Gustavo Dudamel: The Maestro Cometh

Friends, enemies, & the aloof: I present to you my first magazine cover story!

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In the Cause & Effect issue (number 165) of FLAUNT magazine, I interview LA Philharmonic director & conductor Gustavo Dudamel. It’s available now physically and also digitally here: https://www.flaunt.com/content/gustavo-dudamel.

An excerpt:

“Think about it. What is art, ultimately? What is culture?” he asks, gesticulating with his hands as if conducting, though in a much more subdued manner than when he takes the podium. “It is a people’s identity. Do you know what I mean? The great artists, the geniuses, no matter where they live or where they were born, gave all of humanity a gift… This means that when we play Beethoven in Peru, for instance, we can play him as a European composer with a Peruvian identity, or a Venezuelan one, or Argentine, or Japanese.”

Hollywood Forever Cemetery Presents 17th Annual Dia De Los Muertos Celebration

Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration, the largest Day of the Dead celebration outside of Mexico, returns for its 17th edition.

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This year’s theme is “El Arbol De La Vida/The Tree Of Life,” with a focus on sculptural traditions of the town of Metepec near Toluca de Lerdo.

Music this year will be provided by:

Julieta Venegas

Buyepongo

Alejandro y Maria Laura

Mitre

Mariachi Flor De Toloache

Here’s my rundown of last year’s event, which celebrated the culture of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol people, visited by 40,000 people and featured musicals artists Lila Downs, Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, Huichol Musical, and others.

More info at ladayofthedead.com.

Nothing Is More Political Than Fantasy: A LACMA Q&A With Guillermo Del Toro

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Famed fantasy/horror director/novelist Guillermo del Toro has had a lifelong obsession with monsters. His obsession can be seen in his impressive collection of art, books, posters, statues, busts, and other memorabilia lovingly stored and curated in what he calls Bleak House, a personal museum and creative shrine closed to the public and only accessible by a personal invitation from the man himself. del Toro, however, has decided to give fans a tiny peek at his collection through a new exhibit at LACMA.

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters features nearly 500 objects from del Toro’s vast collection in his first museum retrospective.

“This exhibition presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life,” said del Toro. “It’s a devotional sampling of the enormous love that is required to create, maintain, and love monsters in our lives.”

LACMA hosted a preview of the exhibit on Saturday July 30th along with a short Q&A session with del Toro, LACMA director Michael Govan, and exhibition curator Britt Salvesen. Below are a few quotes from the Q&A session with the director as well as a few photos from the exhibit (more at my Flickr).

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“This has been quite a journey. It sounded like a good idea a few years ago. I’m not a collector. I’m not a hoarder…because collectors know how the market is, they know how much everything is. They keep their comic books in little bags. They keep their toys neat in a box. I don’t know about that. I play with toys. I have a very promiscuous relationship with all the items from [Bleak House]. Basically, for me, that place for me is a shrine.”

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“When I was a child, I was raised Catholic but somewhere down the lines, I didn’t fit with the saints and the virgins and the holy men, so somewhere along those years, I fit in with the monsters. I saw in the creature of Frankenstein by Boris Karloff, I saw a beautiful, innocent creature in a state of grace that was sacrificed by sins he had not committed.”

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“I found in these monsters a very moving essence of outsiderness during which I identified fully. I also understood that the world as it was defined…was a complete lie. A complete fabrication. I knew it instinctively. I found that those monsters did not pretend to be something else and they presented themselves, in essence as well as in appearance, in a way that moved me, literally.”

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“I think that nothing is more political than fantasy because when a storyteller feels he or she is free from the constraints of reality, they show themselves more fully. Because we can always say…’oh, it’s just a story.’ But it isn’t. I think they tell us something very deep about ourselves. This, I think, the rubicon of where you stand, the defining line, is your view of monsters. If you see my movies over and over again, you will see that I love them. I absolutely love them.”

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“Humans, we are pretty repulsive. We are probably only bad because we live in the pretense. We have invented a series of fantasies that we have set socially that are absolutely terrifying like geography, gender, race, you know? These are accepted fictions with which we have managed to separate from each other. The beauty of monsters is that they require our acceptance and our love to survive. They represent- they are patron saints of otherness.”

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“The other thing I found as a very young kid is that I was very attracted to horror. Right now I’m 51 and I can say I’m not a horror filmmaker because I am attracted to the forms of horror, to the beauty and the greater poetry of horror but I’m not attracted to the mechanics and the devices of horror. I lie somewhere in between, in a crossroad between horror and fairytale. I think that my movies are fables that have the essence and the beauty of a horror movie.”

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“It is very important for me to be here [at LACMA] as a Mexican. Because I am very Mexican. When people say ‘what’s Mexican about your movies?’, I say ‘me!’ We love monsters! This time, the real monsters in our lives are in really finely tailored suits. It’s very important to tell them that we are a diverse and rich community…it is very important for me to say that I am Mexican and that I love monsters.”

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“There’s nothing more scary than people who are profoundly ignorant and profoundly certain.”

At Home With Monsters will be on display at LACMA’s Art of the Americas building until Nov. 27th.

My Coachella coverage for LA Weekly

I spent the past weekend at Indio covering the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival with a team of writers, photographers from LA Weekly & OC Weekly. It made for great times and even greater stories.

Below are the three stories I wrote about the festival for LA Weekly:

The Slow Death of Coachella’s Local Vendor Economy

The Date Farmers’ Art Exposes the Economic Divide of Coachella

What’s It Going to Take to Bring More Latino Artists to Coachella?