A Wonderful Surprise

December 12, 2009

Lina Delano is an odd bird.  In her late 80s now, she has been a colourful character on the Drive for many years.  I used to see her in Bukowski’s Bar when that watering hole was at its busiest back at the end of the 1990s.  But mostly I knew her as the grumpy old woman who scrapped other people’s posters off street lamps.   This was serious business for Lina and she kept up her cleaning work for hour upon hour, unimpressed with any interuptions, a cigarette dangling.

Once, late at night, feeling powerful from my poetry performance at Bukowski’s, I saw Lina scrapping away at some band’s poster.  After a moment’s hesitation, I approached her and asked — pleasantly enough, I thought — why she was doing what she was doing.  She spun around and, brandishing the little scraper, roared at me in a voice that could be heard blocks away: “Fuck off!  Fuck off!”  My relationship with Lina has never really developed beyond that point, although my wife has a chatting relationship with her whenever they meet.

I haven’t seen Lina on the Drive for quite a while; and I had never known what she did beside scrapping posters.  It was a surprise to me, therefore, to learn that she was an artist, having shared a studio for many years with her sister Dita Arntzen, and that Havana Gallery was holding a show of the sisters’ work.  I saw that show today.  It was, by a country mile, the best show I have ever seen at Havana.

Lina’s work consists in assemblages of wood, furniture parts, doll’s heads, beads, small items.  They are large and bold pieces that strike the eye first and the brain soon after.  They are beautiful objects.  Her sister created interesting and attractive collages.  I can’t find any images to share and can only urge you to rush to Havana Gallery on Commercial before the show ends on the 19th.

A small book of Lina’s works printed to coincide with this exhibition included a picture of the artists at a show of her work in New York back in 1966.  She was a striking looking woman then, and she has retained a deal of that power to this day.  As I mentioned above, I haven’t seen Lina for a while.  I sure hope I get to see her again soon to congratulate her on these wonderful works of art.