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Art Review: Windows cause double take

Megan Sebestyen
Staff Writer

Art can appear in many places in many forms: graffiti and sidewalk art are testaments to this.

Sides of buildings can become art when painted with murals just as cars painted with whimsical designs and colors can become an expression of art.

But an abandoned storefront creatively decorated can be a form of art, too, as proven by Jennifer Bolande’s “Plywood Curtains.”

These pieces of art are not created with the plywood, as the name implies.

Rather they are photographs of plywood projected on curtains at life size.

Bolande’s work is visible in vacant storefronts throughout Los Angeles.

To date, she has installed her art at two locations in Old Town Pasadena and one on Mid-Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Walking past this art, someone might mistake the work of art for a vacant storefront boarded up with plywood.

This is, of course, Bolande’s intention.

The pieces of fabric that hang in the storefronts look just like the plywood they represent; but these curtains are fluid and pliable in ways that plywood is not.

Bolande got her start as an artist in the early 1980s using photography, sculptures, drawing, film and collage as her artistic outlets.

Inspired by the relationship between the art and the object being represented in the art, Bolande began experimenting how these objects were represented in real and imaginary ways.

Vacant storefronts usually seem neglected and unwelcoming; plywood boards seem to say “Go Away.”

But the storefronts Bolande had included in her project seem yielding and beautiful, seeming to invite passerbys for a closer look.

Unable to initially determine the type of material behind the store window, a passerby would be forced to do a double take, stopping to discover the true personality of the art.

On one hand, these pleated pieces of curtains are ephemeral, entirely fragile.

But, the curtains also might be mistaken for the enduring, tough, old plywood they represent.

Under Bolande’s hands, these storefronts no longer seem forgotten.

They seem only in a state of transition.

The flowing curtains are welcoming and stimulate curiosity.

This unique art is as unique to the city as graffiti and sidewalk art.

This is art which does not have a certain time viewers may see it.

It does not cost a thing to see it.

Instead, people may be out on a drive, a walk or running errands when they encounter the art.

Seeing these curtains hanging in storefronts is a surprise, daring the viewer to wonder what waits beyond the curtain.

Passerbys would stop to stare, wondering what it is they see.

Bolande’s work is part of the West of Rome Public Art’s Women in the City Series.

Bolande is one of three artists whose work has been on display through this organization; the exhibits of the other artists have already ended.

The first curtains went up in July 2010, and will increase in number and change location following the changing real estate landscape.

For more information regarding “Plywood Curtains” and to find out about the current installation times, visit womeninthecity.org or westofrome.org.

West of Rome Public Art is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Megan Sebestyen can be reached at megan.sebestyen@laverne.edu.

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