Me sitting in "Carl's Office," the pink velvet couch directly in the entrance to the museum- it's very apparent that this is where Carl sits and runs his day-to-day operations.
So this conversation actually happened last week:
Me: “Wow!! This Black Light Room is unbelievably AMAZING!!!!!! I totally want to drop acid in here and just hang out..... lie around and just listen to cool music and chill.” (Never done acid in my whole life.....)
Carl, Owner of Velveteria: “Well if that’s the case, you’ll have to make sure you bring enough Acid for Me too.”
The Black Light Room
This totally sums up my experience last week during my completely over-the-top, extraordinary visit to Velveteria, The Museum of Velvet Painting. I have had Velveteria on my to-do list for at least 4 years and have always been in love with velvet paintings and the quirky subjects often portrayed. Many times, I dreamt of making one-of-a-kind jackets and tunics out of velvet paintings that I scrapped from garage sales and thrift stores. So to say I was in for a treat is an understatement.
Upon entering Velveteria, you will quickly be greeted by Carl Baldwin- The Co-Owner of the amazing Museum. Carl is a one-of-a-kind man- just like his velvet painting collection and chotchkies that line every single nook and cranny of the small space located in Chinatown just outside of Downtown Los Angeles. Carl is quick to start explaining how his fascination with Velvet Paintings got started, and seriously doesn't stop talking (even after you have left) about random historical facts you never thought existed, and are so glad you learned at Velveteria. No joke- the wealth of knowledge is endless!!!
I was shocked to learn about the history of how velvet painting got it's start back as early as the 13th Century- and not in the 1970's as you just might have thought. This polarizing artform transcended through the Middle Ages, to 16th Century China and on to the 20th Century where it took on full-on cult status as was labeled, "the Rodney Dangerfield of the Art World."
Velvet Painting "gets no respect" in the mainstream art world. From the souvenir nude paintings of the 1960's, to the black velvet paintings that were sourced from coffin linings, and assembly-line Mexican paintings of the 1970's, these and other histories factor into how and why this medium has yet to be embraced by the art world. For Carl, the interest began in Orange County, California as a child when he discovered his Uncle had numerous velvet nude paintings in a closet. It wasn't until years later did Carl revive his passion for velvet painting when stumbling on a quirky blue afro haired portrait in a Thrift Store.
In total, Carl and his Partner Caren Anderson have well over 3000 velvet paintings in their collection, and rotate the exhibit based on current events, themes and whatever strikes Carl's mood. There's the Elvis Hallway, complete with an oversized Elvis Tiki Totem. There is the Musician's Wall, Nudie Room and Unicorn Corner. And make sure while you are there, you take a peek inside the bathroom where you will find Carl's favorite works.
He has numerous artists that donate to him, and work with him on a commission basis for new paintings. Velveteria has been featured in countless News Outlets, from The Tonight Show, CBS This Morning, MSN's Appetite for Life with Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, the Travel Channel, HGTV, CNN, Smithsonian, NatGeo, and Fox News to name a few.
Velveteria is open Wednesday through Monday, and admission is only $10. www.velveteria.com
Fun, Vintage Masks glow in the Black Light Room.