Diana Garica and Gregory Rogove are the epitome of two artists who fell in love and now live in creative harmony. They met each other over three and a half years ago in Mexico City while Greg was on tour. He’s a musician - he played with Devandra Banhart and Priesthood for a long time, whereas Diana is an actor - she has performed in many films, including Sin Nombre (Sundance award winner).
Not long ago, the two of them were living in Greg’s trailer out in the wilderness of Topanga. They loved it, but Diana eventually talked Greg into moving to Venice. Since then, they they continue to thrive with their professions, and have also opened up a Cereal Shack together.
How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
Diana: About three and half years. Greg was living in a trailer in Topanga Canyon when I first got here. I wasn't ready to move to LA. Things were happening for me in Mexico. I came to LA to visit Greg after meeting him in Mexico City. The second I saw him I knew he was the man I'd marry. I'd go anywhere in the world for him, so here I am. Greg was living in the trailer in Topanga then. It was an amazing introduction to California. It was super small and isolated. We were surrounded by coyotes, mountain lions and rattlesnakes. It was so dark up there. It was another world.
Greg: Yeah, at the time it was great. I didn't have to buy furniture. Everything was built in and it was all I needed. A place to sleep. A place to cook. I was connecting with nature. But then we needed a change. Diana was here and we were both really needing space to create.
So, you moved to Venice?
D: Yes, to have a real working bathroom. A real kitchen. We even bought furniture!
G: Diana bought me the white piano. She found it at St. Vincent's thrift store downtown.
And now you're really committing. You're opening a restaurant - a cereal shack. What are you calling it? What's the vibe?
D: Yes! It's going to be called Another Kind of Sunshine. It will be an intergalactic universe. Our friends Carly of ALLFORTHEMOUNTAIN and her husband Matthew are painting a welcome mat of the moon with the gradation of a sunrise leading you from dark to light. The light is where you order. Another friend, the artist Matthew Morgan, is making these incredible stools. Dodecahedron and meteoric sculptures made out of wood. I’m painting murals on the walls.
G: It's in a tiny 6'x6' space on an alley off Abbot Kinney. It used to be a sauna. My brother is an architect and he's been helping with the design. I've been working on all of the business stuff. Permits, health inspections, food storage, wholesale ordering etc.
D: It was Gregory's idea, and I thought it was really good.
Have you worked on any other projects together?
D: We made a stop motion film for the “Jackyl” piece on PIANA, Greg's solo piano album. I thought it would be this simple, stick figure action thing, but Greg stayed up for two days writing and creating like a 15 scene story (laughs).
G: It was the month that MOCA and Levi's had organized this film workshop with free equipment: an editing station, a slow-motion camera, green screen, animation stations and a phonotrope. All for free. We really took advantage of it. We went there every day for three weeks.
D: Everyone there got to know us. They started closing the lab off when they knew we’d be coming (laughs).
What is PIANA?
G: It's an album of instrumental, solo piano pieces that I wrote and John Medeski of Medeski, Martin and Wood performed. We recorded it in one day in Woodstock, New York. A solo piano album is a pretty hard thing for people to take in so I came up with the idea of having friends create visual and musical interpretations of each piece. I like the idea of a non-verbal conversation between artists and thought these pieces would be decent topics for such a discussion. Each artist brought his or her own particular vocabulary, perspective, and style.
What was your inspiration for the album?
G: I wrote the pieces in Mexico City. I found a storage space on the roof of an apartment building, converted it into a studio, rented a piano and spent two months in the isolated room above the murmur of traffic, cumbia-blasting radios and tamale vendors’ songs. The songs don’t really sound Mexican, but the spirit of Mexico is in there.
What are you working on now?
G: A new band called ZAVALAZ with Cedric Bixler and Juna Alderete of The Mars Volta, Dan Elkan of Hella/Them Hills, and myself. It's a little Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Faces etc. 60s and 70s inspired rock pop. We're about finished with our first record and then we start a US tour later this month.
Greg, you moved to India when you were 18. What was that like?
G: I grew up in Amish Country in Pennsylvania and decided to sign up for a Rotary Exchange Program my last year in high school. India sounded interesting so I did it. I'd never been out of the country and I arrived and literally walked into the elephant festival. I stepped out onto the street and was hit in the face with orange and pink pigment. Everyone was bombarding me asking if I’d come inside for chai masala. I got to the home of the family I was staying with, looked in the mirror, and saw myself covered from head to toe in bright splashes of color. What an introduction.
I studied tabla, hand drums used in Hindustani classical music. And, I saw things. People hit by trains and left to die. Disease. Eunuchs. I was a long way from Pennsylvania. I went back to the States for college and then to New York City. I started touring and was traveling a lot. Cuba, China, Mexico. Making a home wherever I was became second nature. But then after all that I fell in love with Los Angeles. I fell in love because of Venice because of Diana.
Diana, when did you first start making art?
D: When I was very young. I would go to my grandmother's house. She was a painter. I made dinosaur sculptures out of clay. I started painting in Monterrey. I was only making one or two pieces a year because I wasn't that comfortable with my work. Greg inspired me to do more. Hanging out with Greg I have come to the understand the value of practice. You need to practice to get better. I needed to do more, so I started taking classes at UCLA with Joe Blaustein. He's incredible. He's 90 years old and teaches figure drawing. I take his classes in exchange for modeling for his other classes.
I just finished a wolf unicorn on Abbot Kinney. People stop to take photos in front of it. I've even seen it used as a backdrop for fashion shoots! I just finished a large painting for SXSW that shows the transformation of a wolf becoming a unicorn leopard with wings. It says 'be what you dream.' I don't believe in definitions. No one is just one thing even though we think we should be - these imaginary animals represent being what we can dream.
How did you get into acting?
D: It kind of chose me. Since I was a girl I always liked to perform and dance for my family. Every summer I would take a summer camp and they had acting classes in it. After finishing college in Monterrey I moved to México City and started doing a bunch of commercials. Casting directors asked me to audition for movies. My first movie was DRAMAMEX and 6 months after, at the screening in Cannes, I thought it could be fun to do more. The next year I acted in five movies: Sin Nombre, Amar, Labios Rojos, Casi Divas and The Air I Breathe. I had no time to rethink it!
What's your favorite restaurant in Venice?
D: Greg and I love Gjelina in Venice. We love the food and the people who work there. Most of them are really good friends of ours. I’m also very grateful to them for letting me use their walls as a canvas for my artwork.