The Simpsons Folder
August 13, 2002 by Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug.
Los Angeles gallery owner Debbie Weiss is standing at the edge of the martini-sipping crowd, introducing a guest to the finer points of a $600 piece titled “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace.”
“It’s hand-painted,” she notes. “I love color … I love glass and light.” Usually, it’s difficult to view this type of detail in the work–unless one hits the “pause” button on one’s DVD, Weiss explains.
That’s because the image in question is an animation cel featuring one of America’s most recognizable faces–Homer Simpson.
Here, the famously bald and beer-bellied fellow from the television show “The Simpsons” is pictured as an astronaut waiting for takeoff, and squirting “beer paste” into his mouth. “It’s art,” she says, “but it’s also … really fun.”
There’s a good turnout for the Thursday night opening at Weiss’ Wonderful World of Animation gallery, one of about 50 galleries in the world that is authorized by 20th Century Fox to sell the work.
While most folks make a beeline from the gallery to the open-air party in the back, a few loyal fans scan the work.
A father and his son stand before an $1,800 piece designed to mimic the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover. “Where’s Ringo and George and John?” the small boy asks, scanning the Beatles-costumed Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa.
Next to a $550 piece titled “Happy Hour” that features Homer, beer-in-hand, swinging from the rafters of his favorite bar, men trade fears about the stock market.
“Take WorldCom,” says one. “It was good stock. Six months ago, it was great stock.” And what about Martha Stewart? “Is this a feeding frenzy?” the man asks.
A slim young woman in the group answers him: “Anyone who believes she’s Miss Perfect is totally out of their minds.” Art as an investment? It doesn’t come up.
Behind them, in a cel titled “Blackboard Bungle,” Bart Simpson is pictured in a schoolroom writing on a chalkboard: “I will not belch the national anthem,” “I did not see Elvis,” and “I saw nothing unusual in the teacher’s lounge.”
Outside on the curb of chic south Robertson Boulevard, a line begins to form. Someone starts handing out Marge Simpson lollipops.
Candid Shots With a Hollywood Touch
Several hundred people came to watch celebrities and see the exhibit “Picturing a New South Africa: An Exploration of Culture and Hope” Saturday night at Track 16 gallery in Santa Monica, causing some traffic congestion at Bergamot Station.
As organizers speaking from the corner stage frequently reminded the crowd, the festivities had a serious purpose. The art show was really an auction, hosted by actress Alyssa Milano and Venice Arts in Neighborhoods, to benefit Nkosi’s Haven, a South Africa-based charity that helps mothers and children with HIV and AIDS. The show featured Milano’s photography from South Africa, as well as pictures by Ellen Burstyn and students from Venice Arts, which matches young artists with adult artist mentors.
Milano, who went to South Africa for a movie shoot, spent three months afterward volunteering at the Mandela Park Township, photographing people and their environment. “The camera became my best friend,” she said. Coming back to Los Angeles was difficult because of the sharp difference between “what I had learned there and the person I had to be here,” she said, adding, by way of explanation, “Hollywood.” “I turned into a missionary of sorts.”
Hence the show, in which her photos were displayed alongside the work of the Venice Arts students who had visited Durban, South Africa, last year. “They’re enlightened at that age,” one woman remarked to her companion as they stood in front of a row of pictures depicting AIDS orphans and demonstrations.
Albert van Rensburg, the acting consul general of South Africa, talked about the plague of AIDS, but many in the crowd were more busy attracting the attention of waiters who passed drinks and appetizers around. “I’m hoping you will all dig deep in your pockets,” he pleaded over the noise. And some did. The event, said organizers, raised close to $50,000.
When Burstyn arrived, photographers surrounded her to shoot her in front of one of her own pictures–of a gorilla. “There are 350,000 orphans from AIDS,” Burstyn said. And if that was not enough reason for people to get involved, we should do it for our own sake, she said. “It’s not good for us to ignore it.”
One guest decided to pay attention and peeled away from his friend to browse the gallery. “I’m going to bid on a picture,” he promised.
“I’ll expense it.”
The new Standard Hotel in downtown L.A. has become a popular locale for the business of famous folks. Around lunchtime Monday, Leo DiCaprio was scheduled to hold a press conference at the Flower Street hotel to urge President Bush to help stop global warming and attend the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa.
Later that night, Moby and friends (David Bowie among them) were set to take over the hotel’s rooftop bar with a party to kickoff his Area2 Tour, which hits the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine tonight.