Towards the end of July,
just before they headed back home,
the seven stunning members
of the Nigerian singing troupe
made a last-minute visit to my studio
where I was blessed not only by
their luminous presence,
but also by the sheer joy
of getting to take their portraits.
The editor of LA Observed,
got wind of the images
that flowed from our session,
a detail of which is shown at left,
In July 2013,
George Zimmerman was stunningly,
offensively found not guilty in the murder
of Trayvon Martin, in Florida.
I created these two digital artworks -
focusing on Sybrina Fulton,
Trayvon's mother -
for free online distribution and sharing.
I was pleased to note
their rapid dissemination
through social media.
In June I was profiled,
by editor-author Kat Ward.
Her story, here, is nicely lyrical,
and features many images of my art
and of my studio.
I rather like her opening paragraph:
"A lot goes on in J. Michael Walker’s work.
You need time, a moment,
maybe a little stillness and quiet to take it all in,
to hear the birds, to feel the rustle of the wind,
the ache of years, the magic of life,
to be infused by the characters
and souls he nurtures to life
with his pencils."
Photo at left by Kat Ward,
The Summer 2013 issue of Artillery Magazine features an essay by art historian Betty Brown, entitled "Mexico as Muse," highlighting artists of non-Mexican descent whose work has been influenced by living or working in Mexico.
I am pleased and honored to be the only
living artist interviewed and discussed
at length in the essay,
and to have my artwork, including my drawing
in the issue.
Summer 2013 I was invited to participate
in a nice group show touring the midwest,
dedicated to the work and memory of singer-songwriter, activist and griot Gil Scott-Heron.
Curated by Christopher Thorpe,
the exhibition opened in July in
Des Moines, Iowa; and moves
to Chicago in August.
A possible showing in Los Angeles,
for early 2014, is in the planning.
My requested piece, shown in detail at left,
is "I Must Burn Myself into My Memory."
A full image of the piece may be viewed here.
Late May the cool website LA Observed
a pretty mystical experience I had
in Downtown LA, on the cusp of Skid Row,
and my encounter with the mysterious
and marvelous Little Bit.
My story ran accompanied by my drawing,
|In April, Ed Fuentes wrote an essay
on KCET's Departures blog,
as part of his "Writing on the Walls" series,
which is "Departures' coverage on murals
and street art in Los Angeles",
about the convergence of art, text and street, entitled "Street Art Writes New Rules
on Urban Linguistics."
My art figures into Ed's take on it all,
and my piece shown in detail at left
is the coda for his essay.
"J. Michael Walker... doesn't approach writing
as brief thoughts, but as literature. It's not specifically street art, but art about streets, as
seen in his "All the Saints of the City of the Angels," a series of paintings inspired by streets named after saints that uses phrase as title and subtext within the work, or his mural-like map of Los Angeles that follows the city cultural bloodlines with quotes."
Late April I was invited to speak
to UCLA students about my literary map of
Los Angeles, "City in Mind:
A Lyrical Map of the Concept of Los Angeles."
Afterwards, one of the students, Stephan Phan, interviewed me for an audio report on my project.
It's an interesting piece he created,
touching on a variety of cultural issues as well.
In March I was invited to give a presentation
on creativity, for a couple dozen members of Leadership Pasadena,
almost all of whom, I was warned,
do NOT consider themselves creative.
Upon reflection, I recognized there were
perhaps a dozen small mantras I had
picked up over the years,
which seemed to help and guide me in my art;
I chose to illustrate each one with examples
of art I had created that illustrate each guide.
Seemed to work:
The audience loved it - so did I.
On February 28 I was invited
to give a presentation
on my literary map of Los Angeles,
"City in Mind: A Lyrical Map of the Concept
of Los Angeles," part the Los Feliz Library's monthly Art and Architecture series.
We had a full to overflowing crowd for the event, which was heartwarming, to say the least;
and some good question and answer,
back and forth -
and a very nice dinner afterwards....
Thanks for the invitation!
This was my second appearance there,
having spoken on my All the Saints book
a few years ago.
Being invited to exhibit in the LA Art Show
was a magical, wonderful experience.
I'm deeply appreciative
to gallerist Jack Rutberg
for curating me into his special exhibition,
"Letters from LA."
Here I stand to the right of
one of two pieces I have
in the show, my drawing
"La Santa Desconocida / The Unknown Saint",
with, from left, critic Molly Barnes,
curator/gallerist Jack Rutberg,
and great painter and friend Jim Morphesis.
I am excited to be curated into a special
exhibition as part of this year's international
LA Art Show, from January 23-27, 2013,
at LA's Downtown Convention Center -
my first time!
"Letters from LA" is curated by local gallerist
Jack Rutberg, and features a wealth of internationally famous artists -
as well as some of us "little guys."
My sumi ink triptych on paper, at left, entitled
"San Miguel Street- the Last Judgment of
Don Vicente de los Reyes de la Osa,"
measures 7' by 15'.
I was honored to be invited to participate
in a group exhibition honoring Saint Juan Diego
and the Virgin of Guadalupe,
at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral,
in Downtown Los Angeles,
for the month of December 2012.
We received some nice Spanish language
media interest for this exhibition,
including an article in La Opinion newspaper,
I am excited to be included in a great exhibit, opening Saturday, November 17 and running through December 22, 2012 - the wide-ranging survey show "Letters From Los Angeles:
Text in Southern California Art," at the
esteemed Jack Rutberg Fine Arts Gallery,
in Los Angeles.
I have always admired Jack's erudition, taste,
and knowledge of the art and artists he exhibits;
so it is great to be exhibiting my work alongside some of the most well-known Angeleno artists, including: Alexis Smith, John Baldessari,
Ed Ruscha, Lari Pittman, Raymond Pettibon, Barbara Kruger, Lita Albuquerque,
George Herms, and Llyn Foulkes.
On Sunday, November 11, 2012,
the very cool literary project that I'm involved in, Literature for Life, held its first public reading, at Avenue 50 Studio, in Highland Park, Los Angeles, in conjunction with my solo show of artwork inspired by the writing of the authors affiliated
with our project.
Among those reading their short stories and
poetry were Lit for Life's founding director,
novelist and essayist Jervey Tervalon
(pictured at right); poet Celeste Gonzalez;
and authors Lainnie Capouya,
Andrew Ramirez, and Ariana Rodriguez.
Great turnout, great stories,
great vibe, great afternoon.
For the month of November 2012 I had
a solo show at Avenue 50 Studio,
entitled "Words on Paper/Works on Paper," comprised of eleven recent paintings
and drawings I've created for the very cool
web project, Literature for Life.
Most of the pieces can be viewed on
my webpage dedicated to Literature for Life,
It's slightly irrational, but many of these pieces, created to be viewed on the web are quite large:
the painting at left is over six feet wide....
This is a drawing I did back in 1989,
in homage to my maternal grandmother,
Elsie Salmonat, for Dia de los Muertos
(Day of the Dead).
I designed the wooden frame as an altar,
which was built for me
by my sweetheart friend Stephanie Woods.
I dusted the piece off for inclusion in a very
nice Dia de los Muertos exhibition, curated
by fellow artist Margaret Garcia,
that was held at the Echo Park area
El Centro Del Pueblo in Los Angeles.
This fall I was honored to be invited to be
in a massive survey show, "BAILA con Duende," curated by LA artist Lili Bernard.
The title can be translated as
"Dance with the Spirit"; but the first word -
BAILA - is an acronym for Black Artists
in Los Angeles. which gives a sense of
the breadth and intention of the exhibition,
some seventy or more artists full.
My drawing "Woman Possessed (by Exu),"
from my Bahia experience,was chosen for
Show runs from September 19, 2012 -
January 6, 2013.
This summer 2012 I was happy to be
commissioned to create the cover image
as well as the total album package design,
including the cd itself, for my musician friend
Ciro Hurtado's new recording, entitled
"Los Angeles Blues."
I've long loved Ciro's music, his improvisations
and meanderings based in traditional Andean musical forms; and this new cd has eleven
You can listen to the music -
and purchase the recording - here.
July 2, 2012:
My new image of Rodney King
appears on the Homepage of the
Los Angeles Review of Books,
as the visual accompaniment to
LA author Jervey Tervalon's deep meditation
on the meanings of Rodney King,
and his passing.
On Sunday, June 17, 2012,
Father's Day, Rodney King died.
If ever a more complicated,
frail and wounded man was
thrust unbidden into the public spotlight,
I don't know who it might be.
Reading his words in one of the myriad
news articles that attended his passing,
I was haunted by the simple wisdom
that could emanate from
a man known neither for his eloquence
nor for his "shining example."
Indeed, it is precisely his utter humanity
that keeps him forever in our hearts,
unresolved into an easy definition....
On Saturday, June 9, 2012,
I exhibited a suite of six new portraits
of homeless people, and gave a short presentation about my relationship with one of them, Jevona,
at the first-ever TedX Skid Row conference,
in Downtown Los Angeles.
At left is a photo taken
of part of the installation.
in the Los Angeles Times today,
June 8, 2012, on the very cool project,
Lit for Life brings together short fiction and
non-fiction by area writers, to be shared with
middle school and high school students, to encourage them to see that literature can
speak to their experiences.
I am fortunate to be the princial artist
for the project: at left is a recent painting
of mine, done to accompany a
The article mentions my work
towards the end of the story.
On Saturday 9 June 2012,
a Ted-related conference on homelessness,
and what triggers can excite or inspire us to
get past seeing social issues in an abstract way,
and to collaborate with one another to address
them in a humanistic fashion.
In addition to a short talk,
I am displaying six new, large-scale portraits
of homeless denizens of
San Julian Street, in LA's Skid Row
(two portraits are at left).
I am also creating the large sculptural
"X" that will anchor the stage.
The great writer and humanitarian
just as the planet Venus was in transit across
the sun - an event almost as rare as the
appearance of such a wonderful being.
I portrayed Bradbury last year,
in my "Lyrical Map of the Concept
of Los Angeles," and thought it would be
nice to post his portrait in tribute,
as his text is so wonderful....
On May 15, 2012, the Los Angeles Times
ran my remembrance essay on my good friend
and fellow artist Willie Middlebrook,
who passed away unexpectedly
a short time before.
which ran on the Times' Op-Ed page.
The image at left is a digital one I created
in homage to Willie and our friendship:
it incorporates our figures,
from a photo taken by artist Carole McCoy;
a central background image from one
of Willie's final photo-paintings;
and a border from one of my drawn panels
from my "Seattle Seven Sacraments"