You probably won’t find me hanging from the side of a bridge spraying my name –I have Acrophobia—but (yay) above you can see a photo of my first graff. Well, my design with the help and instruction of fellow student Kit McConnell. I think he got ‘stuck’ with me. My first class assignment yesterday was to find my tag name—I chose “VD, because its nothing to laugh about”– the teen boys in the group laughed when I said that. After a short history on the art of Graffiti, we spend the first hour making thumb nail sketches and catching up. It seems that some of the group is on a drop-in basis—there is a core of 10 faithful students, while others are coming and going as their time permits.
I was lucky to join the class upon instructor VyalOne’s (sometimes “Vyal1”) return from Israel. There were lots of interesting stories from the trip. Customs and food challenges are usually an American travel preoccupation, followed by an exclamation of “We are so spoiled!” This group of graffiti artists from the US, were selected to create murals in a very poor area of Israel (the west bank and Gaza) where donkey-hauling and child labor was evident. Seemed like an artistic dream to resonate the downtrodden in a visual homage—but no, that idea got whitewashed for a more uplifting message. The group (Maia Mural Brigade) completed 8 murals in a week. See pictures of the work and journey.
During studio time I also got inducted into the Graffiti class fundraiser coming up. I suggested raffling a graffiti’d bicycle—but we need to get one donated first. Sighhh—technicalities! Vyal also invited us to battle later this month—winner gets to battle him in San Francisco later this year. Uhm—I’m not ready for that. I am still trying to think how I can stretch out my tag—its looking very early 90s. For now, VD morphed into Vdee, and upon spraying, one of the e’s grew teeth–back to the drawing board.
Vyal said I showed much promise. I bet he says that to everyone. BUT—it was fun and the 4 hours ($2.50 an hour) went by so fast. Did I mention that a guy showed up 40 minutes after the class started, threw open his car trunk, sold us tips, aerosol paints, gave us a mess of stickers and stayed on to paint with us? I love falling into a whole sub-culture.
A fellow artist and friend started a blog with her brother called Fundi2. Its a new go-to place for the Los Angeles Chilean community. They plan on interesting POVs, cultural gathering info and related political discussions. Interesting to see how our worlds collide in a city where everyone is trying to find their voice and place.
This week the spin doctors were working overtime to make Michelle Obama look like a hypocrite for eating a burger and fries, because it registered at 1700 calories!! One of her personal campaigns is to have healthier food in public school cafeterias and food programs. Who’s not for that? Back to the calories though– for some women a whole day’s intake of calories could be 2000 or around that (yes, that’s 3 meals) and the amount needed just to maintain the same weight, not to loose or gain. Gender, age, activity and some doctors think ethnicity, determine how many calories an individual should eat.
Being a vegetarian for decades now, I have had run-ins with long lost friends at the super market whose eyes sadden upon spotting meat in my cart. I don’t need to explain that my cat is on an organic food diet and eats ground turkey or that I make beef tamales and chicken mole for my brother on his birthday —but I do. I practically live like a monk, because I have lived in a certain way and people expect that from me— I expect that from me. I really don’t ram my personal rules down anyone’s throat and those of you who think I do —“you really wouldn’t want to know what goes on in my head”. Still, there are some hardships to being a role model, even if it’s by accident, like me. I would not trade places with someone in the microscopic public eye, like poor Michelle.
We all know that Boyle Heights and some other communities on the eastside are considered to be food deserts, because there are not enough super markets to supply us with nutritious and healthy foods. If you’ve ever tried to get into El Super at 6 p.m. on any day—you know what I mean. Forget about getting a healthy vegetarian choice at any of the local restaurants either. It’s all about the queso. There are many people that have poor diets in the food dessert (due to lack of availability), they are considered to be malnutrition. But, even if we live in a food desert, we can make choices that are healthy instead of giving into the “high profits and low product” American food cartels. People who use grocery coupons to make ends meet can easily fall into the pit of foods that have absolutely no nutritional value. Think about it—why would a manufacturer give you something free? Usually, it is for a new product and it reminds me of the drug dealers (in those 80s movies) that get you hooked on cheba by giving you freebies at first. Beware of those coupons.
A few years back when we had the Day without a Mexican in LA (May Day Immigration March) with a million strikers marching down Wilshire Blvd, a westsider said to me that they loved being able to get to all their appointments on time that day. There was no traffic.
Well, today I can relate to that. I made it from Boyle Heights to the Fairfax exit in 15 minutes!! Woo hoo!! I think I broke the mythical record of “Everything in LA being 20 minutes away”.
Also I love the Metro’s advice to westsiders “Plan ahead, avoid the area or stay home.” LOL!
Recently I had my car worked on— a strange and expensive malfunction that was not my fault and (thank God) still covered under my warranty. On the third week of being at the repair shop (a week longer than they had estimated), I called to find out what was going on and when my car would be ready. Emphasis on “I called them”—even though they had promised to call me. The shop manager was very cordial, explained that my warranty would cover the mega expense, that I now had a ‘brand new’ car in an older body and that I could pick it up that afternoon. Urgh—the fool knew I was anxious to get my car back, especially when a 3-day weekend was coming up in a day. My thoughts of why he didn’t call me sooner, why he underestimated the time it would take to fix, why he kept me on pins and needles regarding how much my warranty would cover dissipated when I knew I could pick up my car. Yay!
The shop manager ended our phone conversation (in an overly saccharine tone) with the news that I would be receiving a service survey from his corporate headquarters to complete and asked if I would give him the highest marks of 10 for his great service. I said “uh, sure”. When I picked up my car and the manager gave me the skippin’ & a’hummin’ walk to my car (including opening the driver’s door for me), he again mentioned the survey and that “10s would be the only acceptable marks” I could give. I said “uh hum”.
Have you ever had to say the words “¡Pinches chavalos cabrones!”? That was me yesterday. My car is in the shop, so I am on the metro–and you got to get up a little earlier. The bus waits for no man. As I was walking out of my house—my whole front retainer wall is tagged in HUGE letters including FU (spelled out). I run back inside to quickly paint it myself. I locate a full can of stucco paint and open it—I find that it’s dark purple (I need beige). Double urgh! Quickly I go on line and shoot a message to the city’s graffiti removal program. As I walked towards the bus stop, I see that my neighbors got it too.
As an artist, I know that it’s just a case of Summer Time Blues. Urban kids out of school for the summer looking for something to do. Marginalized from any age appropriate community spaces. Urban kids got it tough. It has been proven time after time that this amateurish scratching, marking, etching, spraying could be an artist taking baby steps.
My friend tells me that I can get a $1000 reward for catching the culprits. Last time I saw the kids doing this, I yelled “Why don’t you take an art class? You don’t even know how to do it right. It looks ugly!” That moratorium on tagging my street lasted a few years.
Those of you who ride the metro to work and around town, you’re in for a unique treat this month. Starting June 13 there will be a continuous loop of short films created about Los Angeles and especially for those who ride the metro. This collection of films is called “Out of the Window”. The Los Angeles Weekly got the jump on the details of this event last week. If knowing whose idea this was and who is funding this film festival click here for all those details.
My 2 minute film “LA Woman” was selected to be a part of this first group of films created by 30 professional artists and teams of teen filmmaking students. The films will be shown on 2000 LA Metro buses over 4000 square miles of LA County—wow! I’ve never been in such a mega media blitz before. The buzz was that there were an overwhelming amount of ‘car culture’ themed entries. Well, hell LA is all about how you get around the city–whether it’s on the metro, bike or car—it’s one our our daily preoccupations. My film is all about cruising. This festival will be interactive too. Films will end with a question prompting metro riders to text their response. My film question is “Who is your favorite LA woman?”. Simple, because I like to keep it easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy.
On Sunday, June 12, all the student entries will be screened followed by a reception at Inner City Arts, 3pm. This is such an exciting project for these young Cecil B. DeMilles in-the-making. [I’m more of a Godard.]
Coffee is the alpha and the omega of my day.
Just as red or white wines go with different types of meat, there are certain foods that require a cup of coffee. My brother’s mouth waters when he talks about Colorado Donuts’ excellent buttermilk donuts with their drip coffee—heaven for less than $2. This is one of his early morning pit stops. I like the 7-11 coffee with steamed milk from their hot chocolate machine. I discovered this after experimenting with all the extras they offer –from chocolate powder to a splash of hazelnut liquid. These additives were all too much for me, but the steamed milk—ahhh, perfect. Oh and you can prepare your coffee on the spot just like you want it, mixing, adding, starting over, until you got it right. I pick up the pots and take a whiff of its contents to see if I might want to try something infused—but no, its always the regular coffee for me.
Homegirl Café, The Pantry, Phillippe’s, Nick’s Café, The Brite Spot and Rinconcito del Mar are my neighborhood breakfast places, each with their own particular great morning brew. At Rinconcito coffee is served with warm pan dulce made on the premises. No fancy espresso machines in these places, just a basic and delicious cup of joe. What would a Noah’s breakfast bagel be without their special aromatic dark and delicious hot offering? There is nothing like it.
Saturday April 16 was the free community viewing of the long anticipated first Mexican-American museum in Los Angeles called La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, which is located next to Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles church at Calle Olvera.
As a younger and inexperienced artist, one of my dream goals was to have my art displayed in a museum. I thought that would be the ultimate place where my ideas, voice and craftsmanship would be appreciated and cherished. I attended all the great museum exhibits–Van Gogh, Picasso, Tamayo, Siqueiros, Da Vinci, Kahlo, Warhol and so many more that I love— standing in front of their work (where they once stood), so hungry to see how they saw. Some of those artists were never even appreciated or successfully exhibited during their lifetimes.
Afterward, when a museum bought my work for a permanent display, instead of feeling accomplished—I felt like an oddity, a curio. I know it’s the nature of me, as an artist—I’m never satisfied, always looking for the next thing. As a producer/curator, a job that was imposed on me due to the lack of opportunities for my art genre, I enter every exhibit with a critical eye.
In truth, museums began as cabinets of curiosities and collectibles that turned into rooms filled with stuff, which people were willing to pay admission to see. All these museums started as personal taste collections that were cherished by those who had the resources to give them importance. I am not sure this system has even changed.
Last month Popular Mechanics announced that Motive Industries in Canada is in the process of developing an earth-friendly-eco car made out of hemp. Gives the concept of hot-boxing a new definition, right?
As I laughed non-stop about the marijuana-mobile in Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke— never did I think, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” I kinda remember this vehicle made out of weed as funny and absurd. Who knew that 33 years later this stoner-logic would be the answer to our gas and ecological woes? Now it’s genius!
This hemp car, The Kestrel is scheduled to be available in 2012 or 2013. More than likely it will not be too popular on the eastside though, because of its size, being electrical and its general meekness. Had the developers stuck to the original van as Cheech and Chong had envisioned it—we might have been more into it. Especially, if the van had that burning exhaust pipe, with it’s 100-foot mota-smoke screen.
The techs working on this hemp car have no idea how the car body will wear down, they believe it will have a quiet interior and will not smell. Still, I envision a side industry of car sprays and air fresheners with names like Kalifornia Kush, Turkish Gold or Blueberry Purps—sort of a rip on the popular New Car scent. I also wondered if the Kestrel would drive the scent dogs crazy when crossing the international border, especially on a really hot day. Since the body is organic, it is supposed to bounce back and be easy to repair. Just a few Zig-Zags would work maybe.
Hemp has the lowest amount of THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its magical properties. You’d probably have to torch the whole car to get any effect—but hemp does have great nutritional value. I think that’s a big plus, because during some natural disaster—you’d have something life saving to gnaw on.
Now my thoughts are onto other genius inventions from the eastside. Maybe in 2025 all vehicles will come standard with hydraulics—something we may need for a future flood or for jumping-in during an earthquake.
Today, Evonne Gallardo, Executive Director and the Board of Directors of Self Help Graphics & Art announced that the 40 year old institution of culture and art in East Los Angeles is moving to a new home.
Relocation from the icon building decorated in tile by artist Eduardo Oropeza, has been a buzz on the eastside for a while now—but negotiations as to where to move and being forward-facing, have been long, arduous and thorough.