Eugenia Wright a/k/a Kleopatra Girl

*Artist Emmy Lu is a world-renowned artist, whose work is now surfacing in the elite circles of Beverly Hills. Once you speak to Emmy Lu, you will find that Emmy is more than an artist but a philosopher with a social and moral consciousness.

At a friend’s invitation, I ventured out to posh Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, but surprisingly it wasn’t to one of the famous galleries or 5 star restaurants or chi chi lounges that you might imagine. It was Koo Koo Roo Beverly Hills Restaurant for the regular folk which boasts a menu for the health and fitness minded.  I know a famous fitness trainer who eats at Koo Koo Roo Beverly Hills Restaurant regularly because of their tasty skinless seasoned chicken and wide variety of steamed veggies. I love the butternut squash.

On this night Koo Koo Roo’s Beverly Hills south of Wilshire in 90210 was transformed to accommodate a high end clientele that generally patronize the stores north of Wilshire on Rodeo, Camden, Canon and Beverly Drive. Manager Mike Zoll warmly welcomed everyone, pointing to the buffet spread that was prepared for Emmy’s guest. The walls were filled with Emmy Lu art which is striking. The colors are brilliant and the strokes look like they were just completed, you can almost feel the wetness of the oil with your eyes.

The collection on display was entitled “Beverly Hills Glamour” depicting views of some of the trendy Beverly Hills haunts, shops, galleries and the people who frequent them. There were also many pieces depicting women asserting their “feminine flexibility” as Emmy Lu describes it. Women enjoying themselves and celebrating their womanhood by being the center of attention exuding sexual magnetism. It was no surprise when Emmy revealed in his charming Ugandan accent and hearty moderate-octave laugh that he loves women, exclaiming that we are born from them!

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Emmy told me that he gets his inspiration by walking the streets, visiting bars and restaurants and observing life. He ventures into many districts where the “haves” and “have nots” reside.  He particularly is drawn to those areas where the people are not so affluent, he calls these areas housing for those with “social beginnings” and he finds the beauty from the “realism” that exists there and unadulterated look at life.  At the showing at Koo Koo Roos Beverly Hills, “the haves” prevailed.

Emmy’s night and daytime treks enable him to create spontaneously. I asked him if he has ever jumped into his art and he replied that he has in all of them. There is a little of Emmy Lu in each piece. One in particular entitled, “Memories” involved a personal relationship with a woman and you can see the image of his hand.

After an hour of socializing and enjoying tantalizing hors’d’ hoeuvres (assorted cheese and fruit and by order selections from the Koo Koo Roo Beverly Hills menu) and champagne and wine complimentary of the makers of  Kenwood Yulupa Cuvee Brut, the auction commenced. Bidding began in the vicinity of $250.00 to $1,000 for smaller pieces and escalated from there. There were many enthusiasts in the room. One key buyer was a business financial entrepreneur  by the name of John Howard who bid and purchased two major works valued in the thousands. He wasted no time pulling out his credit card. Others bid at an easy to manage range in the hundreds.   Auctioneer Robert Sausedo was very lively and would give a brief history of the paintings before starting the bids on each piece.  I made the mistake of admitting to the auctioneer that I was partial to the ballerina piece, at which point he set it aside.  This made me very nervous because I knew my pockets reflected the “social beginnings” group.

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Emmy Lu, took a back seat to his art. He says he prefers to let the work shine through and was not truly comfortable being photographed. He generally keeps a mystique which allows him to observe the crowd. Emmy has a keen eye and you could see that he was taking it all in. A little later in the evening I sat down with him and I asked him to describe his art. He imparted that he considers himself an “eclectic artist” drawing upon influences from his country Uganda, having painted the Masai as well as from his travels to Europe. I also asked him about commercialism and if he felt he paints for money or for art sake.  He told me that every artist wants to sell his work, even Van Gogh (his brother acted as salesman).  “If you don’t have another job, be prepared to sell your art.” says Emmy Lu.

A great deal of the proceeds that Emmy receives he gives back to many charities and third world countries. Recently he has donated generous funds for Haitian disaster relief. He also told me that music influences his work. He plays the piano and has always loved classical music, his favorite being Bach.

Emmy was schooled in art after showing his creative talent at the age of two.  His parents supported him making sure he had all the tools of the trade and the education to match.  In Uganda he enrolled in Margre Trowell School of the Arts in Kampala. From there life experiences took over and he traveled extensively including stops in Germany and Britain before finally settling down in Beverly Hills nine years ago.  I was surprised to learn also from Emmy that great European masters such as Picasso, Renoir and Matisse were influenced by African art. But then again, it shouldn’t be surprising if you look at the music world; soul and R&B artists have directly influenced so many mainstream artists.

After seeing the Beverly Hills Glamour series, I know I want to see more especially some of his early work that may be more reflective of his youth than his travels, or the “Jazz Series.” I’ve been a fan of impressionistic artists and I could see influences of Lautrec, Van Gogh and in one piece entitled Valentine, I sensed a bit of Modigliani.  Emmy’s art draws the spectator in with his vibrant colors and thick strokes with a glossy edge. There is something for both the literal minded art lover and impressionistic. Emmy has mastered this duality to his advantage to satisfy everyone.

Emmy Lu’s work will remain on display at Koo Koo Roo Beverly Hills Restaurant till the end of April. I highly recommend that you stop by to see it. Who knows I may save up to secure the ballerina piece so if you see a “sold ” sign that was me.  I’m getting nervous again.

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I asked Emmy Lu if he hopes to create “the one” meaning the painting that will be the masterpiece that “is it” and mark the end. Astonishingly he said that greater work will continue and masterpieces will be done in “death.”

Notable sophisticates with discerning tastes in the house included: Baldwin Hills millionaire Susie Freeman (who by the way was wearing diamonds on each and every finger), writer/TV producer Lorine Calhoun, business entrepreneur/Pre-Grammy events promoter RJ Jarreau, Gary Mann (as in relative to Ted Mann … Chinese Mann Theatre) and celebrity photographer Vinni Ratcliff among others.

Private celebrity collectors include: Prince Charles, Magic Johnson, Teena Marie, Jamie Foxx, Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, Janet Jackson, Katherine Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, Whoopi Goldberg, Holland Dozier Holland and many others.  

Currently Emmy Lu is putting his finishing touches on a portrait of songstress Alicia Keys.

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Eugenia Wright is a former actress turned internationally syndicated columnist/publicist. You may write to her at [email protected] Photography by photo journalist Vinni Ratcliff

Style - Beautiful black woman displaying 'femine flexibility' and making a fashion statement

Memories - Emmy Lu art reflects artist involvement

Financial Investment broker John Howard whips out wallet and purchases a pricey piece. Howard is an art enthusiast. He sat quietly till the bidding started and then flexed his financial power.