A conversation with Mayer Rus from Architectural Digest

L.A. Art Gallery Wilding Cran Fuels the City's Exploding Downtown Scene

West Coast editor Mayer Rus catches up with husband-and-wife dealers Naomi deLuce Wilding and Anthony Cran to discuss the roiling art market, swarming hipsters, and the perils and possibilities of being stuck between stripper bars and SoHo House.


photo by Austin Irving

photo by Austin Irving

Anthony Cran: We opened Wilding Cran in April of 2014. It was something we really, really wanted to do. It’s in our blood.

Naomi deLuce Wilding: One of the things that led us to think more about a gallery was working with Anthony’s dad, Canadian artist Chris Cran. We were selling some of his work, and he very kindly gave us commission. It gave us the idea that this might be something to explore more seriously.

MR: Tell me about the program at the gallery.

AC: We started out with a roster of artists we’ve known for years. I grew up with artists, as did Naomi. So we reached out to people like Christian Eckart, Vikky Alexander, Herald Nix, and John Will. Happily, most of them said yes. Most of those are established midcareer artists, but as we’re moving forward, we’ve started working with emerging artists as well.

NW: Most of those initial artists are based elsewhere—in Canada and other places—which presents a lot of challenges once you have a physical space. So it’s really a pleasure to start building relationships with local artists and working with them in a more collaborative way.

AC: We’re still rounding out the lineup. We’re still figuring it all out and discovering ourselves in a way.

NW: We don’t want to jump into relationships with artists just because they’re hot right now. We’re thinking long-term.

MR: Are there types of work you’re particularly interested in?

NW: Not really. The process of finding sympathetic artists is more organic and nuanced.

MR: How has your entrée into the commercial art arena gone since you opened?

AC: We’re still open, which is good. There are different ways to measure success, and one of them is literally having your door open to the public. We’re able to produce ambitious shows and then move on to the next and, hopefully, the next and the next.

NW: We did a really successful show last year called “Here Now”—six painters from Los Angeles who are not represented by us. I think we want to make that an annual thing if we can, not necessarily limited to outside artists. It’s lovely to bring work together that we’re perhaps not so familiar with.

AC: And with that, you bring six or seven social groups together. It’s a celebration of what we see happening in L.A. right now, so it’s a really good thing to do.

MR: Tell me about Austin Irving, one of your younger artists. I’m crazy about her work.

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Naomi Wilding interviews Catherine Opie for Issue Magazine


Interview by Naomi deLuce Wilding

Images by Austin Irving

Catherine Opie’s work ranges from self-portraiture to landscape photography, often investigating identity through portraits of social groups including the LGBT community, surfers and high school football players. Her work documents and gives voice to social phenomena in America today, registering her subjects’ attitudes and relationships to themselves and others, and the ways in which they occupy the landscape. At the core of her investigations are perplexing questions about relationships to community, which she explores on multiple levels across all her bodies of work.

For years, Opie has been an active member of ACT UP and Queer Nation. She is an Ambassador for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and continues to donate her work to fundraise for HIV and AIDS-related causes.

Naomi deLuce Wilding: Where are you from?

Catherine Opie: I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio until I was thirteen, and then we moved to Poway, California, which is north county San Diego. Ohio was lovely—right on Lake Erie. I liked it.

NW: Do you miss it?

CO: Well, I went back recently and did a whole body of work for the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. I made the four seasons of Lake Erie. I got to spend about a year and half going back and forth to Ohio, staring at the lake during different seasons and photographing it. I came home at one point and said [to my partner], “Hey, Julie! You know how you want to have a horse ranch, more garden space and everything? We can do that in Ohio. I can try to teach at Oberlin.” She was like, “Yeah, we’re not moving to Ohio.” [laughs]

NW: I think that having access to those places is important, whether it’s nostalgic or because it resonates with you, but it’s not always enough. I felt that way going home to Wales recently. I loved being home and away from the grit of the city, but I’m connected to LA for many reasons—community, diversity, the energy of what’s happening here.

CO: It’s a fascinating city, Los Angeles. When I studied undergraduate at the Art Institute in the Bay Area, everybody assumed that I would stay. I came out as a lesbian and was part of a leather community. I had very deep roots in the community during the five years I lived there. So when I finished grad school at CalArts everybody was like, “You’re coming home now, right?” And I said, “No, I’m pretty interested in LA. I actually want to talk about this place.”


NW: That was my next question: When and why did you arrive in Los Angeles?

CO: 1985. At CalArts, I spent a good amount of my work looking at ideas of master plan communities and making a very large thesis on white flight from urban areas. What is a master plan community? How is it designed? Who is it designed for? I delved into the suburbia of the eighties, which was really different than the suburbia of the fifties in terms of American ideology and dreams. It was really in relationship to a city becoming a threatening place. So I spent two years digging into that idea and then moved to LA, to MacArthur Park just at the time that the subway was being built. I did a whole body of work of what it means to gentrify the MacArthur Park area, looking at it in relationship to transportation. And so I kept kind of peeling away at Los Angeles for all these years in my work in these different ways.

NW: How could you leave? It’s so embedded in your journey as an artist.

CO: Very much so.

NW: Do you consider your work as a photographer to be a form of activism? Put simply, do you think you are able to educate or improve people’s lives?

CO: It’s curious. I move in and out of it in different ways. There are some times in which I have incredible optimism in humanist acts and what democracy really is as somebody who, through multiple bodies of work, has traversed these conversations of ideas of community and democracy. Within the early portraits I did of my friends, I don’t think that I was attaching any optimism about changing the perception of homosexuality. So activism is tricky—it might not be about the full ability to change people’s perceptions, but making images creates a record. And without a record, or without trying to delve into issues of identity and visibility and providing images, a whole subset of culture would be completely denied.

NW: Right.

CO: And so, by going in and doing difficult things, I guess that one could think of me as a bit of an activist at the time. I was definitely an activist with ACT UP and Fair Nation, but that was really out of a sense of loss—very different than activism. In my work, it was about hanging on to this moment in our lives in which all of us were incredibly vulnerable from the decimation of our community through AIDS and experiencing extreme hatred. So when I made it, it was really for my own community and, selfishly, for myself to hang onto people that I was losing.

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