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Venice is a tapestry of people being as unique as they want to be while offering love and friendship, heartbreak and emotional wounds of lost loves, lives, and haunts. In the process of attempting to heal some of the melancholy of the past, the city became one of natural chaos.

     Venice of America and the Art of Transformation is a nostalgic look at the landscape of this eclectic city—our home. The collection reflects the emotional and sentimental connection Venetians have with their neighborhood and is a photographic journey through the streets and locations of Venice.

     Our first instinct was to exhibit these images as large-scale prints with hand-embellished layers of collage and mixed media. As the project evolved and the number of landmarks grew, our original idea transformed into using curated images and finally, into this book.

     Jodi made the photographs and Chris, “Cecil,” used torn paper, fabric, tape, and mixed media to create layers. He sampled old lists and notes, incorporated clues about the history of each location, and scattered hints of his own history with the city. Cecil cited musicians and artists who inspired him and reflected the city through sound.

     Venice has a fascinating history from its origin as a small seaside village to its current world-renowned tourist destination, it has always been a home for the eclectic.

     Originally named Venice of America, the city was founded by wealthy developer Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town. In 1904, Kinney, who had won the marshy land on the south end of the property in a coin flip with his former partners, began to build a seaside resort like its namesake Italian city. Venice of America was consolidated with the city of Los Angeles in 1926.

     Over the years, that city showed little interest in maintaining the unusual neighborhood it had anne 1950s, Venice endured gang activity, especially in and around Oakwood Park, causing residents to avoid going out after dark, leading to the nickname of Ghost Town.

     Venice of America has had other nicknames too including The Zoo, coined by local store owner Ronny Kleyweg who opened his first store (also named The Zoo) in the space that eventually became Venice Originals. Ronny later opened Animal House on Windward Ave. The Zoo is simply a reference to the madness that is Venice Beach.

     Regardless of its various labels, Venice has long been a hideaway for artists, musicians, photographers, writers, poets, and celebrities and gave birth to an iconic, radical, and powerful surf and skateboarding revolution. As an epicenter of cultural revolution, it has been rich, poor, ignored, celebrated, razed, rebuilt, and rich again.The community has transformed in so many ways over many decades from The Beat Generation in the 1950’s, to the hippie movement in the ’60s, to counterculture activists in the ’70s, to the yuppies of the ’80s, to the dot-com boom of the ‘90s, and then to the gentrification movement of the 2000’s.

     We have multimillion dollar homes on one corner, while tent cities and homeless occupy the other—a dichotomy of class and wealth. Yet, our Venice of America is still a masterpiece, a kaleidoscopic, diverse, and ever-evolving city of colors and creativity.

     Venice of America and the Art of Transformation is our love story for those who have made, and will continue to make, this city an extraordinary Zoo.

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