Interview: Teale Hatheway, “Deconstructing Los Angeles”

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Globe Theatre


Artist Teale Hatheway’s latest show, “Deconstructing Los Angeles” opened Thursday December 12, 2013 at Gallery 1927 in the Fine Arts Building in Downtown Los Angeles,one of our city’s architectural gems on 7th between Figueroa and Flower, fitting because Teale painted portraits of lost bits of architecture and building design elements, showing them in both their beauty and decay. Her current show focuses on the many lovely buildings along Broadway in DTLA. Along with discussing her art, Teale reveals her feelings about L.A.

“Deconstructing Los Angeles” runs through January 4, 2014, and the gallery space is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

Give us some background:
My interest in architecture and urban planning really matured while I was studying at the Slade in London. After college, I returned home to LA and, uncertain how to make a career of art, I held down a desk job at an ad agency for a solid five months – long enough to never look back. Desks aren’t my forte. I need to work with my hands, so I jumped ship to become a stage technician. I’ve “humped a lot of cable,” as they say. I excelled as a rigger, carpenter and electrician on some of the best and most beautiful stages in town such as The Wiltern, The Orpheum and the Pasadena Playhouse. I loved that line of work. I was paid to help bring smiles to people’s faces. There were always tangible results at the end of the day and I developed a really strong back. Not to mention the beautiful buildings I was surrounded by day in and day out.

Downtown LA was still a mystery to most of the world at the time and I was into showing it off to crews that came through town. People were amazed to discover that Los Angeles has pre-modern architecture and a historic core. I saw my world through the eyes of outsiders. One day I took a roadie to tea at the Biltmore. That one still cracks me up. But usually, I took them to Cole’s and we talked knives and flashlights with Ollie, the cop-turned-bartender. That was the era in which I realized that the subject that interested me, and that I was making work about, was a story that others would connect with. That’s when I got serious about my art making.

What is your process for your architectural paintings?
I begin with a photo safari (a hunt for the angles and details of my subject), upload, look, look, distill, look, rearrange, sketch, select, rearrange, scrap and start over, look, distill, sketch, sketch, sketch, scan, rearrange, walk away to stretch and de-acidify linen, return to composition, scrap and start over, look, search, have a glass of wine, go back to original concept, sketch, tweak and then, PAINT! But not really paint. Bleach and rinse. Begin to rough in ideas of which medium to use where, and how the fore, middle and backgrounds are going to play against each other. Burning, bleach, ink, paint, gold leaf, charcoal, size, etc.: they all react differently to each other depending on the order in which they are applied. The composition is very premeditated, but the actual process of building the piece is more spontaneous. Masking. Lots of masking.

Art References?
I think of my paintings as being abstract portraits of places and my way of getting there is through a “mash-up” of ideas and materials. I’m inspired by black and white photography, trompe-l’œil, classical forms, and textile/fiber art. A little provisionalism is evident in the linen areas which appear as unfinished grounds, but also can be key foreground elements. Graphic compositions keep the eye moving. I think there’s even a relaxed nod to So Cal finish fetish (I’m not using the industrial materials, currently). Car culture is part of my culture and I think that subconsciously seeped into my process. My finish is decidedly more rat rod than hot rod, though. Heh. Kinda’. A really pretty rat rod.

How did you come to show at the Fine Arts building?
Content wise, it was a fit – Lisa and Mark Ames of Art Meets Architecture approached me to exhibit at the Fine Arts Building. Their focus is the cross section of art and architecture, so it was a no-brainer. For those of us who aren’t precious about white walls, it’s an excellent spot to show because you get to see your work in an entirely unique environmental context. The building was built in 1927 as artist live/work spaces and the lobby was designed specifically to exhibit the work of the residents. The comparison of contemporary gallery fashion to the Fine Arts Building is astounding. Surprisingly, something about the intensity of the 1920’s ornamentation and the brown Batchelder tile creates a warm, neutral, reverent space that supports art exhibition beautifully. This is the first time my complete series of Broadway Los Angeles paintings have been exhibited. The Broadway theatres were built in the same general era as the Fine Arts Building. The two are a natural fit.

What about Los Angeles horrifies you?
I’m concerned that our long history of low vertical density may be threatened. Southern California and Los Angeles is about the light. Rustlings in city planning suggest that those days are numbered in the downtown area. The proposed re-development of districts into stylized tourist centers rather than residential hubs has my brain on fire. I prefer a more organic redevelopment approach. I suppose that relates directly to the perpetual confusion of Los Angeles for Hollywood. It’s a grievous misconception made most famously by our recently departed MOCA director. Poor guy. Nearly every noob makes that mistake at some point. But we Angelenos will shake it out of them given the right incentive. I really had high hopes for him. We may seem laid back, but this town can really chew you up and spit you out.

What about Los Angeles entrances you?
Unlocked doors… Defunct security cameras… Overlooked artistry and craftsmanship… The amalgamation of international building and ornamental styles is strictly Los Angeles, but also everywhere else – just like the people here. Cross-sections of history and diversity of cultures… The fact that there is still dirt here, next door to the fancy restaurant. The juxtaposition of modernist and classical forms gives this city a lot of texture. The light quality! Our lower skylines in the historic districts accommodate great light at street level. The casting of deep shadows across the facades of buildings is special to Los Angeles and makes for dramatic urban vistas.

Top: Globe Theatre

2B2A3330Teale with Bradbury Building, Globe Theatre


Tower Theater


Broadway buildings: The Arcade Theatre, the Eastern, and the Million Dollar Theatre


Three iconic Los Angeles movie palaces: State Theatre, Orpheum Theater and Tower Theatre

1511209_10201648821800352_934707867_n                   Photo: Richard Michael Johnson

Photos 2, 3, 5: Eric Minh Swenson,

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