Over the centuries, a number of world-class painters have managed to catch the life and spirit of the cities in which they worked. Take just a few: Jan Vermeer reflected the solidity and serenity of 17th Century Amsterdam; Egon Schiele revealed the decadence of fin de siècle Vienna; and Raoul Dufy caught the joie de vivre of 20th Century Paris.
Thanks to these artists, fleeting moments have been fixed in time, all with just a few brush strokes.
But what of contemporary America? Who now captures the particular spirit of our cities?
Deborah Blum, a painter born and raised in Los Angeles has been demonstrating this unique ability. Los Angeles is her subject, and under her gaze the reflection is much more than a showcase for all things Hollywood. She has long been fascinated by the topography of a metropolis that is poised on the edge of the Pacific, divided by the Santa Monica Mountains, managed to accommodate a myriad of microclimates, and is crisscrossed by a network of freeways. For Blum the pace of the city, full of cars moving at the speed limit, is every bit as much of the city’s visual look as the marine layer that drifts in off the ocean.
According to Blum, the city presents endless possibilities:
“Los Angeles is my go-to subject. I was born and raised here, lived away for many years, and when I returned I began to see the city for what it is: a paradise with hills, winding roads, foliage, intersections, freeways, and architecture that represents the last hundred years.”
Blum calls her vision L.A. NOIR. Shefocuses on iconic symbols: the 405 freeway, the Sunset Strip, the ramp down to the PCH, Tower Records, the Beverly Hilton, and the hills that divide the West Side from the San Fernando Valley.
Blum has been painting all her life, but for many years her day job has been writing and directing documentaries for Discovery and the History Channel. This work has sharpened her eye for detail, and enabled her to focus on the emotions that characterize time and place. Lately she’s experimented in a new medium: Ipad drawings.
“An Ipad is exciting because it’s the most direct route from what I’m feeling to the blank canvas. The movement of the stylus across the screen is magical; it’s as though I’m just a conduit and the images are flowing through me.”
Blum’s digital files are reproduced as giclee prints on fine art paper, in limited editions, all signed by the artist.
All too often, Los Angeles is assumed to be merely a tinsel town in the thrall of Hollywood. Blum shows us that it’s much, much more. So if you are in Los Angeles and feel like you are getting lost on the Walk of Fame or on tours of celebrity homes, do yourself a favor and allow Blum’s L.A. Noir to transport you to another Los Angeles; the real Los Angeles. To learn more about Blum’s work, check out her online gallery at www.blumgallery.com