At the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) last Sunday, I had the pleasure of hearing a reading by legendary Los Angeles fixture, Exene Cervenka. Apart from her musical, artistic, and literary endeavors–which generally take Los Angeles itself as a special focus–Cervenka’s name is quite literally inscribed in stone, at the wonderful Venice Poetry Wall (a fact I stumbled across quite accidentally a year or two ago, with great delight).[*] As well as reading, and playing a few songs on solo guitar, Cervenka currently has several of her collages hanging on the walls of CAFAM.
The allusion in the title of this post is not my own. One of Cervenka’s poems began with this clever allusion and reversal of the famous first line of Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl. Her reading style is a sort of mumbling understatement (much like that of fellow punk-poet Jim Carroll, for anyone who has had or has the chance to hear him read).
The Craft and Folk Art Museum is a gem that I had not previously visited, despite its walking proximity to where I live, and to the LACMA, Peterson Automotive, and Page Museums that I love. It turned out that my urbanist friend, and companion to the reading, who had worked right next door for many years, had also somehow overlooked CAFAM. And as another footnote: she, like I, had only one pre-residency visit and memory of Los Angeles from childhood visits. The La Brea Tar Pits seems to be a focal drama for many children passing through LA.
CAFAM has a delightful collection, or rather delightful rotating exhibits. Currently they have a number of Los Angeles area artist who focus on almost miniaturist, but somehow nightmarish assemblages of everyday detritus. The stuff of dreams and David Lynch movies, put together with grimy precision. On the floor below is an exhibit called “Ancient Gods and Modern Politics: Mithila Painting.” I had not much known this Northern Indian style of fine-line drawing/painting very well. Much of it was shocking and stunning, especially those pieces making a narrative mural, often with serious and somber political themes: bride burning; gender-selection by abortion; the tsunami in Sri Lanka; etc. By all means get to this small wonder.
[*] Will some kind reader who lives near Venice Beach jog my memory by checking exactly what her poem says?