During a recent Northern California journey to photograph street art, my travel companion Lydia Emily suggested we visit the house of artist Paul Chatem on the way. Stopping by for a casual visit, I didn’t realize his upcoming show was the following week in Los Angeles and was excited at the opportunity to photograph his work.
Chatem’s art brings out the childhood instinct of touching something you really like. Why was I putting my dirty bird feet all over his work you may ask? All of his pieces are interactive, and that is the point.
Wooden gears placed on top of specific areas slightly alter the image with a few simple turns of a handle. Either changing a weapon in someone’s hand, or making them appear to gallop in place, these circus colored pieces were brought to life by a simple twist of the wrist.
This work is more than just fun and frivolity, each one has a small piece of history within. A Teddy Roosevelt work with 3 sets of numbers highlight him as the 33rd governor of New York, 25th vice president of the United States, and 1898 being the last year he was secretary of the Navy.
California’s water supply plays a central role in the show and the difficult past it’s had. Symbols on some pieces represent old hobo signs that give warning of bad water (in the photos is a key to these symbols), a clear testament to the past, and a possible premonition of the future.
“Oil and Water” opened at C.A.V.E. Gallery in Los Angeles and was a duel exhibition between Chatem, and artist Mike Davis. Davis’ pieces are extremely detailed oil paintings, high in symbolism and deep in meaning. Odd images of ears flouting around, as well as characters making a satire of life are central in the artist’s work.
One large piece had a chest and an egg battling to the death. When I asked what they were battling over, Davis insisted it “didn’t matter”, and that “all that is seen is hidden issues under their armor”. Every piece to him has personal undertones, but he enjoys hearing the crowd’s interpretations.
The work of both Paul Chatem and Mike Davis is astounding. If you’re in Los Angeles, or happen to be visiting Venice beach, check out the C.A.V.E. Gallery for this amazingly fun and entertaining fine art show.
- written and photographed by Birdman for Warholian
For more on “Oil and Water” at C.A.V.E. Gallery visit: http://cavegallery.net/
For more on the work of Paul Chatem visit: http://www.paulchatem.com/