Familiar to many as simply the mysterious brown building overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the clifftop park near the Santa Monica Pier, the Camera Obscura is a beloved, if offbeat, cultural landmark. Built in 1898 at the peak popularity of the then-novel technology, the walk-in camera is now one of a mere few that survive. But thanks to robust programming by the City of Santa Monica’s culture-minded staff, the Camera Obscura Art Lab is now the site of free or nearly free artist-run workshops and discussions across multiple disciplines.
During any given season you’ll find dancers, poets, filmmakers, painters, photographers, performance artists, authors and innovative makers leading activities on-site. This fall, of special note is an ongoing series by Lisa Diane Wedgeworth, who in diverse ways encourages participants to examine their own lives and memories before learning to translate those experiences into works of art, from abstract paintings to experimental videos.
Wedgeworth is an acclaimed visual artist whose practice encompasses abstract painting, as well as video and performance works, with an emphasis on storytelling and memory. Her poetic attentiveness to the detailed realities of life as a woman and a person of color inflect her works with a certain edge and urgency, but her message is truly accessible and requisite to anyone seeking to have more balance and justice in their life and society.
Her workshops include a pair of video-making courses: Video & Memory on Saturday, Sept. 22, and Making Experimental Video on Saturday, Nov. 3; both run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and cost just $5. These digital video workshops explore narrative video-making and interpretive video art, respectively. In both sessions, Wedgeworth will show some of her video art before sharing tips for making your own. All you have to do is: “Bring a camera phone or digital camera, laptop and cables if needed, and install iMovie or other editing software on your device(s).”
On Saturdays, Sept. 29 and Oct. 27, again from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and again for $5, Wedgeworth offers insight into how even nonfigurative work can be used to tell a story. No prior painting experience is required, but expect to get a bit colorful, as you’re encouraged to wear clothes that can get paint-splattered.
To round out her residency, on Saturdays, Oct. 13 and Nov. 17, Wedgeworth hosts a pair of free conversations, from 11 a.m. to noon, titled Claiming Creativity: Considering the “Ish.” I’ll just share with you what the artist says about these talks, and why she feels such idea- and care-sharing moments are more important than ever in sustaining our creative community. These are discussions, she writes, “about the freedom of embracing accidents and mistakes, and why the notion of perfection is paralyzing when it comes to creativity. In this current political and social climate, it’s important to remind and empower each other to be creative. Let’s not criticize and inhibit ourselves and focus too much on avoiding mistakes. All are invited to share instances of serendipity and consider what place creative accident has in our daily lives."
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More information on these and other classes here.
Camera Obscura Art Lab, 1450 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 458-2239, santamonica.com; every Saturday, various dates, free-$5.