the irony and the ecstasy

by urquiza!

poesia para la gente

presented by avenue 50 studio “poesia para la gente” scheduled readings by poets iris de anda, abel salas and matt sedillo followed by an open mic on saturday may 25, 2013 at the home depot workers center in cypress park. more than half dozen poets gathered in the morning along with the usual day labourers sanctioned by the center. the worker’s center is operated by IDEPSCA, instituto de educacion popular del sur de california and is located at the south western corner of the parking lot, under the interstate 5 overpass. at first the rush of cars and semi trucks four or five storeys above is a bit overwhelming, but eventually the traffic becomes a white noise as you settle into the cool morning air with a white styrofoam cup of antigua coffee and a pan dulce from la morenita.

if you have ever hired a day laourer at all, you know that they are different than us. they are in their work clothes, we are in our saturday casual clothes. we pay them cash at the end of the day, while we get a monthly check, sick days and even vacation days. we for the most part speak english, they for the most part speak spanish. they come to our home and work on any given specific task we ask for the day, we commute to a concrete cube and probably like myself push paper around a desk and stare at a computer screen. if we have never hired a day labourer that knowledge and experience gap between us is even greater than the border that separates them from their origins and even their family. we are different. we are separated by perceptions and fears, money and status.

on the westside of the home depot parking lot are the workers with an identity card that qualifies them to be hired out through the center. on the opposite side of the lot with a few on the north are the day labourers with no documents or disposition for that kind of organisation. it is every man and his own skills for himself, while larbourers at the work center are selected by lottery as clients come seeking help. the work center labourer can negotiate their own rate depending on the tasks, as well as pass on a job for the next labourer in the lottery line. when your car pulls up to the east lot with the unregulated labourers it is the man and sometimes woman who can shout the loudest, jump the highest in the crowd and elbow their way into the passengers seat or the back of your pick up truck that will work on that day. the others will retreat to the shade of the curbside and wait for the next vehicle to pass.

as a veteran of many readings dating back to the late 80s and the days of the onyx and e-bar in los feliz and pasadena respectively, i can say they have become quite predictable. the breakout moment at “poesia para la gente” came when a day labourer closed the gap between us a little more. day labourer and poet leonso “el revolucionario” martinez read his works “stray dog” and “¡benditas tus manos mama!” in spanish.



a labourer reads the morning newspaper before the poets started arriving at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




through the gates of the worker’s center abel salas of the community arts newspaper “brooklyn and boyle” reads the spanish translation of a poem with poet matt sedillo reading the english version at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




iris de anda reads from her folio while the day labourer and poet leonso “el revolucionario” martinez looks on and waits for his turn to read at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




two audience member look on as abel salas reads at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




a day labourer and the the poet flor de te talking at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




from left to right, day labourer, poet flor de te, the day labourer and poet leonso “el revolucionario” martinez talking with audience member and making final notes on their reading materials at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




poet flor de te reads to herself the poem “¡benditas tus manos mama!” by the day labourer and poet leonso “el revolucionario” martinez at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




a day labourer not affiliated with the center listens to the reading from the parking lot at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




under the shadow of the interstate poet, musician and entertainer raul cardona of teatro arroyo starts the open mic portion with a reading and a manu chau acoustic cover at “poesia para la gente”, may 25, 2013, IDEPSCA work center at the home depot, cypress park.




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old marchers

walmart protest march june 30, 2012. everybody had a reason to be there; the young sought hope; the angry a chance to fight; the lone got to participate; and, the retired a chance to stand again.




















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coco and bvlgari

part one. a few out takes from a retail assignment in beverly hills. i was almost regretting this for the obvious reasons. however, i found rodeo drive far more accessible than some other neighbourhoods on the west side as well as areas in the east. this was not a mono-linguistic environment as many parts of los angeles are typically either english or spanish. i over heard french, chinese, korean, german, tagalog, spanish and portuguese all in the same street, on the same corner block. rodeo with its open top busses of tourist and luxury SUVs everywhere is not the same kind of posh that is ginza nor the champs-élysées. it is certainly unique as it is clichéd. grey haired men in blazers stroll around; slender women in all manner of heeled shoes march down the avenue; and, while young handsome men patrol store fronts opening doors, discouraging shop lifting; while still other young men glide through the street by behind tinted windows. i want to come back here and shoot some more.



















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surface streets

shooting for LA commons and exploring the persian square area of los angeles that is often called tehrangeles. the official persian square is located along westwood boulevard bound on the north by wellworth avenue and on the south by massachusetts avenue, though tehrangeles and its estimated 700,000 persian immigrants encompasses the affluent nieghbourhood south of the UCLA campus down to pico boulevard and beyond.

i bound into this environment believing this would be an easy story to tell. there are many bookstores, tailors and small shop people were eager to share persian history and culture. perhaps it was vanity that halted them from sharing their own stories, but there appeared a polite veil of silence and missing history that drifted from shop to shop. they became as mysterious as persia is far away.

the merchants and artists i met appear to live in many worlds or times past and present. in many images clues from the assyrian kings to the politics of the 80s and modern persia and iran linger. it is a rich and generous culture filled with pride and three religions islamic, jewish and zoroastrians that exists in the middle of the westside of LA.




















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the woman in blue

dominique moody is the artist in residence at the watts towers. as part of her residency she is allowed the use of a privately owned small cottage to work and live in across the street from the towers known as the R cloud. the property during simon rodia’s time was a long skinny clapboard cottage right off the train tracks in an industrial section of los angeles. today it is stuccoed over, painted minty fresh and dominique maintains a garden with melons and vegetables behind the chain link fence. there are still roosters cackling on the other side of the of the paint and graffiti covered corrugated metal fence.

her art is colourful and drenched in symbols of her large family. she creates with ceramics, metal, tree branches and shoes or whatever she can find. by her own words she is a nomad since childhood. her father would restore dilapidated mansions in hopes of building enough sweat equity and eventually ownership only to lose the homes unfairly and move to yet another one with the same hope. the sixth photograph in this series is a to scale mock up of her nomad proposal that she hopes to travel the country in. what struck me the most was not her pieces that explored her family’s past, but the last photograph in this set of a mixed media piece about her musician ex-husband who suffers from schizophrenia and who had to be institutionalised. she displays it just before you enter her kitchen in the narrow cottage. the assemblage artist is legally blind and her eye sight is limited to seeing shapes and forms as evident in much of her artwork.

















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