Art in the Arthouse: At Laemmle’s Monica Film Center features work by local photographers. (c) Michal Story,

If you’ve been to Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, the Royal in West L.A. or the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood, you might be aware that the Laemmle family created a program called “Art in the Arthouse,” which not only features work by local artists but in Santa Monica, a monthly performance series, “Laemmle Live.”  Sales of artworks benefit the Laemmle Foundation, which supports environmental and sustainable causes.

This week and throughout the summer at the Monica, Art in the Arthouse presents photography by three locals in a show dubbed “The Local Seen.” What you won’t see are prototypical tourist images of our town, featuring the pier, palm trees or the beach, despite their iconic associations.

What you will see instead are highly creative, completely original works by Michal Story, Paula Goldman and Gwen Samuels inspired by their unique perspectives on the landscape that surrounds us, focused on the everyday life of this place. These pieces hang in the lobby of the theatre, and a bonus show, upstairs in the theatre’s mezzanine lounge, features a separate series by Paula Goldman.


Art in the Arthouse is overseen by Sheryl Myerson, who in turn reached out to local curator Stacey Ravel Abarbanel (she also manages her husband, Joshua Abarbanel’s art studio). After curating a show of paintings for the NoHo 7 by Isabella Kelly-Ramirez, an abstract collagist who creates surreal portraits of humanoid figures, depicted in brightly colored, unearthly settings, for Santa Monica she turned her eye toward photography.

Paula Goldman collected beach trash between Lifeguard Stations 1 and 2, and re-contextualized them into still lifes. In addition, her “Monuments” series is the bonus exhibition in the mezzanine. It features quirky artifacts, such as a little clown head or a stack of potatoes, and poses them in a way that makes them look grand and important. I thought the potatoes were a biomorphic sculpture made of rocks, delicately balanced atop one another. The center leaves of a head of romaine lettuce at first resemble a feathered headdress of a Roman Centurion; a tiny branch hangs delicately on a thin wire, looking like a tightrope walker. They’re all the same size, an homage to the now-vanished Polaroid 20×24 camera.

You could easily mistake Gwen Samuels’s work for that of a clothing designer, but these dresses on the wall are sculpted from digital images she collages and stitches together, sometimes on a thin wire frame. The images are of landmarks and common flora here in Santa Monica, which she then transforms into patterns for sculptural dresses and panels.

Michal Story takes photographs of buildings that catch her eye and then turns her PhotoShop magic on them.  A flicker of recognition arises at first but then the images look to be exploding out of the frame. The intensely fuschia-pink Lorna Jane building adds multiple levels and shapes that remind me of Frank Gehry’s architectural work with its curves, angles, twists and turns.

And how many times have you walked past the 4th Street entrance to Santa Monica Place, wondering about the hundreds of polished steel balls hanging on a basket on the wall? It’s called the Ball-Nogues Cradle, 39 feet wide, 36 feet high, comprised of 335 mirror-polished stainless-steel spheres suspended from above. It’s an homage to Newton’s Cradle, those desk toys with metal balls attached to wires dangling from a bar, that when you smack one end creates a kind of perpetual motion reaction, making them all move back and forth. In Michal’s image, the spheres are flying loose into the air, and some toga-wearing ladies at ground level are playing with and tossing them around.

And the Soka Gakkai building becomes a fantasy image of itself, the turquoise slats repeated in patterned arcs, looking like a reflection in a pool, and set against a dramatically blue sky, with Maxfield Parrish-like clouds.

On Sunday, July 14 Laemmle Live presents members of the Santa Monica Symphony, performing a free concert of wind and string chamber music conducted by Guido Lamell in the mezzanine. It’s free but reservations are required due to limited space. Follow the action at for information on how to RSVP; and stop by “The Local Seen” in the lobby, on view throughout the summer.


To succeed for 40 years in the restaurant business in L.A. is no small thing. And the timeless beauty of Michael’s Restaurant and its storied patio garden makes for the perfect pairing with Michael McCarty’s exquisite taste in art. Among the numerous 40th anniversary celebrations is “Forty Years of Art,” a new exhibition curated by Michael’s wife, artist Kim McCarty.

The names read like a who’s who of contemporary art, Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, Tim Hawkinson, Joe Goode, Peter Alexander, to name just a few. The Gallery will be open during regular restaurant hours, with the exhibition opening on Friday, June 14. Stop by for Happy Hour 5:30 to 7 pm, with delicious bar bites, classic cocktails and their famous Happy Hour cocktail, only $1.79 from 5:30—6 pm.

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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