On Tuesday April 8, 1980 the majority of the Iranian population in the U.S. and specially in Los Angeles were students. Some were here before the Iranian revolution and many came after, but almost all were receiving money for school tuition and other living costs from back home. The U.S. government’s decision to block these particular funds had a very long lasting effect on the lives of a lot of young people. For some this might have even been a turning point. This was the beginning, if not the beginning of the end of a chapter in these students’ lives.
Once Upon A Time in Los Angeles has its roots in this day! It is one of my projects that’s been eating dust for so many years. I will be posting images from this project here and if you care to share any of them please include proper credit and links to the source.
Note: The featured image is a bad photographic reproduction of the from page of LA Times from a time when even Fax machines were not yet available for purchase! So please excuse the quality..
Milton Quon and Tyrus Wong are two living legends. This photo was taken at Milton’s 100th birthday celebration on August 24, 2013. Tyrus is 102. They are both artists and have been practicing their art for over 80 years. They are both well loved in their communities and have been influential in their respective field. Generations of people around the world are familiar with Disney’s Fantasia and Bambi, but they wouldn’t find Milton or Tyrus’s names in the credits. Fortunately, within the past few years and due to the efforts of a handful of arts professionals, art exhibitions and documentaries have shed light on the significance of these two great artists. Milton Quon’s work was recently part of a major Exhibition ‘Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles along with Tyrus and three other Artists and curated by Sonia Mak. Tyrus Wong is the subject of a new exhibition, Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wongin San Francisco organized by Michael Labrie.
2012 was a transitional year for some of us. We had to take that step we knew was inevitable for a long time. The gallery I ran closed its doors for good in April. It was difficult to accept only because we were doing some great things and we should have been able to continue. Later that year When Man One told me that Crewest, the gallery he owned, was going to shut down too, I had the same rotten feeling. Why is it that anyone who is doing some valuable work in the cultural field for their community can not keep their doors open. This after all was not the first time I was directly involved in this kind of situation. Man One (Alex Poli) and crew were doing great service to a large portion of the city of Los Angeles. You can find so much about them just by searching the internet. Crewest was a very special place that brought together so many people from different generations and backgrounds from all over LA and beyond. But it’s not all bad. Man One got himself a new studio and kept going. He is probably doing even more now than he had time for at Crewest. He is a shining star for his community and a hell of a nice guy who deserves all the best coming his way because he is the one who makes it possible.
Yuri Shimojo is one of the great artists I’ve had the pleasure of working with. One day when she was at the gallery with Rudy, her best friend, I managed to catch this moment. Rudy is very sweet and lovely. He is also the subject of many of Yuri’s drawings. If you like to see yuri’s works, including some with Rudy in them, please visit: yurishimojo.com
I took this photo when I saw Ahmad Shamlou in 1989. He was very gracious. I had asked him to give me a few minutes before his reading (a fundraiser in support of the victims of an earthquake in northern Iran). When he arrived he wasn’t feeling well but didn’t say anything about it. I noticed just the same and told him that it would be OK if he was not up to it. I explained that I didn’t want to impose on him and we could take photos another time. He insisted that I do it as long as I didn’t take too long. So I respected his wish, and this and other photos are the result of that day.
He returned a year later to do another reading, this time in support of the Kurdish refugees. He was in much better health and his sense of humor was back. I gave him a couple of prints of this photo in the dressing room. He took them out of the envelope, and after he saw this photo, he said: “you made me look like Emamzadeh” (a saint) and laughed. Aida, his wife who was standing right beside him smacked him playfully on his shoulder and said “is this how you treat young artists?” to which he replied “I’m kidding, he gets it…”
I know I’m not the only one wishing that he was still around… There will never be another Shamlou.