Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Art as Life on the Eastside
I was fogged-in on my second morning in Los Angeles, with a truly disgusting collection of germs that had me choked up, effluvient, and a little feverish. My friend the L.A. Resident drove me through Koreatown into downtown and beyond, where suddenly working-class bungalows were slammed up against gigantic, vivid wall murals. Even in my clouded state, I was dazzled, This was art that existed as expression of a neighborhood and I wanted to see it all, a visual greed that I hadn't felt since my time at Angkor.
El Mercado de Los Angeles is the closest way to see it all, especially when a cold has lent a hallucinatory cast to life. Built in 1968, it's a center for the cultural and culinary life of people whose roots in this area extend back for centuries as well as for those new arrivals who are eager to find a touch of home. Although I'm sure it receives more than its share of tourists, my friend and I were the only ones whom I saw there last Wednesday morning.
Art was everywhere--devotional, entrepreneurial, aspirational, and optimistic. Eat and be shapely! Drink and have a healthy spleen! (Or is that a gall bladder?)
And perhaps territorial--
I'm a woman whose life is dominated by words, but my greatest joy often comes from being in a place where images supplant language. After the market, walking down a street with a boulder in my chest, I stopped thinking and simply stared at wall after wall of art, integrated with commerce and food and daily living. More than anyplace else I went in this puzzling and exciting city, I wanted to stay and learn all of the languages of this community--art, music, kitchen, and words.