We had the good fortune of connecting with Claudia Pretelin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Claudia, what do you attribute your success to?
Instruments of Memory is an initiative dedicated to promoting and amplifying the work of women in the arts through community building. We aim to collaborate with a wide variety of artists, curators, and cultural workers, as well as art organizations locally and internationally to produce thoughtful content that includes digital archives and exhibitions that highlight the work of women in the arts.

Instruments of Memory really grew during the pandemic in 2020. Like many other people during isolation, I needed a way to connect with other people. I had already started a few interviews in the past with other artists and women working in the arts while living on the East Coast, but I had to pause them because of work. The pandemic allowed me to re-imagine this project. It was an opportunity for me to connect with like-minded women and it became a platform for others to promote their work and think about their practice. What started as a site to document interviews has evolved into a growing online community that seeks to promote women working in the arts through in-depth conversations, exhibitions, and programming with different community partners. This year, we had our first in-person exhibition, also called Instruments of Memory, at Studio 203, featuring the work of Dana Funaro, B. Neimeth, Aneesa Shami, and Patricia Yossen, four LA-based artists. We are currently advocating to find more spaces to offer connective experiences, including exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, etc.

We invite everyone that wants to join our cause to get in touch with us to learn more about the ways you can support women in the arts working independently through Instruments of Memory!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Like other creatives and art professionals working independently, I wear many hats and get involved in many different projects. For the last four years, I’ve been collaborating with the studio of Gary Baseman where I get to see firsthand the creative process and art-making of an interdisciplinary and widely renowned artist. I’ve been fortunate to help catalog his collection and prolific production, as well as to work with an amazing team of people in his studio. At the same time, this is also my second year helping coordinate the Benefit Art Auction for Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, a non-profit art organization dedicated to promoting experimental visual work in Los Angeles. A unique opportunity to interact with a diverse group of artists, curators, and cultural workers in LA. In between these two roles, I manage Instruments of Memory.

Two projects I am proud to host on the Instruments of Memory site and share with your audiences are our current exhibition, Unspoken, curated by Sarah E Webb, and our upcoming exhibition, Memorias y Resistencias, organized in partnership with The Women’s Museum of Costa Rica. Unspoken is a collaborative project in the form of a digital commonplace book, interweaving stories written by women who chose to terminate a pregnancy with the work and images of Cynthia Mulcahy, an artist, and activist based in Dallas, Texas. This is a particularly important moment to share the voices of women after Roe vs Wade was struck down. Unspoken will be on view until November on our site. Our upcoming exhibition, Memorias y Resistencias, is co-curated by Claudia Mandel Katz, Adriana Palomo, Sussy Vargas, and myself. This exhibition presents the work of emerging and established artists who have documented stories of the African diaspora and Afro-descendants in Latin America. Again, I invite everyone to visit our website and subscribe to our newsletter to receive more info about what we do!

Finding time to do all of this is never easy but I’ve always kept myself busy and I’m used to managing different projects at the same time. For example, when I was in grad school pursuing a Ph.D. in Art History in Mexico City, I also worked as an assistant for Graciela Iturbide, one of the most important photographers worldwide, and during my free time, I was teaching at a photography school and writing art reviews for online magazines such as Time Out.

As for the challenges, Elizabeth Hardick wrote in her book, Sleepless Nights, “Everything has come to me and been taken from me because of moving from place to place.” Starting over in a different country from the one where I grew up has been a way for me to claim the present moment. It made me step out of my comfort zone, exposed me to different experiences, and helped me develop new skills.

It’s not always easy to recognize these challenges or to be positive about them but I try my best.
Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned, particularly in the work environment, are to be respectful of the creative process and people’s time and working methods.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My husband and I usually give friends and family a tour of our neighborhood in Hollywood. Starting with our home, the lobby of our apartment building is the place where the inside cover of The Eagle’s Hotel California album was photographed. It is a well-preserved former hotel built in the 1920s and, according to some internet sources, it is the place where stars like Carol Burnett and others used to live. In a neighborhood like ours, we are very privileged to have an amazing view of some historic landmarks such as the Capitol Records building, the Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Sign. We live close to the iconic restaurant Musso and Frank, Sid Grauman’s Egyptian and Chinese theaters, and the corridor of Hollywood Boulevard.

Although I have lived in a city most of my life and I was used to what city life entails, when I moved to Hollywood I was a little overwhelmed with the energy of this neighborhood. After a couple of years, I have learned to appreciate its history and its meaning not only for Los Angeles but also around the world. It may be the heart of the entertainment industry but it’s also a place where inequality, displacement, and gentrification happen in front of our eyes. I am still trying to learn about this place and the people that lived here even before it was called Hollywoodland.

Museums and art galleries are my happy place. We’re members of LACMA and the Academy Museum, so they are always included in our itineraries. But we love other art organizations such as Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (currently closed for renovation), Craft Contemporary, MoCA, the Broad, the Getty, and the Hammer. A favorite art gallery in our neighborhood is Jeffrey Deitch. A must-visit for photography lovers is Rose Gallery in Santa Monica, run by our dear friend Rose Shoshana. A special place in my heart is Studio 203 in Culver City, an artist-run studio/gallery led by our dear friend and artist Aneesa Shami and her husband Grant Zizzo.

Movies are another important part of our lives. My husband is the Chief Projectionist at the American Cinematheque, with locations in Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Santa Monica, so a visit to the projection booth can be included for those who also love film. We also enjoy going to the AMC in Universal and visiting the CityWalk before watching a movie usually at the IMAX theater. We love old theaters that project film, so the Geffen at the Academy, the New Beverly, the Billy Wilder, and the Vista are always on our list.

For breakfast, we would recommend Porto’s Bakery and Cafe, a Cuban American chain that reminds us of places we love in Mexico, or Salt’s Cure. For those who always ask about my favorite Mexican restaurants, we usually recommend La Guelaguetza, where you can find the most authentic Oaxacan food in the city. For lunch or dinner, we love going to Thai Town or a new favorite for Chinese food is Genghis Cohen on Fairfax.

In general, I am not an outdoor person and I don’t really take advantage of going to the beach but when we have visitors we like taking them to the Getty Villa and the beach in Malibu or to the pier in Santa Monica.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
For more than ten years my husband Benjamin Tucker has been the reason behind my smile and happiness so this shout-out is dedicated to him. He’s also the reason why we moved to Los Angeles and the reason why we continue having new adventures in life! He is also an important part of Instruments of Memory.

Both my parents are gone but I wish I had expressed more often how much I appreciated all they did for me. They created an environment that allowed me to find answers for myself and develop my own sense of responsibility. From my father, I learned to love films, from my mother I learned to love literature, art, and museums. They always gave me an education and a loving home, all that one happy child can ask for.

As for my mentors, there are many strong female figures that have influenced my work but one of the biggest inspirations in my life is Graciela Iturbide. Through her eyes and images of different cultures in the world, I learned about the importance of time, not hurrying the creative process or anything in our lives. Her interest in culture, rituals, and everyday life in Mexico made me appreciate my own heritage and roots. I will always treasure her knowledge and support during the years I was fortunate to work daily with her at her home/studio in Mexico City.

And last but not least, to all the people that support and follow Instruments of Memory. Huge thanks!

Website: https://instrumentsofmemory.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/instrumentsofmemory/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/claudia-pretelin-5320a79a

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/instrumentsofmemory

Image Credits
Nick Brandreth, Gina Clyne Photos, Aneesa Shami, Gerry Szymanski

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