Blowhard, Esq. writes:
When Sir Barken was recently in L.A. on a cultural tour for his daughter, we met up for a day so I could show them around downtown. Sure, LACMA and the Getty are fine, but the city has a relatively new landmark that is also essential — the Velveteria or, to go by its even more wonderful official name, the Velveteria Epicenter of Art Fighting Cultural Deprivation. Previously located in Portland, Oregon, this museum dedicated to black velvet paintings that’s now in a Chinatown storefront is one of the city’s great oddball attractions.
Co-owner and co-curator Caren Anderson chatted with us for a few minutes about the collection.
A SoCal native and former psych nurse, Anderson lived with her partner-in-crime Carl Baldwin for thirty years in Portland but they were so sick of the dreary weather they decided to move back to L.A. She said they own up to 3,000 paintings of which about 600 are on display at any given time. She gleefully noted that the fine art world doesn’t think much of their velvet utopia. “They hate us,” she spat.
Which raises the inevitable question — “But, but…is it art?” Yeah, sure, why the heck not? Certainly not high art, but as folk/outsider art it’s hard to beat. It’s appreciable as pure kitsch but there’s also something sweetly direct about it, the black fuzziness providing a stark yet inviting background for people to gaze at their heroes and icons. You’d think that people who frequent the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art would appreciate playful work that challenges established norms, but I guess they like their daring, marginal art only after it’s been officially sanctioned. It’s one thing when elites spit in the eye of bourgeois propriety, but an entirely different case when grassroots art flies in the face of our cultural overlords.
- The museum’s official webpage and Facebook page.
- An Amazon link to their book.
- Wikipedia on the the history of black velvet paintings.
- A 2010 article from The Oregonian when the Velveteria closed in Portland.
- A few articles on the museum’s reopening in L.A. from KPCC, Los Angeles magazine, and VICE. Great quote from Ms. Anderson, “People that die tragically…they get onto velvet.”
- Two posts from Lloyd on Thomas Kinkade.