creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pix from the 2nd 39th Big!Bang!Boom!BdayBash!

So just how was the Delusional Diva's roast and toast on Friday, June 24th? Here are a selection of some of the colorful pictures to hopefully curb the appetite, while people await for the much anticipated video edit to one of the most enjoyable parties yet at the Harvard Hive Alien Art Museum Animal Queendom, etc.

Scruffy might welcome you up the lighted stairwell ramp leading to the mothership and you enjoy the walls of art
Sky's girls usher you through the threshold

Where a chocolate fondue fountain could be found courtesy of...

Miracle Mike (pictured here singing his original song tribute to Sky)

Sky's pal professional jazz bass player Robert Russell provided some funk...

all night long (when he wasn't hitting on Rochelle)!

Special guests like Sky's pal John Silvers played throughout the evening
With talented folks like Maxim Valour switching instruments quite often
Rochelle got to see just how many folks celebrated her daughter's existence

With all manner of funny roasts & toasts

Surprise guests who popped in for the first time
Or whom have visited often like April Hava Shenkman
There was always much to witness
And very warm sentiments shared like the one by Orit Harpaz
And glowing comments given like the one by Adilah Barnes
While the Diva took it all in surrounded by friends like Blu and Robert
And girlfriend Ingrid explained how they met
There were many shared kisses like the one from Chip
Some from the non-human kind like Scruffy to Margarita
And lots of cake to eat!
Along with lots of laughter like from Luisa who couldn't hold it in

There were many strange sights to behold

Curiosities to discover

Both quirky and bold
Um...what was the question?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Tune That Sticks in Your Head: Vacuuming Bees

Someday when I have more time I will explain more of the history behind this homage to cult campy movies (like John Waters) and live performers with music videos sequences for costume changes (like Varla Jean Merman) whom we so admire. And then there's the thing with the bees and our shared mythology of The Hive...but this incident was really about pesky yellow jackets, for we know that bees are beneficial and sadly endangered, but the rhyme scheme just worked better with bees!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Delusional Diva's Animal Queendom

Zacky is truly out of this world
Sky has a lot of pets - both furry, not very furry at all, and scaled. And if she could, she'd have a lot more. So when she isn't enjoying the company of her 4 cats (Djuna, Moaner, Little Baby, and Zacky the naked Sphynx), her dog (Scruffy aka Goldiscruffs of whom I am the co-parent), or her 4 foot long Iguana (Zyg), she can often be found making drawings and paintings of elephants, dolphins, turtles, and giraffes to add to the menagerie.

Here's the latest video clip from A Palkowitz Now! The Zacky & Sky Show - which briefly highlights her unique co-star and pet. More talking videos are in the works.

Also - enjoy this photo sampling of the inhabitants of R. SKY Palkowitz's Animal Queendom:

Scruffy & Zacky on the "Calling America" couch inside the Alien Theatre
A bed full of them!
Day bed relaxation with Djuna and Scruffy
PGX Fun Fact: Djuna, the black cat, is the eldest pet who used to live at Phyllis' Garage with us. Her name comes from famous lesbian author Djuna Barnes and the character in one of Anais Nin's novels. Djuna's personality has changed in the past year and she's become a more playful and energetic girl!

Scruff close up
Zyg and his dedicated mother
PGX Fun Fact: Zyg was discovered one day in a tree in the backyard - he had escaped from a neighbor who let Sky keep him. At the time he was only 9 inches long and without a tail (it can break off and grow back as a defense mechanism). And now...he's over 4 feet long! I built him an 8 foot long habitat in the living room so he had space to hang out!

Zyg's Living Room Habitat

More PGX fun to come!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Remembering "A Night to Note"

In continuation of the tribute to the unusual artistic collaboration with R. Sky Palkowitz, I present some of my favorite videos like this one:

It's from the online web series Sky and I created called "A Palkowitz Now!"  This one was from a performance we did together in January 2003 to a very packed audience (you'll see them sitting on the stage) as part of the Theatre of Note's Annual 24 Hour fund-raising marathon. Sky's parents, the quirky and incredible Dave & Rochelle happened to be in town visiting which made it all the more exciting. We ended up with the prime time slot for performing and had the audience totally captivated and singing along with us by the end.

A little background: I had just finished taking my very first 8 week training workshop with Rachel Rosenthal in the fall of 2002 and had presented a final piece in December called "Crazy Ungrateful Human" in which I discuss and deal with my various issues with humanity and desire to be an alien - all the while painting words on a backdrop and eventually myself. I had also just shaved my head for the first time ever on New Year's eve as part of honoring a vision/idea I had to paint my left hand and apply it to the back of my head as a sign I was guided by Art (aka the Hand of God/the Beyond/the Universe).

Sky and I talked about combining "Crazy Ungrateful Human" with her comedy routine/ character sketches into one large piece and help each other with props and costume changes. It worked out splendidly - and we even got Sky's mother Rochelle to join us onstage. We coached her (coaxed her) the night before to join us and it really propelled the piece to another level. Sky pretended to have a feel a disturbed vibration from an audience member and brought Rochelle up to talk about her issues with Dave and bees in her ceiling. It took most people by surprise - they didn't realize until the end that Rochelle was really a planned feature of our performance and had been planted in the audience so that Sky could sing the catchy "Vacuuming Bees" for the rousing finale.

It was such a wild night, and as noted at the end of the video - full of the high of being on stage, and the low of having my car broken into and Rochelle's jacket stolen. It proved to be a most memorable, "Night to Note" and definitely a highlight of our collaboration together.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Roast the Hostess with the Mostess: R. SKY Palkowitz, The Delusional Diva

This week’s blog makes me feel a bit like someone who's just been told, "You have a lot of explaining to do!" Indeed I plan to do my best, as I spend multiple posts to pay tribute to (and roast) the weird and wonderful woman with whom I've shared a very unorthodox artistic relationship with for many years,  the one and only R. SKY Palkowitz, The Delusional Diva! All year long we are celebrating PGX, the 10th anniversary of collaborations at our first Los Angeles venue, an intimate and magical place called Phyllis' Garage. This month she also celebrates freezing time for her 2nd 39th birthday. She’ll be hosting a party where she expects people to roast her, and while I shall do my part here in the blogosphere, this video invite to the party reveals she can do a perfectly good job of roasting herself (with my editing help).

I’ve actually known Sky since 1994 and our days in the Theatre Arts Department at the University of Iowa. I was an undergraduate in my second year when she arrived as a grad student working on her MFA. My first reaction to meeting her was, "Who is this wild gypsy?" At that time her long dark hair flowed like her dresses and her Eastern European ancestry stood out decorated by all the ear and nose piercings. She liked to party — and was good at finding her way into one! She enjoyed meeting people — even if it was more so she could talk about herself! She had chutzpah and said what she thought — often sharing too much information while at it! To say she made an impression on everyone in the Theatre Arts Department or the entire campus for that matter is an understatement!  People either loved her and looked forward to a visit as she entertained you with the zany impressions of her parents and many accented characters or avoided her at all costs because she could be like nails on a chalkboard to the sensitive.

There be gypsy in her blood.
We first worked together in the production of HAIR, a perfect vehicle to let the freak flag fly. When she did several of her own multimedia shows I was contacted to help with or create the video design. One of my all-time favorite collaborations with her was for Alien Rhoda, her one-woman show about how her family might react if she were abducted by aliens.  I shot video clips of Sky acting as her parents to be shown on a screen between segments of the show. She would crack me up behind the camera, forcing us to reshoot several times. Teeters of laughter from the unseen cameraman are to be found in practically every video shoot since (and we have since shots hundreds of hours of life-documentation in addition to the numerous other friends who have served as videographers for her over the years). While we have different perspectives and approaches toward life, we share the common admiration for art and aliens.

Sky & Jay out on the town in 2011
But the question remains, "How and why did you come to live in LA together?" put it simply: the aliens made me do it! I hadn't seen Sky since she graduated, but we reconnected via the internet. I was living in LA at the time and she was touring with the National Theatre for Children in San Francisco. I hadn't ever been to the magnificent city, so I drove up to visit with her. The reunion was infectious, and started me rethinking things when I returned to LA. While I had moved to Los Angeles to make my fortune writing mainstream movies, my heart was yearning for something a bit more experimental, a bit more edgy, a bit more off the beaten path — a writer needs experiences to write about.

I recognized that Sky had a fascinating energy about her, while tough for some people to handle, it was definitely palpable and for better or worse, quite memorable. She knows she’s an artist and she knows she’s a star. And I gravitated toward her to not only understand what made her so different and fascinating, but also to discover the unknown aspects of myself that hadn’t yet dared to crawl out of hiding. Against some of the advice of my peers (which was good advice by the way), I stepped aboard the UFO with Sky for a most unusual journey. I would indeed stray far from the original goals and aspirations that glimmered for me in LA-LA Land, but after 10 years of ups, downs, zig-zags, and loop-de-loops, I’m beginning to make sense of it all in wonderful ways and am very grateful for it!

Jay & Sky Circa 2001 at Phyllis Garage
Jay & Sky returning to Phyllis' Garage in 2011
PGX Fun Fact: When in collaboration with Sky, I often shorten my name to Jay so it has the same number of letters and a "y" at the end or I use the initial of my middle name (Robert) and go by Jason R. Jenn to echo the "r" in R. SKY - all to emphasize greater connection 

So come join me on this crazy ride with R. SKY Palkowitz -- several more posts in tribute/roast of the Delusional Diva to come with videos and pictures of our fabulous history together!

For party invite info:

Friday, June 3, 2011

ART MAP: MacArthur Park & Westlake District

"Someone left the cake out in the rain
don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again"
- MacArthur Park by Jimmy Webb
This is to officially announce that at the end of June, after 6 1/2 years of loft suite (sweet) living in the same building, 4 blocks from the  historic MacArthur/Westlake Park, the time has come to move on to a new location. After a 5 week period of tapping into my Iowa roots in July and August, I shall return to Los Angeles and set my sights on a new home in a new area of the city. I’ve spent the years documenting some of the park environment and surrounding neighborhood as one of its residents, so I thought I would share some of it with you now before I leave. It’s part of what I term ART MAPPING, a creative documentation process thru photography, writing, art, performance, etc. that I think all artists can consider doing for their own community and surroundings.


MacArthur Park has been a fairly good, sometimes infuriating, but always unusual and unorthodox home for me. It’s hard to believe that other than my childhood home in Hills, Iowa (population 500), this location has hosted me the longest amount of time I’ve stayed in one physical building location (I did live in a loft on the 5th floor for 4 1/2 years and then moved into an identical 2nd floor unit that included a large outdoor patio). The question has often been: how/why does a rural white boy from Iowa come to live in the most densely populated, most Latin-American neighborhood in Los Angeles? Well, I suppose there are many answers I can offer up to explain.

 I could say it was the relatively inexpensive amount of rent compared to large amount of space that has allowed me to live out my NYC  in the 60’s art loft with brick walls fantasy. If I could go back in time, NYC in the 60’s would be one of my top picks. Who knows, my soul may have been reincarnated from one of its participants, which is why I love it so. Certainly the streets around Mac Arthur park have provided me with a plethora of interesting found objects, broken furniture and the like to make assemblage/installation pieces in homage to the 60’s NYC art scene.

I could also say that I chose this location because I wanted to be close to a wide variety of public transportation options. This July marks 7 years of LA living without owning a car! I partly did it to be a more “green” inhabitant, and partly to save money. Sure, I’ve borrowed a lot of people’s cars in order to make functioning in the wide sprawl of Los Angeles fully work (being a performing artist and/or videographer and having to schlep props or camera equipment all around town is very challenging via bus or metro subway - I’ve done it on occasion, but it’s not quite what I would call fun). I do enjoy the adventure of hopping onto a bus or subway — and the unexpected discoveries one can make while walking in LA (which a famous song professes nobody does).

I could also say that I chose this location because it was across the street from a Home Depot (which to a guy with no car but who loves to build things was convenient to say the least). I could also say that I wanted ample amounts of free and available parking for guests (which living next to so many big parking lots has definitely provided). I could say that I enjoyed the view of downtown LA from the rooftop.

Old signs meet the new
But there is yet one more odd answer which I find more and more important to offer up: MacArthur Park has a very unusual and remarkable energy and spirit to it, that it is a wounded energy vortex of sorts, and that I’ve been subconsciously attracted to what I would call its liminal space properties. I know that statement likely brings even more questions to mind, but it is my opinion, that MacArthur Park has a rather unique spiritual energy, partly due to its location and history. I’ve done some research, based both on reading and first-hand observation that allows me to make my strange claim.


Otis pointing to his former home and former art school location
Mac Arthur/Westlake Park has been through many transformations both good and bad: she’s an old gal with a rich and sordid past. I wish I knew more about her life centuries ago, because I have a feeling the Native American tribes utilized her energy in specialized ways. What is known from recent recorded history, is that in the mid-1800’s she was a swampy refuse dump and major eye-sore to the inhabitants that lived around downtown. Money was gathered by the mayor and in 1863, gardener Albert H. Hardcastle helped transform it into a “pleasure ground” to provide an antidote to the growing urbanization of LA.  Westlake Park was then born, so named because it was a large lake to the west of downtown LA. Boat/canoe rides were a beautiful way to spend the day and it was considered one of the most charming spots in Los Angeles with a gorgeous vista of downtown.

For many years the surrounding neighborhood thrived, full of elegant Victorian mansions and Beaux-Arts apartment buildings. It was often compared to NYC’s Upper East Side, partly due to it being populated by wealthy white people and the Jewish core of LA. After the 1920’s the park began to undergo frequent transformations (along with rest of LA). The mentality of the era had changed, industrialization grew quickly,  and more recreational use buildings were added inside her as people wanted more than just a pleasure ground to stroll in. The neighborhood was in full opulent swing. The  Park Plaza Hotel was built right up against the West side of the park (although it was originally built as an Elk’s club; of which I’ve read all manner of gossip and stories about secret rooms there to hide their booze and women).  A grand film palace the Westlake Theatre rested at its East side. The neighborhood was a prime destination for the elite of the Los Angeles scene, and some even proclaimed that what the Champs-Elysees was to Paris, it was to Downtown Los Angeles.

The Park Plaza Hotel
Detail of Park Plaza Hotel
Along came the Great Depression, which gave rise to the WPA, which in turn gave rise to projects that put people to work improving/changing MacArthur Park in various ways. A performing stage shell was constructed, the landscaping was redone, and several public art works were added. None of that compared to the major alteration of 1934-35, when the park was cut right down the middle by Wilshire Boulevard. This “Boulevard of Los Angeles” now connected the core of downtown Los Angeles to the beach edge of Santa Monica. This would become a very symbolic wound, similar to the eventual renaming of the park after WWII General MacArthur, that fractured the spirit and identity of the neighborhood and contributed to its decline shortly thereafter.

Detail on La Fonda Restaurant building
To this day Wilshire is still one of the major arteries of LA public transportation with a dense population of business and residential buildings along it. While there were streetcars for a time in Los Angeles, they quickly came to an end after WWII when car companies bought them up so they could dismantle them, making it even more desirable/necessary for people to buy and own their own car. Los Angeles, like the rest of the United States quickly became enslaved to the idea of individual car use and urban sprawl was born. By the 1960’s most of the wealthy inhabitants abandoned the MacArthur Park / Westlake neighborhood and drove away to “greener pastures”. While there had been designs to expand downtown Los Angeles west towards MacArthur Park, this sudden vacuum of wealth and spread of the Los Angeles economic business centers led to a bit of a real estate meltdown in the area. Instead of its planned growth, Mac Arthur Park/Westlake District became a home for the poor, transient population and a place for exiles of Central American wars and illegal immigrants to settle. Once big mansions and houses were divided up into small rooms for cheap rent.

Quite a fall — and quite an example of how the domination of cars damaged the sense of community, neighborhood, and downtowns all across America.

The often trashed back alley behind my building
Mac Arthur Park held a notorious status for quite some time; known for crime, drugs, gangs, prostitution, and the place to buy phony documents. The local Rampart Police Station scandals of the late 1990’s did little to help its image. But the opening of the Red Line Metro Station nearby helped to pave the way for some major park renovations and an effort to gentrify the neighborhood. By the early 2000’s the image was changing slightly as more money flowed in to take advantage of the cheap real estate and police efforts made it a bit safer for folks like me to live. One of the local food hotspots at the North edge of the park, “Mama’s Hot Tamales” also serves as home for the Institute for Urban Research and Development, with the aim to help make MacArthur Park an Urban Oasis once more.


I moved here in December of 2004 as part of that sense of rebirth and revitalization. Frequent dog walks and public transportation use have led me to really get a sense of the surrounding neighborhood and to visit the park frequently. I have seen some fascinating changes and improvements made to the area during that time, but I would say that the recent economic recession has made the “lift-off/face-lift” slower than hoped.  However, I don’t think gentrification by outsiders is the answer to solving its issues. While some people may seek to return the neighborhood to its former glory, any changes ought to be made with its current inhabitants in mind. There are actually good signs that is happening. Even as I finish writing this and step outside for a moment, I discover today that Korean Air (its headquarters is just a few blocks away) has sponsored the planting of trees in the neighborhood as part of Million Trees LA and their own We Care promotion (how’s that for timing).

June 3, 2011 Tree planting day on 6th St.
MacArthur Park / Westlake has been a remarkable place for me to witness the energy of a place in flux, in transition, in a powerful, if somewhat unstable, liminal space. I was recently reminded about the subject of liminality during a recent conversation*, which illuminated a huge theme to my entire life (which I will continue to tie into various themes over time). Liminality, according to good ol’ Wikipedia, was developed by Arnold van Gennep and later Victor Turner. The term is used to “refer to in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes". MacArthur Park is certainly an area that resides in that definition.

Our modern society gives very little thought into the spirit of a place. We usually see a location as an inanimate thing, a concept merely as staging ground for the people who give it life. But everything is connected by spirit, places are alive in their own way, and the well-being of a community is affected by every aspect of its surrounding. The park is the heart and soul of this neighborhood. When it was transformed into a beautiful park, the region was activated by its charm, when it was drastically altered, the charm faded and people left because they had better options. On a very simple level,  people tend to enjoy living in a beautiful location - having a beautiful park serves to bolster the communities sense of pride. Which brings me to one unfortunate aspect of this neighborhood: the current inhabitants have little cultural sensibility when it comes to cleanliness and litter/trash is thrown everywhere (oddly enough the same complaint that the region had in the mid 1800’s). That litter is just one example of what living in our global culture of cheap, disposable, overly packaged commercial goods does to the planet when people just don’t collectively care or think about the spiritual energy that connects all living things, not just human beings.

Street vendors are popular features feeding the community

A gathering in protest over a recent police shooting
The park and neighborhood has a very palpable energy and spirit. As friends come to visit me they are often freaked out by the number of people gathered on the streets, an unusual site in car crazed Los Angeles. The streets are crawling with people on a regular basis. Along 6th street surrounding my building plays host to numerous street vendors and sidewalk swap meets. MacArthur Park is also constantly host to numerous political and immigration rallies. Several years back the park was host to the May Day riots and protests as seen on national TV in outrage over lack of proper immigration reform.  Several times during the year Wilshire Boulevard is blocked off surrounding MacArthur Park for numerous traveling carnivals, & community festivals. The Park Plaza Hotel and park itself are extremely popular place for film and TV crews to rent out. The performance shell was given a remodel a few years back and for several years now there have been a series of free summer concerts. Plans are apparently in motion to make reclaim the former Westlake Theatre movie palace from just another cheap goods swap meet and make it the  home for the Los Angeles live performance-theatre troupe Culture Clash. MacArthur Park’s energy, while still fractured and unstable, is drawing people to her and slowly regrouping. It’s still the vital hub for the community and getting more of the respect it deserves.

Future home of LA performance troupe Culture Clash
And while this neighborhood has at times aggrivated me, it has also fascinated me. So I’ve taken pictures and gathered stories of the remnants of its glamorous past, bits of its not so glamorous present, and tried to see the beauty in both. I’ve gazed at the view of downtown Los Angeles, so close, but yet so far away, as if the 110 freeway that defines the border between downtown and Westlake District keeps MacArthur Park split far apart and relegated as an outsider, rather than the glorious entry portal or getaway hot spot it once was. And, I’ve been a stranger in a strange land; an unusual statistical inhabitant: a fringe element living inside of a fringe neighborhood.  I have felt that liminal energy in my own life, felt  neither here nor there, existing outside of the normal boundaries of the Los Angeles scene.
Upon the threshold
But now comes the time to move and see what new energies come forth from that. I know I’ll keep checking in on my dear Westlake District energy vortex and keep Art Mapping her progress.

Goldiscruffs will surely miss the park as much as I

* Thank you to Brian Mahanay for sharing the concept and pointing out the direction of research on liminal spaces during a recent conversation