The Arts & the Crafts & the Waves
From paddle-outs to homemade stockings to theatrical closings to tattoo-art shows: A year of online and dead-tree cultural coverage

While our print coverage of things highbrow and fashionable in 2009 remained consistent—and consistently excellent—thanks to the efforts of art critic Dave Barton, theater critic Joel Beers and Trendzilla columnist Vickie Chang, the Weekly added two new voices online to our cultural chorus in the year that just passed in the rear-view mirror. Bradley Beylik covers surfing news and culture in his Wax On, Wax Off posts on our Navel Gazing blog, while Steph Calvert keeps up with the local and virtual crafting scene with her Gettin’ Made posts on Heard Mentality. So for this year-in-review issue, Vickie takes a well-earned breather, Joel and Dave offer their recaps of the year that was in their ink-on-paper reviews, and Brad and Steph bring you up to speed on the cool stuff your neighbors have been creating with both hands and feet.

WAX ON, WAX OFF: ON THE BOARDS
The Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing (July 18-26) was an over-the-top festival, complete with tent city, concerts, a seaside skate facility and the world’s best surfers. The event of the year saw a huge swell, unrivaled promotion and victories for OC surfers Brett Simpson and Courtney Conlogue. Meanwhile, also in July, ragged bands of sunburned locals traveled up and down the coast, having their breath sucked out of them by the hugest surf of the year. We all shuddered with fear and reverence when Monte Kevin Valentin was beaten against the rocks and killed at the Wedge.

The Chris Hawk paddle-out on Nov. 1
John Gilhooley
The Chris Hawk paddle-out on Nov. 1

Summer 2009 also saw the release of Echo Beach, a film that tells the story of the Newport Beach surf scene in the ’80s, when a group of innovative, extra-rebellious surfers rose to global prominence not only for its new level of athleticism in the sport of surfing, but also for its contributions to style, fashion, business, culture and the arts.

It was a summer of change for Orange County, and nothing embodied that change more than Trestles. The spot has always had a guarded relationship with competitive surfing, allowing a measly three contests per year. But just when we finally thought we’d “saved Trestles,” a whole lot of nostalgia about the place seemed to be evaporating or evolving. Contests changed hands and underwent severe revamping. Most shockingly, the iconic bridge that gives the place its name has been slated for demolition and reconstruction. And surfers finally pay for parking.

We lost one of our greatest surfing legends, Chris Hawk, on Oct. 23. Hawk played a key role in creating Huntington Beach’s surf culture in the 1960s and 1970s. Surfers all over California knew his reputation and the boards he shaped and continue to revere his contributions to the culture today. On Sept. 18, Hawk had received the Surfers’ Hall of Fame trophy and cemented his hand- and footprints into the sidewalk, leaving his mark at the base of Duke Kahanamoku’s statue.

No less mourned was local surfer John Kissel, who died in a water-related accident on Aug. 29.

Wax On, Wax Off had its most exciting moments, though, when violence erupted at Newport Point in October. The story of the fight drew unprecedented feedback from readers and led to a series of articles that explored violence in surfing.

Now, the snowy season is well under way, and OC surfers—as well as Wax On, Wax Off—have turned their attention to big north swells and snowboarding. (Bradley Beylik)

GETTIN’ MADE: ONLINE ARTSY-FARTSYNESS
It has been a hopping six months in the indie arts-and-crafts scene in OC and beyond. We met local craft collectives the O.C. Handmade Brigade (www.handmadebrigadeofoc.com) and Long Beach Craft Mafia (www.longbeachcraftmafia.com). The Handmade Brigade gals brought us craft shows at Detroit Bar and the Camp, along with a holiday-stocking-decorating party for local charity Mercy House. Long Beach Craft Mafia provided us with demos and giveaways of craft supplies and a rockin’ Halloween party where crafty types could get together.

We met scores of local (and not so local) indie crafters including Shari Bonnin (www.bonnindesigns.etsy.com), Jan Thomas of Loved Unconditionally (www.lovedunconditionally.com) and Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark of Kitchen Sink Dyeworks (www.kitchensinkdyeworks.com). John Sutton of Maddie Kate’s Candles (www.maddiekates.com) provided a refreshing reminder that men (yes, men) create amazing handmade items, too.

We attended a slew of rockin’ indie craft events, including Patchwork, Unique L.A., Renegade Craft Fair, the Southern California premiere of the Handmade Nation documentary, Knit One Cure Too and Craftmas Bizarre.

We learned about local shops where you can buy handmade such as Silver Lake’s Home Ec and Reform School, and we bid a fond adieu to Santa Ana’s Craft Kitchen and Long Beach’s the Kids Are Alright. (The latter still exists online at www.thekidsarealright-shop.com for all your indie-design gifting needs.)

We gave away a ton of free items, from earrings by Tracy Owens-Chasteen (www.polishedtwo.etsy.com) to a necklace by Melissa Contreras of Axelhoney (www.axelhoney.com) to a set of cards and an art print from Frantic Meerkat and Mincing Mockingbird (www.franticmeerkat.etsy.com and www.mincingmockingbird.etsy.com).

We explored trends in indie crafting and took a look at examples of handmade items featuring such favorites as wood grain, moustaches and bacon.

Look forward to lots more artsy-fartsy shenanigans in 2010; with literally thousands of crafters to meet on Etsy.com, I’ll never be short on material. (Steph Calvert)

THEATER: ON THOSE OTHER BOARDS
In February, Rude Guerrilla Theater Co., the politically charged Santa Ana troupe that made my life a touch more exciting the past 12 years, announced it was closing. Cue sad music. But, in December, a phoenix rose from the ashes: The Monkey Wrench Collective, consisting of some of the more prominent former guerrillas—notably my Weekly colleague Dave Barton—signed a lease at a storefront on Harbor Boulevard in downtown Fullerton. It produces its first show, Mark Ravenhill’s Pool: (no water), in late January.

But even though there was a dearth of sexually depraved and intellectually charged material this year with Rude Guerrilla’s absence, there were plenty of things on local stages to crow about.

Great productions: The Seagull at the Chance Theater; Around the World in 80 Days at the Laguna Playhouse; Reefer Madness at the Maverick Theater; The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare Orange County; and Noises Off and You, Nero at South Coast Repertory.

Fantastic performances: Melanie Gable in The Seagull; Brenda Kenworthy in Love and Money (Rude Guerrilla); Brian Kojac in Richard III (STAGEStheatre); Jennifer Lyon in Noises Off; Mike Martin in Reefer Madness; Ryan Miller in One Flea Spare (Hunger Artists); Michael Nehring in Merchant of Venice; and Nick Ullett in Saturn Returns (SCR).

But the greatest achievement in local theater in the final year of the aughts was on the boards of a space not even located in the county, but pretty damn close: California Repertory Co.’s (the graduate program of Cal State Long Beach State) spellbinding take on Festen, David Eldridge’s mother (and father) of all incest plays. Director Joanne Gordon’s staging was as fine as these eyes have seen in 15 years of observing local theater. It was a masterful debut in the troupe’s new space aboard the Queen Mary. (Joel Beers)

ART: NO ESCAPISM
Want to escape the dreariness for art’s mind-emptying tranquility? Good luck.

Even the briefest survey of shows that I reviewed over the past year tells us the zeitgeist is a poltergeist.

As the Second Law of Thermodynamics moves us toward oblivion, all of these artists and galleries—for all the bleakness of much of the subject matter—made life just a bit more bearable: Hibbleton Gallery’s “Charming Decay” set the tone for the year, and it’s been gloriously downhill from there. UC Irvine’s Beall Center for Art and Technology encouraged my distrust of technology, as monsters and their human variations ruled at Muzeo. World of Warcraft hacked and slashed its way through Laguna Beach; the Orange County Museum of Art sat us passively in front of provocative screens large (and small), while Carlos Amorales’ webs waited to snare us. Revolutionary death was alternately mourned and exalted at Grand Central Art Center, and even trees are threatening in Keith Noordzy’s work at the Box Gallery.

Steve Elkins’ humanist photographs spot beauty where you’d least expect it at Hibbleton, while Arthur Taussig exposed Middle America’s idiocy at Irvine Fine Arts Center. Tattoo artists showed their sensitive sides at the Light Gallery. The sham of “fine art” got bitch-slapped at Grand Central, and Rembrandt urged us to spare that dime for the poor at the Bowers Museum. Then, at the Box, Jophen Stein dove into the surreal without leaving social concerns behind. (Dave Barton)

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