Friday, June 12, 2009

Doña Ofelia y El Papalotero

Fridays suddenly trickle in under a June gloom cloud cover, even if our disposition is disproportionately sunny. But the afterglow and after burn like psychedelic tracers from a glorious dream are completely justified. I can start with yesterday's tranquil spin at goat tending within the
Anabolic Monument where I decided that Chiquita's little dude should be officially christened "Deer Dancer." Chiquita is a sheep and deer hybrid who leads the small group of chivas who are helping bring nature back to the park many Angelinos used to know as the Cornfields. After herding goats and feeding the foul, I was scooped up by none other than Brandy Maya Healy, a new contributing writer at the magazine, a dancer and longtime City of LA Cultural Affairs department staff member--okay, okay... also Wayne Healy's kid--and her companion Joey Maramba who straps on an electric bass regularly as part a band called the Ninja Academy, fast forward to a small reception at Homeboy Industries where Luís Rodriguez shared some poems as part of the celebration honoring the launch of Homeboy Review, a literary journal now being published by Homeboy Press, a division of Homeboy Industries. It was great to finally meet Father G. live and in person. Next stop: Señor Fish, where ChicanArtista Leo Limón unveiled an incredible show of paintings and oil pastel drawings. We can never get enough of those wry and extremely witty River Catz, bro'! So then it's a Downtown Artwalk to The Hive Gallery where the aesthetic is goth-meets-graphic novel zine, laced with graffiti and Giant Robot-plus-tattoo and Heavy Metal (the adult illustrated fantasy magazine and not the musical genre, Random) imagery. Talk about sensory overload.

Okay, so that was this last Thursday night. Rewind slightly to just over a week ago when Brooklyn & Boyle, the small art space that's grown up around the publishing effort, opened a one-woman show for maestra Ofelia Esparza. About 200 folks came through to congratulate the beloved 77-year-old community artist and an elder who continues to mentor young artists on the Eastside while teaching us how to be kinder and more forgiving human beings. Ofelia's work as an altarista is well-known, but her paintings and monoprints are luminous. Cheech Marin would do well to consider including her work in his storied collection of Chicano art.

Then on Monday, after a quick visit with good people at a send off cena for East LA Cityhood advocate Dr. Oscar Gonzales, (he's going to be a deputy director for the Agricultural Department in D.C.), it was back to ground zero for Eastside cultura, vida y comunidad, where Lilia Ramirez of Liliflor Studios was kind enough to host a meeting with Council Member José Huizar and the group we're calling A.R.T.E.S. (Artists Revitalizing the East Side). It's enough to say that we aren't waiting around to be "discovered" by the next wave of urban gentrifiers and artsy pioneers like those in Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park who are under the mistaken impression that they are living on the Eastside.

Of course, this all brings us back to a Farmlab/Metabolic Studios morning visit today where I picked up the carrot cake I left in small brown paper bag on the roof of the small barn and gallinero built for the goats and chickens which will fertilize the parkland as part of a reclamation and renewal effort that includes  the cultivation of native pants like sage and xempaxuchil (marigolds for the uninitiated). While I was there this morning, I was able to speak at length with Don Esequiel Contreras, an 86-year-old master kite maker from Lincoln Heights who spoke of his childhood in the neighboring hills. I thought of his young tocayo,  Esequiel Hernández, the young U.S.-born goat herder who was killed by Marines patrolling the U.S. border near Redford, Texas in 1997. The trigger man was a Chicano from Califas. Is it any different now? Gangbangers killing each other. Chicano cops harassing cholos. Latino soldiers forced to brutalize Iraqi and Afghani people. They say the murder of Esequiel was an accident and that absolved the U.S. government, who compensated the Hernández family with over a million dollars in blood money. Everything goes in a circle. I'm tending goats now myself and stand in awe of an octogenarian kite builder whose youthful spirit humbles me. The Mujeres de Maiz offered a song in honor of Ofelia at the June 4th opening here at the gallery and my heart soared. I knew in my soul that my jefita's huitzilin spirit was elated at the outpouring of love and energy for a true maestra. Between Ofelia and Don Esequiel I stand transfixed...  transformado, pero de a deverasImage above: "Tus Recuerdos" Monoprint by Ofelia Esparza.