Galia Linn’s mind never exits the ceramics studio. When she’s cooking, she thinks of mixing tahini like stirring a gloppy glaze, loading the oven is like loading a kiln, and forming kofta between her palms calls upon her muscle memory from years of forming clay. The kitchen where we are cooking is just steps away from her workspace, a 28 foot tall room she refers to as “the sanctuary.” It is metaphorically and literally a sacred space, the chapel of a former church in South Central Los Angeles.
If you are a ceramic artist with your own kiln and space, you can rest assured you will have other artists knocking on your door. In her former Culver City workspace, Galia had a habit of taking in artists in need of space to prep for shows (my friends Cammie Staros and Elena Stoneacker have both had stints as her anointed guests). And while offering her space was an act of kindness, Galia herself found herself energized by the proximity to other people’s practices. So, she set out to find a larger building, one where she could formalize that relationship , and still maintain her a bit of privacy. One year ago, Blue Roof Studios was born, a home to her contorted, monumental ceramics, her custom oversized kiln, a shared kitchen, exhibition space, guest accommodations and ten artist studios. Every office and every bit of ceremonial space in this former church complex is now filled with art. There is a separate gallery dedicated to the community, and space for art classes that are free to local residents and their families. In a real estate market that continues to push artists farther and farther afield, Galia has managed to carve out a permanent home for herself and her creative cohorts.
Ask Galia Linn to, “make a salad,” and she suggests, “kabobs with pine nuts and parsley, Israeli/Arab chopped salad, sweet potatoes roasted with ras el hanout, and a heavy drizzle of the best tahini sauce. And, an ouzo grapefruit and cocktail because… it’s Monday.” She makes a point to offer more than just a salad. This is a typical Israeli meal, each of the components a dish that conjures countless lunches in her native country. Galia and her husband, Oded Noy, have been in LA since the 1991, but their Middle Eastern food traditions have not waned. After all, they met in the kitchen while serving in the Israeli air force. He was a flight school cadet, otherwise known as a “flight flower,” training to become a fighter pilot. He was on kitchen duty while she was doing her job as an efficiency engineer, studying how long it took to execute a range of kitchen tasks from prep work to cleaning (I shudder at the thought of evaluating such a thing in my own home). While she studied architecture in Israel and completed her two years in the service, Galia tells me, “by the time I was 18, I had lived through three wars. I had had enough,” so she came to Houston with a JCC program that brings Israeli citizens to the U.S. to work as camp counselors.
During that first trip to the U.S., she made a fateful visit to The Houston Art Museum in 1991. There, she had an encounter with a painting that, “made the entire corridor vibrate” upon first sight. It was a work by Georgia O’Keefe. “Growing up in Israel, I didn’t even know being a fine artist was an option,” she says. While Galia continued to work as an architect, the seed had been planted. She threw herself into ceramics, starting with functional pottery, and eventually letting her pieces slump, break, crack and grow to the point where it could be called nothing else but sculpture. At the age of 37, Galia finally began to call herself “an artist.” Over our generous meal, she tells me of her ambitious plans for Blue Roof Studios, grant applications and outreach to local nonprofits, and I suggest she add “activist” to her job description as well.