortable.

On stage, Josh becomes Josh Slavin. His demeanor changes. His look becomes different, with wardrobe and makeup, and sexy 6 inch pistol heeled boots, and he vamps. Heavily. In music you can communicate everything, anything or nothing of any real significance. Maybe just make people feel nice and warm. It all has a purpose. But Josh makes me think. I like that. And his strong musical hooks, not anchored in any sort of standard modus, can literally go anywhere he wants them to. I admire that in an artist. No matter what the medium. It can grab you, pull you in close and make you look in the mirror. That act, is an antidote for much, by the way.



Here is a video grab of a song from the evening at Bombay. It is called The Nightlife.

As I listened to Sam Shoemaker yesterday, belting out a song called “In The Forest” with the Shoemaker Brothers, he spied me hiding in the audience at Bernadette’s and grinned at me, between the words, which are heavily laced with strong sexual overtones. It had been a year since Sam and his brothers did their first Ventura performance at Bernie’s place. In that time we have become friends, and I have been incredibly blessed in watching this remarkable group of men grow and thrive.

But this is how it works. One step at a time, one brick at a time, you build your foundation, you invite people along to collaborate, you have fun, and a movement starts. That can change the world dramatically, or it can simply just make people feel a little bit better. But the reality is that Art (and Music) is Life.



This year, one of my favorite groups won a Grammy. Their song and this video, is sort of disturbing. Muse. Perfect name for the song: Uprising. “Green belts wrapped around our minds. Red tape to keep the truth confined.” Yea, our culture understands the why and what of that. We really need to. Or we lose. That is why Art Matters.

I have no idea how or why this occurs, but frequently Seth Godin and I wind up doing complementary subject blogs. Here is his on the same subject. But from a slightly different direction.

Seth matters. Thank God for people that determine the path, and embrace being an oracle.

Song of the Chumash

Monday, April 19th, 2010
Animate Duplicity

Animate Duplicity

We just finished the Ventura Artwalk 2010, in my little town. The entire Downtown of Ventura California was turned into a living canvas for forty eight hours.

The event was a benchmark of sorts.

benchmark |ˈben ch ˌmärk|
1 a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed : [as adj. ] a benchmark case.

2 a surveyor’s mark cut in a wall, pillar, or building and used as a reference point in measuring altitudes.

How did this happen? Not overnight. It was the result of seed sowing by a huge number of artists, city officials, merchants, and the many creatives who preceded us all: the various artists who showed. It was indeed the spirit of our forefathers, come back to life, borne by the flow of those involved.

Two of those, Kathleen Fitzgerald, and Rob Edwards, are no longer at their city jobs. Yet the work that they did for years here, bore much fruit the past week end. I saw and respect what they did to institute positive change for my town. I am blessed to have them as my friends. Everywhere I looked this past weekend I saw their, and many others, contributions.

I was continually, and repeatedly humbled by the generosity of my community this last week end. It is no secret that this country groans with the weight of drastic change and economic duress. But for a couple days, those that are poor in riches but rich with creativity and enthusiasm, made my little town forget about it’s ills. They did what artists do: create and share.

This  is a show that I did for the Artwalk. It is entitled “This is Ventura”. The piece is 16 minutes long and features local land and seascapes and many of my long term subjects. It is a series of four vignettes and was composed as a gesture of gratitude to the place that has been a constant muse for me.

In quiet fashion Sunday morning, a Chumash ceremony was performed by David Dominguez to dedicate and consecrate the new location of Zoey’s. It was in the middle of all of the Artwalk goings on. The event had deep significance. East, West, South and North. Those that were supposed to be there, were. My friend West Cooke, had invited me to attend. My girlfriend, Donna Von Hoesslin of Betty B, went with me. I love that Donna “gets” this sort of thing. (Most of my loved ones do.) She had taken a break from her busy schedule to experience this.



The vein that runs from the Sespe to the sea, is the Ventura River. It is a deep source of historic life and power. The Chumash settled here, and all along it’s path, used to hunt and fish. Eventually the Spanish came in, the Mission was established, and as modern civilization blossomed, the natives seemed to disappear. The issue though, is that the Spirit of the land, well, it still speaks to those that can hear. This image says a lot. Not everyone can hear it though. Can you?

Vital Venturi

Vital Venturi

Though I am a Christian by conversion, I am a native by birth. What that means, is that the land, air and water speak to me, even when I am not conscious of having listened. So what comes out via my art, whether it is in text, prose, paint, photography or motion work, tends to come straight from the heart. I am only a filter which colors that communique. Sometimes that is a good thing, other times, maybe not so much. Watch that movie with this in mind. Listen carefully to William Orbit, Justin  Young, Zuri Star, the Shoemaker Brothers, and Elliot Minor, both to their melodies, and lyrics.

The rainbow bridge is a deep part of Chumash lore. When this occurred early one morning, it was pre dawn. I was stunned. My life is like that: hearing hidden songs. Yes, that is Santa Cruz Island.  Some think that I spend a lot of time in Photoshop and After Effects, making all of this imagery up. I don’t need to. It is a whisper, often just below the threshold of physical perception. It is always there. I just key into it when I am ready. Not unlike the manner in which a baseball player homes in on a pitch to hit a home run. Easy peasey. I always have been a pretty good hitter.

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge

Music is the highest form of art. In Bible college I learned that Christian theology teaches that mankind’s destiny is to fill Heaven with the music lost when Lucifer became Satan and fell to earth. Jesus said that he saw Satan fall as lightening from heaven. Pretty vivid imagery. The word Satanas is a Greek word, meaning adversary. So if we are taking that dark underlord’s place, it should be no small wonder that he isn’t fond of us. {If you believe in that sort of thing :0) }

Music connects all human kind. It is a language of the soul. All true art, really is that. But music, like dance, is high art. Play some. Stop. Where did it go? My photo is still there. So is the sculpture, the painting, the drawing.

Sunday evening at Artwalk, at Jonathan’s in Ventura, Bobby Hart performed. Jonathan’s is a stone’s throw from the Mission and from where David Dominguez had done the Chumash blessing a scant 5 hours earlier. All of this lies on the vein of the Ventura River, under the Rainbow Bridge.  For 5 hours Bobby, and a plethora of musicians performed high art, trading out positions at instruments and on the mikes. I am still reeling from the feel of it, the smooth harmony exhibited in the transitions from person to person. Like when my friend and colleague Chris Jensen, handed off his sticks and drum kit to our friend Richie. The harmony was infectious. But again, art is flow. People like flow. We get that.

Bobby Hart

Bobby Hart

Perfection rarely rears its head for long in this imperfect world.



This weekend it did for awhile. I heard it.



Thank yous all around to everyone who participated, engaged, looked, laughed, enjoyed, and Watermark, Jonathan’s, Betty B for hosting the gallery shows, and Pi printing for their excellent print work and support

The Bodner

Thursday, April 30th, 2009


Ever have one of those friends who is just, well, there when  you are together? They are always so present in the moment, that they perpetually gloss over tidbits you would really appreciate knowing about them. Everyone enjoys bragging on their pals and assorted loved ones.  Some people truly are ignorant of their own genius and opt to not give us the chance.  Their vocation is just what they are, so what could the big deal possibly be?

A year ago I met Jessica Bodner and her boyfriend, Robert Catalusci. They had recently relocated from San Francisco to Ventura. Two artists with eclectic backgrounds, but a long track record from what my girlfriend Donna and I could surmise, in producing art. Robert though almost equally obtuse in describing exactly what he does, unwittingly let the cat out of the bag during a housewarming at the industrial space which serves as the joint production studio for the two. He showed us a video segment toned to match the color of the evening sky. Turns out it was an art concept projected on to a big screen built spanning some buildings adjacent to the 280 freeway in SF. The display had stopped rush hour traffic as an array of huge military jets engaged in an ominous dogfight that offered little clue the show was projected. Two days later, the Gulf War began. That is Robert.

But Jessica, wow, nothing but: “Oh I am a welder who makes lamps and has done some sculpture”.

That was the extent of it for the year, till an e mail dropped in containing a photo of a smiling Robert standing next to a large object that looked like a beehive. I am nothing, if not curious. I went by the shop where Jessica was busy welding away. The piece was a large, intricately engineered and fabricated metal sculpture with a value-scope that would be hard to measure in dollars. Yes, it was a lamp.

Over a period of two visits I documented the final construction and Jessica graciously exposed what an amazing talent she is. I needed to know more and the following text was sent to me by her Father, artist Stanley Bodner, who I had met while working on the Ventura Film Festival.

Stan Bodner: “I’ll give you some thoughts from my perspective:

Early on Jessica exhibited her unique view of the world. Sometime after serving her toddler-ship, she asked me what I thought of a miniature drawing that had she made. I don’t remember what I said exactly, it may have been something like “That’s a cute kitten.” I do, however, remember her response. She said, “That’s not a kitten daddy. You can’t see it, because your eyes are too big”.

That was the last time anybody ever mistook what she created.

Jessica’s mother, Alexandra and I both spent our pre-digital lives in front of an easel or behind a drawing table. Jessica spent most of her childhood under the drawing table.

Her summers were spent on the farm with her grandparents. Her grandfather was–before he retired–a welding foreman for Chicago Bridge and Iron. He kept a shop in the garage. As you know manipulating metal became her chosen media.

Yes, Jessica had an inordinate amount of exposure to Art and media, but it would all have been for nothing, without her extraordinary talent and desire to create.

She also had a poem published in grammar school, and was a finalist in a statewide public speaking competition.

Prior to moving west, Jessica graduated from The Chicago Academy for the Arts (a collage preparatory high school for the arts in Chicago). She continued her schooling in LA and San Francisco where she received her BFA.

There is one additional observation that I would like to share;
I made an unannounced visit to the principles office at CAA late in her sophomore year. The office was adorned exclusively with Jessica’s paintings and renderings. This had happened before in Jessica’s Grade school!

I hate to use the phrase “proud to be…” in describing my feelings. I like “lucky to be…” fits so much better.

She is “The Bodner”.  I am, “The Bodner’s father.”

Alexandra Navickas  studied at the Chicago Art Institute and Graduated with a teaching degree from U of Illinois.
Alex worked as a commercial artist designing and photographing fashion catalogs. When Jessica was born, Alex concentrated on her painting, later to be exhibited in Silvia Siegals Oak Street Gallery. After painting, she became a photographer specializing in hand-colored photos, for 15 years, then a few years designing African-American greeting cards, and then on Jessica’s suggestion, began making lighting fixtures 10 yrs ago for her business,


Stanley Bodner recipient of the “Alexander” and “St Guardens” medals for art New York High School system.

Graduated Cooper Union.  After an internship lasting a few years, I started my own Graphic Art Studio. My clients were Advertising Agencies, Mills, Manufactures and publications. I made the transformation from drawing board to computer early on. My introduction to the Mac happened in 1985.

I haven’t shown a portfolio for many years, however, I will e-mail you some current samples under separate cover of Alex’s and my work.

Oh, I just read your mighty blog. I am impressed. One favor I would ask; Please leave the Warhol bit out. It is somewhat demeaning sounding like sour grapes, and I do not wish to bask in reflected glory. Yes, he couldn’t draw, but he was a terrific designer, not unlike the many famous artists that have impressed us through the years. In my opinion, Edgar Dagas could draw, Renoir couldn’t. Both are geniuses.

I did appreciate the Pink Champagne he would send around Christmas. “A toast to Andy Warhol”.

Cheers, to Stanley and Alex (and yes,  Andy too). You’ve given us a true light in The Bodner.

Click on any image to  see the full frame view.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.