In the Chinatown neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles, Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin’s Velveteria shares a wall with a fish market. The wall is thin. Improbably loud whacking and shouting bleed through.
“Oh, don’t worry,” says Caren. “Those are the fishmongers next door. That’s just how they talk.”
The Velveteria is a museum that features a rotating selection of the couple’s approximately 3,000-piece collection of velvet paintings, the largest in the world. They blanket the walls of the modestly sized space from floor to ceiling, salon-style, a sort of haphazard mish-mash of pop cultural icons, fluorescent landscapes, and lurid kitsch. The aptness of the name Velveteria -- a portmanteau of “velvet” and “cafeteria” -- becomes readily apparent. Here you will feast on an all-you-can-eat buffet of 20th century Americana: Hugh Hefner, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Marley, Elvis, John Wayne, Tupac, Jimi Hendrix, Scarface, Snoopy, Wile E. Coyote, Liberace, Malcolm X, Jesus, the Three Stooges. There are dogs playing poker, dogs not playing poker, cowboys, banditos, clowns, psychedelic mushrooms, palm trees, and deserts. Proceed through the main gallery toward the back of the building and you will find the black light and nudie rooms, furnished with zebra-print beanbag chairs for optimal viewing. Don’t forget to stop by the unicorn birthing center.