I am a painter usually living in New York but for the last year I have had a painting residency in Boyle Heights.
Contrary to my usual blocked skyed city with a culture of over-stimulation and instant access, I find the community here laid back, friendly and willing to have a conversation at the drop of a hat. I too love to converse, always curious as to what people have to say and how they flow.
Everyday I cherish the sunlight and blue sky (albeit when writing this our skies are sadly smoke filled), but mostly I have slowed down. This has allowed me time to reflect and discover some of the fabric of Boyle Heights. I take slow bike rides (I don’t own a car) through the community and discover visual references for my paintings on how people live and the community that supports people to live their lives.
Naturally, as a painter, I spend a lot of time on my own, but my community in Boyle Heights has made me feel welcome. I speak Spanish, have lived in Mexico and have family there, so this probably helps my sense of appreciation for how special Boyle Heights is. But it’s more than my feeling of a sense of familiarity, it is the people and the places they frequent.
The cafe, that I initially sought out to jump on their wifi, quickly became a place to converse with a sculptor/librarian, designer, visual artist, waiter, teacher, musician, dog owner and new parent. The cafe crew always leaves me with a question, deeper thought or smile on my face.
Local neighbors from across the street, who heard through the grapevine that it was my birthday, surprised me with a cake, flowers and gift. I mean who does that? Also I know if I really ever needed them they will be there for me no matter what. The pool attendant who shared with me her love of drawing when she heard that I was a painter. After following my instagram she became one of my loyal fans and we still keep in touch even though the pool is Covid closed.
My daughter, who is a skateboarder, encouraged me to hang out at the local Hollenbeck skate park. She said there was a regular crew that spent time there, listened to music and were friendly. Initially it was also a great way for me to be able to sit in the park, in the evening, with company so as not to be myself. Eventually they offered me a refreshment as a gesture of kindness.
After taking some photos on a lovely evening I composed and painted Hollenbeck skate park. When I finally showed them the painting, I was celebrated and am now accepted into the evening hang. One of the skaters, who heard I was drinking Cafe Bustelo as my coffee, gifted me a delicious bag of locally roasted coffee. We on occasion also share some amazing tacos together.
I now call this wonderful collection of incredible individuals friends and they have made me contemplate and really appreciate what community really is. Boyle Heights has allowed me the feeling that I am, in my own way, part of the community.
What better way, as a painter, to show my appreciation for a community than to capture its speciality by painting it. An old school grocery store with the most fantastic paint job, done with such detail and care it makes it pop out against the brightest blue sky. “El Texano” taco truck feeds the people – BTW I’m a regular and their suadero is superb! The sunset-lit empty lot with a skyline of majestic palm trees and view of downtown. George’s pristine 50’s signage representing a long tradition of pastrami and hamburger joints. The constant flow of ice cream trucks down Breed Street. The 1920s LA river bridges juxtaposed to an ever present massive industrial infrastructure and of course blue sky.
The contrasts are sometimes extreme. Beauty and care can also be contrasted with massive walls of cement that hold huge 8 lane highways built right over “one of LA’s Prettiest Parks”. At least that is what a historical postcard said about Hollenbeck Park before the powers that be decided to construct the 5 right through it.
The neighborhood is a contrast of change. I guess change is all we know and it is constant. I am inspired to honor this special moment and some of the people who live in Boyle Heights, by painting it. Immortalize it, exhibit it and show how beautiful even the most simple things can be through an artist’s perspective.
A free exhibition of my paintings will be held on Saturday, September 26th from 2-7pm in my outdoor garden (near 6th and Breed, or contact me via instagram for address). We will be practicing Covid safety, so plan accordingly.
More info at, Instagram @lyndellita, and www.lbgpaintings.com.
Thank you Boyle Heights for sharing your magic.