Sunday, September 25, 2022

Mask Up for Prizewinning Wong Show at La Jolla Playhouse

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. 

Kristina Wong onstage, with a backdrop of face-masks and a map showing
the second wave of Covid-19 infections. (Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

Can a single woman/performance artist really fill up a stage?

She can if she's Kristina Wong, currently wowing audiences in the self-titled Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord at La Jolla Playhouse (LJP).

My husband and I came expecting plenty of fast, funny lines from the comedian/writer of things like Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but were surprised at how touching and thought-provoking the show was as well. 

And we loved the set - Junghyun Georgia Lee's replica of Wong's sewing room at her home in Koreatown, L. A., with supersized sewing paraphernalia.

No surprise that the play Wong wrote and starred in - with the help of acclaimed director Chay Yew, who was at LJP in 2019 with Cambodian Rock Band - is a prize-winner, accumulating Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards after premiering at New York Theater Workshop last fall. Even more impressive: Kristina Wong was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Here's the story behind the show:  At the start of the pandemic, Wong lost all her upcoming gigs. Stuck at home with only bad news and nothing to do, she found out that local hospitals were in desperate need of face masks. She was used to making weird costumes for some of her performances, so she sat down at her Hello Kitty sewing machine and started making masks from cut-up old bedsheets and bra straps and mailing them out. 

When she posted what she was doing on Facebook, requests began pouring in, and she realized she needed help, lots of help. Starting with several of her own acquaintances, she put together what she called the Auntie Sewing Squad, a work-from-home maskmaking collaborative that ended up with over 800 volunteers nation-wide, including Wong's mom and young children volunteered by pandemic-maddened mothers.

In the process, Wong discovered her own generosity, got closer to her mother, and managed to turn hundreds of remotely-connected strangers into a family. Onstage at LJP's Potiker Theatre, she reaches out to her audience in unexpected ways, and makes all of us strangers feel like a family too.

Overlord Wong, wielding her scissors, astride her sewing machine.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)

Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord will be at La Jolla Playhouse's Potiker Theatre through October 16.
For tickets and information, visit

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at 


Friday, September 23, 2022

Continuum: The Art of Faiya Fredman at La Jolla Athenaeum

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt.   Photos by Maurice Hewitt.


Graffiti Goddess #1, Faiya’s last artwork, welcomes visitors into Continuum. She created this lenticular piece digitally in 2020; it was produced this year to be in the show.

Faiya Fredman (1925-2020) was an endlessly creative artist. She started painting at age four, at an easel her father made for her, and went on to study Visual Arts at UCLA, experiment with mixed media, large-scale steel sculptures and lenticular printing, and see her work shown locally and around the world.

Life Drawing #4, from the 1960s.

Travels through ancient sites in Greece and Turkey with her husband—Milton “Micky” Fredman, who was the first chairman of San Diego’s Commission for Arts & Culture—inspired her to create a series of sculpted goddesses. After his death, she began making botanical prints—bits of leaves, twigs, and flowers she arranged on a flatbed scanner in her home studio. A number of these showed decomposing flora, on their way out.

Pompeii, a mixed media piece.

“I want people to look at life as a process we all go through,” she said, when I interviewed her at her La Jolla home in 2015. “The buds symbolize birth, then there’s the flowering and the withering. I’m showing that the withering can be just as beautiful as the buds.”

Tidal Fragments #2. Mixed media, photo, sand, and acrylic. While living in Del Mar, Faiya would lay canvas out on the beach and let the tide wash over it.

In 2018, in time for her 93rd birthday, she had a 70-piece “Steel Goddess” exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art. The title referred not only to the figures she had been creating for years—some of them nine feet tall—but also to the artist herself, whose bold adventures in art-making kept her at the top of her game all her life.

Lenticular Goddess.

Right up to the end, she was making art, and the current exhibit at the Athenaeum is a mixture of old works and new ones, from the 1960s to 2020, many of them on view for the first time.

Steel Goddesses.

“We called the show Continuum because that’s exactly what it is—a continuum,” said her granddaughter Sara Stewart, the exhibit’s main organizer, who manages the extensive collection of works owned by the Fredman Family Foundation.

Sara Stewart posing with Elcom. She has no idea what the title means,
but it’s her favorite piece.

“While going through my grandmother's writings over the years, I found that she often used that word,” Sara said. “And I really wanted to continue her legacy. I was always excited to be around her when she was working; she was always exploring something new. And putting this show together has been great for my grief process; it makes me feel close to her. The opening September 9th was packed with her admirers, and my whole family came in from out of town.” 

The opening was a day after what would have been Faiya’s 97th birthday—"a perfect way to celebrate her,” as Sara said.

Artist Book. Faiya's tribute to her parents.

When you come to see Continuum, be sure to interact with the lenticular prints, which seem to change as you move slowly by them. And don’t miss the smaller works on view in the Reading Room, along with attractive jewelry and other Faiya-inspired items that are for sale.

Sara Stewart in the Reading Room, with accessories.

“My grandmother loved having her art made into accessories, so I designed some for her,” said Sara, who was wearing a necklace of steel goddess symbols when she gave us a tour of the show.

She and her co-curators, the mother-and-daughter artist/design team Allwyn O’Mara and Carmel O’Mara Horwitz, also created an appropriately large-scale book titled simply Faiya Fredman, which is on sale here as well. Along with beautiful photos of artworks and the artist at work, they have included some of her writings and an introductory essay by art critic Robert Pincus. Allwyn worked closely with Faiya for over 25 years, Carmel joined in along the way, and together with Sara, they have produced a loving tribute to an artist who clearly deserves it.

If you want to take home souvenirs of the exhibit, you have lots of choices. And if you want to learn more about Faiya and her art, come to the Artist PanelDiscussion October 22, 6-8 p.m.

Book Cover

Continuum Addendum: Don’t leave the Athenaeum without stopping by the Rotunda Gallery to see the Derek Boshier exhibit. You’ll be glad you did.


In the Rotunda: Derek Boshier’s Occupations

Derek Boshier: The Auto Dealer.

Derek BoshierFashion Model.

Continuum:The Art of Faiya Fredman 
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, through November 5
108 Wall St., La Jolla
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Free admission. / (858) 454-5872

Faiya FredmanGraffiti Goddesses #2 and #3.

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

SD Art Prize at Central Library Art Gallery

by Patricia Frischer

SD Art Prize recipients receiving District 4 County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s certificate of recognition.  
(Left to right) Angélica EscotoAlida Cervantes,  Cog • nate CollectiveAmy Sanchez Arteaga & Misael Diaz  absent for the photo due to delay Carlos Castro Arias. Abbey Reuter presenter (Photo: Maurice Hewitt)

The San Diego Art Prize produced by the San Diego Visual Arts Network has 15 years of coming-of-age exhibitions. This year for the first time, we had selectors from the Whitney Museum in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Foster Museum in Florida and a curator from Mexico City. Works have been shown at the L Street Gallery, the Athenaeum, Bread and Salt and this year at the Central Library in downtown San Diego. The Art Prize and the artists were recognized by the county through District 4 Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and the City of SD Commission for Arts and Culture’s Jonathon Glus. The San Diego Art Prize embraces the best visual arts and it is fitting that the exhibition is shown in this fabulous gallery on the 9th floor with views that go on forever. 

Some art pulls you in immediately and all four of our recipients have done that in this show. 

Alida Cervantes large portraits of Hispanic colonial figures take a bit of history and twist it into a statement about not just our past but our present and even future. The juiciness of the paint and the glorious colors can not be denied.  

Carlos Castro Arias reclaims the same sort of invading colonial dignitaries as Cervantes, but he reclaims his sculptural portraits with beading which forces them to become indigenous. The terrific video shows the same statue made of bird seed with pigeons not only decorating them, but destroying them while thriving on the food stuff of life.  


(Photo: Maurice Hewitt)


Angélica Escoto is giving us an insider view of the 15 year birthday celebration of every Latino girl’s dream and at the same time we are walking through her community and seeing street life through her eyes.  

Cog • nate Collective presents a large photographic mural of the night lights of Tijuana which are as beautiful as any image captured by the Hubble telescope. It sets the tone for the entire gallery. The three scripted stories by Amy Sanchez Arteaga & Misael Diaz are as emotional and heart rending as the original dialogues must have been. They are careful not to reveal any of these stories tellers, and an additional level of complexities is added by having them read by those waiting to cross them border themselves.  

I recently read an article about the new denser housing being built in our county and the objections based on more traffic congestion.    

“If you want to make traffic better, you can either (a) get people out of their cars, (b) get people who do drive to make shorter trips less often, by bringing destinations closer to them, and/or (c) create more viable alternative routes for people who drive to avoid choke points.” Mental Models

So I would like to make a pitch to show more art in all of our libraries. There are libraries in every area and I actually see them as community enhancing chain stores.  Making art easily accessible to a wider audience, free to view, and in every town is as important as showing in a private museum.   


Jonathon Glus, City of SD Commission for Arts and Culture

Chi Essary, curator extraordinaire and Patricia Frischer, SD Visual Arts Network (Photo: Maurice Hewitt)

Maurice Hewitt and his wife Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Maurice took a number of these images as labeled. 

Watch for this sign on the ground floor of the Central Library and take the elevator to floor 9

Free Catalogs are available on a first come basis. The wonderful cover design is by Alexander Kohnke and each cover is different as the words slowly melt away. Thanks to Rosemary KimBal for proofing.  

We want to thank members of the public that donated to make the catalog free including especially Erika Torri, Naomi Nussbaum, Jonathon Glus and thank the entire Library Art Gallery staff including Bonnie Domingos and Friends of the Arts of the Central Library including Patrick Stewart for their special support. Special thanks to our SD Art Prize Committee: Debra Poteet, Erika Torri, Felicia Shaw, Alessandra Moctezuma and this year's advisors Arturo Rodriguez and Johnny Tran

2022 SD Art Prize at Central Library Gallery
Sat, Sept. 17, 2022 to Jan. 7th, 2023.
Presented by San Diego Visual Arts Network
Curated by Chi Essary
Including SD Art Prize 2022 recipients
Alida CervantesAngélica EscotoCarlos Castro Arias, Cog • nate Collective
Central Library Gallery
9th Floor, 330 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101
More info:
Mon/Tues: 1 – 7pm
Wednesday/Thurs/Fri: 12  - 5pm
Saturday: 12  - 5pm Sunday: closed

Monday, September 12, 2022

Alexis Smith: The American Way - Playful and Subversive

 by Patricia Frischer

Eat that peach

Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
Sept 15 to Jan 29, 2022

Here is what the museum says,  "Alexis Smith: The American Way is the first retrospective of the California artist in thirty years. Smith’s collages combine found texts, images, and objects to underscore and exaggerate how we are shaped by the media and culture that surround us. With her signature sense of humor, Smith turns a keen eye to literature, movies, and pop culture to scrutinize the myth of the American Dream. Themes of self-invention and reinvention are at the center of many of these narratives, whether they concern questions of identity and the roles of women in U. S. society, or criticisms of the pretenses of wealth and class. Situated alongside movements of Conceptual and Pop art and shaped by the Feminist movements of the 1970s, Smith’s extensive work in collage provokes critical thought about the reality of contemporary American culture."

All of that is true. But this show is personal and much more than an analysis presented of Alexis Smith. Here is what I say. This exhibition is about the story of my life and probably the lives of all of my girlfriends. I can see myself in every work. I can laugh and delight at the images and wonder and ponder about the unknowns. I see myself as a girl and a woman and an artist and a wife. I see myself over time and space. 

All the captions are my own quotes and not those of Alexis Smith.

How do we live up to the images portrayed of women in the advertisement?

Why didn't we appreciate that we had perfect bodies when we were young?

Was I the only one that escaped from the midwest?

We were supposed to like Pat Boone, but we lusted after Elvis. 

How soon could we see the world?

Could it really be true, Marilyn, that men seldom make passes at girls that wear glasses?  Were the contacts worth it when all I had to do was wait for the cataract operation. 

Yes, I mean stop when I say stop.

Did I sabotage my success as the price was too high?

He was gorgeous, but I had nothing in common with him. 

I wished I could write on the walls, scribble on the floor and in general be bigger than life. 

Real life doesn't have an intermission and you can't pause the remote control or fast forward. 

Forever Jane (Austin) with the Blue Boy waiting in the wings. 

Was I really defined by my breast as I feel the same after my mastectomy? 

Not the Marlborough man but yearning to be a cowgirl and ride 'em. 

I did my bit and marched against the war in Viet Nam. Got gassed at People's Park, and lived to tell the tale.

Bring the heat, bring the red carpet.

We recycle and we upcycle.

Porn was so exciting. We were so young. 

Ladies on a train, sweet mysteries of life.

And proud of it. 

Does she or doesn't she? Is she a she?

The road more travelled. 

Go and find yourself in this exhibition. See yourself revealed and celebrated. 

Alexis Smith: The American Way
Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla
Sept 15 to Jan 29, 2022
A stunning catalog is available for this show with lots of extra photos and text. 
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