photo by Ed Hensley Photography
April 1, 2016
Venice Artist Preserving the History of Venice Through its People
By Melanie Camp
As a young girl growing up in Venice Beach in the 1980s, Artist Ruth Chase says she would lie in bed counting gunshots, “anyone in their 50s who grew up in Venice remembers the gunshots.”
Born in 1965, Chase is a third generation, Venice Beach local. Her mother Renee was a seamstress who had a shop on the Ocean Front Walk. Her father Eddie was a Merchant Marine and fix-it-guy, “Dad was into the bohemian thing in Venice,” says Chase. The family lived next door to Joni Meroni’s on the Boardwalk.
In her latest project, Chase aims to capture the, “wisdom that came through growing up in a place like Venice” and through this, preserve the history of Venice through its people.
So has begun The West of Lincoln Project, a series of paintings that portray individuals from the area of Venice Beach bordered by Rose Ave., Ocean Front Walk, Lincoln, and Washington Blvd.
Chase says the project started as a self-portrait she titled “You’re Stronger Than You Realize. “While working on this painting, I recognized that my childhood challenges, though tough, provided me with a brave and resilient spirit. From that enlightenment, I realized I wanted to capture that same experience for others.”
Already Chase has completed seven portraits of people and says
“every painting I do I learn an amazing life lesson from that person.” The West of Lincoln Project, “ distills a person’s life. Reflecting on what they’ve learned in their life”
Along with the 12 portraits of people who grew up in Venice, Chase will also paint a group portrait, and is currently asking for submissions from people who would like to be considered for this. “I want people who didn’t necessarily grow up in Venice but who feel Venice has somehow shaped them,” says Chase.
As Chase continues to paint she has started the hunt for space in Venice to display her work. She has a few places in mind but hasn’t settled on any thing yet, “I’m waiting for the right space. I’m open to suggestions!”
Recently, Chase was awarded a grant from the Carl Jacobs Foundation. This will allow her to employ a writer to transcribe the interviews she has recorded with each of her subjects, and include the written text in her show. She says the words will add to the story her pictures tell. Also, the grant provides relief. Writing is something Chase finds difficult, the result of having a mother who couldn’t read, “Mom didn’t read or write, or drive a car.”
Chase’s self-portrait will be part of The West of Lincoln Project. It was inspired by a photograph she had found of herself that had been taken on the Venice Boardwalk when she was a child.
“I was wearing a tutu and standing in front of a wall. It was a regular picture of a little girl, except when I looked closer I could see the gang tags on the wall behind me.” In her painting she writes child-like works that read,
“every night I go to sleep and I wonder if the guns and helicopters will get me, could I be president, did girls like me go to college.”
Chase says because her mother and father had little education she lived in fear of never getting the chance to go to college. This scared her almost as much as the gangs and guns in her neighborhood. “College was a dream and as I was growing up I was terrified I wouldn’t get that chance.” However, she did get that chance and it came through her art. Today she is a proud graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute.
“Within me was a well of strength that wasn’t realized until I left home. Venice taught me that I could choose to not be afraid, and that dreams come true if you don’t give up,”
Yo Venice April 1-14, 2016