A Conversation with Jennifer Celio

Dave Clark ACD
Carol Clark ACC
Stephanie Han ACS

ACD: What is your artistic background?

Jennifer Celio (JC): Well I graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 1996 with a BFA. Ever since then I’ve been a professional artist exhibiting and starting small with what everybody starts with jury shows; just anything you can get into. Small spaces in Orange County. There was this little gallery called Caged Chameleon in Santa Ana that I showed, and that kind of really helped me get a leg up. I ended up moving to Whittier, then to Long Beach. I joined the LA Art Association. It’s a non-profit that helps emerging artists get an additional leg up. So that was also really instrumental for me too, to build up my professional and business skills, they really focus on stuff like that too.

ACD: How long have you been in Long Beach?

JC: I think about 15 years now.

ACD: Why did you come to Long Beach?

JC: Well partially because of the art community. But also, because I wanted to live in a beach city too. Long Beach is much more affordable than all other parts of LA and Orange County, for the most part. It was the perfect mix. I like the eclectic people. I’d already been coming to Long Beach. Going to bars and clubs and stores and stuff too. So, I was familiar enough with it. I just liked the laid-back vibe of Long Beach. But yet there’s a huge artist community, so that was really appealing. It has a little bit of everything.

ACD: Has the art community changed for you in 15 years?

JC: I think it has.

ACD: Good or bad?

JC: Good. I think I’ve noticed the professional artists exhibit or make work that they sometime sell. They have a certain level in their career, has gotten seemingly better and more pronounced. There are more and more artists that are more serious artists here in Long Beach that are in shows that are not just LA or OC, but also around the country.

ACD: I see the issue in Long Beach of “where do you show if you live in Long Beach?”

JC: Yeah that’s an ongoing issue. That has not changed or gotten better.

ACD: I know there’s the art district, but that’s not an arts district in any sense of the word.

JC: Just like the LA one. Arts districts barely have any artists living there. Artists made that area. From what I’ve heard they lived there in the heyday. And they started it.

ACS: Okay so in your view it has improved, but you’re not thinking any kind of drastic improvement.

JC: Not as far as opportunity to show and exhibit work. It’s nice to have some little places that are artist run, like Flux and Flatline or Greenly. They are there and providing a service in essence like some places for…

ACD: Like Loiter, Loiter Galleries.

JC: Yeah for people to show and exhibit.

ACD: There just aren’t enough.

ACS: Right, but all these places we just mentioned they’re all artist run spaces where the artist has decided I’m just going to make this happen on my own. I can’t wait around for this great gallery to open up or whatever. It’s been really encouraging to meet people from those spaces and see how they’re doing on it a shoestring budget. It helps that they work there also.

ACD: They’re covering their rent.

ACS: Yeah, however it works. If there were just most of that kind of spaces, that could alleviate some of those like…

JC: Well, we’ve always been lacking in people wanting to develop commercial galleries. They just don’t want to invest that kind of money. As we all know, setting up a commercial gallery is insanely expensive. They have to treat it like a restaurant where they expect they’re going to lose money for the first two years. They have to have really big backers helping. But people just don’t think that in Long Beach. For whatever reason, they are just not willing to set up shop in Long Beach.

ACD: I feel that there is money here.

JC: Oh yeah.

ACD: I just think that there are less people buying art today, than there was 30 years ago. Are people buying art? How much art are people selling?

ACS: That’s a good question because also the artists we know, we’re a certain demographic. We’re not out there. I don’t know any of the younger up and coming, more street artists, that are selling. I don’t know what it’s like for them. So, one of the things I would like is to really find out. And kind of see what they’re up to and how they’re doing it. I mean they’re the ones that put up that really cool… what was that place called?

ACD: The Ice House.

ACS: The Ice House thing together. Things like that.

ACD: But that’s more graffiti, it’s muralists.

JC: A very distinct type of art.

ACS: It is a distinct type of art, but it is pretty popular. And not just with the young kids, if you look at what is happening at the high-end art world with Banksy. People like that are taking graffiti art to the next level.

JC: And incorporating it into to their work. Mixing it in, where it is not just solely that.

ACS: Most people, even the wealthy LA art collectors, probably won’t be buying stuff like that.

ACD: We have friends who buy that kind of stuff. They have deep pockets. They’re not going to buy it unless, what’s your name again? How much is your stuff worth? I’ll buy it because they see it as an investment.

ACS: I think of all the people we know, you’re probably way more tied into what’s happening in the LA art scene because of Durden of Ray. How and why did you become involved with Durden and Ray?

JC: Well it was partially because I’ve had representation with commercial galleries, but so often they’re new galleries. Oh yeah, we want to include you into the roster, and then close after a year. And that’s been happening over and over and over again, for me personally. You know it’s just gotten to where it’s getting into a commercial gallery is just becoming like that unicorn out there. There is just so much competition out there. There are so many artists now and people who consider themselves artists. That the competition is fierce for galleries to represent.

ACD: There’s less galleries, there’s competition, they need to pay their bills.

JC: Then therefore that’s the rise of artist run spaces, and I saw what Durden and Ray was doing along with other artist run spaces. And thought, why not become involved with this where we’re kind of doing our own thing. They’re exhibiting and doing this, that frankly commercial galleries can’t do. We’re not focused on money, on sales or anything compared to business. I liked what they were doing, and that they were super professional. I started going to their openings and I knew some of the people in it and just kind of schmooze your way in just like you do with a commercial gallery you have do the same. You play that game where you have to go to the openings and you talk to people. You have to make it clear; would you look at my work and would you consider me. So, I did that with Durden and Ray.

ACD: How many people are part of that collective?

JC: It’s 24 now, yeah. Maybe, one of the bigger ones right now. Like in Bendix there’s Monte Vista Projects, and then Tiger Strikes Asteroid. They’re on the fifth floor. Smaller spaces too, but yeah, less members too.

ACD: I love the model. When he saw me on Instagram and ask if I’d be a part of it, I’m like sure.

JC: Was it Brian Thomas Jones?

ACD: Yeah it was Brian. And I’m just like, okay, I love the idea, you work with bringing other artists in because that brings more people from the outside in to see the space and meet more artists. And more patrons of the arts. And then work with other galleries, if you got art at another gallery this is part of all these collections. It’s like an octopus.

JC: Yeah.

ACD: I think it’s a great idea. Could something like that work… here?

JC: I think it could, but you need enough artists who are again very committed to making it happen.

ACS: Yes!

JC: I think what stood out for me with Durden and Ray was that they’re very focused on a lot of international exchange exhibitions. Not that should happen with one here, but that’s our thing. We do at least, well more than half international exchanges.

ACD: Well it puts you on a whole different level.

JC: So, if a co-op here or an artist run space here did something, but took it some special angle that would set us apart, then yeah, I think that that could work.

ACD: Is there a commitment? Like you sign a commitment for a year or something? Or month to month?

JC: No no, nothing like that.

ACS: Oh, really, I’m surprised!

JC: People can drop at any time for whatever reason.

ACD: Okay, but they need to keep a certain number though, don’t they?

JC: Well we’ve capped it at 24 for now, because any more than that it will just start to get too crazy. It becomes too diluted too. Max Presneill, well there’s no leader in Durden and Ray, but he’s one of the founders, and so people look to him as the leader, in essence. He’s made it clear that he wants, and he keeps reiterating this, that everybody in Durden and Ray has to, as a commitment, you have curate or co-curate a show a year. If you start to get even more members then it becomes harder for people to participate.

ACS: Sure.

ACD: Right, there’s not enough time, not enough room.

JC: So, 24 now is like a good amount, because you can have one main curator, then you can have people helping.

ACD: If you divide it by three, you know, it’s eight months. You can work it out.

JC: We do outside shows too. Yeah.

ACS: So, is there a similar kind of co-op already existing in Long Beach?

JC: What’s the one that’s associated with one on Broadway? The Long Beach… is that the…?

JC and ACC [in unison]: The Creative Group.

ACD: They’re on Broadway. There’s eight people involved. They’re all the older established art crowd from the 50s and 60s. They don’t pay anything. I talked to Marka Burns about what’s coming up for the coming year and she said well, write a proposal. So, they’re open to having shows and stuff. I don’t really know what their goal is. I think their goal is to really work with Long Beach artists.

ACS: Well that’s kind of like our Art Clout. It’s not like we have the whole year mapped out or anything. We all look to LA, like, oh there’s so much happening in LA, but I’m sure there are tons of artists there saying the exact same thing we’re saying. Where are all the exhibition spaces, blah blah blah.

JC: Why can’t we get into a show or whatever.

ACS: Right absolutely, because like you said there are so many, and even if there are more galleries, yada yada, there’s that many more people.

JC: Yeah.

ACS: So, I’m more excited about like the idea about artists making spaces, running it, and doing that kind of stuff. However large or small it may be, whatever you can do, sort of. That idea.

JC: Yeah.

ACD: Yeah, I think it could work here.

ACS: Oh, so are there outlined specific duties and responsibilities for each member?

JC: Yeah basically. When a new member joins you have to put forth what you would want to have as your job, basically. When Dani Dodge, and then when Sean Noyce joined, they now work together as the PR team because they’re good at that. They have experience in it. They handle all the press releases. And making sure everybody gets their stuff in on time. They send out the press releases and contact all of the media every month. My job is doing the refreshments along with Alanna, at the openings. Cleanup and stuff like that. One person is the treasurer, one person takes care of the website, he does all that. Depending on people’s skill set.

ACD: Yeah, you find their traits.

JC: Like one man, he’s a professional photographer, Brian, he documents all the shows too, so that we have that in our archives.

ACS: So, like a natural division of labor.

ACD: But how big of turnover have seen since you’ve been involved.

JC: It’s not a very big turnover since I’ve been in it. It’s only been maybe three or four people.

ACS: What are your dues like, if you don’t mind my asking.

JC: No, no it’s—our dues went down when we moved. We used to be at the building with CB1 gallery on Santa Fe. But then when CB1 closed, all of us were like oh shit, no we got to get out of here. We’re not going to get enough foot traffic. When they had openings with ours, it was great because it brought in so much foot traffic. But it’s just an oddball location. So, we started looking around. The Bendix was immediately like the first choice. We kept looking at other spaces, but it’s actually less now. We pay, it varies, but between $70-75 a month is our dues.

ACC: That’s reasonable.

JC: To cover the rent, insurance for the space.

ACC: That’s what I was thinking.

ACD: Electricity, utilities.

JC: Yeah and other things that come up, like the website renewal. Other things that come up like less often that gets split up between everybody.

ACS: There’s gotta be spaces in town.

JC: Well I’m sure here in Long Beach.

ACD: My goal with Art Clout, one of my back burners is, could we recreate what you guys are doing, but focus more on the Long Beach arts. But bring in artists, like Stephanie, you’re having a show this month, your goal is to bring in three other artists from outside of Long Beach.

JC: And I think that is a good idea, because I think it would keep it fresh. You know, with Durden and Ray, we don’t want it to be a vanity gallery, and that’s something you have to be really careful about doing. I’ve seen a shift too, where initially when I first joined, one of the requirements that was set forth is if you curate a shown approach it from your own work and base a show around your own work. I’ve always kind of… I mean I’ve done it. The idea of curating yourself into your own show… it’s like there is no oversight of that. I mean I’m doing it for a show coming up in Miami. I’ve noticed we kind of shifted away from that, where people now, the shows that we curate at Durden and Ray, people aren’t including themselves anymore. They’ll include other Durden and Ray members, but we’re trying to actually decrease the number of Durden and Ray members in each show too. Because we’ve all shown there and we want it to be more about showing other people.

ACD: Because eventually, it’s going to be like, hey look at all my shows, Durden and Ray, Durden and Ray, after a while it’s like okay.

JC: I mean for the exchange shows, of course, it’s predominately Durden and Ray members, like showing in other countries. At other artist run space, it will be predominately Durden and Ray members and then some LA artists too, who are now members. So that’s a little bit different. But in our own space, we’re trying to keep it fresh. Keep it where it’s an opportunity for?

ACD: Right, because if not it’s just oh like here’s a show with our members again, here’s our show with just you, and the next month is going to be Brian, and the next month you know…

JC: But it also it serves the purpose of what we’re trying to do it. To present an alternative model for exhibition for really good artists. For people that we think need to be show. And we can do it outside of the commercial gallery system.

ACS: Yeah that’s a really good point. When Durden and Ray started, did it have like some kind of a mission statement?

JC: Yeah, I think they did. I’d have to… I’m sure we have our mission statement somewhere.

ACD: How long has it been opened? How long have you been…?

JC: Umm… it was the ten-year anniversary last year. When they first started, there wasn’t a gallery space either it was more like a…

ACC: A collective?

JC: Yeah, a collective that would show in just whatever spaces that they could get.

ACD: But they were showing members stuff, probably?

JC: Yeah probably predominately members stuff. When I first started going to their openings, they had a really funky gallery space across the street from CB1 on Santa Fe avenue.  It was a really weird like low ceiling second floor place in like an industrial building it was really odd with no windows. Then they went to CB1 and then I joined then we, you know, went to Bendix.

ACD: But also, they had to put in, I would think, lighting and you know there’s got to be some infrastructure that you guys had to do when you guys came it. Or was it already a gallery space?

JC: In both places the lighting, everything was already there.

ACD: Ok so you basically moved in and here’s the key.

JC: I mean it’s easy to do, I guess, in certain buildings, of course, like in L.A. You know the Bendix because it’s designed for artists, I mean of course there’s all these manufacturers in there though too. The garment manufacturers. It’s like half garment manufacturers and stuff, and then half artist studios and galleries.

ACD: I could just see in Long Beach. It’s like we want to put in a… okay so you need to get the city inspector, you need to do this and that.

JC: I guess it depends on how elaborate of lighting you do. You can rig something kind of even just temporary. I guess it depends on how professional you want it to look. But in my studio here, it has this popcorn ceiling there was literally no lights in there. I mean not even a one single light hardwired in there. I’m like okay, this going to be difficult to set this up. I just used PVC tubes, not that I’m advocating that for a gallery. But I just wanted something that would be minimal.

ACD: All this stuff is doable. Everything is like, you just work around it. Don’t ask just do it, it’s easier to say I’m sorry than to wait around for someone to…

JC: Yeah people have said that at Durden and Ray too. Don’t try and get permission from the management with certain things. I think they didn’t want us to drill into the concrete or something. Because there’s a couple of concrete walls there and the ceiling I think is concrete.

ACD: Kind of hard to hang stuff if you can’t…

JC: Well they wanted, for some reason, I seem to recall that the management wanted us to have them do that kind of thing. People in the group were like, no we have a hammer drill for concrete. We have a hammer drill; we can do this stuff ourselves. We’re not going to ask them every time we need to hang something on the concrete to drill the holes for us. That’s stupid. We’ll deal with the consequences later… if there even are any. They probably won’t even care.

ACS: That pretty much covers our list of questions. But is there anything we want to ask Jennifer?

ACD: I can’t think of anything. I mean for me it’s just learning more about you, your art, how Durden and Ray works, and how you perceive the art here in Long Beach, is it viable, is it worth saving?

ACS: Whether or not we want to, or we can save it or not. Art will happen.


Please follow and like us: