The first solo exhibition of work by Jan Edward Vogels will be held at the Expo Arts Center's Jones Gallery space this Friday Night as part of the monthly First Fridays Long Beach art walk in Bixby Knolls. His work combines brightly colored hand drawn abstractions, or photographic elements, into mesmerizing photo montages. Although he's been an artist for years, working primarily in music and film, this new work emerged from a desire to participate in social media.
"I have been a singer-songwriter for most of my life. With the advent of the Internet, websites, and Facebook I've had to learn how to make videos (for music-videos) and take photographs. The drawing came about as a result of feeling 'obligated' to post 'something' on Facebook everyday, just to be present. Since I can't come up with a new song everyday, I figured a doodle might suffice. And then it just sort of took on a life of its own. Plus, I was trying to come up with something that wasn't yet another puppy or kitten photograph.
"I am a firm believer in Woody Allen's famous saying about '90% of success is just showing up.' I like the idea of doing just about anything, whether you feel like it or not. So, with that in mind, I get up every morning, fix my first cup of joe, and start doodling. When I think it is finished I upload it to Facebook, and also the 'Doodle Page' on my website, and only then do I proceed with the rest of my day. I thrive on routine, plus it's a challenge to do anything in the early morning mental fog.
"I also go at my music this way. I will pick up the guitar whether I feel like it or not. I have discovered that even if I am feeling completely uninspired, once I begin to practice my singing, usually within a few minutes the endorphins kick in and it all starts to get magic.
"I don't think I do anything with intention. Seriously. A woman who has known me since I was 19 has described me as being in perpetual free-fall. I enjoy my 'dreamtime,' getting into the zone. Even when I'm walking my dog, with camera in hand, I love letting go of expectations and, instead, seeing if I can capture something of the day.
"I haven't set out with a subject as a goal. I think it can best be described as 'collecting things.' You wind up with a pocket full of pebbles. Sometimes that is all you wind up with but, other times, there is one pebble that is really unusual and then THAT becomes the accidental 'intention.' I polish that pebble because it stood out from the others."
Jan's early exposure to music was primarily classical and, thanks to his grandparents, was given a grand piano when he was still in his teens.
"I first discovered the 'zone' at that early age: Getting completely lost in the music; forgetting what time it is; begging to be allowed to stay home during the summer, instead of joining the family vacation to Yosemite, just to play the magic piano. When I went on my first European walkabout I had no piano to play. Pianos are not portable. So I bought a cheap guitar and taught myself to play. And, quite by accident, I started to write songs."
Jan confessed that his first, "awful" attempt was a love song to the actress Bonnie Bedelia, but declined to share any part of it.
"Writing a simple song was very liberating after a classical music education. It is quite the opposite, actually. Pop music had really not been on my radar all during my adolescence. I was really locked into the classical world to the exclusion of most other music. When I discovered pop and folk music in my late teens and early twenties, it was a complete revelation. When I was first introduced to the idea of playing 'in the pocket,' I was blown away."
Once bitten by the bug, Jan began to perform original songs on his own and, sometimes, with writing partners.
"As a singer-songwriter I had plenty of material to write about. My day jobs were all over the place. White collar office work. Teamster truck driving. Retail sales. The works.
"The thing that never ceases to amaze me is that, the older I get, the more I realize that pretty much everything that I need, both in life and for creative inspiration, is closer and closer to home in an ever smaller radius. There is a real magic in that.
"'Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.' It is Franz Kafka.
"We are always sitting on the bank of the river - the river of life - and it is our choice, our decision, whether or not to dip our hand in that river, whether that be to meditate or, in my case, to create something. It is always there. The shift is the decision, or just giving yourself permission, to let your hand feel the flowing water."
Jan sees the development of social media as a form of the old fashioned marketplace.
"It is a wonderful development that each and every one of us has the option to become little online shopkeepers, and Facebook can be a bit like window shopping. There are all these folks presenting themselves in one form or another. Some as hobbies. Others as serious professionals. The global village keeps morphing into something else ,and I am having a blast watching it happen and, by the way, getting caught up in it as well. All this sharing is like stalls in the public square. Some sell food, some sell hardware and some sell knick-knacks.
"I'm not competing with anyone, it is not arguing with anyone and, near as I can tell, it is not harming anyone. And it is a whole lot of fun."
Jan recently participated in his first group art show at NoHoSAC gallery in North Hollywood.
"That was complete serendipity. A friend of the gallery manager found out that they were shy several photos for their next show and mentioned my name. Since I post a lot of my photos on my website, the gallery was able to take a look and they liked what they saw. In fact, they made their selections right from my photo page. All I had to do was get them printed, mounted and framed. It all happened within a few days. It was extremely exciting.
"The opening night was pretty amazing. It is one thing to have someone 'like' a photo that is posted on Facebook. It is quite another experience to watch someone standing in front of that same photograph hanging on a wall in a gallery. I guess it is a different experience for the viewer as well."
Jan's work was so well received that has been invited back for a solo show, which will take place from August 27 through October 9.
Jan's work will be on display in the Expo Arts Center's Jones Gallery space, located at 4321 Atlantic Avenue, for just one night. Along with the art exhibition, local experimental and improvisational electronica duo Toaster Music will be performing intermittently. The event runs from 6PM to 9PM.
For more information about Jan's work, visit Jan-Edward.com.
The NoHoSAC gallery is located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601.
For complete details about all of the festivities taking place this Friday, visit FirstFridaysLongBeach.com.