Tag Archives: S.P.A.R.C.

Don’t Kid Yourself: The Mural Attack Alert

Saturday, April 13, 2019


I just tweeted: “The whitewashing of this mural was NOT an accident, but a deliberate, vicious attack on an artist depicting an extraordinarily important moment in women’s sports.” I will now elaborate.

In this blog, I try to maintain a relatively calm, thoughtful tone that is civil and respectful, but my patience with those who behavior is deplorable has reached a boiling point with this latest attack on cultural work. Do not kid yourself. The blotting out of this mural was a direct, intentional assault on women, both in the artistic and athletic domain. For the California Department of Transportation to claim that they cannot determine who bears the responsibility for this act is a despicable act of bureaucratic cowardice in which misogynistic behavior is protected as if it were an endangered species.

Think about it, folks. If this were a mural by Edward Ruscha depicting Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run in 1988, do you really think it would have been obliterated without anyone saying a thing? Do you honestly believe that an all-male work crew would happily wield their rollers and mush on whitewash right over Vin Scully’s face in the broadcast booth as he mouths the words, “In a year of the improbable, the impossible has happened”? Give me a fuckin’ break. Patriarchal hypocrisy just farted in our faces.

I have the good fortune to recollect that I witnessed both the start and finish of the first Women’s Marathon at the 1984 Olympics. It is one of my most treasured memories. My first wife, Cathay, who was on a running team when she served in the U.S. Army, and I went to Santa Monica College early one morning to witness the start of the race; and we then drove to the USC Coliseum to witness its finish. Somewhere, in an archival box, I have some photographs I took at that event, and I will post them as soon as I can find them.

In the meantime, I want to say that I regard this action as no different than having someone physically assault me. There is no amount of money that can make up for this insult to women artists and women athletes. It is not an isolated action, but directly connected to the forces in our society that are passing “fetal heartbeat” anti-abortion bills.

We’ve seen these kinds of characters before, both in daily life and in the history of fascist activism. “Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meine Browning!” (Hans Johst) Do not pretend that the same forces are not at work in this present example. “When I see a mural depicting feminist empowerment, I fill my bucket with whitewash.”

I urge all of us to send both notes of solidarity (as well as any economic support we can offer) to Judy Baca’s S.P.A.R.C.

The Social and Public Art Resource Center
685 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

This organization, which is located next to Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, is leading the effort to restore the mural. Spark the resistance!

Oriana Ivy — APRIL SNOW


I first met Oriana Ivy at a poetry workshop in Venice. While the ongoing Wednesday night workshop at Beyond Baroque is the most famous of these weekly gatherings, that workshop has been subject to periodic succession movements over the years as various clusters of poets made claims to being the “Venice Poetry Workshop” (as distinct from the Beyond Baroque Workshop). At least two of these splinter groups met at one time or another in the Old Venice Jail facility, which is adjacent to the Old Venice City Hall. The former has been the esteemed home of S.P.A.R.C. (Social and Public Art Resource Center) for many years, while Beyond Baroque moved into the latter in late 1970 and was in full gear as the new year started.

Oriana Ivy was born and immigrated to the United States when she was seventeen. My understanding is that her mother was a scientist. Even though she was a relatively recent arrival to the various scenes in Los Angeles, Oriana’s writing was strong enough that I included her in POETRY LOVES POETRY in 1985. Her first chapbook, APRIL SNOW, was the winner of the New Women’s Voices Prize in Poetry in 2011 (www.finishinglinepress.com). How a poet such as Ilya Kaminski gets fawned over by award committees and Oriana Ivy has to wait longer than a quarter century for a chapbook remains one of many inexplicable travesties in contemporary poetry in the United States.

One of my favorite poems in APRIL SNOW is “Stalin’s Mustache,” which blends together Osip Mandelstamm and Percy Shelley as vatic legislators of the world. In a longer collection, the following poem by Oriana would also have appeared in juxtaposition, as a way of providing an adumbration for the events of 1989:




Since earliest childhood we were told

the red in the Polish flag stood for blood.

Now on the stage, two colossal


bouquets of red gladioli.

In the haze of upward petals,

the balding propagandist blossoms:


Isn’t the Soviet Union

the greatest, the most advanced,

the most democratic country in the world?


He raises his voice: “Let us

salute our brother: Long live

the Soviet Union!” He lifts his arms


like an orchestra conductor,

motioning us to respond with a choral

Long live! I move my lips


in a mute shout,

raising my chin to mime

the final vowel like a howl.


Long live! the political educator

strains at the top of his amplified voice –

along with a squeak


of a few voices from the front row.

I look around: my classmates are

moving their lips without making a sound.


The theater is filled with classes

from several schools –

more than three hundred students.


The propagandist shouts even louder,

Long live the Soviet Union!

Again the sweeping motion of his arms.


This time a stumbling chorus

of six or seven voices.

Once more the educator tries


to rouse us to the correct zeal –

then shrugs – then strides –

then breaks into a run


toward the side door.

The wind of his retreat

barely musses the heavy gladioli.



Lest we be tempted to be smug about the embarrassment of the “balding propagandist,” let us consider how we were asked in 2008 to join in a similar chorus: “Love live Bank of America!” Not enough of us were brave enough to move only our lips. Within that context, those who participated in the Occupy movment deserve even more of our gratitude for having offered some measure of resistance.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s installment, here are two additional pieces I wrote back then.


As Liberals descry a rear-view mirror

And fault a smug, prevaricating Fuhrer,

Conservatives aspire to be more pure

And flense the present for their futures’ cure.



Abundance is redundant

Claim parsimonious pundits:

Let prosperity accrue

From the many to the few.