Editor’s Note: This is a series in which Daily Press writers overhear and observe happenings around Santa Monica.
BERGAMOT STATION — A sequence of loud beeps echoes across the near empty parking lot here as a big rig completes a many-point turn Thursday morning. A few feet away, a sign prohibits that very action.
At just before 10 a.m., many of Bergamot Station’s diverse art galleries are just getting ready to open — but some art is already on display.
A car bearing the Santa Monica Museum of Art logo has been mostly filled with soil. Various species of cacti and other plants sprout through a hole cut in the roof. And it looks like one set of doors for the Samuel Freeman gallery is never used — sculpted pink, brown, white and green cakes balance impossibly upon each other in a fantastic display that completely blocks the entrance.
“I wonder if he was hungry when he made it,” comments one viewer.
A few employees are up and about. A man in jeans strides purposefully between two buildings, carrying a notebook and a bottle of water. A robot made out of road signs and scrap metal, however, remains motionless.
“Are you open?” asks a visitor to the Shoshana Wayne gallery. The receptionist in silver sandals gestures invitingly toward a room full of sketches on jagged rectangles of tan and purple paper, each stuck into the wall by four clear push-pins. The images juxtapose modern, comfortable furniture with grotesque animal carcasses.
Another receptionist carries on a heated phone conversation.
“I feel compelled to express my opposition,” she says. A few seconds later, though, her tone has completely changed. “OK, thank you. Bye.”
The doors are still locked at the Patrick Painter gallery.
“That’s a really nice painting though,” a man comments, shading his eyes to peer through the glass at a brilliantly colored depiction of fruit. “I can see more over there, too.”
The Rosamund Felsen gallery is a study in contrasts. The friendly receptionist hurries to turn on all the lights as a few visitors enter through the propped open door, but one framed image warns viewers: “If you can read this you are standing too close.”
With such few visitors this morning, the staff in many galleries converse with each other. A woman on the phone negotiates the price of something, while a man at a desk advises his co-worker to keep someone’s contact information.
The tapping of fingers on keyboards is the only noise inside the Frank Lloyd gallery.
“I don’t get it,” a girl whispers to her companion, gesturing toward a tinted glass cube display. She shrugs, and they soon exit. Outside, she says, “Maybe it’s supposed to represent life.”
By 10:30, the parking lot is slowly filling up — lots of Toyotas and Hondas with Obama stickers. Two cars carry surfboards on top.
“Did you know the Yaris is actually better for the environment across its whole life cycle than the Prius?” comments a male passerby.
The cafe is by far the busiest place. Lively music and the scent of coffee emanate from its doors. Outside, two women share a table but ignore each other in favor of newspapers.
The James Gray gallery doesn’t officially open until 11, but its doors are wide open anyway.
“These are creepy,” says one visitor, indicating some paintings that display children playing on a skull, sinister clowns and people missing key body parts. “That guy definitely has two left hands.”
The gallery also has an upstairs loft displaying still more works of art.
“I like the ones downstairs with the words,” a girl says to her bored-looking boyfriend.
“I like this loft,” he replies, smirking at her.
Inside the SMMoA, a group explores a painting exhibit in which some images depict nude figures. After making a few penis jokes, one girl has a sudden revelation.
“We’re really mature,” she says. “Have you noticed?”