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Cameron

Pacific Standard Time Arrives –

Initiated by the Getty Museum along with the Getty Research Institute, Pacific Standard Time has blossomed into a comprehensive collaboration of 60 cultural institutes whose focus will be the art and artists of Southern California from the years 1945 to 1980. While the official kickoff date is October 1st, the festival has already taken on wings with gallery exhibitions of works by such L.A. original as Beatrice Wood, Maria Nordman and John Outterbridge. I was thrilled when Scott Hobbs, brought to my attention that the work of Marjorie Cameron was to be included as part PST’s inaugural Getty exhibition “Crosscurrents” and featured as part of the Getty’s “Explore the Era” web archive. Scott along George Herms are both part of the Cameron-Parsons Foundation board and as such have been instrumental as keepers of the flame of this extraordinary Southern Californian original.

Cameron has been a part of many posts I’ve written albeit in the shadows. As an actress, in Curtis Harrington 1961 cult classic Night Tide she is the enigmatic leader of the “Sea People” who speaks a cryptic language unknown to all but her legion of mermaids. In Kenneth Anger’s film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Cameron is cast in a leading role of “The Scarlet Woman” and “Kali” opposite Anais Nin’s character of “Asarte.” But it is within the context of her artistic contributions that are explored as part of PST where her greatest influences can be appreciated. Cameron became the poster girl for the 1955 Wallace Berman’s literary and artistic journal Semina. From the Cameron-Parson Foundation:

In the early 1950s, Cameron met the fellow LA artist and jazz enthusiast Wallace Berman who was fascinated by her artwork, poetry, and mystical aura. She later recounted that she was impressed by the fact that, shortly after they were introduced, he gave her a copy of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Although steering clear of her occult activities, Berman was intrigued with her persona and, as she put it in her 1986 interview with art historian Sandra Starr, “He seemed to be interested in somehow promoting me.” In 1955 Berman used his photograph of Cameron as the cover of his literary and artistic journal Semina 1 and included in the issue a reproduction of a drawing she had made the previous year during her first experience with peyote, which she had taken after hearing a lecture by Aldous Huxley. The reproduced drawing became renowned when the Los Angeles Police Department cited it as “lewd” and shut down Barman’s 1957 exhibition of drawings, assemblages, and sculptures at Ferus Gallery. After this experience, Cameron, like Berman, refused to show her art in commercial galleries. She remained, however, a crucial figure in the Berman circle.

This is also well documented as part of PST in the accompanying interview with Lyn Kieinholz, author of L.A. Rising, and Getty curator John Tain.

Cameron will furthermore be a part of the exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, “L.A. Raw, Abstract Expressionism in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, From Rico LeBrun to Paul McCarthy.” This is all a rare opportunity to become acquainted with a mesmerizing artist whose influence is now irrefutably entrenched as a part of Pacific Standard Time.

Untitled (Portrait of Crystal), ca. 1961, Marjorie Cameron. Ink and gouache on wood panel. 43 1/2 x 11 3/4 ” Collection of Scott Hobbs. Permission courtesy of Cameron Parons Foundation

Semina cover with photograph of Cameron, 1955, Wallace Berman.Semina journal, no. 1 (1955) by Wallace Berman. Gelatin silver print mounted on cardstock. 7 1/2 x 4 in. The Getty Research Institute, 2564-801.no1.2. Courtesy of the Estate of Wallace Berman and Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

Comments

  1. Nancy,
    I love this post, not only because it beautifully composed and researched, but also because it speaks to some of the lesser known elements of the circle of artists around Berman and others in the 1950s. There are references to the books that floated around then, and that I read later as a teen in the mid-1960s: Herman Hesse (I read Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, The Glass Bead Game), Aldous Huxley (didn’t everyone read Doors of Perception?), and even later, R.D.Laing (the Politics of Experience).These books and the inner worlds that were their subjects, seem like the texts for the mind-expanding culture, well before others. So much more should be emphasized in journalists’ accounts of the era, and unfortunately the more sensational aspects of the PST era are being given most of the attention. Let’s have more about the literature and the inner world of poets and assemblage.
    Frank

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