6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Network Sublime

huntington_electic_network_header.jpg
Support Provided By

For a project called "Lineman" (2009), artist Michael Parker tagged along with technical trainees hoping to become line workers for the Los Angeles power system. Parker himself participated in their various exercises, which he documented both with text and with color photographs; these included learning the various ins and outs of wiring diagrams and knot-tying skills, as well as how to ascend and descend utility poles. Many of his fellow class members, he learned, were former high school athletes or people who had trained in engineering and logistics and were now looking for a career change.

In an accompanying booklet produced for the project, Parker includes short biographical statements about each trainee – and, among these, one in particular stands out. A man named Joshua Mullen remarks to Parker that his interest in working the power lines came from something of an aesthetic conversion, a moment of sublimity involving the larger Los Angeles electrical system.

“Mullen had an interesting experience taking the bus from Huntington Beach to L.A.,” Parker writes. “He noticed, while on the 105 east carpool interchange to the 110 north, which is the highest viewing point in South L.A., that power lines exist throughout the city. ‘It was quite an amazing picture to see early in the morning, just as the sun was peaking over the San Gabriels, it was something beautiful seeing all the power lines in a picturesque setting.’”

The history of public electricity in Southern California is much easier to see, of course, through the lens of technical invention, land deals, and semi-secret political machinations, but this notion that there is also something – something sublime – hidden in plain sight is an arresting one.

Indeed, the Southern California Edison collection at the Huntington Library contains a treasure trove of electric line infrastructure photos, documenting the strangely sculptural appeal of these early networks. Many of the structures – distribution routes and towers, substations and regional grids – are quite beautiful in their own right, scattered across the landscape like monuments to electromagnetism, all assembled and maintained by roving bands of workers dwarfed by the scale of their own accomplishment.

Today, the vast and ever-growing spiderweb of electrical lines that powers Los Angeles is there for any of us to see through Mullen’s eyes – the way sunlight on an Alpine crag or the broad valley of the Hudson River once tantalized early landscape painters. It is a fabric of cables and wires built to supply us with artificial illumination, but that itself sometimes shines with its own glow.

Big Creek Transmission Line - Raising Towers for 220kV transmission. SCE_02_08259. 	Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Big Creek Transmission Line - Raising Towers for 220kV transmission. SCE_02_08259. Southern California Edison Photographs and Negatives. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California [source]

Support Provided By
Read More
Exterior of Venice West, a beat generation coffee house | Austin Anton from the Lawrence Lipton papers, USC Libraries

Lawrence Lipton and Venice, California’s Claim to Beat Fame

Lawrence Lipton's book “The Holy Barbarians” was a celebration and canonization of the “Venice West” scene. It also became the biggest hit of his career, around which he revolved on for much of his life.
Broadside for Teatro Principal, Los Angeles, printed by Imprenta Jalisco, Boyle Heights, 1929 January 10. | University of Southern California Libraries, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum Collection, 1830-1930

Broadsides Reveal L.A.’s Once-Booming Hispanic Vaudeville Scene

There was a time that Los Angeles powered a lively Hispanic vaudeville scene, and its legacy still lives on in many performers today.
Pacifico Dance Company gives audiences a glimpse into the dance of Yucatan. Dancers wearing large flowers on their hair and dresses. | Courtesy of Pacifico Dance Company

Pacifico Dance Company: Sharing the Love of Traditional Mexican Dance Around the World

Traditional Mexican dances (aka baile folklórico) are the forte of the Pacifico Dance Company, and they’ve helped train hundreds, performing in venues around the country and the world.