Over 6 miles of downtown streets were closed to traffic in the heart of Los Angeles for CicLAvia.  Yesterday officially marked the 5 year anniversary of the event that celebrates physical activity, community engagement and alternative modes of transportation.


During CicLAvia all non motorized modes of transportation are free to take over the blocked off streets of Los Angeles for a day of exercise, food and fun.  Along yesterday’s designated route in the “Heart of LA” event organizers set up hubs in Chinatown, Grand Park, 7th & Figueroa, MacArthur Park, the Arts District and Highland Park.  During the day riders enjoyed Food Trucks, attractions, photo booths, DJs, dancing and cheers of encouragement from the volunteers.  This was my first CicLAvia but I seen and heard about the event for years.  I normally stick to bike trails when I ride and have always had a slight fear of city cycling (mainly because I simply don’t trust other drivers) so I could not pass up an opportunity to cycle through some of my favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles.  Plus I liked the idea of giving a figurative middle finger to the ever-present car culture that dominates Los Angeles.

From the minute we started our CicLAvia journey we were encouraged to explore new neighborhoods.  After tuning up our bikes the day before we got a flat on the way to the event, so we made a detour to Ryky’s Bike Shop in East LA to get it fixed. The shop was about 2 miles from the route and the place was buzzing with excited cyclists making their last-minute adjustments before the ride.  After that slight detour we were ready to go.

We jumped into CicLAvia at the Chinatown hub and rode into Grand Park, then continued to MacArthur Park to see the beautiful spheres in the lake as part of the “Portraits of Hope” installation.  After that we rode back through downtown to the Arts District.  After crossing the 4th street bridge into Boyle Heights we rewarded ourselves with tacos and dance music in Hollenbeck Park (climbing the 4th street bridge to head back to Chinatown after tacos with a single speed bike was not the smartest thing I did all day, but I survived).

unnamed-13 Along the route there was virtually every form of non-motorized transportation on the streets from fixies and tandems to penny farthing bikes (I call them Famolare Bikes), wheelchairs, strollers, roller skaters, low rider bikes, land paddlers on long boards, joggers, walkers, unicycles and some stuff that defy explanation. Some people were decked out in traditional cycling gear while others decided to celebrate Halloween early.  The one thing that everyone wore Sunday was a smile on their face.  That’s what makes CicLAvia such an enchanting experience.  It truly brings out the best of people to experience the best of Los Angeles.  I can’t wait to do this again.


I thought I would share my latest post on TONDI featuring Corita Kent who was a nun/art director who harmonized social activism with punchy graphic, pop art.  Her work was inspired by Andy Warhol and it is currently on view in an exhibition called “Someday Is Now” at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

For more on Sister Corita Kent:

“The Joyous Revolutionary” c/o TONDI

Sister Corita’s work is also part of my digital exhibition, Burn, Baby, Burn which highlights artists and work inspired by the Watts Riots.


TONDI’s first virtual exhibition Burn Baby Burn will take you into the work of Mark Bradford and Noah Purifoy who were each given large scale retrospectives at the Hammer and LACMA this summer.  The virtual exhibition is anchored by two essays that probe into specific works found in each exhibit.  In Scorched Earth we examine how Mark Bradford uses his artistic process to excavate meaning from the past and how trauma impacts the body (both in physical and political forms).  Noah Purifoy’s Junk Dada at LACMA shares how the Watts Riots became a pivotal moment which altered the career of the artist.

This digital exhibit will also highlight other artists that have used their work to express and convey emotion with a symbolic power that speaks volumes.

Please check out the new site!

New Site! TONDI


My new site is officially up!  I’m excited about trying something new and I invite you all to continue to follow my journey into contemporary art on TONDI.  I truly value all of my followers on WordPress and have learned so much from this first blog.  Cheers to a new beginning!


From Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, Illustrated by Yayoi Kusama

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

`Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

`What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. `Explain yourself!’

`I can’t explain MYSELF, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, `because I’m not myself, you see.’

`I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.

`I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely.”

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  For the better part of the last 5 years I have been pleasantly challenged by this question.  Facing the enormity of this query is scary in itself, but in reality we pose this existential dilemma to ourselves in other subtle ways:  “What would you do if you won the lottery?”, or “What would you tell your 20-year-old self?”  Whatever the iteration, this form of self-analysis simply boils down to fear (or the absence thereof).


After 21 years in my career I decided to take a sabbatical to ask myself this question.  As a result, my blog went on hiatus too. I didn’t travel the world or sell all of my possessions, but I did pursue some personal goals.  I am happy to say that I love what I’ve accomplished and I truly enjoyed the process.  Taking that first leap into the unknown was the hardest part of it all.  I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me but I know I am on the right path.

I am pleased to announce that I will soon launch a brand new site.  I have loved Culture Shock Art; editing this blog has taught me so much about art, design, writing and social media.  With all that I have learned over the past 5 years with Culture Shock, I decided to take my love for art in a slightly different direction.  My new site is in its “caterpillar” stage and I will be sure to share details on where you can find me once it is launched.  I’m really excited about how this project is turning out!

So…“What would you do if YOU weren’t afraid?”

Finding the answer to this question is not as difficult as you may think, especially if you start by deciding to be happy.

For as long as I’ve been writing Culture Shock Art one of my biggest challenges involves whether I should write about work I have not seen in person.  In order to effectively write a piece about a specific piece of art you have to see it in person, otherwise you cannot bring a reader into the process of experiencing the art.  While this is true, I believe there is power in the second-hand account of a piece of art.  A first hand description of art can influence later interpretations for those that cannot experience the work in the flesh.  This week I saw a photo of “Disremembered”, by Doris Salcedo, a sculpture that illuminates the power of art to expose our blind spots.  Appreciating art involves us confronting those blind spots to find deeper, personal meaning in a piece and within ourselves. “Disremembered” addresses the painful legacy of gun violence and the lingering emotions and isolation felt by family members lost in its wake.  The gauzy, etherial, ghost-like appearance of the garment is a haunting reminder of lives lost and the shells of family members left behind.

Doris Salcedo

Doris Salcedo “Disremembered, I”, 2014. Photo Credit, Guggenheim, NYC

Seeing images of “Disrememebered” on Wednesday immediately exposed the realities of how gun violence impacted my family recently.  It has been a little over a year since the murder of one of my cousins, Inity Morrow.  When she was a young girl her mother made the difficult decision to have her children raised by their Grandmothers.  My close cousin Will lived with his maternal Grandmother in Northern California and Inity moved to Indianapolis, IN to live with her paternal Grandmother and as a result of this I lost touch with her.  As siblings my cousins Will and Inity became closer in adulthood.  Inity was preparing for a move to Atlanta to seek a new lease on life and amid the excitement and angst of making a major life change, one of her biggest supporters was her brother.  She was so close to that new beginning and realizing new possibilities for her life, but a man with a gun had other plans for the lives of Inity and her grandmother as he killed them in their home.  While the horror of this tragedy was directly suffered by Inity’s family in Indianapolis, the ripples of pain reverberated through her brother and eventually us.  The pain that was most assuredly a part of me was conveniently buried along with my lost cousin and the memory of her life faded into a statistic as another tragic footnote in a politicized national debate over gun control.  Just as my family’s contact with Inity faded many years ago when she moved away, the pain and guilt faded out of focus after her death.  Disremembered exposed my blind spots of not fully grappling with the grief of her loss, how it affected my cousin Will and my guilt in realizing I was not a part of her life; these buried emotions came to surface upon hearing the news of police shootings and the recent massacre in Charleston last month. Despite the numerous conversations I had with people about Charleston South Carolina, I had so many lingering, unprocessed emotions about violence, forgiveness, denial, accountability and the power of symbols in history.  It was difficult to put those feelings into words.  Even though I was physically detached from the Charleston 9, it was impossible for me to be emotionally detached from the pain of their families.  This tragedy illuminated the nation’s collective blind spots concerning racism and access to guns and it connected us to a level of pain that we either cannot process or choose to avoid. When we unpack these emotions, they have must have someplace to go. I think this speaks to the power of art to bring our emotion and empathy to the surface and the power of the written word to express that emotion.  President Obama’s eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinkney was a powerful demonstration of the transformative power of words to allow us to process grief. As he directly exposed our collective blind spots on race and gun violence, he simultaneously provided a catharsis required for us to collectively move forward. “For too long we have been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.”  ~President Barack Obama, Charleston In his call to action, the President encouraged us all to face the uncomfortable realities of prejudice and challenged us to do the hard work that lasting change requires. “It would be a betrayal of everything Pinkney stood for if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.” ~President Barack Obama, Charleston

Detail of

Detail of “Disremembered” by Doris Salcedo. Photo Credit: Doris Salcedo via the NYT

One interesting feature of the etherial garments in “Disremembered” is that they are composed of thin, black sewing needles, a detail that is not immediately apparent in photographs of the piece.  Neither the ghost of a painful memory, nor the legacy of tragedy do not simply fade without the specter of pain (visible and hidden).  Healing occurs when we expose that pain and transform it into something new, positive and constructive.

Doris Salcedo,

Doris Salcedo, “Plegaria Muda”, 2008-2010. Photo Credit: Guggenheim Museum, New York

Another piece from the Salcedo show at the Guggenheim is a memorial named “Plegaria Muda” (Mute Prayer).  The sculptor transformed tables into makeshift graves representing lives lost to gun violence in anonymity.  The inspiration for this memorial came to the artist after she visited women in Los Angeles who lost children to gun violence.  Salcedo, who hails from Columbia was not immune to the tragedies of gun violence and immediately saw parallels between the Los Angeles mothers and mothers in Columbia who lost their loved ones in internal conflict.  This memorial draws an important link between the tragedies of the past and our present realities.  In Friday’s eulogy the President pointed out another blind spot.  In tragic situations our eyes are forced open as we address extreme acts of violence that make media headlines, however there are countless lives lost to gun violence in the is nation that remain faceless and nameless.  Plegaria Muda exposes this notion of “repressed phantom grief” and attempts to re-sensitize viewers to it.

Doris Salcedo,

Doris Salcedo, “Plegaria Muda”, 2008-2010. Photo Credit: Guggenheim Museum, New York

While the work in Salcedo’s exhibit exposes painful tragedies, much like Obama’s eulogy, the blades of grass emerging from Plegaria Muda, give us a glimpse of life, promise, renewal and transformation. In memory of Inity Morrow, Julia Morrow, and the Charleston 9 Dedicated to the families living in the aftermath of gun violence.


Last year I went to a meeting at the CleanTech Incubator near the L.A. river and I was surprised to see how much development has gone into the Arts District.  Over the last few months I’ve been getting acquainted to L.A.’s latest gentrified, “it” neighborhood.  Here’s what I LOVE about it:  The energy is phenomenal (I think that has to do with the fact that there are amazing coffee houses on every corner).  The murals are stunning.  The designers and artists that created this community (and lived here before it was trendy) are still here.

The Arts District is nearing a tipping point. The money has moved in but not the pretentiousness and congestion that plagues other nearby communities (sorry Silverlake and Atwater) and again, the bonus is that the artists are still hanging in.  It is my favorite neighborhood in L.A.

Here are some pics of my favorite spots:


Gifts galore at Poketo

Gifts galore at Poketo

Click here for more pics on Steller.


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