The vibe at The Whole 9 Gallery on Culver City’s Main Street is profoundly antithetical to the sentiment seemingly expressed in a quote attributed to Marcel Proust, one that appears to paint artists as indifferent observers: “The particulars of life do not matter to the artist; they merely provide him with the opportunity to lay bare his genius.”
With apologies to Proust scholars if the above interpretation of his meaning is incorrect, the particulars of life matter a great deal to the socially and globally conscious artists of The Whole 9.
Currently on display at the gallery and continuing through August 15 is ZERO HOUR, a dazzling exhibition by four artists of very diverse backgrounds: Ashleigh Sumner, Joan Scheibel, Graham Goddard and Fred Feldmesser. Based upon the theme that worldwide tensions have come to a boiling point and action is necessary, ZERO HOUR captures the pursuit for change through splashes of vibrant color, exploding energy and densely layered messages that are both subtle and bold.
Sumner’s striking paintings swirl with hummingbirds over an urban landscape and incorporate images of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as words like LEGEND, TRUST, BALANCE and HOME march across the canvas. She has created commissioned pieces for private collectors and her bold works of abstract expressionism have been exhibited throughout California and in Barcelona, Spain.
Scheibel, a multi-media artist who has shown throughout Los Angeles, including exhibits at Bergamot Station, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, and the Venice Art Crawl, gravitates to pop and modern art. Her work, which has a Giacametti resonance, depicts elongated figures in fluid motion, appearing to be center stage at an arena rock concert, reborn and re-inspired spirits unleashed and ready for action.
Goddard, a Trinidadian-American conceptual artist, makes visual statements about the environment, spirituality and commodification through painting and land art installations. His unique Rotating Canvas enables viewers to turn his paintings 360 degrees, exposing inverted images while exploring the nature of viewer interaction. He has exhibited at the Skirball Museum, the California African American Museum and numerous art galleries throughout the United States and abroad.
Feldmesser’s fearless, daring and provocative works make blistering and unforgettable statements, using components such as steel, epoxy, rope, drill bits and vintage toy trains to serve as backdrops for his assault on conservative government, war and religion. His work, some of which would likely elude a G rating, is heavy in weight as well as meaning, using objects old and new to communicate gravitas.
Too bad Proust never had a chance to chat with these artists or with the charming Heidi Huber, whose business card identifies her as The Whole 9’s COEE (Chief of Everything Else). “Lisa Schultz, the founder, is the CEO (Chief of Everything), so that makes me the COEE,” she explained with a smile, adding that the gallery and its offshoot, the Peace Project, “came about organically.”
Huber and Schultz, who have collaborated for over nine years, worked together in experiential marketing, creating experiences for clients that allowed customers to interact with brands, products and services. One special client during the summer of 2003 was the American Red Cross. “That was the first ‘cause marketing’ we did,” said Huber.
And the seed was sown.
Ironically – but in a good way – the experience that Huber and Schultz developed for the American Red Cross boomeranged upon its creators by kindling an awareness and sense of individual purpose that provided the organic underpinning for what followed.
“In November, 2006 thewhole9.com, an international online creative community, was launched,” Huber said. “In January, 2007 the gallery opened in Culver City on Washington near La Cienega, moving to Main Street in October, 2011. We show fine and functional art from members of The Whole 9, featuring contemporary art from emerging and established artists and photographers throughout the United States and beyond. 25% of all sales in the gallery help fund initiatives from The Peace Project, (thepeaceproject.com), a non-profit that The Whole 9 founded in July, 2010 to create sustainable peace in communities around the world and prove that great change can happen very quickly if creative people work together.”
Asked about the inspiration for The Peace Project, Huber responded that Schultz, its founder, “saw photos from a Spanish photojournalist, Pep Bonet, who had spent time in Sierra Leone, Africa, and she was greatly affected.” Sierra Leone is home to 20% of the world’s amputees, in great part attributable to the horrific ten-year civil war that devastated the country with a massive amount of deaths and casualties and left much of its infrastructure destroyed.
“Lisa was also very impressed by Jeremy Gilley, who got World Peace Day, September 21, established through the United Nations,” Huber added. “Her thought was that if one person can single-handedly get World Peace on the calendar, what can an entire creative community accomplish?”
Quite a lot, as it turned out.
“Through The Peace Project we’ve had artists all over the world give us the rights to print and sell their work so we can fundraise for our initiatives,” Huber said. “And they can see exactly where the money goes. There’s full transparency.”
With well-justified pride she shared that “last year The Peace Project distributed 10,000 pairs of crutches throughout the entire country of Sierra Leone on one day, World Peace Day.” The goal of the Operation Rise initiative was, literally, to get people on their feet.
“Our newest initiative is to get a Peace Center built in Sierra Leone, a multi-use facility offering jobs training designed to get people working as soon as possible,” she added, emphasizing that “they are not looking for a handout but a hand up. We want to diminish any victim-savior thinking and work with them to empower them.”
The Peace Project’s third annual Call-for-Artists is coming up in July. Artists interested in submitting can go to thewhole9.com and click on the Peace Project tab at the top for further information about the traveling exhibit that will again be created from 150 pieces to be selected by a panel of judges from the fine and commercial art world. Prizes will be awarded to the top 25 entries. All funds raised through the Call-for-Artists and the traveling exhibit will go towards building The Peace Center.
Regarding the gallery’s operations, Huber said that “where we differ from many galleries is that we don’t have a stable of 10-15 artists whom we display. We show a wide range of artists in several shows a year and sell medium-priced art, plus jewelry. About four times a year we also host a seminar called Get Hung, providing practical guidelines. Our convenient location in downtown Culver City is very active and someone can just breeze in here and buy jewelry or a piece of art.” For further information about the gallery, visit thewhole9gallery.com.
“The Culver City Artwalk was always our biggest sales day of the year and it’s very sad that the funding was pulled because of the economy,” Huber wistfully commented. “Within the last few days two people have come in and asked, ‘What happened to your walk?’ It definitely brought a lot of people down here and when so many come through, you’re bound to sell something!”
Ever resourceful, the gallery is planning a Taste of Culver City fundraiser at its Main Street location on July 14 from 6:30 pm 10 pm. “You can enjoy wine plus tastings from several wonderful Culver City restaurants that are joining with us in this event, while listening to great live music and viewing stunning artwork,” Huber said, “and at the same time make peace, because all proceeds will be used to transform lives by creating jobs for people in Sierra Leone through The Peace Project’s initiatives.” To buy tickets it is recommended that you go to thewhole9.com/taste now as only 100 tickets will be sold.
Not surprisingly, given her eclectic background that includes music and performing, Huber’s personal definition of art is “all creative expressions, whether splashed on a canvas or sashayed across the stage.” She welcomes inquiries about gallery events, the collective and The Peace Project, and can be reached at (310) 836-4600.
Regardless of how you define art, if you are intrigued by creativity that often may not only push the envelope but dramatically restructure it, if your brain cells are open to stimulation and your heart wants to participate in improving the world, then 3830 Main St. is definitely the place to come to be captivated.