I’m not the first person to happen upon these colorized photographs of old black and white images. But I’ll write about it anyway.
“Imbued With Hues” is Patty Allison’s project to bring to life vintage photos and somehow breathe new life into dead people and lost places. 25,000 follow her on Facebook.
She is in her mid 50s, and lived in Portland, ME where she worked as a dog groomer, but now resides in Long Beach, CA. She has been doing her special hobby for four years and she has a special affinity for old cars. This information I learned from a 2013 article about her.
A lot of her color choices are guesses, especially when it comes to clothing.
But the results are glorious.
Below are some selections, heavily weighted towards Southern California.
Yesterday, I went downtown. I took my camera. And I drove, in my meandering way, locally, hunting for light and shadow.
I left Van Nuys and went through Griffith Park and picked up Glendale Blvd where it emerges in Silver Lake and runs down into Echo Park.
Near Effie Street, I stopped. And I saw dark clouds hover over the silver skyline, glass glistening coldly.
I parked where dozens of people sleep on the sidewalk next to a storage building and the street ends at steep, ugly concrete stairs. Climbing the steps, I stood near the metal rails and looked towards our downtown draped under an impending storm.
Yesterday, Sunday, a strange light and gentle gloom came in and out, an alternating atmosphere of rain and cold windy gray.
Thoughtlessly happy Los Angeles wore an unfamiliar face. The city everyone thinks they know once again confounded me.
I drove on to my destination at 4th and Main.
Downtown, at the art loft, a show at 2A Gallery was closing. The works were those painted by my friend Tam Warner’s father, Orien Lowell Greenough. He died, poor, in 2008. He was a liberal who hated war. His creations on canvas satirized, in depth, the hypocrisy and brutality of the killers and statesmen who run this world. His time had Stalin, Hitler, and Khrushchev.
We have ISIS and Putin, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.
The men who put on the show, Clay and Calvin, and their 2A Gallery, had recently come into my friend’s life, nurturing, elevating and sanctifying the late painter and his work. His daughter, after a run of mistreatment by another gallery, was grateful for their care and love.
It seemed as if Orien Lowell Greenough and his work were again going to find recognition in Los Angeles, full validation that had eluded him when he was alive, the story of so many artists, and writers.
And then Calvin and Clay confirmed that they were not only closing the show, but closing out their life in Los Angeles. They would be packing up and moving to McComb, Mississippi to live in a more affordable area. They would leave in 30 days, and drive 4 days across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, eventually arriving in The Magnolia State, where the flag still flies the colors of The Confederacy.
Everyone was sad. But none more so than my friend, who had made a connection with the newly departing angels who had came out of nowhere to champion undervalued Orien Lowell Greenough.
Tomorrow, there may be money in art, but today you need to eat. Like the dead artist, the living gallery was squashed by the bottom line.
The truth is that they could not afford to live in Los Angeles any more. Or perhaps the truth is that they chose not to live in Los Angeles because home was somewhere else. Truth is subjective- so the artist claims.
Their departure is a loss to this city.
And when I left the loft, calmed by two evaporating beers, I drove in the dark rain through dystopian concrete canyons. I lost my way downtown, and found that my usual entrance onto the 101 was closed. I had to make a detour, a rerouting of my way home, that took me down old Temple Street, and over to Rampart, where I found a wet and slow, hidden and unfamiliar way to get onto the freeway and back home.
Sometime over the past few months I found myself looking at a blog, “Mad Thirsty”, an honest and striking creation, in photography and small cap text, of Jesse Somera, a Los Angeles based model and photographer, who documents some of his world online.
Some titles of posts:
photos of two jobs, party&bullshit and the most maddening man i’ve ever met
basically me just fanning out on remi, getting weird at a random party and having fun
all the behind the scene shots from the mentos commercial i did
There were models, long-haired and long legged girls, skateboarders and stylists, lofts full of junk food, late nights in the clubs, and a trip to Nigeria with a bed full of cash and people with automatic weapons.
Drawn in I was by lost youth, aimless and gorgeous, sullen and bored, making out and barfing up.
Sometime over the past few months, a time when I was otherwise watching my mother progress into death, I had another distraction online, the exact opposite of her illness, a ride into the night with models on their way to Malibu or dancing in the club.
On Wednesday, I made a plan to meet up with Jesse in Little Tokyo. I didn’t know what to expect.
The day was hot. I parked in a concrete lot under ground, and walked to an alley of sushi bars and cafes. I sat down in one café, by the window, and sent a message to him.
I had brought my camera but then wondered if this might provoke anger. He makes his living getting photographed. So was this a violation?
I imagined him skateboarding up to the café as he did in his Mentos commercial. Would he sit across from me and stare into his phone as we talked? Would he look at other people passing by while we conversed? Would he explode in anger if I asked him how he liked: modeling, Los Angeles, his family, his ex-girlfriend, his career?
When he showed up, he had walked 20 minutes in the heat, but his face was dry and he was cool, dressed in a gray Rag and Bone sweatshirt, and gray sweat pants. He lightly embraced me and we sat down. He drank an unsweetened ice green tea I had bought for him.
Across from me, now, was a green-eyed young man, handsome, with a touch of Asiatic to him: a flat nose, small ears, wide set eyes, and a long, lean body remarkably broad on top, as if he had rowed on the surfboard for many hours a day in the Pacific near his hometown of Ventura, CA. But the rest of him was lean, and his hands were large, and when we talked, he had his full attention on me, and he never wavered. He was intense and polite. He rested his chin atop one of his large hands, expressive hands, hands that could also be the hands of a hand model.
We talked about movies, Terrence Malick and Michelangelo Antonioni; he told me about his favorite photographer Alasdair McLellan; we compared Pentax, Fuji, digital and film; we went around about his relationships, his loft, his ex-girlfirend, his dreams.
He asked me, naturally, that assassinating question for which I have no present answer: What do you do for a living?
He had gravitas, bearing and self-assurance. And his aura, boyish, contained sad, subtle, quiet, masculine rage that sometimes erupts, under the surface, in people with great gifts, be they artistic, physical or intellectual.
He had described himself, in his blog, of not being very good at certain things that I judged him to be very good at. And in his self-doubt I saw my own.
My self-torture silently screams: Bad at math, not a real man, no career, aimless, petty, childish, vindictive, self-pitying, suicidal.
His self-description, in the blog, of not always measuring up, this is the way I have seen my whole life, of imagining that I was destined to become someone admired, or read or watched or loved. He too was on that kick, a drug of perfectionism that knows no cure.
His writing, his photographs and his beauty brought me to meet him, but I think I was in search of something lost in myself, that aching desire to return to youth and dive into a paid profession rewarding, creative and thrilling.
It is obvious to me, now, that I will never have a mentor. There will be no father figure to sponsor me. There will be no boss to bring me along. And maybe that is good.
And I went down to meet Jesse Somera, strangely imagining that we were contemporaries in some alien way, the 25-year-old and the 52-year-old, two artists trying to work and get recognition.
Maybe I will end up like my mother, on my deathbed, enraged that I hadn’t yet begun to realize my life.
Or maybe I have been living the dream all along, as lucky as Jesse Somera, the beautiful and talented boy I met the other day in Little Tokyo.
There are artists living or working in Van Nuys. Talented, accomplished, known and unknown. They camp out in apartments, in the back of houses, on our inhumane, ugly boulevards and on quiet, tree-lined streets.
Some will be compensated, while most will be forgotten. But, alive, they continue to fight fatigue, battle madness and surmount financial worry to produce work fueled by creative imagination.
One of these is my friend Pete Perez, who grew up in Downey, CA. He lives in Sierra Madre but works in Van Nuys.
He showed me around his small studio on Victory Bl., the other day and I saw a remarkable collection of oil paintings by Pete.
A subtle and sublime colorist, he is hiding in plain view some of the loveliest paintings I’ve seen lately.
40-years-old, living with a black mutt named Tulla, he earns a living by brushing gallons of paint onto walls for clients in Newport Beach, Bel Air and lately, Anaheim.
Over a cup of strong, black, turbinado-sweetened coffee, he told me a funny story about how multi-cultural, ethno-dogmatizing, college racists tried to lasso him into “painting like a Latino”…with bright, garish colors like those found on the Mexican flag or on Guatemalan peasant skirts.
He refused. He dreamt and created in his own way without adhering to the strictures and preferences of art college correctness.
Pale lavender, deep plum, washed-out red, dusty blue, cloudy gray… He painted, and still does, in the off-shades: those tints of secondary colors; the burnt hues of a fading day. Nantucket in the San Fernando Valley.
Humanistic, gentle, sensitive and moody: his color combinations are as natural as sky and sand, cloud and rain. Many of his subjects are young men, but they are human, not godlike.
Pete, the artist, is his own man and one of the originals of Van Nuys.