The artist who painted the Venice Pride Tower, Patrick Marston, shares his Venice Pride experience!
Here is a message from the Venice Pride tower artist Patrick Marston
Venice Beach is a city of brilliant color. My husband and I love this village; we love the beauty and the grit. We are grateful for the opportunity to see it through new eyes every day as we meet those discovering our nook in Los Angeles for the first time. We have deep gratitude for long-time neighbors. Those who have lived here have stories to tell, tales of awakening and evolution illustrated with colors of love, heartbreak, laughter, suffering, impermanence and ascension.
Michael Brunt and I have lived in Venice Beach for over 16 years. We weren’t born here or grew up here, but we are Venetians, tried and true. We were legally married nine years ago as soon as it was legal in California. We do everything together and really enjoy the shared experiences our visual art company brings to us. My fine art and murals, our planted art and gardens are all bright and radiant. My goldfish paintings, in fact, continue to be examples of the portent and resonance of colors including gold and silver. Our gardens and living walls are more joyful carols than they are somber chants. .
We joined the Venice Pride Board of Directors last August. And, when we were asked by the Venice Pride Board President, Grant Turck, to paint the lifeguard tower at the end of Brooks Avenue in dedication to the late Bill Rosendahl, we enthusiastically volunteered our time. Grant Turk had the acute vision and gumption to have the rainbow flag lifeguard tower created over a year ago. With the spirit and support of City Councilman Mike Bonin and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, a four month dedication to the first openly gay Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl would be realized at a section of Venice Beach that years ago used to be celebrated as a safe place for beach-lovers who happened to be gay and their friends from all walks of life. Some have told me it used to be called “Chi Chi Beach!”
As artists, we have been hungry for an installation project of this scale and visibility, but honestly I felt limited that it was too simple being just the six color stripes of the rainbow flag. Ready to make a “mark!” on the Venice landscape, I was ready to add an icon of some sort – a rainbow colored beach umbrella, popsicle, wave or groovy-funky “Venice Pride!” But, with Michael and Grants’ loving conciliation, I saw how the simplicity of the proud colorful stripes of the “Freedom Flag” were actually the most powerful option – visually and meaningfully. Harvey Milk challenged Gilbert Baker to create a flag, a symbol of pride for the gay community – something that was a positive alternative to the persecuting pink triangle. As we painted our lifeguard tower, already a symbol of safety and sunshine, we held hands with Gilbert Baker and were inspired. Each stripe was chosen and created with meaning. As we painted each color, I saw that these meanings were not only fitting for our LGBTQ community, but for all and each that make up the amazing diversity that is Venice Beach.
You know that joke when you say something and it’s even funnier when you add the words “…in bed?” Well, I found the six colors and their meaning for me as a gay man meant even more when I added the words “…in Venice.” For example, the first stripe, red, represents LIFE… in Venice. As a gay man, life has been rich, from the struggle of my own coming out, from deep heartbreak to true and meaningful love and romance. Venice has offered my husband and me a sanctuary to create our life together. Life in Venice is about the opportunities we are afforded with the encouragement of our neighbors and friends. We are all here in Venice to live life a little more authentically because in Venice, you can.
Orange is about HEALING. I like the idea of orange being our color for healing. Healing is restorative. Revealing ourselves as different from the crowd is one of the most healing things one might ever do in their lives. It is about walking into the light; into the fire like a phoenix to be born again through self-love, the shedding of shame. Healing isn’t passive. It comes from a deep inward desire to burn off the wounds and clean away the pain that has made us small; less-than. Healing in Venice – like salve for a wound. I honestly feel my healing, to become the adult, the artist, and the loving and present partners Michael and I are to each other could not have happened as efficiently as it has here in Venice. It has afforded us a safe place to grow, the neighbors that have been our mirrors and the beach with all its restorative qualities. The profound talks and walks along the tide line. The strong cleansing and soft calming of the winds, the warm sunlight that beckons us into nature, and the cold wet sea air that ushers us indoors to nest with our loves. .
SUNLIGHT is yellow. Sunlight as a gay man actually has a gravity of meaning. For many, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or whatever reason means for a very long time being safer in the dark. To keep such a large part of who we are a secret, to know it is safer to stay silent, dress and act conservatively, to look for each other in dark bars at night is a tough way to live. Sunlight is about coming out; taking a step out into the bright light of the sun. Venice has afforded Michael and me to grow together, to discover ourselves and each other. There is such diversity and color in all the citizens of Venice, we are here because of the light and the space to each become more and more our true authentic selves.
Green represents NATURE. It doesn’t matter who or what you are and how you choose to live your life, we are all and each citizens of the earth and have a responsibility to act accordingly. Nature teaches us that nothing ever stays the same. We grow. We change. We evolve. Always. And, nature is also about our inherent qualities, our basic instincts, and our character and disposition. We do not choose to be gay, etc. That is inherent. It is in our biology. And, there is a common nature within the gay community and the Venice community. We are the same in that we care about our community, our brothers and sisters. We lift each other. We tend to each other, our families, friends, neighbors and neighborhoods as a gardener tends to the seeds in the soil so that a larger sum can reap from the harvest of our citizenry.
When the Freedom Flag changed from eight colors to six colors, the original turquoise and indigo stripes were replaced with blue, the cool and calm color that stands for SERENITY. Serenity means being calm, peaceful and untroubled. It is clarity and fairness. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer has been a prayer and mantra for many who have suffered and struggled. “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Venice has offered Michael and I a place to find the calm to create peaceful landings. We have benefitted from the clarity of thought that finding our peaceful moments on the beach or a reflective walk on the canals has afforded us. Blue is true.
Personally, I love that purple is on the bottom. It saves the best for last and is also the foundation of all the other colors. Purple stands for SPIRIT. Even when the flag had eight stripes, lilac was the last color of the rainbow. No matter what religious or supernatural elements with which it may be associated, the spirit is the nonphysical part of a person regarded as the person’s true self. It is through my spirit and the spirit of those I was so blessed to have had surround me that I am able to live a wonderful and openly gay life here in Venice. And, I have been witness to and benefitted from the love, support and celebration of my friends and neighbors. They have helped me shed my shame, my own internalized homophobia through how they have treated us. They have made being gay in a predominantly heterosexual community safe, but even better – fun, creative and colorful. Spirit is in the character of a person, a group or in a city like Venice. It is in the thought and attitudes of the citizens that make this a home for each other. As members of the LGBTQ community and as Venetians, it is our quality of courage and energy and our interconnectedness that we mold each other; we clear the way for greatness./
When the colors were completed, when the lines were perfected and the all the missed nooks were filled, it was the experience of the process that changed Michael and me. Working with Grant Turk, George Francisco, Daniel Samako, Sunny Bak, Allan Jones, James Aldous, Julian Dillon, Troy Masters, Sean James and Kimberly Fowler has been a transformative experience. And, we have been genuinely affected by the deep selflessness of the volunteers who helped us during those five freezing cold, burning hot, windy, beautiful days. Joel Shields was nicknamed “MVP, “ painting with us every day tirelessly. Others took breaks from their busy lives and business schedules to come out during a weekday or two to donate their time and energy. And, for all those who helped us push our wagon full of paint and paraphernalia to and from where sand meets sea, thank you.
Thank you. Thank you Venice! Thank you for celebrating Gay Pride with us. Thank you for playing in our sandbox. The Freedom Flag waves for everyone.
Love Patrick Marston and Michael Brunt
Top photo by Venice Paparazzi’s Edizen Stowell. All other photos above by the talented Marta Evry, aka Marta-razzi!
For more Venice Pride info, visit VenicePride.org
For all Venice Beach Fun, visit VisitVeniceCA.com