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All the Saints of the City of the Angels: Seeking the Soul of L.A. On Its Streets Paperback – March 1, 2008
''J. Michael Walker takes us on an incredible and fascinating historical journey of discovery utilizing both his stunning paintings and his amazing stories in All the Saints of the City of the Angels. This book is a treasure found; it should be shared and cherished by all.''--Synthia SAINT JAMES, internationally exhibited artist and illustrator
''In company with 103 saints, we watch the small pueblo of Los Angeles unfold to become one of the major cities of the world. With sadness and joy, happiness and sorrow, success and failure, and yes, even life and death, Walker has given us poignant accounts of the geography of grace in the city he loves.''--Michael E. Engh, S.J., Dean of Bellarmine College and Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University
''Art and history coming together at the streetscape level: inventive, erudite, and thoughtful.''--William Deverell, professor of history at the University of Southern California and director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West
''Los Angeles has many faces, many dimensions, many roots. J. Michael Walker focuses on one of the most important--the naming of streets, mountains, cities, and terrains for Catholic saints, a legacy of Spanish and Mexican rule. It's as important as anything the Germans, Anglos, Irish, Hungarians, Armenians, Japanese, or Chinese have brought to these lands. They're all valid--and this book is a good place to start to find out why.''--Luis J. Rodriguez, author of The Republic of East L.A. and Music of the Mill
''J. Michael Walker has created a moving people's history of L.A. that unites its past, present, and hope for the future.''--Charlene Villasenor Black, associate professor of art history at UCLA and author of Constructing the Cult of St. Joseph: Art and Gender in the Spanish Empire
''J. Michael Walker's book is an original, deeply empathetic spiritual geography of Los Angeles that sights present day sanctity among today's humble and downtrodden.''--Laura Perez, associate professor of Chicano studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities
''This book does a wonderful job addressing the cultural and spiritual meaning behind the saint-named streets of L.A.!''--''Man One,'' L.A.-based urban muralist, graffiti artist, and co-owner of Crewest Gallery, Los Angeles
''Walker's narrative and drawings represent a sacred art for people who search for the divine in the wistful or worrisome faces of real Angelenos. A round of applause for All the Saints!'' --Jaime Lara, associate professor of Christian art and architecture, and program chair of religion and the arts at Yale University Divinity School
Artist finds L.A.'s saints in unlikely places When J. Michael Walker first visited Santa Clara Street, he felt a twinge of disappointment. "There's nothing here," he thought as he scanned the two-block street in southeast Los Angeles, hemmed in by red-brick walls, barbed wire and railroad tracks. Where could he find St. Clare? Then he understood. Santa Clara Street lay at the heart of a threadbare industrial zone. Its windowless warehouses and boarded-up factories were coated with truck dust, its streets empty of people. Similarly, St. Clare had sought poverty. She embodied self-denial. So Walker painted her as a gentle-faced woman standing next to barbed wire and security bars, lifting a railroad lantern. He inscribed his painting with a poem he composed for the saint and her street: Santa Clara had sought the privilege of absolute poverty,And found it here, on this meager portion of a street. That was seven years ago. Street by street, from Boyle Heights to Pacific Palisades, Walker has spent the intervening years studying saints and the histories of the 103 streets of Los Angeles that bear their names. He walked the pavement to see how the two might intertwine. Then he created images of the saints in sumi ink and serigraph on 4-by-6-foot pieces of paper, adding his poetry in ink. Curving across the top is an arch with the words, "Todos los Santos de Los Angeles." Publication... (coincides with) an exhibit that will begin in February at the Autry's Museum of the American West. But along the way to publication, Walker discovered something magical. His stories of saints and their streets were really not as neat as the page proofs stacked at his studio in Montecito Heights. This is an unruly, ever-changing city, and its stories were changing, too. Last week, Walker returned to Santa Clara Street and found a changing landscape. He swerved his dented gray Hyundai past delivery trucks and 18-wheelers. As he drove with one hand, he pointed out a new taco shop, pricey new condominiums in the Fashion District and then drab gray warehouses and barbed wire. The street is still bleak, but now it doubles as a parking lot and a shortcut to the Santa Monica Freeway, and machines hum inside the red-brick factory walls. "This project has taken me to places you would not normally visit," he said. San Pablo Street, for instance, ran from railroad tracks past weedy lots and faceless buildings northeast of downtown. Then it turned into a dirt road leading uphill to a bluff overlooking the city and the cathedral windows of County-USC Medical Center. He thought of the hilltop as a spot where St. Paul could issue his epistles. Although he is not a formal Catholic, Walker feels a close affinity to Catholic spirituality and culture, and despite his Arkansas roots, "more Latino than not," he said. The project sprang initially from his years in rural Mexico,where small saints' images, or retablos,adorned walls in nearly every room in the rural homes, typically as inexpensive offset lithographs framed in tin. These images were more intimate than looming stained-glass saints in large city churches. They kept watch over the rituals of people's lives. Walker said his pages were "affording the saints an opportunity to comment on how they've been used in Southern California." His research on the saints is rooted in a $6,500 grant from the city of Los Angeles, which commissioned paintings of the saints to hang in bus shelters near their namesake streets for two months. But Walker delved further. He learned that the vast majority of city streets with saints' names did not get those names during the Spanish-Mexican era, as many people assume, but during the great expansion of the late 19th and 20th centuries.Real estate developers assigned the names randomly... --L.A. Times 10/11/2007
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
The character and face of the City continue to evolve, becoming at once more modern and more ancient, constant change giving rise to fears and conflicts, as its people search for a degree of harmony and commonality that can bridge so many differences, and which can bring some sense of alignment to the suspicious dissonances which inevitably arise from the clash of time and cultures which are today's Los Angeles.
In his book, "All the Saints of the City of the Angels: Seeking the Soul of L.A. On Its Streets", artist and writer J Michael Walker has captured an essential part of the cultural tide washing against the Southern California shore - his portraits of modern Los Angeles painted in political, spiritual and historical hues vividly illustrate the complex and dynamic organism that is contemporary Los Angeles.
Walker's work, a result of what must be a lifetime of exploration and research on the subject, weaves the modern realities of gang violence, homelessness and poverty into the complicated heritage of Los Angeles, producing a rich and detailed tapestry which depicts the history and aspirations of a rapidly changing international city. More importantly, Walker's work connects a diverse assemblage of those who have only Los Angeles in common, and promotes among them thoughtful and passionate discussion about many of the most serious and challenging issues currently confronting this extremely dynamic and always evolving community.Read more ›