#Throw Back Mondays (originally posted 10/1/12)
Christina Diaz, 805 visionary, publisher, curator, producer, Renaissance woman at large, has been crossing boundaries and bringing diverse art worlds together across the 805. Her production company, Pistol Productions, has put together a string of strong art shows, primarily in Oxnard and Ventura, bringing together artists and audiences from both towns to the benefit of all. Recent shows curated for the Stoneworks Studios, in the Ventura Avenue art zone, have repeatedly drawn large, enthusiastic, and diverse crowds.
Over the last year and a half, Pistol Productions has carried out an extremely packed schedule of art shows and events involving some of the region’s top artists as well as artists who have never exhibited before. The eclectic mix of both artists and audience have given Pistol a unique niche in the local contemporary art scene. Diaz has a knack for creating forums where young, emerging, and often inexperienced, but motivated artists feel at home.
At the same time she is able to get experienced artists –including some of the region’s top artists – to show work in the same shows. Often the more experienced artists show work that is outside their usual fare, or in a context that is new for them. Earlier this year, for example, Diaz was able to get David Pu’u, easily one of the world’s greatest living surf photographers, to show a series of photographs at one of her shows at the Stoneworks that revealed that Pu’u is capable of putting together museum-quality fine art photographs as well.
This air of experimentation and trying out new things pervades all the best Pistol Productions. A great example was this year’s erotic art show, Undressed, at West End Tatoo in downtown Ventura. It was a huge hit featuring a top-flight exhibition of erotic art, by a dizzying variety of artists.
I first saw Christina Diaz when she introduced herself at Tracy Hudak’s original Oxnard Art Pub, saying that she had started this production company, Pistol Productions, with the plan of putting on two exhibitions a year. Only she was now doing two exhibitions a month. She then held up a couple of postcard announcements for the shows. When I went up to look at the cards, I turned them over and saw that two other shows were announced on the back. She wasn’t doing two shows at time, but four! Plus, it turns out, launching a new tattoo and art magazine, e-Volved Magazine, with budding photographer, Michele Muerte, as partner, along with a host of other projects online. The dynamo behind this craziness also happens to be a very well-educated and thoughtful, even philosophical, young woman who has done her homework and goes out of her way to help other people bring out and reveal their talents to the world.
Much of Christina Diaz’s work involves the tattoo community in some way; which is not surprising considering the origins of this direction in her work. Diaz has a long-standing interest in the use of the human body as a vehicle for personal expression both cultural and artistic. The insight behind Pistol Productions evidently occurred while getting a tattoo and looking up and seeing some of the art on the wall of her tattoo artist. Not his tattoo designs, but pieces that were being displayed as art. Something clicked. She said, “Hey, why not hang your art?” which seemed like a good idea, but it didn’t turn out quite that way. The tattoo artists didn’t really feel comfortable with pursuing this idea or have much contact with the art world. Eventually Diaz decided to try and get the art of this and other tattoo artists exhibited herself. But where?
The natural choice for Diaz was an old favorite hang-out in Oxnard that had been a refuge for her and where she had been able to spend creative time when she was growing up: The Café on A, in downtown Oxnard. This start led to a number of shows featuring primarily tattoo artists and related commercial artists whose work was centered on the human body, but who usually did not interact with the fine-art world. Diaz started getting art and requests from other tattoo artists and their peers to help them show their art.
With encouraging results this led to formation of Pistol Productions and a steady, increasingly active exhibition schedule. In the last year, these exhibitions have really taken off, fueled by the eclecticism and variety of the art, extremely good exhibition announcements and posters, online-savvy promotion, and an all-ages, all sub-cultures, come one, come all openness typical of all Pistol Production events.
Pistol shows are fun shows. Often Diaz, herself, is not so sure what is going to show up when she puts out a call to artists and waits for the submissions. This can be a good thing. As Diaz says, “I just get more and more excited when I see what shows up at deadline.” For a curator, that is a great place to be.
As Diaz’s activities and productions have reached out to new audiences and venues, she has not forgotten her beginnings. New and unheralded artists, often marginalized groups, and her original interest in tattoo and body art have never been forgotten. Diaz says that her purpose is to give artists a voice they otherwise would not have: To provide a forum for marginalized artist communities where none existed before.
But one thing that stands out when interviewing Diaz is that, in spite of, or even because of, coming from a specific sub-cultural image milieu, Diaz is not about creating divisions, but about bringing people together and, if possible, destroying boundaries, divisions, between communities and sub-cultures, focusing on the humanity of all. For Pistol Productions, the celebration of diversity is the order of the day; not just lip-service, but manifest in event after event, publication after publication.