Tuesday, July 26, 2022

In the Best Modern Way: Among Artists

Street Scene Counterpoint

Michael Sedano

I planned wearing the same charcoal pin-striped suit I broke out for Margaret Garcia’s show in Ventura last year, but god punished me for being prideful and broke the top button on my suit. I wore the iridescent raw silk dinner jacket I bought when I had the suit made, the month before I left Korea, in 1970. The jacket fits, but I pretended not to notice and nothing broke nor tore nor had moth holes. I felt muy comfortable wandering around at Mario Trillo’s 75th birthday party and checking out the Saturday night street scene.

The pin-striped 1970 bespoke suit. Mario & Mario.

I walked out onto the boulevard into the teeming world of youth. I remember street fairs were exactly like this. Almost. The food truck is twenty-first century. The tattoos are definitely of this era, gorgeous work and not a hula dancer to be seen on forearms nor shoulders nor backs nor calfs nor thighs nor tummies, where glistening golden rings reside, not a hula dancer in sight. Ay de mi, lots of sights.


You gotta love it. Really. This is good. Exactly like a Human Be-In back in 1966. Different, of course; you can’t go home again. Ni modo. I love it, and this street scene repeats all the way down the street and pa’lla to where Pomona ends.
Pomona has wisely devoted this part of town to young people. I did my best not to gawk, nor take pictures. Leaving Mario’s party a couple hours later, my passenger, Pete, talks about the murderer he defended who’d had a shoot-out on the street we’re driving. Area needed urban renewal badly, que no? so Arts District it is.


Sedano and Mario Trillo

There’s a movie scene where Clark Kent flexes to leap from the earth dressed as Superman, when a fellow goes “whoa, bad outfit” and that’s how I feel as a passing kid fist bumps me saying “nice outfit!” Lot of fist bumping out there nowadays. I use my left or right fist to bump, wondering if I’m doing it wrong?

People window-shopping their way past the Da art gallery have no idea of the historic gathering of artists inside. Past the storefront glass the people laughing and eating tacos have work hanging at The Cheech and discerning museums around the world. This gaggle of party-goers includes some of today's best fine artists.

QEPD, Sergio Hernandez. Diane Hernandez smiles and looks forward.

Mario’s party has settled into that constant high pitch of milling crowds and seated conversations shouted above the throbbing rhythms of Chicano rolas when I notice a pair of black-clad chicanitas stop near the doors. Their eyes scan the art-covered walls and anonymous crowd standing, milling, sitting, and laughing like old friends.
One chicanita steps curiously into the room and I get a good look at her. She would not stand out on the street but in that vestibule she glows with beauty and youth. She’s a bit perplexed.
Ledean form a sixty-year-old smiling public man would find enchanting, a black halter covers tiny breasts above a flat belly, not muscular like a dancer or athlete, just a kid’s tummy boldly making a fashion statement against summer’s swelter. 
The friend, who’s hanging back, scans the room through the windowglass and steps back toward the sidewalk. The bold child turns to exchange a look with her friend. Their glance says, “These people are old. They’re wearing dresses, or suits and neckties. They are not of these times.” 
With their silent agreement, the two young females, all grown up and dressed to the nines, split.
I wanted to--and would have if I’d been at the door--carpe diem'd by sweeping the girls into the place all the way. Step inside for a big helping of cultura and tacos. I envisioned guiding them like I would my granddaughter, point to a painting, elicit a response. Here at the Da, the  kid would enjoy a rare privilege, she'd meet the artist and get a personal discussion.


David Botello's signature graces some of the world's most expressive murals.

David Botello signs the birthday mural

Raza artists--to a woman and man--would have greeted the kids lovingly, recognizing the magic of the moment. If only…Those two women, those kids, would leave the gallery knowing this is your arte, mi’jas, arte para la gente and Mario….But I watched them arrive, glance, and leave. 

They won’t give it a thought. Me, I’m left with a bittersweet taste of regret. So it goes. 


A curbside encounter brings immense satisfaction. In a counterpoint to what the young women missed, I get to answer a young artist’s pressing need when I decide to go out among ‘em, maybe to take a foto or two of a busy Saturday night in GOPlague time. A few people wear masks. I do.


Muralist Wayne Healey signs Mario's bi-national tacuche. Photorealist Arthur Carrillo observes.

A couple of boys say hi to me as we cross paths. We hitch a step to exchange desultory repartee about desultory matters then I turn to resume a path to the corner. Behind me a voice calls “hey do you take pictures?” so I wheel around and don’t turn on the camera.

The 100mm lens won’t work at face-to-face distance, so I cannot immediately snap the kid and his work. The boy carries a cork bulletin board he’s covered with pen and pencil drawings on 4x5 sticky notes. He corrects this, saying just papers. He’s proud of his work, happily explains it. He’s developed a story using pictures, but he’s concerned that he doesn’t know how to shade figures. He points to a figure closely resembling a Magu perro. I’m excited because  behind the boy is a Magu perro painted on a recently-dedicated mural honoring Magu. qepd.


As I’m about to do two things, first point out the mural second have the kids back up to fit the lens for a foto, a couple walks up and joins our collective. I love metiches, being one myself. The woman interrupts our conversation to tell me she’s curated numerous exhibitions. I ask the woman’s name. She tells me. Who’s he? I ask. She introduces the man with her. He’s a retired art teacher.


Serendipity? Destiny? Stupid America moment?

stupid america, remember

that chicano

flunking math and english

he is the picasso

of your western states

but he will die

with one thousand


hanging only from his mind.


I verbally grab hold of the boy with the perro figure to introduce the boy to this retired art professor on the street. 


Show him your figure, I tell the boy. 


I tell the professor the boy wants to learn shading. The boy elaborates.


The professor talks about shading, describes a cross-hatching technique. I give it a name, the retired profe agrees that’s what it’s called, then whips out his phone to display fotos of the professor’s own art so the boy can see shading, cross-hatching, pointillism.


Did you do that? 

The boy marvels in pleasure, partly he’s seeing art, and shading, but more so it dawns on the boy. Here’s a significant moment. Inside this curbside bubble with passersby flowing past, the boy's artistic vision expands every heartbeat brings new insights. His cup overflows.


I’m smiling to myself. Why shouldn’t now be a turning point in this boy’s life, in an artist’s career? I’ll glow for a long time, thinking of such possibility. Andale, kid, keep talking to strangers on the street.


I am out for the first time in three years, alone, in respite. I am happy among these schoolchildren. Even without taking a foto of the boys and the art lecture metiches, I split silently, leaving these four souls on the sidewalk fully engaged in who knows what comes next?   

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, 
   How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Up on the avenue, it’s a street fair like every street fair the man has walked since the sixties, Ledean bodies y todo. Pero sabes que, he thinks? Those tattoos open my eyes and make me feel my age. He doesn’t take a foto, remembering those children who wouldn't enter the Da. Like them, no one comes to lead the man by the hand, a 76 year old smiling perplexed man. The man in the silk dinner jacket does a 180º and returns to the sanctuary of the Da and his friend Mario’s 75th birthday party. He knows it's already the future.


Latino Heritage said...

Thanks for this. It felt like I was there.

Anonymous said...

Great article Em. It was great to see you. Art Carrillo

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Sounds like a good time was had by all. Nice to see you and Mario Trillo all dressed up...with a good place to go! Thanks for sharing this amazing gathering of Chicano artists. May there be many more like this, and may the young generation not just look through the window, but enter and meet these fountains of creativity!