L.A. Highlights with Curator Saskia Wilson-Brown

Saskia Wilson-Brown is an L.A. local knee-deep in West Coast collaborations. From her guerilla film screening series to cooperative film projects, and most recently, her founding of the Los Angeles Institute for Art and Olfaction—the first place of its kind to explore the art of perfumery on the West Coast—it seems she’s our go-to girl for all things Los Angeles.

Artsy: You have called Los Angeles the ultimate West Coast City. Can you tell us why?

SWB: I always say that Los Angeles is a place that has seen itself on TV too much. L.A. is amazingly good at playing L.A., and the city can sometimes feel like a caricature of itself. All the stereotypes about the West Coast are shaken into kinetic hypercolor, here. Our traffic is snarlier, our beaches are beachier, our actresses are more actress-y… Our features are exaggerated.

With that said, L.A. is nonetheless extremely authentic. No one has ever said 'Oh I love L.A., it feels so European'. They'd be insane if they did! Try as it might, the city isn't really capable of being anything beyond what it is, but that's what makes it so iconic.

Artsy: What’s exciting in the L.A. film scene right now?

SWB: Perhaps in reaction to the Hollywood behemoth, L.A.'s film world has a hyper-creative underbelly. The most exciting stuff in the film scene here is the stuff that most folks don't really end up hearing about—the filmmakers who claim their space without asking for permission, distribution deals be damned. Here are some of the many many L.A.-based filmmakers worth looking up: Fabian Euresti (his film Dos Por Favor is absolutely brilliant), Burke Roberts, Douglas Burgdorff (parental guidance highly recommended), Mike Ott, Terrie Samundra, Zak Forsman & Kevin Shah. And basically everything going on at the Echo Park Film Center, Cinefamily, and the Downtown Independent.

Artsy: It is a Saturday and you’re heading to the museums. Where do you go first? What current exhibitions are not to be missed?

SWB: Hammer Museum always has some amazing public programming going on, and The Geffen Center is one of my favorite places in L.A., as are the Craft and Folk Art Museum, L.A.C.E., and the Torrance Art Museum. But my favorite spots are the smaller spaces that blend practices, and are more experiential in nature.

So, in no particular order, here are the arts initiatives that I always seem to return to: Thank You for Coming in Atwater Village—an insanely vibrant restaurant that serves a changing menu concocted by a rotating slate of artists-in-residence; Mastodon Mesa; The Los Angeles Museum of Art by Alice Konitz (find it if you can!); Machine Project in Echo Park; anything that Fallen Fruit, Bettina Hubby, Marcos Lutyens, Culture Reference, or Big City Forum puts together. And of course Austin Young's collaborative Tranimal Workshops with Squeaky Blonde and Fade-Dra.

Artsy: There is a lot of buzz about your Institute for Art and Olfaction. Can you tell us briefly about the organization, and why you chose L.A. for its location?

SWB: The Institute for Art and Olfaction is based in downtown L.A. We launched our programming in March of 2013, overseen by programming director Kóan Jeff Baysa. Our mission is to instigate and advance engagement with scent through the visual, fine, and performing arts by providing public education programs, offering a residency-based laboratory for cross-discipline experimentation, and by inciting innovation and collaboration between perfumers, scientists and other creative practitioners. Through these efforts, we hope to extend the world of scent beyond its traditional boundaries of appreciation and use.

I chose L.A. for the IAO first and foremost because I live here, and I love it. My favorite thing about L.A. is what my mother calls its tropical funkiness. It's a little bit messy, here, but out of that mess comes a lot of inspiration. This is a city that doesn't take itself too seriously, and that needs a lot of fixing. Because of that, L.A. has developed a culture of motivation, of access, of creative openness, and of collaboration. I think people can do things here in a way that would perhaps be a lot harder elsewhere, and I've felt the direct impact of L.A.'s openness while launching the IAO. It's a very supportive place.

Artsy: Can you choose 4-5 works on Artsy that you feel epitomize Los Angeles/California, and explain why? (Follow Saskia to see her selects)

Born to Cuban and English parents, raised between San Francisco and Paris, Saskia received her BA from UC Berkeley and her MA from Central Saint Martins in London. A producer and curator for visual art and film, in 2012 she launched The Institute for Art and Olfaction.

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