Corrie Siegel: L.A. Jewish art on location
On Jan. 25, artist Corrie Siegel will park her 16-foot-long white truck — a converted film production vehicle — in the parking lot of the beach mansion William Randolph Hearst built for his mistress, actress Marion Davies. Now a public facility known as the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, the locale still conjures images of old Hollywood and California beach babes, Siegel, 28, noted in an interview.
She’s transformed her truck into a mobile art gallery for her traveling Star Tours, its signage modeled after the kind of “cheesy” graphics of celebrity tours throughout Los Angeles, she said. But Siegel’s gold star insignia is a magen David, and the approximately 12 artworks on display inside the truck stem from her two years as a recipient of the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, a program of the Foundation for Jewish Culture. The work is largely inspired by ancient Jewish crafts carried throughout the Diaspora.
The work on display will include abstract images of maps of Los Angeles, drawn in black ink on white paper — some adorned with swirling or wavy lines and others images formulated with the names of neighborhoods written in tiny letters of transliterated Hebrew, a style of artistry known as micrography.
Siegel created a piece, titled “International Serpent,” by overlapping quotes from “Mein Kampf” “and then making paper cuts to abstract the text. The resulting work looks like a fragile lace doily and also references graffiti art and the Mexican craft of papel picado. “It was a way for me to reclaim and explore this very charged text using the Jewish art of paper cutting,” Siegel said. “It also connects ideas of Jewish identity and how we can maintain our history in a way that is inclusive of our current surroundings,” she said.
Siegel — who now lives in Echo Park — began her project after she graduated from Bard College in New York in 2007 and moved back to her childhood home in Northridge, where, she recalled, “I felt displaced, alienated and lost, both metaphorically and literally. When I would drive around, I would get so lost that I would aim for Santa Monica and end up in Hollywood. So I started visualizing my place within the city by drawing maps, at first just as a memory device.
“But by drawing the maps, my image of L.A. started changing — no longer was the city just this symbol of Hollywood and surf and turf. It became a grounded place, a collage of neighborhoods and communities, a rich place filled with culture.”
Siegel received her Six Points Fellowship two years ago, and with the $41,000 in funds it provided, she began to extend her research on traditional Jewish art forms by traveling to Europe and Israel. She was especially inspired by the Catalan Atlas of the world created in 1375 by Cresques Abraham, “which, in addition to its accuracy, also conveys the religions and cultures of each area in these beautiful illustrations,” Siegel said. “It’s a pluralistic view of the world that led me to draw maps and use traditional art forms as well as Los Angeles iconography.”
In December 2012, Siegel displayed an earlier Star Tours project, standing on Mulholland Drive near Coldwater Canyon and handing out her maps of Mulholland linking Jewish sites along the famed road (Bugsy Siegel’s former home, for example) and antique pilgrims’ maps of Jerusalem.
Her art truck, which this month has already visited sites such as the Watts Towers and Workmen’s Circle, will help take her project to another level.
In addition to inviting audiences to play informal games of beach volleyball with blow-up rubber globes at the Annenberg house, Siegel will ask viewers to fill out a form, answering questions such as where they live, the site of their first kiss, their immigrant experiences and how they relate to their neighborhoods. She’ll then inscribe new maps with the information she collects.
“It will help tell the story of L.A., and also help me tell my own story,” she said.
For more information about Siegel’s Jan. 25 event, which will last from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., visit www.beachhouse.smgov.net.