The Luminosity of Monochrome

by Sid Feddema

Brunch and bongs at Grey Space Art

To be incredibly stoned in the co-pilot seat of a helicopter is to obtain a radiant appreciation for the beauty and accomplishment of other people’s sobriety. I had been on what might be the definitive twenty first century one-day press junket, and was now heading back to Los Angeles which hovered ahead as a vast, glittering nicotine smudge on the horizon.

Behind us lay Palm Springs. We had arrived that morning in a flurry of rotors and selfies, landing on a baked expanse of concrete runway, spanning out to slashes of emerald palm trees overlooked by the ankle-snapping San Jacinto mountains. We landed in an elegant black helicopter with brown leather seats to be chauffeured from the runway in an elegant black Cadillac with brown leather seats.

I had no idea where I was going. All I knew was that there was going to be a helicopter. I had skim-read the briefing a few days earlier, but was more or less in the dark as to what the event was going to be. My companions expressed similar uncertainty, but we were all curious. Our host was to be one Mr. Grey. 

My companions were a mixture of old-school style journalists, and the far more important and numerous new media models slash bloggers slash influencers. The model slash influencer (model/influencer) of the twenty first century is a breed apart from their forebears who profited from life under the camera lens. They are more powerful and more independent. Today they are young people with a resonating eye who have learnt to immerse a facsimile of their life within a quasi-real marketplace where the currency is the flickering mass appreciation of shit that looks cool.

In the flesh it’s always fascinating when such seemingly extroverted personalities are found to be so insular. More than just realigning the way that we interact, social media has redesigned the qualities by which we mark personality traits. As our helicopter cut across Downtown L.A., slicing a path between towering skyscrapers, it was remarkable to observe that one of my companions didn't look up from their phone to observe the spectacle, not even once – fixated instead upon refining a snapshot that featured them thoughtfully staring out the window.     

We were shuffled across to Palm Desert and to the sublime art space that is Imago Galleries – the home and retail art space of proprietor and notable art muse Leisa Austin. Mr Grey met us as we came up the steps. A skinny young bloke with an enthusiastic demeanor, he greeted me with a hug, a camera crew in tow. We were soon to learn the purpose and nature of Grey Space Art. Here it took the form of a corridor within the gallery that showcased one of the world’s most valuable assemblies of high-art glass bongs. Mr. Grey’s bong collection includes a UFO, a Samurai sword, a satellite, and an AK-47 – all assembled from glass, and overlooked that day by a monumental Dale Chihuly glass sculpture that lives within a specially designed space at the crown of the building. Grey told me how he is at the vanguard of "the functional glass movement," and that most of the collection usually lives within a unique private gallery space in Soho NYC.

Outside we feasted on a delicious lunch prepared by Chef Antonia Lofaso in a lush terrace overhung with white canopies and surrounded by an elegant scattering of more Chihulys. It was the day after 4/20, so spliffs were soon orbiting the two banquet tables, then people were invited upstairs to the vape lounge, where on the roof-top overlooking an unusually verdant Palm Desert, supplies were on offer from Dipstick Vapes and Hemper.

Imago Galleries was a revelation, and contained one of the most tasteful and interesting assemblies of contemporary art and design that I’ve encountered. After consuming a THC-laden cookie, a few wines, some cocktails, and a few vape and spliff puffs, I enjoyed a tremendous tour of the space from Leisa Austin, pausing a while beneath the tentacular masterpiece of the luminous yellow Chihuly, and marveling at her Tom Wassermann collection.

All good things end, and even the most excellent day turns to night. Mr. Grey offered me a business card of sorts – a clear piece of strangely cut plastic without any contact information and which apparently will grant access to their next party. As the sun descended we made our farewells and drove back towards the helicopter. Chewing down another cookie, I volunteered for the front seat, and was soon sat behind a bewildering array of lights, gauges, joysticks, peddles, and switches, yet was becalmed entirely by our evidently competent pilot (who clearly recognized that I am more than wise enough to keep my hands and feet entirely to myself). A stoned person could never design a helicopter. Nor could they safely fly one. But they could certainly enjoy a tremendous lunch and a surreal flight, upwards and onwards into the cloying Californian light.  

Written by Gus Donohoo