The Last Bluebird
The invitation arrived to mixed emotions. Joy, at the prospect of a themed Bluebird reading, Cien minutos de recuerdos para Márquez / One hundred minutes of memories for Márquez. Desolation, realizing I’d not attended the majority of these memorable events and this one would be the last: Please join us for a 100-minute long reading of work inspired by Gabriel García Márquez, as told by 9 Los Ángeles storytellers, with short interludes accompanied by 1 Los Ángeles son jarocho.
As always, this final Bluebird Reading would happen at the cultural heartbeat of Northeast Los Angeles, Highland Park’s Avenue 50 Studio.
The Avenue 50 Studio art gallery and centro cultural is LA’s best-kept secret. It shouldn’t be, but it is, owing to the pernicious strategy of the Los Angeles Times to define art and culture as only those activities happening in locations west of downtown, except for finding the best tacos and tortas in town, inevitably on the eastside. Then there’s the Grey Lady.
New York’s Times recently reported on DTLA as a new arts district without mentioning the words “Chicano” or “Mexican” in nearly 1400 words. The paper in 2013 produced a local color video piece that delighted in the pun of gentefication.
The once reputable NY paper mentioned a couple of Boyle Heights galleries, started by east coast transplants, one of whom purchased a fixer-upper in Bel Air (the rich westside). Alluding to Boyle Heights’ heretofore cultural wasteland, the Manhattan Times calls the Boyle Heights communidad dangerous, writing:
That art space was an early outpost in Boyle Heights, a part of the district that still has an anything-goes feel. “It still has a dangerous quality — I kind of like that,” Ms. Maccarone said. “I like that we spent a fortune on security.”
Let us put aside the pendejadas of cultural exclusionism to focus on ourselves, what we’ve had here, ya hace años. The first Bluebird came to Northeast Los Angeles’ cultural heart in August 2012. Already in place was La Palabra, the eastside’s longest-running continuous reading series. Nurturing the vibrant energies of the eastside poetry community, Bluebird and La Palabra attract poets from across the LA basin who come eager to join the Open Mic and share the work of Featured readers.
Owing to lassitude and familia events, over the years I’ve joined only a few of the always memorable, inescapably photogenic Sunday readings. Not until June 2013 would I attend my first Bluebird. The second-Sunday Bluebird reading series at Avenue 50 Studio, hosted by the indefatigable Jessica Ceballos, helped inform a photographic project I’ve pursued since the 1970s, a quest for the perfect photograph of a public speaker.
For me, a photograph of a person speaking or an artist reading their own work needs concrete elements and a large helping of the ineffable. There are technical images that illustrate a particular skill like handing a manuscript or using space, but even these need to contain the elements. For sure the foto must show a person making eye contact, their vocal apparatus in an eloquent moment with lips and mouth open forming words, a dynamic moment capturing a facial expression, mid-gesture with hand, arm, visual aid, or posture. The ineffable is the presenter’s presence, the use of the technology of their body, the eloquence of the instant, and the ambience of the event.