Sonia Farrand: The Willingness to be Fearless
1:45pm | Sonia Farrand and her husband, Patrick, opened Studio 1021 (located at 1021 Broadway) in the summer of 2009. She, a ceramic artist and educator, and he, a fine art painter, took advantage of their home's retail space to teach classes and curate art shows.
On Saturday, May 7, they are hosting a reception for a new exhibition titled "This is How We Roll," which features work by women skaters, including several from our local Derby teams.
I asked Sonia about the Studio.
Sonia: It had been a lifelong dream, so we were thrilled to have it come to fruition. We opened with the concept that we are an artists' studio and gallery combined. In addition to art shows, we have life drawing classes and private lessons in drawing, painting and ceramics.
Sander: Are you both artists?
Sonia: Yes, Patrick is an amazingly skilled painter, and I do ceramics. He's been working as a professional artist for the last twenty years, though he has been making art since he was a kid.
Sander: What brought you to Long Beach, specifically?
Sonia: For Patrick, he went to CSULB. As for myself, I moved here on a whim. I'm originally from Arizona, and I decided that I needed new scenery after college. A friend of mine got a job teaching in Long Beach, and we got an apartment together. So, it was serendipity I suppose!
Now that I'm here, I see how lucky I am to be in a community where so many exciting things are happening. Also, Long Beach is a great place for people who are doing new things and taking an alternative route to tradition. It's very accepting and unique. Unusually odd in a great way!
Sander: Was your college experienced focused on art?
Sonia: Yes, I dabbled in various media while I was growing up (everything from drawing and painting to sewing). It was hard for me to pick a specific craft, so I was initially a mixed media major. It was during my elective classes that I started ceramics, and I fell in love with it. I've been working with clay as my primary visual art form ever since. However, I changed my concentration to art history, which is what I actually have my degree in now. Since 2006, I've been very fortunate to have a ceramics studio at home, complete with a potter's wheel and kiln.
Sander: What kinds of work have you been showing?
Sonia: We have an annual show that includes our own work (Patrick's paintings and my ceramics). Then, we have group shows that are focused on supporting local artists and giving them exposure. So far, the other shows have been group shows that have included photography and life drawing.
Sander: Tell me about the community of artists you've been engaged with?
Sonia: One of the exciting aspects of the studio is meeting all of the artists who come to our life drawing workshops. There are so many creative people here, and it's inspiring to be around them. We've met artists like Tim Dunham, who runs Some Things Creative through local coffee shops, and developed long-standing partnerships in events around Long Beach.
Now that I am involved in skating, I have met many artists who skate with Long Beach Roller Derby. I'm not sure what it is about the sport that attracts creative people, but there are so many talented individuals in that community. Maybe it's the willingness to be fearless about doing something out of the ordinary.
Sander: How did you get involved with the derby?
Sonia: Another whim! I had a pair of skates when I was a kid, but I mainly used them to cover more territory while trick-or-treating on Halloween. I had read about roller derby, but I had never seen it and it had been at least 15 years since I tried on a pair of skates. I've never been a fan of rollerblades, and I much prefer the retro style of quads.
I wanted to try something new and have a fun way to exercise, so I Googled "roller derby." To my surprise, Long Beach had it's very own derby league that was just starting up. I went to Moxi Roller Skates on Fourth Street and met Michelle Steilen (Estro Jen, co-founder of Long Beach Roller Derby). I bought a pair of skates and sprained my ankle the first time I tried skating in my driveway. Let's just say that skating gracefully didn't come naturally to me, but I kept working at it.
Sander: Are you on the team now?
Sonia: I am a subpool skater, so I've passed the "fresh meat" stage.
Sander: Do you have a derby name?
Sonia: Yes, my derby name is Luscious Crushes. Part of the fun of derby is having this alter ego. It gets complicated when you realize that you don't know the real names of some of your friends!
One of the fantastic things about the skater community here is there are many ways to be involved. You don't necessarily have to play derby, and some of the best skaters I know are referees, volunteers or just recreational skaters.
Most of my skating is done on the beach trail, because I like my workouts to come with an ocean view. When I see another skater on quads, there is a definite kinship, and a smile or wave is exchanged. A lot of the time, I know them through LBRD because the gals skate all over town.
Sander: Let's talk about the show. Are the artists exhibiting with their derby names?
Sonia: It's funny. That's one of the things we still need to iron out! It's up to each artist, but the ones with derby names can exhibit under both. Some of them only go by their derby name.
The artists who are participating are roller skaters or skateboarders, and not all of them play derby. There are close ties between the roller skating and skateboarding communities, so we wanted to include them, as well. However, it is an all-girl show, and we are not including rollerbladers, so not everyone gets to be included (I've gotten an earful from some male skateboarders [laughs]).
Sander: Why the decision to make it all women?
Sonia: I think of it as a counterbalance to both the art world and skating world, where women are not always represented equally. It's not that we are anti-male by any means, it's just a way to give voice to women's art. Also, it was probably influenced by the fact that LBRD is an all-girl skater league. We have many wonderful male referees and volunteers, but the teams are only women.
Sander: What was the curatorial process?
Sonia: This show is a collaborative effort that I am doing along with Lorianne Hernandez (Elle Seven is her derby name) and Dingocore (Dingo only goes by her derby name). They are both artists, and they approached me with the idea, so we ran with it from there. Lorriane is getting her masters in exhibition design, so she is bringing a fantastic perspective to the show.
We knew most of the artists through LBRD, but we also used networking and social media to reach out to skaters outside of the local community. Most of the artists are local, but there are also skater/artists from Montana, Arizona and New Mexico participating.
The only common theme is that each artist is a woman who is part of the skater community. Beyond that, this show will be incredibly diverse in artistic themes, media and styles. I was really intrigued by Dingo's goal, which is to show that we are not "one-trick ponies." While we love skating, after awhile it seems that people only talk to us about derby. This show will help demonstrate that we have other talents too.
Regarding the media, there will be drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, film and design. Some of the work will be about skating, but it is not a requirement. We wanted to avoid having a gallery full of skating photos because we felt it would be more interesting to show the full breadth of artistic expression from our exhibitors.
Sander: Tell me about two specific artists and their work.
Sonia: One of the participants is Katy May Goodson, a skateboarder living in Tucson. She draws and paints with a style that is minimalist without being naive, and she often has themes of nature in her work.
Pigeon is a skater from Santa Cruz who joined LBRD this year, and she is one of the coaches of the newest team, "The Belmont Hot Broads." The piece she is working on for the show uses the female body as a canvas by painting designs or images on the breasts of volunteers. Then, she is photographing each "canvas" and compiles the bright, happy images in a colorful photographic collage. Should be very interesting! [laughs] She's a creative gal who is bringing some free-spirit vibes from Santa Cruz to Long Beach.
Sander: What about future plans for the gallery?
Sonia: We want to continue adding more shows each year and offering more classes and workshops. Later this year, I'd like to do an art show called "A Cup of Kindness" to benefit local animal shelters. Patrick and I are animal lovers, so it is very close to our heart.
For "A Cup of Kindness," I would like to reach out to other ceramic artists who would be willing to donate functional ware like cups, bowls, plates, etc. All of the proceeds will then be donated to benefit local animal rescues.
"This is How We Roll" opens on Saturday, May 7, at 7 p.m., and is open to the public. Street parking is limited, but you are welcome to use the lot at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, located one block north at 1001 E. Third St.
After Saturday, the exhibition will be available for viewing by appointment. Details can be found at www.studio1021.com.
Learn more about Patrick Farrand's work at FarrandFineArts.com.