Dishing Up the Dirty

By Stacy Davies

Posted February 2, 2012 in Arts & Culture

Curator and owner of the new Claremont Packing House artspace Cynde Miller had to explain the venue’s name to me—because, apparently, I am just that old now. Derived from “perma”—a slang term meaning (duh), “permanently,”—and “dirt”—as in grunging something up— PermaDirty seeks to expand the narrow scope of Claremont’s art community by being a perpetual antithesis to pristine, mainstream art galleries. (To recap the slang usage, if I said that my friend Sally was “perma cool,” this would mean that Sally is permanently/eternally cool. If you’ve ever met Sally, of course, you know it’s just obvious.)


Kicking off its inaugural group show, “This is the Dirt,” on Friday, PermaDirty offers an eclectic exhibition of work from IE residents that include installation, video performance, sculpture, painting, ceramics and illustration. Seeking to make the art process more open and inclusive of spectators, Miller decided that PermaDirty would be both a gallery and studio space, open to members of the public who wish to view art in action. Drawing from her experiences as an artist and art professor at Chaffey College, she was also determined to make that space accessible and free of commercial art-world pressures—a living, breathing creative arena in which artists and performers may display their work without the need to jump through endless red tape hoops. 


The “Dirt” show itself lives up to this mantra and has some definite highlights—including the piece you can’t miss, Flan’s No Gods, No Masters, an electrifyingly bright and exquisitely detailed large oil and acrylic of a crucified Pokeman Pikachu. It’s just not nice to do that to the sweet, yellow thing, and yet Pikachu, with rodent paws pierced by a flowing rainbow ribbon and baby blue crosses on his eyes, seems to be enjoying the whole sacrilege. Toying with other cutie-pie imagery and reminding us of one of their more lascivious monikers isn’t the newest idea on the block, and yet Valerie Scott’s woodcut of a kitty engaged in neck grooming, “Pussies!”, is so 1978-punk-rock-poster/sticker that it deserves more than just a 100-shirt printing—and I’ll take one if she ever goes there.


Pussies aren’t the only things we worship, of course—pop icons also make the world go ‘round and Camille Alaras’ simple left-hook-in-action ink wash Raging Bull doesn’t have to be the bloodspitting image of DeNiro because the composition and line are so on the nose. Other alternative homages to culturally significant males come from Allison Krumwiede, who’s composed nice send-ups of Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns (pre-transition into a crazy she-monster) and Michael Keaton’s Betelgeuse (pre-homicide of a fly by Zagnut bar), all awash in glitter and pastels and ready to hang in any 1980’s girly bedroom. 


Of course, there’s pretty much nothing cooler than Juliette Lewis, and Celia Sanchez’s snap of the riot lady fronting her band and flexing her bicep is definitely the stand-out image in the show. Other notable pieces also come from Efrain Torres, whose series of acrylic abstracts entice, and from Minh Vo’s halcyonic, three dimensional expression of modernistic tranquility, the expanded PVD sculpture No Boundaries. There’s more to see, including video installations and live performances during the opening reception, so roll on over to this new, and I should note, very worthy, attempt to drag Claremont back into the days when it produced and showcased groundbreaking, innovative art. Our fingers are totally perma-crossed.


“This is Dirt” at PermaDirty, 532 W. First St., Ste. 219, Claremont, (323) 497-0446; Thru April 13. Free.


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