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Muralists and photography that transcribe our current existence in Los Angeles

Micheal Blaze and Flo Hawkens stand in front of the mural on 5th and Crocker.
Micheal Blaze and Flo Hawkens stand in front of the mural on 5th and Crocker.
Ron Talley

In Los Angeles, as in all other parts of the world, we have a dedicated group of artists who transcribe our current existence by using art. The muralists in the Los Angeles area choose buildings in our city to use as their canvas, to display the art and sometimes the stories of our time.

One mural, at Sixth Street and Ceres Avenue, was painted as a way to inform local drug users (disposing of used hypodermic needles by tossing them over the wall at the location) that they were jeopardizing the lives of children who where finding the needles in the daytime. Muralists used the art form of painting show children were on the other side of the wall and the ritual stopped immediately.

Muralist Florence Nnyala Hawkins (Flo Hawkins), whose work can be seen in many places in the Los Angeles area, stands on the corner of Fifth Street and Crocker with Videographer Michael Blaze, and myself, and talks about the mural that takes up a half block on the side of the building facing Fifth Street.

Although the city’s taggers have defaced this mural wall, she finds no fault with individuals that slash the art, with what looks to have been a bucket of paint and the names that have been placed on top of some of the noted figures the artist painted on the wall. The only remark she makes about this is, that whoever did this must have needed to express themselves.

Now retired from her passion of teaching art at youth organization, A Place Called Home, she reflects on the different personalities and how she chose them as subjects on this wall at Fifth and Crocker in Los Angeles, along with how much she enjoyed each one of them and what they contributed to her life by engaging in their particular fields. As she enjoyed telling about different stories about the subjects painted on the wall and the importance of them to her, she was stopped by Michael Blaze, to be informed that the organization The Art Collective of Skid Row would be funding repairs to this piece of LA history.

She remembers that her family was solidly behind her wanting to be an artist, although her mother was an alcoholic, who would take her, as a child to the local bars. Her father, who appreciated jazz, would also forbid her to listen to classical music. The one thing they gave her together was a black board so she could draw. Now, she finds her musical pleasure has developed a particular love for the music of Johnny Mathis.

Michael also thanked her for clearing up the mystery of one of the designs on this wall that has been part of a long dispute involving the residents of the area; a head that sits in the middle of this art piece. What was thought to be an Aztec face was in reality an African face.

To find out more about this artist follow this link.



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