I left Holland after a dip in the North Sea as it was a rather warm Dutch summer. I also managed to do a nostalgic wander about the saucy port of Amsterdam where many moons ago I lived. Summer tourists flooded the narrow streets which was annoying but I managed to devour a few salted herrings on bread and some Surinam snacks as well as having some laughs with many friends in and around Amsterdam. Then it was time to get back to the airport.
I flew the wrong way to Helsinki as I was heading to USA so eventually we managed to make a U turn as I actually needed to fly over the Greenlandic Icecap and across Canada in order to land in LA. Modern air travel gets more crazy each year. Finally I got to the U.S of A where a slightly paranoid elongated immigration system tries to process millions of people each day. Not an easy chore I must admit. After lining up in a dozen lines for over two hours I finally arrived at the part when one is interviewed by a human immigration officer. He kindly told me that there was another mass shooting in California, SF was covered in faeces and used heroin needles, the country was full of people who don’t work and are illegal and he was glad that he could carry a gun. He wanted to move to Australia and was confused as to why I wanted to even visit USA. He suggested that I get a gun for my trip and hoped that I survived my time in his ultra violent homeland. All this interesting information was relayed to me as he asked me numerous questions about who, what, when and where I was planning to do in his smelly and dangerous country. At one stage I was sure he was not going to let me into the country as my plan was to stay about eleven weeks. He thought that was a very long time for a tourist. Was he possibly worried about my safety? I doubt that very much. It was all a bit too much for me after 13 hours in planes plus 7 hours in 3 airports with no sleep at all. I considered a Plan B to not even enter the USA, saying bye bye to this complicated gate keeper and jumping on any plane going anywhere but I did not. The insular fear that seems to be a normal worldview or should I say a normal National-view found across a large chunk of USA is not that easy to digest. It is not tasty anywhere I must add. Not a great introduction to the USA for me personally but then I was kindly permitted to enter Los Angeles. A massive town built on innumerable dreams, lies, loves, oil and oranges. A friend described this city as - “a strange Sci-Fi movie you don’t want to be in.” It certainly is fascinating there is no debate about that. The original name of the city is -El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora Reina de los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula. (The town of our lady queen of the angels on the Porciuncula River.) I figure that with such a name this city can only be complicated.
My first stop after battling the excitable traffic with the aid of a friendly Mexican Uber driver was at the charming home of Josh. Luckily in a central leafy part of the city but still with eleven lanes of traffic directly out the front door causing an almost constant car drone noise but from the veranda there was an excellent view of the city skyline as well as hummingbirds zipping about in his brilliant garden sipping on flower nectar. After acclimatising a little I relocated to the 18th St. Art Center in Santa Monica in order to make that stuff called art. Simultaneously I try to work out how to be here. (https://18thstreet.org)
My studio is large and comfortable and not far from the Pacific Ocean. It is all happening. Very wealthy folk drive by homeless people in flash cars and anything can be bought if you have money or perhaps just some bravado. A friendly Californian vibe permeates the air under thousands of extremely tall palm trees all swaying in a smoggy maritime climate similar to the Mediterranean. Burritos for breakfast, legal cannabis pharmacies, electronic scooters scooting locals and tourist about the town, 1500 planes landing each day at LAX, art galleries galore and thank god that carry out insurance is available! (just in case you drop your take away pizza while on the way home.) Then there is this chap on TV all the time called Trump who looks like someone whom it is best not to buy a used car from.
I imagine that living here is rather cool for many reasons but my little visit will be well over before I acquire any depth of understanding about the LA metropolitan area with its 13.1 million inhabitants many of whom exude a fiery coolness. Some polite and some heavily armed with a puzzling proud fear of a great many things.
I must say that settling into the studio was fast and easy as the Art Center is both organised and relaxed. My thanks to the excellent staff at 18th St. Next to my studio is the Taiwanese artist Hui-yu Su and his family who are charming neighbours so I have no complaints about my current location! I also must thank Eric for his informative lessons regarding Mescal. More importantly I salute the Western Australian Government for the grant which has made this L.A residency possible. Now back to the art making.
© Stephen Eastaugh, 2019. All Rights Reserved.