Now entering the final month of its four-month stay beside the Santa Monica Pier, the Ashes and Snow exhibit certainly isn’t anything new. The compelling collection of Gregory Colbert’s still and motion photography, housed in its specially designed 56,000-square-foot Nomadic Museum, has been packing in and fascinating patrons since debuting back in January.
Featuring unscripted interactions between humans and a remarkable variety of animals — what the show’s literature refers to as “Colbert’s 21st-century beastiary” — it’s near impossible not to be moved and awed and intrigued by the artist’s harmonious images of man and beast at rest and peace.
Having finally been able to experience it with my wife last weekend, allow me to take you inside and give you the layout and some tips so that you may better enjoy yourself if you go — which you should.
1) Get your tickets ($15 per person; plus the obligatory service chage) ahead of time via the website. We did and were infinitely glad. When we arrived Sunday morning about half an hour after the doors had been opened, the line to buy tickets was easily three times as long as the line to get inside.
2) Get there early. Or get there late. Crowds and parking are an even thornier issue during the meaty part of the day. We parked down at Venice had breakfast at the Sidewalk Cafe and walked up and back.
3) Once inside, it’s pretty much a cattle drive that proceeds down the first corridor, each side of which is lined with still photographs. The drawback is that there isn’t much time to linger at images unless you buck the herd and step out from the forward progress being made. To hasten us along here is also no explanatory text accompanying each image so you’ll often be surrounded by questions and statements like “What animal is that?” or “Is that for real?” or “That looks like a painting!”
4) At the end of the first corridor there is an open space with limited rudimentary seating before a screen that plays a nine-minute film that repeats itself. Incredible footage of people with ocelots and tapirs and kinkajous and storks and such.
5) After this film is done you’ll move to the main section of the exhibit, which houses a larger screen and a better seating capacity to show an amazing 60-minute film that plays over and over and features Asian elephants, whales, raptors, cheetahs, meerkats, Caracals, African wild dogs and much more… parts of which brought tears to my eyes. And yes, that’s Laurence “Don’t Call Me Larry” Fishburne narrating.
6) Moving to the third corridor is a screen the size of the one at the end of the first corridor and another short film with orangutans, saltwater crocodiles, hornbills and such. Beautiful.
7) From there you’ll proceed down the third corridor once again lined with still images to the exit, which lets you out at the gift shop that offers everything from $8 bracelets to $25,000 folios of Colbert’s artistry.