Six weeks after LAPD riot cops cut short the revolution and forcibly cleared Occupy L.A. from its home on the City Hall lawn, nostalgia for the movement's glory days has already begun to set in.
It is thick in the air at the Jan. 14 opening of "Just Occupy," a new photo exhibit at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica. So many people show up that two lines form around the sides of the gallery, like a club on Sunset on a Friday night. Attendees peer anxiously over the heads of earlier arrivals, trying to get a peek through the glass doors and glaring at those cutters whose connections allow them to slip past the gatekeepers.
"They started lining up at 9 a.m.," marvels gallery owner Robert Berman, overwhelmed in the best way.
Twenty-four hours before the opening, Shepard Fairey, the graphic designer behind the Obama "Hope" poster and one of the most famous street artists in the world, posted an announcement on his blog:
"The photographer Ted Soqui who shot the reference photo for the Occupy Protester poster and Time magazine cover will be having a show at Robert Berman along with Christopher Felver. I have a couple of pieces in the show and Sarah Mason the subject of the Time Protester cover will be in attendance. --Shepard"
It was the first time Fairey fully acknowledged the existence of Soqui, the L.A. Weekly photographer whose photo Fairey manipulated for the cover art of Time's recent "Person of the Year" issue.And it was the first time he acknowledged Mason, the Occupy L.A. protester who became a modern-day Rosie the Riveter when, without warning, she found her own eyes staring back at her from the cover of Time, framed by a soft yellow beanie and a periwinkle bandanna.
Soqui, a veteran Los Angeles photojournalist hot on Occupy's trail, snapped a photo of Mason on Nov. 17 -- just hours before she and her comrades in protest were arrested for refusing to leave the Bank of America plaza.
So when Fairey appropriated the striking portrait for Time, gallery owner Berman took notice. Mason, after all, has worked for his gallery for nearly a year. That aligned the stars for what would become Soqui's first gallery show.
Accordingly, the hot-ticket item of the night turns out to be one of 250 prints that Fairey made of his Time image. For $99 a pop (get it?), the posters sell as fast as buyers can squeeze into the gallery.
After weaseling past the glaring line with the V.I.P.s, this reporter notices a small huddle staring at her, whispering to each other. "Are you Sarah Mason?" one finally gets up the courage to ask. "We heard she was wearing fishnets."
Mason is indeed wearing fishnet tights -- and double-fisting a steady rotation of beer bottles for dear life. Her iconic hazel-green eyes turn deer-in-the-headlights as friends and strangers crowd around her, asking for an autograph or a photo of her in front of Soqui's famous portrait.