I painted this mural of Miss Vanjie in 2019 on the front of my warehouse art studio in East LA – Low Road City. I had just moved to LA and as I’ve written about in previous queer mural blogs I knew no one, had no art contacts, rented this cheap studio and slept in my car for the first six months. I didn’t want the studio to know I was living in my car so I would drive around the corner and park on the nearby street each day haha. After a while I got more comfortable to leave it parked outside and even sleep in the studio sometimes. I still don’t know if they knew or not…
I stumbled on this studio online. At the time I was up in San Francisco also looking for art studios there, and finding this one in LA was a big factor in moving there instead of SF. I also liked the energy and enthusiasm of LA, everyone wanting to ‘make it’.
Whilst signing the rental contract I mentioned being a mural painter and by chance they were currently painting the whole alley. A graffiti writer called Boxcar Vida was organising it. She made a weekend paint festival for us all to paint at the same time, which in her words minimised the chances of gang trouble. Other painters there included VyalOne and Eric Skotnes, both huge names in street art, so I was fan girling and surprised – it was a dirty industrial alley in a lesser known part of LA after all, the area legit gave me post-apocalyptic vibes. After I wondered if that’s cus Hollywood art directors were inspired by their surroundings to create their post-apocalyptic scenes, which influenced my perception, or cus it actually just looks post-apocalyptic with it’s wide dusty streets, cracked trash-ridden pavements and minimal pedestrians. Or both perhaps.
The Vanjie mural is next to the front door, flanked on the other side by a Latina woman, and I usually parked in front of them. Walking inside each day I thought of them as the art Latinx Chinese lion door guardians, looking out for us and protecting the door from strange passersby (of which there were many). Stylistically I was still trying to replicate my small-scale spray paintings as a mural, so trying to paint large drips and energetic marks.
This warehouse studio frequently surprised me, like it did with the street art festival. One day I saw a giant monster followed by Vander Van Odd, filming an episode of Dragula. One of the S3 Ghouls was ‘killed’ outside my front door. Other renters in the warehouse included Doja Cat’s photography, scene builder and mixers, but they didn’t know each other and just happened to all independently be there. The yard where I spray painted was often rented out on weekends for huge raves, so I would show up expecting to paint but end up sneaking in the back door to go dance at random parties.