All Together Now: Isis Hockenos and Sarah Wiener

I met Sarah and Isis individually but was not at all surprised to later learn that they are inextricably linked, having grown up in the same tiny, West Marin town. Sarah and Isis grew up among generations of West Marin artists and craftspeople that we have long admired and supported at Gravel & Gold. Artists themselves, Sarah and Isis have carried the torch of their artistic community around the world and now down to Los Angeles where they continue to make and share work while carving out their own spaces. 
Serendipitously, a photographer in Los Angeles we sometimes collaborate with, Sophia Schrank, went to high school with Isis and Sarah and so was thrilled to visit them at Isis's gallery, Burnt Crayon Sandwich for a reunion and to document them for this interview. 

Where do you live and how long have you been there? 

When I first arrived in LA a little over a year ago, I co-managed the Chinatown location of a friend’s Oakland-based art gallery that serendipitously opened the same day I drove my full-to-the-brim Toyota pickup truck down from The Bay. Working at the gallery was the perfect introduction to my new city. The gallery’s deep Bay Area roots made the transition especially gentle. When the gallery was forced to close its LA location in March, my close friend Michael Pickoff and I took over the lease. One of my primary personal goals moving to LA was to have a live/work studio space with room for gathering. And windows. Michael, an architect and builder, was excited to have a creative project to play with so together we reconfigured the space. We built a kitchen with a long table for extended (post-plague) nights of conversation; for plates licked clean (oh to be able to lick plates and fingers and your friends’ fingers again). There is a massive bookshelf with a growing collection of books that friends can add to and borrow from Kerry James Marshall’s Mastry to Russian Folklore Medicine to Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game. From Maggie Nelson to Roberto Bolaño. There is a sleeping loft and racks for garments and costumes and collections of Victorian nightgowns. There are thriving plants because there are two giant windows that sport what might be the best view in LA of the Gold Line, squealing past every ten minutes as a reminder of interconnectedness and the underappreciated ambitions of urban planners.

There is space to paint and space to get messy and space where clean paper stays clean. Walls are moveable and right now one third of the space is formatted as a white-walled gallery hosting our first group show, titled “SAP”. May I introduce Burnt Crayon Sandwich, an artist-run digital and physical space that fosters the exchange of ideas through collaboration and conversation across disciplines. 















How did the two of you meet?

I first laid eyes on Sarah on November 8th, 1989 at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. I was three years old and she was three hours old. As an only child I have a collection of “sisters”; Sasa my prized littlest one. We, along with Sarah’s older sister, Karen, lived across from one another on Highway 1 in Marshall, CA for eleven years. Our holidays, school days, flood days and birthdays were braided together into the narrative of our childhood. Throughout the twenty subsequent years Sarah has remained a touchstone linking me to my past but also informing my ongoing creative, aesthetic, intellectual and personal growth. 


How do you spend your time individually?

These days I’m usually painting in the studio, scheming new build-out projects for the space while drinking wine or cooking, and going on coastal adventures with my girlfriend, Haley. I’m fortunate that the pandemic finds me with a lot of projects to work on so I’ve mostly escaped the physical thumb twiddling, if not the existential. 

How do you spend your time together?

Until about four months ago Sarah and I actually lived together (with her partner Bendix) in a very sweet little Silver Lake bungalow. When we’re together whatever we are doing is usually eclipsed by words words words… there is always something to dream up, sort out, unpack, discover, learn. 

How do you know Gravel and Gold?

I got to know Gravel & Gold over a decade ago, when I first moved back to the Bay Area after college. I always admired their inventory, much of which came from makers I’d known my whole life. When my friend Amber Leigh started working there I became friends with Tomra and Holly. Since then we’ve done several collaborations, ranging from art shows to fashion shoots to relegating a male stripper to modelling for a group of tipsy figure drawing women. (Don’t worry, he made great tips that day). I am in continued awe of Gravel & Gold’s ability to adapt with the needs and curiosities of their founders and staff while maintaining a distinct ethos and comforting, inviting and absolutely trustworthy environment for their customers. Customers, many of whom, consider themselves to be family.  




Where do you live and how long have you been there?

I live in Los Angeles, in a very small, green house in Silverlake. Bendix, my partner, and I moved here almost exactly a year ago, and were followed a month later by Isis. Until a few months ago, we all lived together in this little green house. Bendix and I landed in LA after living for some years in Germany and Denmark. 


How did the two of you meet?

I met Isis at the hospital the day I was born. I like thinking about how those first moments of life make up a sort of nucleus of a baby’s first earthly sensory language. That is the foundation of our friendship. 


How do you spend your time individually?

This moment in time feels like one in which I am devoted to care; of self, of Bendix, of friends, of reflection, of work, of making, of home, of focus... Every moment feels treasured. For ten years, I have been looking for a career, for a focus that draws together all of my interests and talents. And, upon moving to LA, I magically found the costume universe. I work in the costume department of a TV show and am currently in the process of getting into the costumers union. So, my days are very long. Depending on the day, I wake up sometime between 4:30 and 6 am, drink tea in bed with Bendix (my most treasured daily ritual), fly off to work in Burbank, learn as much as I can from all the experience that surrounds me, and then stumble home for dinner. Bendix, a metal fabricator, and I usually get home at the same time and so get to wash work off and tell each other all the day's secrets in the shower. 

The weekends often demand attention for side projects, and small jobs. But, Bendix and I try our best to spend one day fully together, in rest. Sometimes we go to a little stretch of beach in Malibu where there are rarely any people, sometimes we lay in bed and read and watch movies, sometimes we go on hikes, tend to the garden, draw, talk, hang art...

How do you spend your time together?

This is a hard question to answer because we can easily do everything and nothing together. Isis and I weave in and out of each other's lives, one moment to the next, one day to the next, one year to the next, with a type of ease that is very unusual. When we are together we talk. I find myself telling Isis all sorts of details that I would not tell anyone else because she is interested in a way that few people are. We are both very interested in details; the textures of our worlds. 

How do you know Gravel & Gold?

I have known Gravel & Gold for so long and in so many small ways that I can’t really remember how it all started. It seems that the connections are boundless. I think the first mention of you came though my mom, Marianne Wiener, telling me that you were opening your doors. It was the year I graduated from High School and I remember thinking how perfect the project seemed, how dreamlike and inspiring. 

*All Together Now is an image and short format interview series we created to connect with friends, family and community around our shared values and interests. 

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