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Art Treks : Sunday Tour Reveals Cultural Diversity on Long Beach Scene


Patrick Mohr's installation pieces combine metal, tile, toy trains, drawings and banners inscribed with cryptic sayings. His artworks often address issues of materialism and the mixing of cultures.

"I've been interested in trade as an ongoing phenomenon that encourages not only material exchanges but cultural exchanges as well," said Mohr, 40, of Long Beach. "And living on the edge of the 'Pacific Lake,' we find ourselves in a particularly active area for such exchange."

Artists from many different cultures live and work in Long Beach. Not far from Mohr's studio, Cambodian weavers and Laotian textile artists create tapestries of traditional designs passed down through the centuries.

On Sunday, some of these different world-views can be glimpsed by participants in the fourth annual Long Beach Art Expedition, which features visits to the studios of 30 artists. Stops also are scheduled at 13 galleries and three museums.

Less famous, less expensive and more spread out than the older Venice Art Walk, the all-day expedition can be enjoyed by shuttle bus, by taking your own car or by riding in the "Tour d'Arts" bicycle tour.

Long Beach's artist population has been swelling in recent years, and the art expedition was designed to celebrate that fact.

"We try to have the expedition be as reflective of the community as possible in terms of the ethnic groups," said Mary Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Public Corp. for the Arts, the expedition's nonprofit sponsor.

Among those featured are a woman who makes sculptures from lint, several artists who use paper in unusual ways, a group show of 26 prominent Chicano artists and two exhibits curated by African-American artists at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Mohr is a short but burly man who looks as if he'd be more at home climbing a telephone pole than working in a studio. He's a native Californian raised in Long Beach. His early experiences of sailing have contributed to some of the art for which he's best known--installations involving huge, billowing sails.

He's been commissioned to create a number of public artworks. His 1986 piece, "Bay of Smokes," is on permanent display at the Long Beach Airport and is being featured on the art expedition announcements and commemorative posters.

Mohr lives in a central Long Beach warehouse in a semi-industrial neighborhood. The warehouse is much more attractive inside than outside. Divided into three big rooms plus an overhead sleeping loft, the decor mixes utility with artfulness, work space blending into living space.

Several of his most recent installations will be on display Sunday. So will pages from "illuminated manuscripts" by Mohr's wife, Sue Ann Robinson, an artist who creates unusual handmade books.

Half of the building's back-yard concrete slab has been turned into a mini-garden of potted plants under a blue canopy. Mohr said he'll be hanging out with the plants Sunday, reading a newspaper and drinking beer, while people troop through his home.

Reluctant Miniaturist

About a mile southeast of Mohr's and Robinson's warehouse, painter Cindy Evans creates tiny fantasies on wood and paper in a studio that's one-third of an old brick storefront. Next door are two more studios also included in the Art Expedition, those of book artist Pia Pizzo and sculptor/painter Judith Cook.

Evans, 37, moved to Long Beach in 1982 after earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate School. She was drawn to Long Beach by the low rents and the relatively clean air.

Evans' long, narrow studio has a green-gray concrete floor and is lit by fluorescent overhead lights. The white walls are lined with her meticulously detailed paintings.

In her work titled "The Sex Museum," two elderly women examine a table full of odd implements. ("When AIDS came up, I started thinking people would have to go to the museum to experience sex," Evans explained.) In "I Dreamed I Danced With Fred Astaire," a series of three recent paintings, a young couple dance against a background of lush plants. This series came from a dream Evans had the night after Astaire died.

Evans began making her small, quirky paintings in graduate school, in between working on larger canvases. "I started doing the small ones just for fun. I didn't think of them as art because they were too easy," she said. Then she realized that people responded more to her small paintings than to the large abstracts. "I finally realized that even though in many ways it's better to work big--it's more impressive--this is more my medium," she said.

Southeast Asian Art

Evans' studio is located only half a mile east of a very different work space. At the Long Beach Senior Center, two large, hand-made looms sit rather incongruously in a room full of pool tables and storage cabinets. This is where seven Cambodian weavers, two of whom will be featured in the Art Expedition, practice their art.

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