Rarely (if not ever) before had a venue and exhibition blended as seamlessly as on Saturday night, when the legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown LA was transformed into a makeshift art gallery honoring David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The setting was ridiculously ideal, since already adorning the three level eatery were tall Redwood tree replicas looming over the tables, forests painted on the walls, mounted game heads, panels of oak, photos and paintings depicting breakfast in a small lumber town, and an endless outpouring of steaming coffee, pies and donuts from of the cafeteria. Therefore it didn’t take a leap of imagination to pay tribute to Twin Peaks by filling the space with incredible artwork inspired by the influential TV show, a non-stop soundtrack of Lynch staples, and some of Lynch’s own photography and prints.
A steady line formed outside the cafeteria as early as seven. This line would, if anything, only grow as the night wore on. On the street a hired car beamed spotlights into the lukewarm air. To be overheard among those waiting in line were some voices of skepticism–was this show nothing more than an attempt to cash in on Lynch’s name? In mere moments, the people behind the show would put those worries to rest.
We entered Clifton’s. Inside, Angelo Badalamenti’s lush, hypnotic and often jazzy soundtrack music was omnipresent, playing to a jam packed crowd that appropriately munched on free cherry pie and donuts, and sipped on fresh coffee (beer and wine was available too). There was an almost amusement park vibe whereas the artwork was divided into sections between the first and second floor, and the viewers organized into lines so that the place wouldn’t erupt into chaos. The resultant atmosphere was an art lover’s dream come to life.
Hovering over the first floor was the show’s centerpiece, Tim Biskup’s cubist homage to Laura Palmer: “Walk with Bob”. The eerie, enrapturing portrait effectively bridged the gap between the two realms of the exhibit (i.e. the TV show and the local LA artist scene) and set the tone for the evening. Elsewhere on the first floor were more paintings, including Paul Chatem’s tribute featuring handmade gears you could turns with a handle, the cafeteria, and a merchandise counter near the entrance selling everything from Twin Peaks coffee mugs to Lynch’s own coffee to art prints to CDs to t-shirts to patches you can sew onto your jacket.
The second floor was slightly more streamlined in that it pretty much stuck to displaying incredible art with little distraction. In one section there was a small gallery of Lynch’s own Twin Peaks artwork and some of his surrealist photography. The photos were typical of his output, brimming with shadowplay, smoke, nudity, darkness, haunting red lips, and blurry nightmarish imagery. In the next space over was all the artwork that seemed to have little to do with the TV show. One would imagine Chris Mars (already a surrealist painter) took some of his leftover pieces and renamed them, and the jewel studded deer sculpture (complete with arrows protruding from its body) by Liz McGrath, while fascinating, also didn’t necessarily conjure up associations with Lynch’s universe.
On the other side of the second floor was the real essence of the show. For starters, illuminated in a corner were a number of hand-crafted porcelain boxes by who else but Lynch regular (and amazing actress in her own right) Grace Zabriskie. Were it not for all the imagery splashed on every side and the detachable lid, one might have been reminded of the little blue box from Mulholland Dr., though clearly they deserved recognition in their own right. Each one seemed a somewhat hallucinatory tribute to an aspect of Lynch’s output. To top things off, Zabriskie was there in the flesh to discuss the work, buoyantly chat with fans, and take photos! She also had a book of poems for sale at the merchandise counter. Sadly, the boxes were not for sale.
Next to Zabriskie’s corner of antiquities were another set of great paintings directly related to Twin Peaks (all by different artists), some more Lynch prints, a TV displaying a photo montage of stills from the show, and then a small room with donuts stacked on a table where another TV offered a behind the scenes video from an actual Twin Peaks shoot. Again, a genuine delight for art lover’s and Lynch fans alike.
After all the artwork and cherry pie had finally been digested, it was time to call it a night. But little did the patrons know that there’d be one last Lynch treat waiting for them outside. Upon exiting who should be standing out front taking photos with fans but the Log Lady herself. She was a tall, fittingly eccentric woman who looked relatively incomplete without a log to hold on to. She was a brilliant capper to one of the most memorable art shows in recent history, where each guest was left feeling as though they’d actually stepped into the small, perverse logging town of Twin Peaks, if only for a moment.