Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Growing pains 

It has finally happened...LATDA art and artifacts are crowding us out of house and home! The time has come to rent a storage space to accommodate the growing number of donations from generous supporters. Sad though it makes me feel to put away the toys that surround my work space (and eating space and sleeping space), I am hoping that they will not languish long in their storage boxes. But the holidays are coming up and we need to shoehorn a tree and several friends and relatives into our living room soon. Finding a home for LATDA has moved up a notch on the list of priorities.

As I pack up boxes of monkeys and tin toys, I am re-inspired as to our mission to share these objects with the public. I feel a perpetual smile on my face as I envision displays incorporating our different kinds of alligator toys...Maybe chasing our collection of monkeys across a blue Lego plain...

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Playing With the Box 

At the risk of appearing like I have no life, I am making another blog entry today. It is very exciting (and nerve-wracking) to come up with an idea and throw it out to a bunch of artists. Add a deadline and you are sure to end up with hives if you expect it to be met. Still, as the entries come in from various corners of the world (yesterday we received a delightful entry from Adam Peele, a designer in Tokyo, Japan!), it is like Christmas morning every time we receive an entry.

Adam sent us a box of cardboard white mice that operate under golf ball power! He said they reminded him of a mechanical toy mouse he wanted as a child. They kind of remind me of a toy mouse that my brother bought on the Venice boardwalk when we were kids. We saw a man hawking this 'magic' mouse that would skitter up his hands, trying to crawl onto his chest. He kept rotating his hands rapidly so it could never actually crawl onto him. What we couldn't see was the piece of fishing line attached from a button on his shirt to the mouse's nose. We fell for it and bought one of the mice and were duly disappointed that it wasn't really magic. Still it was a pretty good illusion for a dollar.

We still have not secured a venue or a date for "Playing With the Box", so if you are an artist and want to be part of this inaugural event, there is still time to submit an entry! For more details on the rules and regs, email us at and put "I want to PWB" in the subject line.

Buried treasure 

Another story from the other Coast...

Story: Phoenix, AZ, when [I was] a kid, was a suburban hot bed of toys. I had a Zorro outfit, with a mask, cape, and sword that had chalk on the end for drawing the "Mark of Zorro"...Steve Canyon helmet, Rifleman rifle, a Mare's Leg from "Wanted Dead or Alive", models. When I got older, I buried all my toys in the backyard. Worth a small fortune now..all buried in a heap....sigh....often considered digging them out and going to eBay!!! I just remembered I had a Roy Rogers set..including "Nelly Bell"...the Jeep.

TV ruled my toy world. Aviation models, too. Great how the backyard, with toys, and friends, became such a full world...and we had to make our OWN sound effects!! Now, the adult toys are way too expensive and somehow not as fulfilling as those of my youth...but I still make models...and they touch the fun.

--David, Brooklyn, NY

Yes, and all that creativity is now serving David well in his career as musician-composer. By the way, David, where did you say you lived in Phoenix?

What is it about buried toys? I don't think I have ever lived in a house where I didn't dig up a cat's eye marble or five. I know that it probably has something to do with the size of the object and its tendency to roll away, but there is something exciting about seeing the glint of light from a mud-encrusted bump in a dirt clod - like finding diamonds.

There is a lovely story in an exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum about a Japanese American boy who was incarcerated at one of the camps during World War II. He was eight or nine at the time and one of the rare amusements he had in camp was a bag of marbles. For some reason, I don't remember why now, he buried the marbles under the front steps of his barracks home. Many years later, while on a pilgrimage to share his past with his children or grandchildren, he remembered about the marbles. Although the barracks were long gone, he figured out where his former home stood and paced out where the front step would have been and dug up his marbles.

Buried treasure...

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Got Bush? 

For anyone out there looking to donate an artifact to LATDA, we are looking for one of those new Dubya inaction figures. We have been collecting many comic strip references to the doll… I mean, action figure, and think that there is a future show about action figures of people who have nothing to do with ‘action’.

Which brings me to the topic of what kind of toy it is appropriate for a museum to collect… The philosophy at LATDA is that we will collect with themes for exhibitions in mind. Ideally we would like objects in our collection to reflect the best and sometimes the worst in toy design, but where do you draw the line? For example, the George Bush figure controversy also led us to look at the talking Governator doll, supposedly depicting Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is his voice in the microchip, but the head looks nothing like the subject. It would be better to buy a replacement chip from the company and insert/attach it to a real Terminator action figure. At least people who license images from movies have to hew to a certain level of quality control.

When I visited the site that produces this particular doll, they had an entire line of politically satirical dolls. They had accumulated quite a bit of hate mail that they posted for all to see. The fact that they produce custom action figures was interesting (although, again, the quality was dubious) but I didn’t know whether it was appropriate to support them.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Chicken Boy and other amusements... 

Last night I attended a presentation by Amy Inouye and Kathy Cadien at the Skylight Bookstore on Vermont in Los Feliz (haven't been there since it was Chatterton's!) These two artists told their inspirational tales of passion for two hunks of Fiberglas - Chicken Boy and Pegthroat the Pirate.

What I took away from the evening (besides a feeling of camaraderie and empathy) was the lesson that all grown-up dreams become inextricably tied up in a web of politics and financial responsibility when they are on their road to reality. That these women have both persevered to save their Fiberglas guys (22' and 26' tall, respectively) for a period of years, is an amazing story. But it was comforting to note that along the way they have both assembled their own band of supporters. They are my role models and heroes!

Note to LATDA fans: Amy Inouye is also a designer and artist, and was once of the first people to submit a piece for "Playing With the Box". It is a wonderful piece of work that is entitled "Design-Your-Own-Disney Hall". We will endeavor to link a picture of it to our web site as a preview for our first show. Stay tuned. (Amy has also designed a book with photographer Gary Leonard entitled, "Symphony in Steel: Walt Disney Concert Hall Goes Up" published by Angel City Press)

As a welcome respite from the strikes and fires of the past week, I went to see "Dressed for Thrills: Vintage Halloween Costumes" at the Craft and Folk Art Museum (Los Angeles). This is an exhibition based on the book of the same name and written by Phyllis Galembo, who owns most of the artifacts in the exhibition. As usual, CAFAM created a beautiful jewel of an exhibition, and the only thing it wanted for was another two or three rooms full of artifacts. I wanted MORE (especially having read and purchased the book last year.) It was an interesting presentation of actual costumes and large cibachrome photographs of children wearing costumes. The photos were presented as artifacts themselves. After re-visiting the book, I don't know what costumes I would have added to the current presentation (although I did like the 'Queen of the Night'). The ones with printed Halloween patterns were the best. The show is up for one more week...Go see it and support CAFAM. A bonus exhibition of woodworker Sam Maloof's work is on the third floor.

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