Creating Our Own Paths.

Saturday, August 3, 2013 – The start of the upcoming 2013-2014 school year is around the corner. Summer Session II at LMU will come to an end next week and Fall semester will begin in three weeks.  The entry below I wrote in my journal in May of this year when the 2012-2013 school year was coming to a close and the senior class was preparing for their graduation.

May 8, 2013 – Spring semester is wrapping up. Finals are almost over.  The school’s event crew is setting up the main campus where the main lawn is for graduation this Saturday.  Some of the students I’ve met, helped and worked with will be graduating.  One of our work study students, an Art History major, stopped by my office to say good bye.  He’s going to San Francisco to study for his Masters/Ph.D. in Asian Studies. I congratulated him and wished him the very best! It’s definitely a closing of one chapter and a beginning of another for the students.  Exciting, yet probably nerve wracking, especially the stability of our job market.  The graduating seniors will continue to create their own paths.  Building up their own momentum.  Having been there and now an alumni and still creating my own path at 31, I can relate 100%.

School & Life

 

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Samitaur Tower in Culver City, CA.

Saturday, August 3, 2013 – Everyday, to and from work on the Exposition train, I get to see the Samitaur Tower located in Culver City, not too far from the Culver City train stop. I took this picture while the Expo was on the go.

The Samitaur Tower is an example of radical, experimental architecture in Los Angeles.  Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art’s (LA) Pacific Standard Time exhibition:

A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California

 

Samitaur Tower by Eric Owen Moss Architects, 2008–2010

Samitaur Tower by Eric Owen Moss Architects, 2008–2010

Posted in Architecture, Cultural Landscape, Culver City, Design, Los Angeles, MOCA LA, Pacific Standard Time, Physical Landscape, Trains | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEVER BUILT: LOS ANGELES @ Architecture + Design Museum

July 26, 2013 – One of the things I am learning more of while working in the Department of Art and Art History is design.  Design is in every facet of our lives including architecture.  A building can be an innovative beauty/wonder.  How it functions and its purpose can benefit a community as its physical appearance can change a city’s landscape.  Sometimes those visions never transition to reality for a number of reasons, but it would have been amazing if some of those visions did become real.  Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. 

Preview NEVER BUILT: LOS ANGELES – Opens July 28th at Architecture + Design Museum

“This intriguing exhibit of architecture that never got built in Los Angeles offers a window into a future that wasn’t and a past that dreamed its way to oblivion.  These images represent some of the structures that were conceived but never created in Los Angeles.  Some of them would’ve been today’s white elephants, while others are missed by people who don’t even know they might have existed.” (LA TACO, June 5, 2013).

http://www.lataco.com/taco/never-built-los-angeles-opens-july-28th-at-ad-museum

http://aplusd.org/exhibitions-future/neverbuilt

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Culver City Murals

June 29, 2013 – Every morning when I arrive to Culver City via the Exposition train, I go downstairs towards Washington Blvd. Along with a group of commuters – familiar faces I see everyday – we wait for the bus to come. Across the street is an empty old building that use to be an auto dealership. What makes this building enjoyable to see every morning are the murals painted on it by street artists. The building itself stretches at the length of two to three blocks. The murals are various sizes. Any unique area of the building that is not a flat surface, an artist got creative and incorporated the unique surface into their art work. There is one mural located on a wall of protruding stones that an artist used to his or her advantage to create an image that reminds me of Chicano/a art from the 1970s.

Another set of murals that I enjoy seeing every morning are two small kids.  One of the kids is a young boy sitting on his skateboard with his helmet on, resting, while his hands hang over his knees and his large, heavy, blue eyes stare off in a distance. There is a quiet determination in his eyes. I can see the angel wings sprouting from his back.  A caption written above the boy says: “Angels come in various sizes.” The other image is of a young black girl with brown wide eyes. She is sitting down with her legs crossed, resting her head in her hand, squinting one of her eyes showing skepticism at the viewer. Sprouting from her back are peacock feathers. At the end of each feather are beautiful eyes staring out to the viewer.  A caption is written above: “Art?”

In December, I came across an article in The Los Angeles Times that focused on these murals. One day we won’t be seeing them.  The auto dealership maybe demolished so a mini shopping center will be built in its place. The LA Times wrote about the street artists who painted the murals and art enthusiast, Warren Brand.  Brand is responsible in getting permission to use the old auto dealership and reaching out to street artists to paint the murals.  He knew the murals wouldn’t stay on the building forever, but still. He is sad to see that they will be gone.  And so am I. As of right now, there is no possibility of saving and conserving these murals. Unless they break down the building one wall at a time and transport these murals to a facility or an area in Los Angeles where the murals can be on display for the public to see.  That would be great, but getting the funding and finding a new home for these murals will be a challenge. You never though. Anything is possible.

Street art is a form of expression and is created for a variety of reasons.  But the actual art itself isn’t meant to be forever.  The art work can be whitewashed, painted over by other artists, or demolished. However which way it works out, l agree with the organizer: I will miss seeing these murals every morning while waiting for the bus.  I rather see an old decrypted building cover with amazing murals than another mini shopping center, especially since there are quite a few of those in the area.

nlm

Further Reading….

Culver City Murals Will Soon Give Way to Retail (by Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2012)

Arguments Over L.A.’s Mural Ban Paint Different Pictures (by Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2013)

A Quick Tour of Downtown Public Art (by Ed Fuentes, KCET Departures, June 21, 2013)

Culver City Murals 1

Culver City Murals 1

Culver City Murals 2

Culver City Murals 2

Culver City Murals 3

Culver City Murals 3

Culver City Murals 4

Culver City Murals 4

Culver City Murals 5

Culver City Murals 6

Culver City Murals 6

Culver City Murals 7

Culver City Murals 7

Culver City Murals 8

Culver City Murals 9

Culver City Murals 9

Culver City Murals 10

Culver City Murals 11

Culver City Murals 11

Culver City Murals 12

Culver City Murals 13

Culver City Murals 13

Culver City Murals 14

Culver City Murals 15

Culver City Murals 15

Culver City Murals 16

Culver City Murals 17

Culver City Murals 17

Culver City Murals 18

Culver City Murals 19

Culver City Murals 19

Culver City Murals 20

Culver City Murals 21

Culver City Murals 21

Culver City Murals 22

Culver City Murals 23

Culver City Murals 23

Posted in Cultural Landscape, Culver City, Los Angeles, Public Art, Trains | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NicolesArtsResource is Still Alive

June 18, 2013 –Hello Everyone! I know I haven’t been blogging as much as before, but NicolesArtsResource is still alive.  It’s going to take time, but I’m figuring out how I can take NicolesArtsResource to another level. In addition to the arts, I have some passions stemming from my own experiences, especially the last couple of years, that I want to intertwine with NicolesArtsResource.  Another reason why I’ve been slow on working on NicolesArtsResource is because after three years of struggling and looking for work, I found a job! And at my alma mater. These past three years have been challenging, especially given the state of the economy and the job market due to the Great Recession (or Great Depression depending on who you ask). I am very thankful. It is a good job and I am happy.  I am learning a great deal and my exposure in the arts field is expanding from museums to galleries and now higher education.  I am surrounded by art and art history students and faculty who are active artists and art historians in addition to working at a university campus. My experience the last few months has been awesome. Not to sound cheesy, but I do feel more alive, inspired and mentally stimulated.

I’ve been drafting up a handful of entries since the start of this year.  I will be posting them shortly.

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Singing Crane Garden: Refuge for Hope and Comfort

Note: This is a paper I wrote for one of my graduate history classes, “Testimony, Life, History” on May 2, 2010 at California State University, Northridge.  The short paper focuses on historian Vera Schwarcz’s book, Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden.

Background and Timeline:

The Singing Crane garden is located Northwest of Beijing, China.  The garden was built by the Manchu Prince Mianyu in the mid-nineteenth century.  The garden’s purpose was to serve as a refuge from the clutter of daily life near the Forbidden City.

1860: The garden was destroyed during the Anglo-French war in China.

1960s: The garden was transformed as “oxpens” where dissident university professors were imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution.

1986: With peaceful Western involvement, ground was broken for the Arthur Sackler Museum Art and Archaeology.

1993: The museum and the Julian Sackler Sculpture Garden stand on the same grounds today as the Singing Crane Garden did.

"Place and Memory in the Singing Crane" by Vera Schwarcz

“Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden” by Vera Schwarcz

In Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden, historian Vera Schwarcz attempts to explore ways in reconstructing the history of the Singing Crane garden.  As a result, she learns that the garden is a historical memory and its remnants provide a voice to the voiceless, more specifically, to the artists and intellectuals who were persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.  In turn, the persecuted give the garden a voice by seeking its history for refuge, hope and comfort.  As Schwarcz describes, a stone “…hints at a prince-ling retreat of the nineteenth century while remaining quite mute about the atrocities that took place on this ground in the 1960s.  Cultural memory is evoked and dismissed all at once (Schwarcz, 2).” The Singing Crane garden is a cultural memory and symbolic landscape for Chinese society as a whole.

Schwarcz notes there is a shortage of material to help in reconstructing the making of the garden.  The reason for this is “…because the monopoly of the theory of class struggle prohibited any mentioned of literati culture (Schwarcz, 4).”  The literati culture consisted of intellectuals who were persecuted during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s.  This was repressive politics during the Maoist era.  The intellectuals appreciated gardens such as the Singing Crane located in the heart of Beijing University, where the literati were persecuted.  While the literati were smeared, so were the gardens and other historical and ancient landscapes and artifacts.  As Schwarcz points out, “Not only are there fewer gardens left to study, but the very language for their explanation has been decimated by decades of propaganda and murderously real class struggle (Schwarcz, 4).”  One required source to assist in decoding the Chinese gardens such as the Singing Crane is narrative strategies.  The purpose of narrative strategies is to help “…give voice to all that has been silenced through violence and indirect commemoration (Schwarcz, 4).”

One important dimension of narrative strategies is Chinese poetry.  Chinese poetry is crucial because at the heart of Chinese poetry is landscape, more specifically, the gardens.  Since there are few actual gardens, the words in the poetry can help describe the gardens and give voice to the literati who appreciated and built these gardens.  But “…with war and revolution, however, both gardens and the refined literati consciousness that nurtured them came under attack (Schwarcz, 4).”  During the Cultural Revolution, intellectuals and artists sought out the ruin landscape of the gardens during and after the Maoist era to help “…articulate their own severed connection to history (Schwarcz, 4).”  Similar to the purpose of the truth commission reports in various countries, the artists and intellectuals sought to mentally and emotionally reconstruct the gardens as a form of reconciliation since the remnants of a garden gave comfort in the midst of political upheaval and the torture they endured.

The gardens is also a mirror reflection of society’s destruction due to wars, revolutions, foreign empires and influences but also a reflection of how society and the gardens have been built and rebuilt over time.  The gardens parallel to what the literati experienced in their own lives and the tumultuous history of Chinese society.  There may be few gardens now, but it is their memory that still lives on.  For the individuals who were persecuted, the gardens gave them hope and became the focal point for “…meditations about loss and desolation – as well as about renewal (Schwarcz, 5).”  The gardens offered renewed cultural imagination.  The Singing Crane garden for example, may be in ruins, but if one looks closely and pays attention, the garden has not been completely destroyed.  There are remnants still there reminding us of the beauty of the garden and its history.  The history of the garden is the history of China.  Schwarcz quotes Primo Levi that one needs to practice “hard listening.”  To practice “hard listening” is where “One has to dig below stone markers and refurbished monuments to hear what Levi called ‘the hoarse voices of those who can no longer speak’ (Schwarcz, 10).” Schwarcz applies Levi’s experiences as a survivor in Auschwitz to the Singing Crane garden “…with an informed ear one can hear subtle reference to the suffering inflicted on Chinese intellectuals at Beijing University during the Cultural Revolution (Schwarcz, 11).”  Chinese historian, Hou Renzhi, was incarcerated during the Cultural Revolution and similar to the truth commissions “…knows that without recalling the past without providing glimpses of the Yi Ran Ting, future generations will not be able to converse with the landscape, with language itself (Schwarcz, 11).”

What is physically left of the Singing Crane garden is what gave persecuted literati hope and a purpose to live.  The Singing Crane garden is a cultural memory and symbolic landscape.  Schwarcz references Simon Schama’s argument in Landscape and Memory that to make up what lacks in space, these individuals constructed “…a refuge in their mind, an imaginary landscape to house what is missing in space (Schwarcz, 12).”  Ultimately, in the midst of pain and violence, a restoration of life can occur through the memory and remembrance of the Singing Crane garden.  More importantly, the persecuted give voice to the garden and the garden gives not only a voice to the persecuted but the historical memory of the garden itself gives hope and refuge.

Reading:

Vera Schwarcz, Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2008)

Addtional Reading:

“UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Global Context: Building a Broader History of Humanity”

nlm

Posted in Art History, Books, California State University Northridge, Chinese History, Cultural Landscape | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pacific Electric Railway and the Exposition Line

Sunday, September 9, 2012

“Almost 60 years after the Pacific Electric Railway stopped running trains to Santa Monica, the resurrection of passenger rail service to the Westside will begin with the grand opening of the $930 million Expo light rail line.” (from “Expo Line Launches Rail Service Push to Westside,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2012, Dan Weikel and Ari Bloomtekatz)

N-Line-South-At-9th-Spring-Sts (From the Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society)

Exposition Light Rail Line to Culver City (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

The Exposition line finally opened for service on April 28, 2012. The route starts from 7th/Metro stop in Downtown Los Angeles and ends in Culver City.  This is Phase I and construction on Phase II of the Exposition line will begin soon stretching the rail line from Culver City to Santa Monica. The light rail train has made its come back at a good time for me since I started my internship at the Wende Museum on May 1st.

Through the Los Angeles Metro’s public art program, every stop on the Exposition line (and other Metro rail lines too), riders can view unique art works created by local artists.  The art on the Exposition line integrates neighborhoods and communities with civic pride.  Daniel Gonzalez’s linoleum prints, “Engraved in Memory,” are displayed at the La Cienega/Jefferson station where I usually get on and off the Expo train. Below are photos I took of Gonzalez’s prints at the La Cienega/Jefferson station.  To read more about the artist and his statement, please click here.

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Daniel Gonzalez’s “Engraved in Memory” (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

While riding on the Exposition line, I also notice on every stop, including the La Cienega/Jefferson station, archival images of the original Pacific Electric Railway throughout the platforms.  The Pacific Electric Railway was one of the original light rail trains in Los Angeles that followed along the same route as the Exposition line to Santa Monica. The Pacific Electric Railway also traveled throughout the Los Angeles area. Every now and then, my Mom would share with me her memories as a kid riding on the Pacific Electric with her family.  Her Mom, my Grandmother, never drove and took all of five kids with her on the Pacific Electric to run errands, buy groceries or take the kids to the beach.  My Mom loved it.  For her, it was nice to sit and watch the people and the changing landscape as the train moved along.  She told me the trains then were not as fast as today’s local rail lines, but it was really nice and got the family from Pasadena to Downtown Los Angeles and to the beach.

Los Angeles Transit Lines (ex-LA Railway) car no. 611 is just out of the paint shop and rolling along the 5 line at Inglewood cemetery in this 1947 Art Alter shot. (From the Pacific Electric Historical Society)

7th-and-Broadway (From the Pacific Electric Historical Society)

My Mom will tell me that Los Angeles had a good thing going with its train network throughout the city.  The Pacific Electric Railway era ended in 1957 (or 1958).  By this time, the automobile was popular and the car companies took over, making sure the car was number one in mode of transportation in Los Angeles.  Over the years, the original train tracks of the Pacific Electric Railway were ripped up.  As a kid, I remembered seeing some the original tracks – or what was left of them – located in deserted, narrow spaces, slightly smaller than an alley way, in between buildings in Old Town Pasadena with overgrown weeds surrounding the tracks. When the Gold Line light rail train was built over 10 years ago, those remaining old tracks were ripped up too.

With rising gas prices, environmental concerns, and bottleneck traffic, Los Angeles is bringing back the light rail starting with the Red Line twenty plus years ago and continually laying down new tracks spreading out throughout the city.  Presently, Metro is in preparations to begin phase two of the Exposition Line stretching it to Santa Monica. Metro is also laying down tracks to extend the Gold Line from Pasadena to go eastward to Glendora. Right now the Gold Line travels from Pasadena to East Los Angeles.

Exposition Light Rail Line to Culver City

Below are photos I took of the archival images at various points on the La Cienega/Jefferson platform honoring the Pacific Electric Railway.  These images are representative in bridging the past with the present and hopefully the future of the local rail line in Los Angeles.

1908: Two homes a week start construction on Crenshaw Blvd. between Exposition and Santa Barbara. (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

1911: Once free of Los Angeles, it makes almost a straight line to the beach city of Santa Monica.

(Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

1912: Wide Parkways planted with Palms and Acacias…a lot for $550.00

1913: A new and modern housing community to be developed along Exposition around Dorsey High School. (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

1913: You will find three intersecting electric lines – the logical center to develop a townsite (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

1921: A Golden Haze crowns the Western Horizon under a slowly setting sun as your train travels on towards Santa Monica.

1947: The train of tomorrow will be shown on Exposition Blvd. (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

1949: Business owners in the Hayden Tract gave easements on their properties. (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

(Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

View of Downtown L.A. from the La Cienega/Exposition platform. (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

Another view from the La Cienega/Jefferson station platform. (Photo taken by Nicole Murph, 2012)

The other side of the La Cienega/Jefferson station. The white building below is the headquarters and factory of See’s Candy. As a kid, I remember taking two school field trips to the factory. Now, during my walk to the station, I can smell the sweet smell of chocolate in the air.

Website to Check Out:

Pacific Electric Historical Society (www.pacificelectric.org)

***With regard to copyright, all images belong to me (NicolesArtsResource) unless otherwise stated.  Be kind and give credit where it’s due.***

Posted in Culver City, Los Angeles, Public Art, Trains | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment