Ask a hundred passers-by on the street what their Los Angeles is to them and you'll likely get as many answers. The second most populous city in the United States, Los Angeles is an adventurer's dream. It's where a 15-acre Buddhist temple may be hiding the best vegetarian food around or a family of Mexican printmakers can revolutionize the art world. This past year, we've been lucky enough to come across many more reasons to love Los Angeles. Here are just a few:
L.A.'s Thai town is only a half-mile stretch in East Hollywood, but its influence is outsized. It is the first officially recognized Thai Town in the nation. It is also located in a city with the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. Over the last half-century, this density of Thai-descended people has given rise to a market that caters specifically to the many flavors of Southeast Asia and chefs who are willing to share their specialties to an American palate.
The Latino love for pastrami exists because of the Jewish presence in Boyle Heights from the 20s to the 50s.
From the '20s to the '50s, Boyle Heights was a center for Jewish political and cultural activity. By the 1960s, the demographic changed. The Jewish population started to move towards San Fernando Valley where there weren't any restrictive covenants on Jews, but their culinary legacy remains in the now Mexican American-dominated Boyle Heights in the form of pastrami.
In our premiere episode of "Artbound" this season, writer/director Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, explores the houses Frank Lloyd Wright built in Los Angeles. He also puts forth a provocative theory that these homes were also a means of artistic catharsis for Wright, who was recovering from a violent tragic episode in his life.
The Shasta ground sloth, a cow-sized animal and committed herbivore, seems to have adapted specifically to live on Joshua tree fruit. Its eight-inch claws is a great defense for saber-toothed cats and other predators, but also makes for great grappling hooks to bend the spiny branches of the Joshua tree, giving it access to the tree's precious fruit.
It's a city that could foster a sense of kinship between Asian Americans and African Americans through hip-hop.
Instead of cooking or classical music, Asian Pacific artists found community and connection in a genre once dominated by African-American and Latinx artists. “The aesthetic of hip-hop… is freedom and authenticity,” said Chinese-American rapper Jason Chu. “It’s a powerful force. It’s a beautiful thing.”
L.A. is home base to the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, whose mission is to fill the racial void in dance.
Lula Washington dared to become a dancer at a time when there were little or no role models for an African American woman to follow. Now, the programs at the long-running dance studio allow African American children to express themselves and see their futures as professional dancers in a heavily white-centric field.
People never think the youth are able to affect change, but with little or no resources at their disposal, a group of young activists used tools like writing and photography as a means for community organizing, providing a platform for the Chicano Movement in the form of the bilingual newspaper/magazine La Raza.
Out in the desert, there exists a faction of alien-obsessed mad geniuses, it seems. Their flights of fancy have led to a two-room home that sits underneath a boulder, telepathic messages from bizarrely-named benevolent aliens and the building of an energy machine called the Integratron.
It is easy to set oneself apart from nature, as if it were something that humans could easily get remove themselves from. Such is the work of early plein air artists, whose oeuvres invariably showcased human-less landscapes, but in the work of artist Laura Aguilar, her nude, female, Chicana body is boldly inserted into the frame. It's as if the artist were declaring that she too was a California native alongside that of the trees, plants and animals around her.
Top Image: "The Circle of Land and Sky" by Phillip K Smith III | Still from Desert X