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Psychic Outlaws at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex and Gallery

Psychic Outlaws at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex and Gallery, Cal State L.A. Participating artists: Karla Diaz, Tami Demaree, Fay Ray, Phung Huyhn, Jay Stuckey, Joe Biel, Dane Picard, Liz Young, Rashell George, Gina Osterloh, HK Zamani, China Adams, Ursula Brookbank, Jordan Biren, Waylon Dobson, Shizu Saldamando, Evelyn Serrano, Mark Dutcher, and Heather Cantrell (above).

To try to give definition in any way to that which we sense to be emerging is to experience the process of form giving.  And when it seems that what is trying to emerge is a level of consciousness which will be critical to the quality of our lives together, the urge to bring forth truly worthy, eloquent form becomes all the more pressing.”
“On the Edge of Knowing
” – Karen Thorkilsen

I felt more whole, more like a body that was me, rather than like a body with a mind that is an object.”
Emily from “Psychic Outlaws
” – Annie Buckley

If you only see one group show this season, go see Psychic Outlaws at Cal State Los Angeles. I know what you are thinking…. this jet setter has delved into the circle of hell reserved for the flatterers sipping tea, up to her eyeballs in bullshit. But darling, aren’t we all? Psychic Outlaws came to me via the viral psychic super highway or the desperate desolation of the recently divorced via Facebook. The title of the show seemed at once captivating and picturesque; after all, what is a psychic outlaw? My mind raced; is she a gorgeous gypsy with a gun and a sack of money? A diva under a chandelier decked out in diamonds evading the authorities? Or is a psychic outlaw an artist, a person of commitment, dedicated to the practice of making literal the in-effable; a new age savior of Fried’s somewhat messianic descriptions of art in “Art and Objecthood”.  Needless to say, I was fascinated enough to grab my bronze pumps and head for the highway deep into the east side of Los Angeles all the way to the Luckman gallery at Cal State L.A., where it’s quite natural, fitting even, to be “down for whateva”.

The Luckman is a rare jewel in Los Angeles in terms of its curatorial vision. Brave and somewhat experimental, it has taken risks with curatorial practice to include group shows riffing on the locally influential Sister Corita Kent in the early part of the decade and another on the elegant piece of fiction  by Haruki Murukami, “Hardboiled Wonderland.” The Luckman continues its tradition of vanguard curatorial practice with this show based on the astonishing book of the same title written by Annie Buckley. I realize that I am gushing and that to do so may seem a bit like a former Mouseketeer at an Irving Azoff party looking for my big break. The Luckman is doing what contemporary art museums should be doing, inviting artists to curate creatively rather than in a moronic semi-histrionic way. This sort of experimental envisioning creates an open-ended experience that entices rather than bores the viewer.

Waylon Dobson, “Eat the Forgotten”.

Many of the artists in the show pulled directly from Buckley’s text in Psychic Outlaws visually outlining scenes in the book such as Waylon Dobson’s piece, “Eat the Forgotten,” or Shizu Saldamando and Phung Hyun’s illustrative character drawings, “Katherine with Flowers,” and, “Carol,” respectively.

My piece reveals the dinner she (Emily) had that night, it wasn’t described. But the meal and the moment to me was significant in that it was an attempt by her to get on with her life, and not be haunted by the memories of her past. This of course turns out to be impossible, and so the dinner I sculpted was made of hands. The hands refer to the woman she (Emily) met as a child, who waved at her at a party. This woman becomes a real presence in Emily’s journey. The hand represents the permeation of the character Emily’s past.” – Waylon Dobson

Another example is Dane Picard’s piece, “Green Grass Theater Seats,” made of electroluminescent wires tufted like grass and fitted with motion sensors that respond to the viewers’ movements, triggering an animation on the screen. Picard focused on the section of the book entitled,  ”Part Three: The Film, ”making twenty animations in response to specific images.

Dane Picard, “Green Grass Theater Seats”.

Some of the artists seem specifically chosen because of an overall emotional appeal that strikes the novel’s tone, such as H.K. Zamani’s  piece, “Fashion of the Veil (White Meridian),” which sits in keeping with the artists performative practice. In the performance, a line of seven live models stands in heavy white polyester veils for what seems like an eternity but is actually the two hour length of the show. The heavy veils and stillness of just standing left at least one model swaying and many sweating in obvious discomfort. While watching the performers, one is eerily reminded of the patients in the mental hospital, “The Meridian,” who all wear white coats, as described in the book.  The white coat, like the veil, becomes symbolic of their isolation and the feeling of loneliness that pervades the novel.

Jordan Biren & Ursula Brookbank, SLVR.HNDS, 2010. High definition digital video (dimensions variable).

Jordan Biren and Ursula Brookbank’s collaborative video, “SLVR.HNDS,” has a parallel connection to the story (the artists are married collaborators). Throughout the novel, the characters Emily and Jack share a passionate and psychic connection to one another as both writers and collaborators. In “SLVR.HNDS” Ursula and Jordan caress each other’s faces in front of a lit window, their faces and hands in silhouette. The curtain is pulled aside and we share an intimate portrait of creative process in action, and, like the reader, gain a peek into the personal lives of the artists.

Mark Dutcher’s large pink and red painting, “My Memory is a Rip-tide,” with a simple chair stationed in front, similarly acknowledges the presence of the reader in a post-modern meandering narrative such as “Psychic Outlaws” where we are our own transgressors and tangential interlopers, invited to rather homily sit down for a spell and watch[.]

Psychic Outlaws curated by Annie Buckley and John Souza at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex and Gallery, Cal State L.A. September 25-November 5, 2010. More information at

This post was contributed by Mary Anna Pomonis

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Psychic Outlaws at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex and Gallery