Cheryl Beychok’s smartphone paintings are portals into a spiritual world.
In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how the legacy of this spiritual freedom enables artists to make creative work as part of their practices.
Art made on mobile devices is nothing new, but what happens when an established, near-lifelong sculptor takes to her smartphone to illustrate? In Cheryl Beychok's case, the result is a range of vivid, swirly, and psychedelic portraits of languorous women occupying the unseen space between earth and the spirit world.
Beychok has been making art since she was a little girl, when she illustrated her class assignments with watercolors and pencil. (She even went so far as to sell artwork to her classmates for a whopping nickel apiece.) As a teen, she relocated to Israel for three years, where she studied English literature and embraced her burgeoning career as an artist.
Soon, Beychok had a strange dream she was in France, exploring the streets of Montmartre. Six months later, she won a pair of tickets to Paris, which were mailed to her on her birthday. She took all of it as a sign and went with a friend. In the midst of a major bout of déjà vu, Beychok happened to glance over at a studio that literally had her first name on it. The studio belonged to a sculptor, and it was then that she decided to pursue the discipline herself.
With sculptures characterized by unique perspective and scale, Beychok says she's influenced by the work of Rodin, Michelangelo, and Bernini, just to name a few. Not one to be restricted to a single art form, however, she eventually turned to drawing on her iPhone. Her newest creations are at once soothing and unsettling; vivid and dark; simple and thought-provoking. In other words, they’re visual embodiments of the contradictions inherent in each of us.
"I don’t know what prompted it," she says of her decision to take up smartphone art. "I had heard David Hockney was making art on an iPad, and I thought I’d see what it was all about. I certainly didn’t know I’d burst out into colors; I tended to stay away from painting and color—I liked the simplicity of shape and volume. I thought color would just explode my brain and I’d be paralyzed trying to make choices. So it just evolved organically."
When it comes to her process, Beychok resists being confined by timelines and deadlines. She lets her work develop gradually, without the restriction of a finishing date. "I consider myself a vessel through which the creative process travels," she explains. "I have learned not to analyze the gift or try to figure out the mechanics of how it flows through me. I just try to get out of the way and allow it. And, lately, I have felt 'I’m going to need a bigger boat.'"
Beychok has been living in Southern California since the age of three, after her father "got tired of the cramped quarters of Brooklyn." She was raised with tales of Jewish people emerging from slavery and wandering the desert, as well as the notion of tikkun olam ("repair of the world"). As Beychok decribes, "It is the idea that we bear responsibility not only for our own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large."
Just like a lot of other people, Beychok found herself believing that LA was a cultural desert for a long time. But she eventually came around to seeing that it's a place full of inspiration and wonder. "The wide open spaces, diversity, and all manner of spiritual offerings contribute to a non-oppressive environment and foster my creative freedom of expression," she says. "Extricating oneself from enslavement (in whatever form it takes) and coming out the other side to exuberance, excitement and enlightenment would probably be my notion of spirituality."