12 November

The big news story of the past week is about Mr Alf, who lives with my sister. Poor Mr Alf has an infected paw and he had to have the dressing changed every day, one day he had tractors on his bandage and the next he had chickens. Here he is modelling said decorative bandages.  The news from the humans who live in his house to care for him is that he is getting better. Oh and there was also an election here!

Although America doesn’t have buildings as old as those in the UK, it has wonderful examples of Art Deco, and Union Station is one of them. Union Station opened in May 1939 and was partially designed by John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson, assisted by a group of supporting architects, including Jan van der Linden. The structure combines Art Deco, Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne style.

Inside the building the lower parts of the interior walls are covered in travertine marble; the upper parts have an early form of acoustical tile. The floor in the large rooms is terra cotta  with a central strip of inlaid marble (including travertine, somewhat unusual in floors since it is soft). The ceiling in the waiting room has the appearance of wood, but is actually made of steel. Outside there are peaceful garden areas to sit in, which also provide shade from the heat of the sun.

Across the road from the station is El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, which is near the site of the early Los Angeles pueblo where 44 settlers of Native American, African and European heritage journeyed more than a thousand miles across the desert from Mexico and established a farming community in 1781.  In 1953, this oldest section of the city was designated a state historic park, reflecting the heritage of the people who contributed to the early history of the city, these included, Native American, Spanish, Mexican, Anglo, African American, Chinese, Italian and French.

It’s like a little park area now with a bandstand in the middle, an old photo shows what it was like before this.

I had a guided tour of the area by a delightful woman called Anita. I visited the Italian American, and the Chinese American museums, the Plaza Firehouse, Olvera Street, Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, and Avila Adobe, a home built by a prominent ranchero Don Francisco Avila, (he was mayor of LA in 1810), around 1818. It’s the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. There is an original photo of the property, showing what it looked like before it was severely damaged by the 1971 earthquake, the restoration now reflects Mexican ranchero lifestyle of California in the 1840s.

The Siquerious Mural, America Tropical, painted by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siquerious in 1932, was supposed to be about happy men, parrots, and palms with fruit falling into the mouths of people. Siqueiros came to Los Angeles as a political refugee in 1932 and was sponsored by the Plaza Art Center to create a mural.

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However, Sequeiros completely disobeyed the institutional project request and created his own mural, which turned out to be one of the most controversial art pieces in Los Angeles history.  The mural is quite difficult to see as it is outside, and in the process of being restored, as it was covered up with white paint over seventy years ago. The painting depicts a Maya like pyramid with surrounding twisted trees and in the centre was an indigenous person crucified, dead on a double edged cross. On the left side of the pyramid there are two snipers overlooking the imperial American eagle who is on top of the crucified indigenous person and the two Mexican revolutionary snipers look ready to shoot at any time. Now recognised as a part of LA history, a viewing platform has been built and a shade to protect it from further sun damage.

Another example of Art Deco is the Richard J. Riordan Central Library. Comprised of the original 1926 library now called the Goodhue Building, (named after the architect Bertram Goodhue who designed it) and a 1993 addition named after a former mayor Tom Bradley, it ranks with the Bradbury Building (on my list to visit) and Union Station, as a treasure of the city’s historic downtown. The library has been designated a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There are many external sculptures and carvings.

The interior of the Goodhue building is a delight, with richly painted murals and decorated ceilings of the rotunda and reading rooms.

I think this contrasts well with the art in the Tom Bradbury wing. Three huge chandeliers, 18 feet in diameter, designed by Therman Statom, dominate the atrium. The first chandelier references nature with a bird, a flower, a ladybug and an egg. The second has eyeglasses, a quarter note, a ceramic jug and a silhouette-like model of a house, to symbolize material things and the culture of the everyday. The third chandelier features an angel, an hourglass, and a heart, symbols of abstraction and spirituality.

When I came out of the library the sun had moved behind a high rise building so I got a couple of photos of the view down the street.

My final destination this week was Barnsdall Park to visit Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Aline Barnsdall commissioned Wright to build the house for her. Built between 1919 and 1921, Aline never lived in it, in 1926 she gave the house and the eleven acres of grounds around it, to the city of LA, for use as a public park in memory of her father. One gets amazing views of the city from the park.

The house takes its name from the hollyhock blossom, the favourite flower of Aline Barnsdall. Wright’s abstracted hollyhock patterns were incorporated into the decoration motif on and in the residence.

The 11 November is Veterans Day here, and is a public holiday. Schools, banks and public agencies are closed, there are celebrations, parades and remembrance events and lots of coffee shops and restaurants offer free food and or drinks to veterans or current members of the armed forces, I think this is lovely. In the UK we have remembrance events, but it’s not a public holiday and I’m not aware of places giving out free stuff.

The clocks went back an hour here last weekend, which I thought was weird as it now gets dark around five o’clock, so for about a week I was seven hours behind the UK and now I’m back to eight.

 

 

 

 

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