Thursday, December 29, 2005

Offbeat Xmas Part I: “Unhappy Hellidays”

Alan and I drove from Oakland to Las Vegas (8.5 hours) in the hopes of finding a Christmas that matched our moods this year. 

Our first choice was the ghost town Bodie, but it sits off the highway on a 10-mile dirt road that is ostensibly covered in deep snow, so we changed our destination to Portland, Oregon. Then we got the weather reports that Portland was just as deluged with rain as we were, so we decided to hit our old friend Las Vegas.

We had a pretty noneventful ride down the length of California. Near Barstow, I saw a sign for a ghost town called Calico, which got me in a frenzy of excitement. I could get my ghost town after all! Alan promised we’d hit it on the way back [insert ominous oboe sounds….]

We arrived in Vegas just after midnight on the 24th, which means we checked into our nondescript, non-strip, non-casino hotel on Christmas Day itself. 

Christmas Day included some random gambling (craps being our game), looking forward to that evening for the first event that would mark this as an Offbeat Christmas. : the Unhappy Hellidays exhibit at MTZC. MTZC is an art gallery that advertises “No wine, cheese or children.” Here’s the description that attracted us:

"Unhappy Hellidays" (First Friday 12/2/05 - 1/2/06) - Not everyone embraces the Hallmark spin on this time of year. MTZC's disturbing December exhibit is a group show that allows no fewer than 23 artists (each with their own coal-filled sweat-sock nailed to the mantle) to explore the depths of cynicism & misery some people experience during this month with the highest suicide rates. FREE

We enjoyed such pieces as the Last Bath, a photograph showing a woman’s legs in a bath of blood, and the row of yucky sweat socks nailed to the mantel. When we arrived, one of the socks had already been filled by Santa, with a flyer illustrating sexual acts. Cybele, the co-artist of this latter piece with Mark T. Zeilman, is shown here in front of it in her holiday evening gown. 

Get ready for the Oakland connection: Cybele used to live in Adam’s Point! I can’t explain her terrible oversight in choosing to leave Oakland, but she was wonderful and it was great to talk to her.

We also really liked a piece by Lorraine Leslie, pictured at the top of the post. A Dia De Los Muertos-esque Santa pulls a sobbing, terrified little girl onto his lap. The painting is framed with a “candy cane” that is smeared with blood. Lorraine was there too, and she wore a t-shirt that read, “Waste your life. Be an artist.”

Also present was Michael Kruis, who owns the gallery next door, and Brian Paco Alvarez. We had a great time with these guys and their eggnog; it was the perfect way to spend this particular Christmas evening. Here’s a picture of, from left, Cybele, Michael, Brian doing an Imitation of Christ, Lorraine and Alan.

We were so glad we went to this showing. For all the times we’ve gone to Las Vegas, this was the first time we ever connected with real people (other than the dealers’ perennial “Where you folks from?”) who actually live real lives there.

It was also the night we got some terrible, terrible advice [oboes sound again].

Next time: Alan gives blood in Las Vegas.

. . . . .

1 comment:

Lorraine E. Leslie said...

Hi Erika!
It was great meeting you an Alan as well! Glad that I got to enjoy a cup of eggnog with you guys and spend some time with you. You will have to stop by during a First Friday of the month, next time you are in Vegas! Lots of great art going on at Commerce Street and in and around the arts district. Best wishes for a great New Year!