Nine Lives Change the Lives of Many More

Nine artists from Los Angeles are taking a daring chance and doing what most people fear to do: putting their lives on display at the Hammer Museum.

Their thoughts, feelings, fears and obsessions are all made tangible to the public through paper, ink, wool, clay, car fresheners, nightlights and many other mediums, letting fellow Angelinos get a glimpse into their worlds.

The "Nine Lives: Visionary Artists from L.A." exhibition features over 125 works, bridging four generations of artists.
The first thought that comes to mind when entering the exhibit is: "I don't get it."

However, it resonates. The exhibit is strange and intriguing. It is stunningly beautiful. Not a Marilyn Monroe or Jacky Kennedy beauty, but the beauty of smoke creeping out of a cigarette in the dead of the night.

On Sunday, three out of the nine artists, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Kaari Upston and Charlie White, came to the Hammer Museum for a panel discussion to share the inspiration behind their work. Auerbach walked into the panel
wearing one of her pieces from a collection of political sweaters she knits herself. Each sweater has a current event theme that drives the point home. Her most recent is one that says "No on 8" with eight baby heads sewn around in a circle, which not only speaks out about Proposition 8, but also the newly famed "octomom."

Another sweater follows the lines of a knock-knock joke, reading:
"Knock Knock,
Who's There?
9-11, 9-11 Who?
9-11 Who?
I thought you said you'd never forget."

"These sweaters are these fuzzy, warm, wearable objects, but they are also angry
and confrontational at the same time,"
said Auerbach. "They are like bumper stickers for bikes."

Upston's art takes a different approach,
most incorporating pornography, silicone
and phone sex operators. "Unknown was very important to me and staying on the threshold of not knowing," she said about her videos and photographs in which she herself depicts
another woman, with strange desires, such as sleeping with her own twin.

"What I got was entrance to something I wasn't prepared for," said Upston. Upston has also found a way to make L.A. her home by creating other alter egos for herself. "The endlessness of not being
in my own head and just going through
others... I loved Los Angeles," she said.
"It helped me invent a new substitute to
life and enter, which is what L.A. can
afford. The possibility of becoming is

This thought frame fits in perfectly with her artistic style and the name of the exhibit itself. Another artist who got lost in the world of someone else is Charlie White.

For two years, he regulated "The Cyrilla
Strothers Project" in which he had a young 16-year-old girl's parents, friends
and boyfriends take pictures of her at all
moments for two years, resulting in an
11,700 picture archive. "Things that were in Cyrilla's world became things in my world," said White.

He began to study pre-teen magazines such as J-14 and children's television shows, and saw that things were much more dimensional than he previously believed, which led to analyzing the pre-teen world. "When I studied Cyrilla, I felt like something really mattered in the role of that pre-teen girl," said White.

His presented works at the Hammer Museum are "Teen and Transgender Comparative Studies," in which he has placed a head-on, make-up free photograph of an adult transgender next to that of a pre-adolescent female.

The exhibition is on display at the Hammer Museum on the corner of Westwood and Wilshire Blvd. until May 31 and in the words of Auerbach: "good art makes you wonder why it's there." Admission is free with student ID.