Genuflect by Gordy Grundy
March 2005; Issue No. 74
IS THERE A CURATOR IN THE HOUSE?
In the endless quest for Self and Meaning, I looked at where I came from and how that environment has impacted my life. Not only has the effort delivered some artwork, but surprisingly, a great idea for a show.
I took a look at my hometown. I was lucky enough to grow up in Newport Beach, back when it was still a beach town. Newport is the crown jewel of Orange County in sunny Southern California. Right now, the media has a wide eye on it. 'The OC' is a hit show and the sublime 'Arrested Development' makes me wish I had a TV.
I can't tell you how wonderful the beach culture is, and how sad I am that I can never go home again. In looking at the issues, I realized that the same two forces which influenced my life also formed the county.
The show is called 'My Two Dukes: The Soul and Swagger of Orange County'. The Dukes in question are the Duke Kahanamoku and John Wayne, both one-time residents of Newport. Collectively, their influence has been social, political, spiritual and even economic.
Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian, introduced surfing to the mainland in the 1920's and planted a seed of thought that grew into the gentle, respectful and earth-conscious ways of the beach culture. Now, with a surf shanty starting at ten million bucks, the beach culture has sadly eroded like a spring sandbar. The turf near the surf is now owned by people who like to look at the ocean rather than get in it.
The Duke had a charmed life. In a daring rescue, the Olympic Gold Medalist saved eight lives from a shipwreck in the Newport jetty. He is the acknowledged Father of Modern Surfing and an innovator of lifeguard technique and safety. He traveled the world with the greatest of welcome. The Duke was a Prince.
Actor John 'The Duke' Wayne made his home in Newport Beach. It's where he kept his 'Wild Goose', a Navy minesweeper that was retrofitted into a sporting pleasure palace. Right now, with our nation at war and the dial on the Right, no icon shines brighter than 'The Duke.' Why, if John Wayne had been first into Iraq, we'd all be outta there by now. Growing up in my household, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to say Grace ended with "And God bless John Wayne." He was the big man in town. He gave the county a little glamour and a big swagger. Plus, he would add a little political controversy to the show.
Orange County is significant to American society. If you took American Ambition or the American Dream and placed it into a petri dish, then indulged it with any nutrient it craved, you'd get Orange County, California. Its social evolution over the last seventy years is fascinating.
Does the Yellow Pages list curators? It's going to be hard to find one with a surfboard and a sense of humor.
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary work can be found at www.gordygrundy.com