SANTA MONICA AIRPORT — Between Cash for Clunkers and auto industry bailouts, the message we are receiving from every angle is that it is time to move on with the way we move. For Santa Monica resident and local artist Louise Anne Marler, there is no better way to convey that message than through her new photography exhibit, “Oil is History.”
“It marks a point in time and the insight to create the awareness that the shift has begun,” Marler said.
This shift is taking the world away from the machinery and transport of Marler’s past and toward her passion for the environment.
Growing up in St. Louis, Mo., Marler’s was raised around Chevrolet cars and small machines; her father owned a typewriter factory, while her mother worked as a seamstress. Through this background, Marler became a self-proclaimed gearhead with a knack for mechanics.
“I didn’t have any brothers, so I would go fix the car and change the oil,” Marler said.
At the same time, Marler remembers looking through Foxfire nature books, absorbing the survival techniques and earthly living tips. As a Girl Scout, she went on a camping trips and learned about leaving no trace on the environment.
“I was definitely a 1970s child, so the ecology thing was always a cause that I was down with,” Marler sad.
On a recent trip back to Missouri, these contradicting influences combined. Marler came across a local junkyard filled with decaying Chevrolet cars and “Oil is History” was born.
“I was so stricken by how the nature was really enveloping the rusting heaps of old cars,” Marler said. “It wasn’t so much contrasting, but it was kind of blending.”
The photographs — now on display as large format prints in vivid dye inks — convey everything from the rusty details of a Chevy hood ornament to the bigger picture of multiple cars overgrown by nature. Some of the photos, which will be on display through the end of the month, are exhibited in reclaimed frames. The work is impressive considering Marler only began taking photos as a hobbyist in the ‘90s.
“Photography came later,” Marler said, explaining that printing was her first love.
Marler began to sell prints on the Westside in 1989, honing her skills through computer design courses at Santa Monica College.
Then, just a year after moving to Santa Monica in 1994, Marler opened a printing business and was recognized as the first green printer in the area. Using recycled paper and eco-friendly dyes, she and her partner took a risk by putting the environment before more traditional methods.
“I thought it was that important, and I thought that this community would be receptive to it,” Marler said. “That was kind of the start of the public statement about my passion.”
Though continuing on her eco-friendly path, Marler sold her half of the business just five years later and began explore fabric printing and note cards. As she also continued her photography, people began to take note.
“I didn’t have very much money, and so I was very judicious about the shots I took,” Marler said. “People said how it was just as good as what they’d seen in the museum, so I stepped forward a little more.”
Today, Marler works in a studio at the Santa Monica Airport, enjoying the creative environment of the other artists around her. “Oil is History” opened there on Saturday among live plant collages and an electric car for people to ride. In this manner, Marler brought the juxtaposition between industry and ecology to life.
“We’re kind of creating our own different spin on the gallery experience,” Marler said. “It could be called experiential marketing.”
As a former psychology and marketing major, Marler has a mind for consumer behavior and hopes to use this technique to bring her message elsewhere. With sponsorship, “Oil is History” has the potential to be utilized in museums, exploratoriums and product campaigns.
“I’m hoping to actually work with these alternative car companies who want to use my images to promote their new models,” Marler said.
Though she has already received interest from innovative car companies like Tesla, Marler also hopes work with older companies like Chevrolet.
“I have felt very conflicted about the idea that they got a bailout when they could have seen the writing on the wall,” Marler said of the company she grew up with.
After graduating from Southeast Missouri State University in the ‘80s, Marler worked for a time at her local daily paper before hopping in her Chevy Cavalier to move west. Having visited an uncle in the South Bay as a teenager, Marler always knew that she wanted to come back.
“I spent a little bit of time in West Hollywood, a little bit of time in Venice,” Marler said. “I’ve been [in Santa Monica] since 1994 and seen it grow up around me. I just love this place.”
While a fan of everything from the air to the music, Marler has felt that the West and Santa Monica have ultimately helped to foster her career path.
“You see people making a living in ways that you could never access in St. Louis,” Marler said.
Additionally, Marler loves the lifestyle. On any given day, the artist leaves her apartment on 17th Street and bikes the 2 1/2 miles to her studio, which she rents from the city. There, she works on not only her own personal photography, but commercial work on everything from red carpet events to specific projects in the L.A. area. In fact, some of her work has even been featured in films and shows like “Two and a Half Men.”
“I work very consistently, so I’ve amassed quite a bit,” Marler said. “I have a pretty decent body of work.”
To add to the creative atmosphere, Marler often “confabs” with the other artists around her, loving the unique people who wander in to look at her work. Combine these opportunities with the ability to walk to restaurants and entertainment venues within Santa Monica itself, and Marler has truly found her ideal place.
“I am definitely a Santa Monican,” Marler said, citing that while she loves the city’s progressive nature, she feels the need to take her message elsewhere.
“I feel that the timing is so important,” Marler said. “We can embrace our past and love our past, but yet also it’s time to grow.”
To see Marler’s work in person, visit L.A. Marler Studio and Gallery (hangar), at 3000-B Airport Ave. Call (310) 449-4477 to make an appointment.