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The famous Venice Beach Marijuana Doctors

My impulse for self-preservation was triggered in Venice Beach: “Get me out of this madhouse!”

Venic Beach is a strange mixture of something very commercialized and touristy and something absolutely alternative and controversial. Why did those people dress like that? Why did they behave in such a way? Are they so eccentric? Are they simply crazy?  Do they have some unhealthy urge to express themselves in the weirdest ways? Or is this just the pot fumes of Venice Beach? You tell me! This is what I saw; the good, the bad, and the ugly:

  • A guy playing the guitar while rollerblading on Oceanfront, Venice Beach

    The Marijuana Doctor: booths that sell Medical Marijuana Licenses. You pay to see the doctor, tell him that you have chronic migraine/dislocated shoulder/high stress levels/ stage fright/toothache, etc and he grants you a license that allows you to buy medical marijuana.

  • A Real Freakshow: I saw double-headed turtles and the famous wolf-man from the Guinness World Records. Find more pictures of the show on Yelp (not for weak stomachs!). 
  • Muscle Beach: the home of bodybuilding, where very athletic people perform gymnastics and acrobatics on special installations
  • You can take a pic with the sand octopus for a tip

    A skinny guy who had the skin color of the Tanning Mom in rollerblades wearing a thong and a helmet with the American flag

  • A guy playing a piano on the street
  • Completely stoned hobos lying by the side of the street
  • Very creative beggars by Santa Monica Pier had made cardboard  “targets”  where you have to throw throw coins through tiny slits. It’s a fun way to give money to the homeless!
  • Artworks of Marilyn Monroe as a Lakers player
  • Paintings drawn on old skateboards, sculptures made out of spare car parts, lots of graffiti, homeless people making sand sculptures, tattoo and piercing parlors, henna tattoos, bong shops
  • Street art or just creative begging under the Santa Monica Pier? Ask a question – throw a coin to get an answer!

    Sexy girls in bikini riding bicycles and rollerblades; lots of silicone

  • Gangster boys on longboards
  • Lifeguards who look like they came out of the TV show Baywatch
  • Lots and lots of surfers and street performers

Venice Beach reminded me a lot of Camden Market in London. Where else have you ever seen such eccentric street dwellers?

Muscle Beach athletes

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Sofia's Monument of the Soviet Army transformed with Western symbolism, anonymous graffiti artist.

This is probably the most clever (and certainly the boldest) street artwork that Bulgaria has seen for years! On Saturday, June 18th, an anonymous graffiti artist transformed Sofia’s Monument of the Soviet Army by painting the Red Army soldiers over as Western pop culture symbols.

Sofia woke up to the sight of That Yellow Bastard, the Joker, Wolverine, Santa Claus, Superman, Ronald McDonald, Captain America, Robin, and Wonder Woman. The former-Soviet-soldiers-gone-superhero had replaced the USSR flag with the American. The message under the statues reads “keep abreast of the time”. The “Bulgarian Banksy”, as the Herald Sun nicknamed the artist, remains a mystery.

And the Monument of the Soviet Army before the graffiti, surrounded by a skate park.

The Monument of the Soviet Army is one of the landmarks of Sofia, but it is also very controversial.  It was erected in 1953-6 in order to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who rescued Europe from the Nazi. Still, many young Bulgarians perceive it as a celebration of those who forced communism onto Bulgaria in 1944 and consider it out of place. Ever since the fall of communism in 1989, the monument has been a bone of contention among “anti-communists” and “anti-capitalists”.

Today, the park around the monument is a skaters and bikers park. At night, it is full of young alternative people having fun. To me, this speaks that as long as the park is beautiful and well-kept it doesn’t really matter if the monument is outdated or not. However, I also think that it would be good to replace this monument with something that better relates to the young people of the EU.

But then again, the graffiti artist brings up a good point by replacing the symbol of the “communist occupants” with the symbol of the “capitalist occupants”.  Fifty years ago, we glorified the world power of that time, the Soviet Union. Today, as indicated by the movies we watch, the fashion we wear, and the food we eat, we are simply glorifying the current world power, the USA. Probably it is time to create something of our own and be proud of it: be it high art or graffiti.

***Several Facebook groups were created for and against the work of art/vandalism.  It was announced that city officials will clean up the monument on Tuesday at 8am, so several Facebook activists urged people to go see the graffiti in the morning and thus show their support for the anonymous artist. However, the superhero and pop culture characters artwork was cleaned between midnight and 6am last night! The citizens who visited the monument around 8am went home highly disappointed. 


I saw this exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London two Fridays ago and I found it very inspiring. There was so much meaning to these eight huge rocks with tiny paper crosses on top. Man conquering nature. The human aspiration overcoming all obstacles. Death eventually reigning all.

Still, isn’t it ironic to claim to have conquered the rock if the cross is so small compared to it? The author Kris Martin found the megaliths in Colorado.

Summits by Kris Martin, Saatchi Gallery London

Summits by Kris Martin, Saatchi Gallery London. A paper cross on top.


By Eliza Ivanova

Eliza Ivanova is a promising digital animator from Sofia.

She graduated from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in 2010 after having graduated from my high-school, the American College of Sofia, in 2006. I remember her impressive art from back in the day and definitely think that she is a very interesting person to follow.

I especially love her digital illustrations on her personal webpage.  Also make sure to check out Eliza’s short film Piece of Cake on her Vimeo, which was her third year project at CalArts and won their Walter and Gracie Lantz Award in 2009.  During the same year, Eliza interned for Pixar studios, which is an amazing achievement in itself!

I like how modern her art is, yet how it captures certain traces of her Bulgarian background like the theme of the boy cleaning the cars’ windows at the traffic light and the street artists in the film Hard Lines or the occasional gypsy imagery in her illustrations.

Eliza Ivanova’s art is outstanding! I wish her all the best of luck!

Update: Eliza is currently an animator for Pixar, and is working on Cars 2.

Nightmare By Eliza Ivanova


Read Me tag on Alice in Wonderland edition illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev

A new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came out this month in Bulgaria, illustrated by the prominent Bulgarian artist Iassen Ghiuselev.

Iassen is one of those people who are more famous and recognized abroad than at home, despite the fact that he lives in Bulgaria most of the time. The illustrator works for major publishing houses in the USA, Europe and Asia, and has won several international awards. Among the stories he has illustrated are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Pinocchio, Don Quixote, Oliver Twist, the fairy tales of Brothers Grimm, Oscar Wilde, and John Ruskin, and more.

The illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll’s book that just came out in Bulgaria has been in circulation in Canada and parts of Europe since 2000 thanks to Simply Read Books, Vancouver. In order to draw Alice, Iassen mixes Gothic imagery with Escher-style impossible perspective and modern techniques to convey his interpretation of the dream-like Wonderland.

Take a magic tour through the Iassen Ghiuselev’s official website.

*

Last week, I visited Christ Church College in Oxford, where in 1856, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, met his inspiration for his famous novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Alice and the Queen of Hearts, illustration by Iassen Ghiuselev

In 1856, while Dodgson was a mathematics tutor and a logician at Oxford, a new Dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church together with his family.  Dodgson became close friends with the Liddell family and began inventing stories to amuse their three girls: Lorina, Edith and Alice.

Dodgson based his novel on real life elements but with a magical twist: the Mad-Hatter’s tea party and the Queen of Hearts’ game of cricket are fantastic allusions to typical British past-times. The Dodo is a caricature of the author himself who stuttered and often mispronounced his last name as Dodo-Dodgson. The White Rabbit is based on Dean Liddell himself. The book is also full of anagrams and logics problems which contribute to the twisted sense of time and space in Wonderland.

Walking around Christ Church is amazing because you recognize many of the novels’ elements: in the college’s marvelous Great Hall, you can see the brass long-necked ornaments around the fireplace (remember, Alice’s neck grows tall like a serpent’s), the dodo in the stained glass window, and the downward spiral staircase behind the Dean’s table (the rabbit’s hole).

Curious to learn more about Bulgarian fairy tales? Read my post about the Slavic samodivi.


These are not homeless people or rascals. They are part of the Orchestra of the Blind, and they play beautiful music around the streets of Sofia.

The orchestra was founded in 1922 by the Bulgarian Union of the Blind. At that time, it consisted of four violins, a cello, a flute, a clarinet, and a piano. They participated in numerous charitable concerts all over the country in order to raise funds for their organization.

Today, an additional function they have is to entertain the passers-by and, probably, to remind us that they are still there.

 


Every major city has a famous plaza with street performers and artists. In Boston, they are around Harvard Square and Quincy Market. In London, they are near Covent Garden, Neal Street, and Trafalgar Square.

But have you ever wondered what exactly street performers are? Are they a tourist attraction appointed by the city hall? Is this their full time job? Is it just a hobby? Do they do it because they really appreciate art or because they would otherwise have to beg?

I love street performers and always stop to watch them. But very often, I leave right away after the last trick, without leaving anything in their hat.

On the picture, the girl’s chalk art says: “To make this picture beautiful, I need more colors – a drink and a cigarette – please do your best to make it beautiful. Any coin would be better than none. I hesitate to say thank you. ”

Street artists can make a place really special. But they don’t live on appreciation.


Henna painting after the Desert Safari in Dubai

Henna Painting, Henna Tattoos or Mehndi is a popular form of body art in Dubai and the Middle East. It originated from South Asia. It was traditionally used during special ceremonies such as weddings, but today henna painting is popular in the everyday life.
Henna paintings are done of the hands, palms, and feet. They are fast, easy, and lasts only a few days.
The dye is made from a plant, so it is not harmful or permanent.
The Arab girl who drew our hands took less than 2 minutes for each paining.
Aren’t they beautiful? The painter is wearing the traditional black abaya .
Read more about my journey to Dubai.

The Arab girl who painted our hands is wearing a traditional Abaya

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