Monday, March 3, 2008

All the Streets and Saints and Sinners

Head nigh into spring, otra primavera colorida en Califas, check your shoelaces and remember to greet the Southern California sun, which has rolled in mightily almost as if to snub the cloudy fog, the remnants of our public sayonara to the poet-mentor. Threaded throughout, are the engines of prose, the need to organize at least of few of these writerly impulses, an incurable curiousity and the need to celebrate who we are and where we live. Couple these with any number of similarly LA-born effusions and you get a flurry that motivates and stimulates.

The Flowers, by Dagoberto Gilb, who likewise rolled through mightily (and oddly enough, during the week we lost the beloved elder) is a perfect place to begin and simply one more lustrous example. On a brief local tour that included a vivid LA Library conversation with poet Marisela Norte, Dago introduced us to his new novel, a rivetting tale told in the elegantly provocative and tastefully restrained prose Gilb is known for. The story is delivered through the precociously muted voice of Sonny Bravo, the proto-antihero who embodies the search for self amidst the chaos of a suburban landscape that we know without a single specific reference to be Los Angeles. The streets team with danger and possibility in a world where black, white and brown dance with shadows and skirt the hidden layer of tension that informs a stark reality grounded in truth and tenderness. 'Nuff said.

With another worthy riff on the streets we've come to know as our own, artist and author J. Michael Walker has concluded his seven year love letter to Los Angeles with a major exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage. Walker walked the nearly 100 streets in LA named for saints and has created an epic elegy with paintings and drawings that reverberate with meaning and emotion and history. Caught a brief glimpse at the opening and obviously need to go back because it was just too much to absorb during a crowded reception. All of the Saints of the City of Angels is presented in a baroque, very bilingual manner that enhances the intensity of work that addresses contemporary issues of class and race and gender with remarkable sensitivity. Walker is unafraid to speak truth to the dominant elite within their very own sanctums of privilege and cultural power while addressing the turmoil and tension that keep so many of us from connecting with others. A companion hardcover book wasa published as part of the project and a booksigning at Book Soup is scheduled on March 6th.

Others who spoke truth did so in theatrical presentations and panel discussion offered as part of a two day conference on the prison industrial complex and the proliferation of torture and violence as legitimate tools of the state to suppress dissent, interrogate alleged enemies and as part of a multi-million dollar for-profit "correctional" enterprise that makes mass imprisonment and dubious criminalization of our young people big business and a tragic fact of life. On Saturday night, poet, professor and now playwright David Lloyd presented a staged reading of The Press, a play revolving around a painter and a poet imprisoned by a brutal regime. The proceedings, loosely tied together as "The Politics of Art and Imprisonment" took place at the the 24th St. Theatre and were followed on Sunday by an afternoon presentation of a play developed by USC professor Brent Blair and writer/youth activist Mario Rocha--himself once imprisoned for ten years as part of two life sentences for a crime he did not commit. The production culminated with the real parents of real children who have been incarcerated filing across the stage, carrying photographs and sharing their own stories, many with very real tears in their eyes, their voices trembling in English and Spanish. Blair is a cofounder of the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed and Applied Theatre Arts.

1 comment:

Queen of My Imagination said...

I love your blog. I found it when looking at the website for the All Saints Exhibit. I'm adding it to my list. Keep up the lovely work and good luck!