Empty Lot Crush
LA few blocks from where I live is an empty lot. It’s crammed between two smallish buildings facing the BQE. When I first saw it in the Fall of 2014 it was barren of foliage and littered with building debris. There was a cinder block wall dividing it. In one half huddled the remains of a tiny wooden house, in the other was a tall metal column supporting a billboard aimed at the highway. Both sides and the column were awash in graffiti. I was instantly smitten. I began stalking it, taking photos through the gaps in the chainlink fence and comtemplating climbing in. On the left side, in front of the trashed house, was a circle of giant bolts protruding from the cement. They had hexagonal nuts screwed down to the bases that were submerged in a dark pool where leaves drowned their colors. It was an urban fairyland wherein the city crouched in miniature and met a bit of the wild: the patinas of dry and wet cement, the thickets of writing, the soft fur of brilliant green moss at the water’s lips and the sodden piles of amber leaves lacing the walls.
So I took my new crush home and did a big paper painting of the bolt circle:
22 X 30 watercolor on paper
But that was just foreplay. So I mapped out a bigger picture, resisting my resistance to straight lines. There were a lot of bricks and cinder blocks, thus a LOT of straight lines. As I built up the two volumes of the lot I started to think about the emotions that spacial structure causes. In this case, illusionistic space, but nonetheless very capable of manipulating around the intellect. All the finagling with perspective seemed to reverse back on me as though the t-square and rulers were suddenly surgical probes rearranging my innards. This is what happens when you’ve been painting a lot, then stop and let your brain whirr on its own. Not sure it’s a good idea. Meanwhile:
The wall on the left I stole from one of the ocean dioramas at the Museum of Natural History, and since pink is God’s favorite color, it is seeping through the mortar of the bricks and cinder blocks:
The Empty Lot
36 X 48 oil on wood:
But it didn’t stop there. I frequently would visit the lot and contemplate the changes. When Spring came I did another painting. The house is now gone. The poem on the column is by Cold Mountain, a famous hermit poet who wrote his poems on rocks in the mountains of China. This one talks about that place, where the ice doesn’t melt even in the summer.
The Not-So-Empty Lot
36 X 36 oil on wood:
And then came the flush of Summer with its deep blacks and fizzing greens. The two sides had flourished in neglect so I did a diptych.
I haven’t done anymore although I still go by to check out the new graffiti and see the seasonal shifts. I’m still a little bit in love.
Whitney Wolff’s photos on instagram:
Gil Roth’s podcast: Virtual Memories Show at
Eddie Campbell & Audrey Niffenegger’s new book
The morning has drained into the afternoon… I can see the traffic backed up on the BQE… hope you liked my urban romance.
Till the words are frenzied enough to restructure in the material world again……..