A Valentine for the Past
Stan Cline remembers Los Angeles. He remembers Gilmore Field and the Pan Pacific Theater that stoodmajestically near the Farmers Market. He remembers Kiddieland where the Beverly Center now stands. He remembers the restaurants and drive-ins of his youth.
And for more than two decades, Cline has made a living reminding us of the way things used to be withhis vibrant paintings, rich with architectural accuracy, visual detail and a nostalgic reverence forL.A.’s history and glory.
In 1984, the artist heard that Tiny Naylor’s was closing down and rushed over to the landmark diner to sketch the premises. It is days like these that he laments.”It’s a shame,” reflects Cline. “And that’s one of the reason why I try to preserve it. Things get torn down so fast in this city.”
A second-generation local, Cline has never moved outside of Los Angeles’ city limits, attending Bancroft Junior High, Fairfax High School and Art Center College of Design.
And neither has his prime passion. Over the years, Cline has translated all manner of historic L.A. into his clean, unfettered style. Hollywood landmarks (Schwab’s, Mann’s Chinese Theater),famous eateries (The Brown Derby, Pink’s, Randy’s Donuts), and neighborhood districts (Westwood Village, Burbank, Riverside) all get equal and proper respect in Cline’s work, which has also included airports, piers, and trains indigenous to L.A. County. Cline haseven painted synagogues (including the very first B’nai B’rith institution that used to be on Spring Street in downtown L.A. in the late 19th century). In many of his paintings,cars have proved to be very important props in his paintings — almost as vital as the landmarks themselves, because they are a short-hand way of identifying the era.
Despite the romanticizing of L.A.’s past in his paintings, the 61-year-old artist understands the motivations behind men of progress, even if he doesn’t always agree.”Land values have become so expensive that people that own the land want to get the mostbang for their buck,” he says. “That’s why the drive-in restaurants disappeared.They make more revenue on office buildings.”
“I’ve always had a civic pride,” continues Cline. “It’s been quite rewarding beingable to be on national programs and talk about Los Angeles.”In fact, the passion and detailed research Cline commits to each of his paintingshas made him a municipal asset. He sided with the Los Angeles Historical Society when the city moved to get rid of the last of the trolley cars. In the early 1980s, he was nominated by Mayor Tom Bradley to help bring a rapid transit metro system to Los Angeles.
“I was on the committee to help plan the route,” says Cline. “We had overlays of wherepeople shopped, where they lived.”
One of the considerations Cline brought to the committee’s awareness was considering acheaper option of keeping the subway overground once it was out of a metropolitan area. Ultimately, the entire project was voted down, only to be revived three years later. “I wasn’t on the committee on that time, and they redid the route,” says Cline.
After all these years, Cline still owns “Angel’s Flight,” a representation of thelegendary downtown trolley car, the slogan “Welcome to the 1932 Summer Olympics” on its side.Created in 1977, it was a very special image for him; the image that kicked off his career rhapsodizing about L.A. culture when he realized that civic pride was rapidly disappearing.It was a move that would reroute his art career from a background of technical drawing and commercial art to a 23-year-and-counting love affair with the City of Angels, capturing our city’s nostalgia and, in effect, preserving our memories of its impermanence. Since then,Cline has painted about 160 scenes.
And while, ironically, it was the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris that was the subject of his very first commissioned painting, Cline has never had any burning desire to stray beyondNorth America. He has, however, gone beyond the parameters of his beloved Los Angeles, recently finishing a painting he had wanted to do for five years called “Las Vegas 2000” (he spent the eve of Y2K sketching the Strip) and also completed skylines of Waikiki Beach and Times Square, done in a limited edition lithographic process.But ultimately, when it comes to these exotic locales, he’s just dabbling. Home is wherethe heart — and the palette — is.
” I’ll never give up Los Angeles scenes,” says Cline. “There’s so many things to do.”Stan Cline will be appearing at Beverly Hills Affaire in the Gardens Art Show on May 20-21,the Pacific Palisades Fine Arts Festival on June 17-18 in Temescal Park, and the North HollywoodTheatre & Arts Festival in North Hollywood on June 24-25. For more information on Cline’supcoming appearances and his work, go to www.stancline.com