There’s a long walk that every art student takes early in their burgeoning career. It starts when you’re summoned from your tiny cubicle within the maze of art college walls that you are to live and work in, mouse-like, for the next three years. It’s that time when you’ve been summoned by your tutor, charcoal sticks and large format sketch pad in hand, trembling, down the long corridor and you realize that now, finally, you’re going to be entering… the life-drawing room.
The first time an artist faces a nude person (in the context of the life room; other contexts falling outside the scope of this article) is a mystical and sacrosanct moment. It confirms everything the artist has both hoped and feared: hoped because you get to interpret another human being, surely the most potent subject for an artist: and feared because a human body, once in front of your easel, very quickly ceases to be a metaphor but rather a series of impossible curves and textures that may confound fledgling technical abilities.
Delia Cabral’s Live Draw! places established artists (long since used to recording the human form), professional life models and the public into this intensive crucible of creativity in a three hour live event at her gallery DCA Fine Art in Santa Monica. Spectators, normally banned from life-drawing classes, are offered a unique insight into the life-drawing process; they get to watch over the shoulders of a range of artists interpreting the models in radically different ways and media, orchestrated around a mix of fine appetizers, cocktails and contemporary music (previous events have seen Cabral persuade innovative and respected DJs such as KCRW’s Cathy Tamkin to perform) designed to allow everyone to mix in an atmosphere of ease and fun.
If the whole thing sounds like a mixture of celebration and irreverence then that’s because Cabral intends it that way. An established gallerist/consultant with DCA Fine Art, as well as a muralist and painter in her own right, Cabral spent her formative art college years at UCLA in the 1980s, when life-drawing wasn’t exactly at the top of a curriculum dedicated to postmodernism and conceptual art. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that her event seems to combine celebrations of classical study with what she calls a hint of “Happening” (the old 1960s phrase for a performance art event.).
Cabral spends an enormous amount of time, pre-event, not only organizing a small army of attendants, but auditioning life models and artists alike, applying strict criteria: “Los Angeles has a large community of legitimate models, and I’m looking for muses. It’s not enough just to be nude, anyway one can do that; they must understand foreshortening, how to hold a pose for 5, 10 and 20 minutes at a time, how to give artists the inspiration to produce the drawings.”
The artists work at their own rate as they make art over the three-hour evening event, as the life models go through their rotations. Some artists may produce one, maybe two, detailed pieces at most, while others may knock of 50-60 lightning sketches. Confirmed artists for the latest event include David Schoffman, Lynn Hanson, Katina Zinner, Gus Harper, Alejando Gehry and Fausin Mdisa (whose multiple ketchup sketches promise to add to the general sense of iconoclasm).
For a $55 entrance ($45 pre-sales) the audience has the opportunity to buy the artworks as they come ‘hot’ off the easel. A portion of the sales goes to a select non-profit charity: past recipients from previous events have included The Human Rights Project. This year, the recipient will be SMASH, “an amazing public school in Santa Monica that teaches in a way that encourages children to be active and responsible members of society,” as Cabral describes enthusiastically. “Their arts program uses working artists ...We should have an arts education like this!”
While Cabral avoids bidding wars in favor of handing out work to the most obviously deserving and desperate buyer, she is happy to report that the buying process is anything but sedate. “It’s manic,” she says. “Dealers who should know better have ended up in physical struggles with little girls over what the artists come up with.” Prices for work, decided on the spot, range from as low as $40 up to $300.
Whilst there is a serious side to the event—Cabral is interested in “demystifying the creative process, especially in America, where nudity and sexuality tend to collapse into one another”—guests will be left to draw their own conclusions, although nothing else. As Cabral specifies: “Absolutely no drawing allowed by anyone other than the artists. And no photographs.”
Live Draw! will be held on May 24, from 7-10pm, with a week-long exhibit to follow.
For further details contact: DCA Fine Art, 3107 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica CA 90405
(310) 770-2525 www.dcafineart.com
For additional information on SMASH: http://www.smash.smmusd.org/index.html