January 24, 2019

New Murals in Los Angeles: 'Shared Roots (Unity Threatens Inequity)'

These are my most recent murals for the City of Los Angeles, produced with the support of Art Share L.A. and Meta Housing on the exterior of an affordable housing project in South Central LA, just below the DTLA Fashion District.

The initial inspiration for the agricultural theme of these murals came from a neighboring community farm run by the All Peoples Community CenterRoots For Peace and the American Friends Service Committee.
Farming or gardening imagery can carry an extra significance in this context considering how much of South Central Los Angeles (like many low-income urban areas) lacks easy access to healthy fresh food.
The figure on the left was modeled by Rigoberto Jimenez Oropeza, and the figure on the right was modeled by Ron Finley. Both are Los Angeles residents and both grow food from the soil.
Rigo began his workers' rights activism long ago with the United Farm Workers after being hospitalized for exposure to pesticides while working in California orange fields. Now in his eighties, he is still stubbornly working the land when not helping out with his son's art gallery.
Ron has become a prominent and inspiring community leader and advocate for social justice, food justice, and urban farming. He has also been a friend ever since Retna and I met him and his two sons while painting a mural in his South Central neighborhood over a decade ago. I'm grateful for my friendship with Ron and his sons, Kohshin and Delfin, who are both extremely talented young artists, and it's been an inspiration to witness their development over the years.

The choice of subjects came about partly in response to our current national (if not global) social and political climate, as well as a more local history of poverty and black-brown conflict in South Central Los Angeles. In these confusing times of demagoguery, racist scapegoating and social division, as wealth has been increasingly redistributed upward while the working poor are further disenfranchised, and organized labor has been largely weakened after decades of assault, I feel even more urgency to create conscientious and relatable public art that elevates common working people and promotes ideals of compassion, unity, equity, and interracial solidarity.
I would like to think of these murals as contributing to a proud tradition of humanism and social realist art that promotes the importance and dignity of all ordinary working people.

This project ended up taking a great deal more time than anticipated, with many late nights working into morning, but I enjoyed the process and am proud of the results. Though at a glance these murals may appear simple and straightforward, a tremendous amount of thought and care went into them. As usual for me, painting these walls was a meditative and devotional labor of love.

Many thanks to Cheyanne, Liz, and Art Share L.A. + Chris, Frannie, and Meta Housing for making these murals possible, thanks to Ron and Rigo for modeling, thanks to Eric Heights for all his help and late night grilling skills, Josh Rhodes for the gifts, and thanks to everyone else who supported in one way or another.
(1st photo courtesy of Tim Jentsch, 3rd + 4th photos by Eric Heights)