February 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
I’d probably need several years of psychoanalysis to determine why I’m so fond of this character, found on Sunset where Waverly curves down to meet the boulevard. Shouldn’t I find the dark scowl frightening/ disturbing/ threatening?
Instead, I read the face as determined/ take no bullshit/ ready for whatever comes. Walking to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, I give it a friendly nod, happy to know it’s made it through another week unmarred by graffiti.
The remainder of the mural is pretty cool, too.
January 8, 2014 § 2 Comments
He comes to mind periodically, usually when I myself am out walking. We called him The Walker and for years we’d see him striding briskly through Silverlake and environs, always shirtless and in gym shorts, his head bent down over a periodical.
Over time, he caught the media’s attention and through their stories we learned he was a cardiologist in private practice somewhere in the Valley and that he walked long distances–10 miles comes to mind–every day.
He became a fixture; if you mentioned The Walker, everyone knew who you meant.
I sometimes wondered how a busy cardiologist could have time for a daily 2-3 hour exercise program.
A few years back, we learned the answer when he was indicted for running an opiod prescription mill. The case had not progressed very far before the walking doctor was found dead in his hot tub. He had committed suicide.
Then there’s the artist who wryly inserted him into another Sunset Boulevard mural: Amidst chiaroscuro scenes of bygone L.A. days, The Walker is the sole figure in color. Now he, too, is gone.
July 19, 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s a given that L.A. has lots of cool murals; I’ve found one that mysterious as well as cool.
Hoover Street parallels Virgil to the east; above Sunset, it dead ends at a hillside. A split staircase, built in 1928, links Hoover to Prospect Street above. Someone used that concrete wall for this colorful, eye-grabbing mural:
I love the way the vivid blue water cascades down the central staircase. It flows from cupped hands beneath the all-seeing eye.
Wings sprout from either side of the Great Eye making me think of seraphim, described in the Hebrew Bible as creatures with multiple eyes and six wings. Can’t say that’s what the artist was thinking about.
The female figure below the west stairs looks like she’s lifting the earth. To the east, the male clasps a young tree. To me, the mural is redolent of fecundity, creation, our rootedness in the earth. I find it intriguing, calming and cooling (all that blue), provocative. What do you think?
February 1, 2013 § 3 Comments
There are images of the Virgin of Guadalupe all over town—even tattooed on guys’ chests—but this mural, found in Lincoln Heights, puts the Virgin in unusual company: Next to her is a representation of the Coyolxauhqui stone, an enormous, Aztec bas-relief disk 3.25 meters across.
I first heard of Coyolxauhqui when I toured Central Mexico with other women looking for feminine aspects of the Divine. And I got to see the actual Coyolxauhqui stone when I visited the museum of the Aztec Great Temple in the center of Mexico City, the city formerly known as Tenochtitlan.
An Aztec artist magnificently rendered the goddess in rose-pink stone, her extravagant adornments depicted in detail. Yet she also is shown dismembered, her arms, legs torso and head rearranged artfully to fill out the circular frame.
Coyolxauhqui, you see, was killed by her brother, the solar-and-war god Huitzilopochtli, in an archetypal battle representing masculine v. feminine, the sun v. the night, the Aztec v. their oppressors (though not, apparently, aggression v. harmony since Huitzilopochtli killed his sister as she marched with her troops to kill their mother).
The Coyolxauhqui stone was found among the remains of the great Tenochtitlan pyramid, which had two shrines at its apex: one for the rain god Tlaloc, the other for Huitzilopochtli. The dismembered Coyolxauhqui lay at the foot of the steep stairway leading to her brother’s shrine. It’s thought that ritual re-enactments of the Coyolxauhqui-Huitzilopochtli myth took place at the war god’s shrine, with the bodies of sacrificed captives rolled down the steps to land on the Coyolxauhqui stone, the sister once again (symbolically) vanquished by her brother.
What is the Virgin of Guadalupe doing in the company of these two unsavory Aztec deities? (Huitzilopochtli is represented in the mural by the hummingbird, one of the god’s disguises.) It is said that the epic battle of brother and sister took place on a hill, much as the Virgin revealed herself to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531; I suppose there’s that connection.
Perhaps the muralist simply wants to point out the continuity between the two traditions. Before a shrine to the Virgin preempted her, Tepeyac was dedicated to the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. (Some would even say that the Virgin was, um, discovered by Spanish friars to encourage the native peoples to switch allegiance from their old religion to the friars’ new one.) In lieu of Tonantzin in this mural, there’s Coyolxauhqui, who got a pretty raw deal from the Aztec clerics and deserves a little positive regard.
Then again, perhaps the dismembered Coyolxauhqui is most apt. Seems that devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe was promoted by Dominican friars, while Franciscans called it the idolatrous worship of a painted image. This dispute was aired publicly at a hearing led by the Archbishop (himself a Dominican), the upshot being that control of the shrine at Tepeyac was wrested from the Franciscans and given to the Dominicans. Adoration of the Virgin of Guadalupe continued, given to us via a battle between religious siblings, not unlike the one between mythic brother and sister.