A three-foot-wide dome of soft red fabric engulfs you. Kelp, still wet with sea water, dangles around the single light bulb hung to illuminate your palace. You pulse back and forth in your miniature rocking chair, breathing in brine and listening to waves breaking on the record player beside you.
No, you're not in Maui. You are in Darcy French-Myerson's fort, one of nine forts constructed as part of multimedia production company cARTel's event “FORT: Gallery. Playground. Party.” cARTel brought this evening of whimsical, interactive fancy to life last night at the Angel City Brewing's warehouse as part of Downtown LA Art Walk. Angel City donated the space and sponsored the night with beer and wine and a portion of proceeds were donated to Schools on Wheels, a non-profit dedicated to enriching the education of homeless children.
“The thesis of the idea was capturing childhood imaginings and making a higher art version of that,” explained Peter Berube, the curator of the show. Thanks to the diverse selection of artists chosen, the interpretations of that thesis varied greatly.
“My fort takes place in the womb of a very depressed destructive Los Angeles actress,” enthused artist Kate Bergstrom about her hedonistic actor-filled fort entitled Sweet Fetus Baby. French-Myerson's fort was inspired by “animal and fairy dwellings, North American Indian sweat lodges, and the recent LA storms,” she said.
Artist Joel Harris had to retire early to put his 3-year-old daughter to sleep, but his friend Raphael Healey explained Harris's 3-D cartoon-like cardboard structure as “the first house we draw as kids: a rectangle with a triangle. This is a childhood fantasy come true”.
cARTel (formerly Ahmisa Artists) was founded in 2008 by its executive and artistic director, Negin Singh, while she was finishing her undergrad degree at UCI. “It started with my frustrations with how hard it was to create art,” Singh explained as we chatted in a sprawling central fort full of face painters and tarot card readers. “You know, getting a space, getting the money together, getting the rights. By the time it's sanctioned, you don't even want to make it anymore. We said, let's make what we want to make and make it right now. Great art comes from when you just can't stop”.
cARTel's mission to make creating large scale art more accessible to those with the passion to do it helped Purgatory Arts Collective (Marissa Underwood, Myriad Slits, and Daniel Guzman) realize one of my favorite forts of the show. A ceiling of elegant lace canopied above a white-washed room of treasure-filled drawers and trinket-crammed crannies. “It's like a storybook,” marveled attendee Elese Orrell as she took in the wall of sand and figure filled salt shakers, lanterns, and clocks, “it seems old but compiled with a youthful spirit”.
“We are so grateful to cARTel,” Myriad enthused. “This is our first opportunity to do something on this scale and in public, working with other artists and on someone else's deadline. It's the ultimate wet dream fantasy: to wake up at 6 a.m. and make art”.
To check out what's next on cARTel's eclectic calendar of film festivals, clown shows, and one-day art extravaganzas like FORTS, check out their website wearecARTel.org