Friday, October 24, 2008

California Dreaming

So I've been dreaming about leaving Chicago for as long as I can remember. I've always stayed for sentimental reasons...family n' friends. That and the ol' cliches that say "No matter where you go, there you are" and "grow where you're planted" running through my head. Meanwhile I'm feeling the itch to head West again! The fact of the matter is that even though Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States...it's not very progressive. It's the Midwest after all. I used to Co-own an art gallery here pre-2000 called "Backburner Art" We were basically creating, showing, selling what is now more commonly known as LowBrow Art these days. People were confused...art snobs called us "amatuer artists" and the "cool kids" were like WTF? At that time Graffitti Art had already been sanctioned as a legitamate art movement by the Art World. But what we were doing was a little different...it was still street...but rooted in Alternative Culture...Punk, Goth, Fetish...an Art/Music Mash-Up! We got really positive feedback from people who mattered, so it was worth it. At the time I was making Art Dolls...this is before the handmade Ugly Doll phenomena. My dolls are inspired by European Witch Poppets, Native American Medicine Dolls, Vodou Dolls, and African Effigies. I curated and participated in several amazing Art/Music Events before calling it quits...

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A few small windows of opportunity opened for me. My neighbors in the loft downstairs knocked on my door one morning and said "Hey, you know a lot about Voodoo...right?" They did film related projects...and were shooting a music video for a major record label...I think it was BMG. The band was called the Atomic Fireballs...kind of garage rock/swing band, the song was called "Man with a Hex" I met with the set designer who didn't even know where to start. I pulled out a book called Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou and suggested re-creating a Vodou temple. I pointed her and her team to the nearest Botanica to stock up on Novena candles (prayer candles), the Dollar store for misc. supplies. Everything else was taken from my loft space...my dolls, potions, altar fetiches...they took art right off my walls, two huge boxes of stuff. I showed them how to draw VeVe's (magickal symbols) on the floor with flour. They had a nice budget to work with....but only ended up spending about 100 bucks on blue paint, candles, and yarn which they wrapped old bottles with to look like libation bottles, colored tissue paper to create drapo...flags representing the spirits. Not only did the team get paid a nice hourly sum, they probably pocketed the rest of the budget money. Did I mention that I did not get paid for this? You'd think they could have tossed me a bone! But instead I had to go retrieve my belongings later that evening, only to find my sacred objects cast aside and thrown into the boxes I had neatly and carefully packed them into. Things were lost and damaged...it sucked. I didn't get paid...I didn't get credit...not even a thank you! Here's the video, you'll see my doll pictured above in it! The next day my roomate had her BFA Show for the Photography Dept. of Columbia College. It was a huge event. Some guy sat on the edge of our koy pond and tipped the whole thing over...it spilled about 100 gallons of water through floor boards and soaked all the record companies film equipment. That's what I like to call "Involuntary Voodoo"!

Man with the Hex

Geoff Kinde | MySpace Music Videos


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Moving forward about 2 years later, in the fall of 2002 I opened my shop called BELOVED...Spiritual Goods and Mystic Curios. Just prior to opening the doors my friend and co-worker at the nightclub I tended bar at jumped on board and became my business partner. She jumped ship after two years...she suffered a series of nervous breakdowns resulting from a combination of personal issues. Running a business was just too much stress for her to handle on top of all the problems she was dealing with in her personal life. I carried on for a year after that...and decided to close shop after 3 years. I'm really proud of what I offered to the market place through that outlet. I stocked handmade soap and candles, incense, potions, herbs, essential oils, jewelry, Intuitive Art...local and global artists. It was a fabulous Mystical Witchy Gypsy party 7 days a week. I hung a huge custom rusty metal Sacred Heart in front of my shop...and a Vodou Heart VeVe on the front door.

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I represented Wicca, Paganism, Shamanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judism, Vodou, Hoodoo and Gypsy Folk Magick, Santeria, even yes Catholicism...once a Catholic School girl always a Catholic School Girl ;) We even represented good ol' Satan...something for everyone! OneLove Lavonaism! Sequined Vodou Prayer Flags (Drapo) hang next to Tibetan Prayer Flags (Thankas)...in my little Utopia. I offered Tarot Readings and different courses in Spirituality...Modern Witchcraft, Green Magick, Hoodoo. My pal Dj RedLox aka Siri Adi Singh held Kundalini Yoga and meditation classes for a while.

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I closed the door in June of 2005...I miss it! I've been coming down from that experience ever since and trying to figure out what path to take next. Is it time to pack up my Gypsy Caravan and head to California? I don't know how the hell I'll going to pull that off...but everything always falls into place!

8 comments:

Pam said...

Noooooo! Come to NYC and start a shop with me instead!!

LADY LAVONA said...

Pam!!! Girl if you're serious...we should talk!

Meg said...

This store sounds like heaven...I do wish I had seen it.

Layer Cake Films said...

All I can say is that California is not what's it's cracked up to be! ESPECIALLY L.A. I lived in Cali for 15 years and liked half of it (living in San Francisco) and abhorred the other (living in L.A.) That city can and will eat your soul. It's not where dreams are made but completely shattered (ya, I'm bitter, but I hate that L.A. has this aura of being so amazing. It's not. It's crowded, dirty, expensive, annoying, and you can't go anywhere most times of the day because of traffic. And the public transit system bites. And tons of people there have the most insane sense of entitlement...it's awful.)

Even though NYC has it's issues, I would vote for that! You seem like the sweetest and nicest person everyone time we chat and I would hate to see L.A. change you. I'm still working to recover myself since leaving in March. I'm making my way to NYC (hopefully by next summer) and I'm excited to see if it is a better experience than Hell-ay.

Oh, and if you two are opening a shop maybe you'd want a third partner? ;) It's my dream to open one but doubt I could ever do it alone! (Oh, and this is Aldetha BTW...ha ha! Should have put that first...)

LADY LAVONA said...

Ahhh! We would have the coolest shop ever!!! I was actually going to move to Brooklyn before I opened my shop here in Chicago. I decided to give it another shot instead. Chicago is like a bad relationship that I keep giving another chance!

I'm not really familiar with the new Brooklyn. I know gentrification has really changed things. I would love to do a collective. Several business entities under one roof. I think that would rock!

Vanessa Moore said...

WoW!!I agree with Meg, your shop must of been the most wonderful place. I also feel California calling, I know I wouldn't stay for too long but I do feel there's a little something waiting for me over there :-)

Pandora said...

Please come by and visit me when you come to California! I am in haunted San Juan Capistrano - a place that you would love. We can always use another kindred spirit here in the West!

Anonymous said...

Well,
I can honestly say that I lived in Cali as well and to be honest, the only good thing about Cali is that there is AWSOME weather year round and Mexico is in close proximity. California economy is like a tornado heading down an everending abyss of doom. So I would ask my spirit guide if I where you. New York is over whelmed with botanicas and similar shops. I would honestly try to either go to D.C., Baltimore or Fort Washington Maryland. These places are booming with opportunitys not to mention it is in dire need of this type of FLAVOR and SAZON!! But in the end the decision has to be based on your spirit and where your heart takes you. Yes everything does have a tendancy of working out.