We had the good fortune of connecting with Colleena Hake and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Colleena, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I admit, when the pandemic first happened, I wanted to throw in the towel. I have an art gallery in Joshua Tree, California and I just couldn’t picture a future without the fun art parties. Then I saw so many other small businesses understandably folding, and it made me so sad…. but more determined to keep going. I didn’t want La Matadora Gallery to be another casualty to the virus. So I started thinking outside the gallery box and turned to performance art. For the first few months of shelter-in-place, I actually “sheltered-in-gallery.” People bought me “Get out of the Gallery Free” passes so I could “escape” to buy food, take a walk, or just run amok for an hour. The rest of the time, I stayed inside, and offered 1:1 art services via a walk-up window. Some of the art services included: “Fortuna, the Bank Teller” which involved oracle readings, “Smize: The Gallerista is Present”, a homage to Marina Abramovic, & “St. Corona, the Confessional.” The #staygallery experience also made me focus more on my own art, so I created multiple series of beneditos, or cabin blessings. Each benedito has a horseshoe for good luck, protective amulets, and a poem/prayer that I wrote. The sales of these beneditos have helped keep the gallery (and me!) going so I can thankfully ride out this wave.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My latest creations have been my Beneditos, or cabin blessings. I am also a mosaic mural artist, so I had been collecting trivets with tiles for years. I would use the tiles for mosaics, and so I started stockpiling these empty wrought-iron trivets. I’ve always been somewhat superstitious and obsessed with religious iconography so I created beneditos with these trivets, with the intention of bringing protection, luck, and good vibes to each home. I also write and perform poetry to the art of sign language (I am mostly Deaf) so I also had a stockpile of poem prayers to embed in each piece. I have since made and sold over 100 of these beneditos since the pandemic hit. Each one has a horseshoe bedazzled with Swarovski crystals, surrounded by protective amulets, with an original poem prayer… then made earthquake-proof with the help of art resin. My other passion is performance art, in which I create different personas, or “get-ups”, such as The Bionic Wonder Bread Woman, Lady Luck, Tammy Why-Not, and The D.I.Y. Goddess Kit. I feel empowered when performing these strong characters, and I would communicate in two languages at the same time: English & ASL. I live in a mostly-hearing world that considers deafness a disability rather than a culture, so this was my way of asserting my abilities, so to speak. All of my passions are then funneled into an art venue, previously Candelabra Gallery in Tucson, AZ, and now currently La Matadora Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA. Since we are living in “masked” times, I am having to read minds instead of lips. My spide-y sense has sharpened in order to compensate, though it helps that I created a Covid-safe bubble in the gallery, using a plastic shower curtain. It’s a homage to that John Travolta movie, “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” & I’m working on a performance to do inside of it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Next door to La Matadora Gallery is my beloved neighbor Jeff Hafler’s Beauty Bubble, a salon/museum of hair & beauty. A visit to Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum is also a must. I love shopping at The Station, Mystic Parlor, The End, Black Luck Vintage & Desert Curios, to name a few. There’s two new takeaway places in Joshua Tree called The Dez and Roadrunner Grab + Go that are seriously delish. And the Joshua Tree National Monument is the best place in the world to hike and have a picnic. I feel so lucky to live surrounded by such beauty and a vibrant, interesting community. Joshua Tree is never boring, & always an adventure!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give Wendy Gadzuk a big shoutout. She helps to keep La Matadora Gallery going with her incredible art shows that she curates every 3rd month. We even teamed up a few times to co-curate the”20/20 Oracle” & “Holy Shit” art shows. I am deeply inspired by her intricate assemblages…she’s been a big supporter of my own art as well.
Facebook: La Matadora Gallery
Michael McCall Colleena Hake