When the Black Panthers in Los Angeles fought for change in the 1970s they started with the soil, planting an edible oasis in the heart of South Central. Today at 34th Street in Exposition Park, a garden dubbed Community Services Unlimited still draws neighbors together, inspiring an image of love for Glendale native and artist Carolyn Castaño.
"It started with the Black Panthers educating people about eating, growing your own foods," said Castaño, whose watercolor and pastel on paper piece "We Built This Garden," is on display through March 21 at group exhibit "RISE: Love. Revolution. The Black Panther Party." The show opens Friday at 6 p.m. at Art Share L.A.'s gallery in Downtown Los Angeles' Arts District.
In her piece, the artist pays homage to the garden's history and black Angelenos.
"It's representing the black family and how you don't see them too often in mainstream media," said Castaño, who was inspired to paint the faces of her friends Yolanda and Wayne.
"I was thinking of the time, in the late 60s and 70s," said Castaño, who chose to incorporate the panther's mantra of 'Black Power' and 'Black is Beautiful' in a vivid portrait of a proud couple, in a heroic pose, surrounded by fuchsia and neon-spiked flora and fauna.
"They're proud to be who they are. They're beautiful," said Castaño, a 2011 California Community Foundation Getty Fellow whose recent body of work entitled 'Narco Venus' explores the role of women in the male-dominated culture of narco-trafficking.
RISE Arts Collective curators invited Castaño and nearly 40 other artists, including famed street artist Shepard Fairey, and multi-media artists William Cordova and Sam Durant, to submit pieces.
"The idea came from [the concept] 'Why don't we do a show where the artists give their take on the Black Panther movement?" said curator Lester Grant, one four curators who invited artists to participate.
"When I think about the Black Panthers, what I'm really inspired by is the idea of coming up with a really well-branded way of saying 'There's inequality out there that needs to be addressed and rather than just being a victim, you can create your own organization to empower yourself and also be a symbol of resistance to domninant injustice,'" Shepard Fairey said in an interview with RISE Arts Collective.
Fairey read Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale's first-person account of the movement titled, "Seize the Time."
"That moved me to want to make a portrait of him as a hero," said Fairey, who created the mixed media piece titled "Bobby Seale" after the activist.
The show will travel to four other cities, including Oakland, Chicago, New York and London with local artists at each city contribute works in response to the Black Panther movement's impact on our society. Proceeds from each exhibit will benefit The New York Black Panther Party Commemorative Committee.
Where: Art Share L.A., 801 E. 4th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90013
When: Opens Friday, Feb. 21 through Friday, March 21
More info: (213) 687-4278, artsharela.org