LA's keeper of the saints

J. Michael Walker and saint
Last weekend's New York Times did a nice spread on J. Michael Walker and his one-of-a-kind Los Angeles book, "All the Saints of the City of the Angels: Seeking the Soul of L.A. on Its Streets." I've been waiting for this project to come to fruition, and now that it has you should check it out. Walker decided to investigate some aspect of every city street named after a saint, from Santa Ana Blvd. (by the Watts Towers) to San Ysidro Drive — and to make paintings out of most. The result is art, and history. From the NYT:

From San Julian Place in Skid Row downtown to St. Pierre Road nestled in the verdant hedges of Bel-Air, he has been a Sam Spade of saints, tracking down the histories of the city’s saintly drives, ways and boulevards and, more than occasionally, unearthing contemporary symbolism.

“The saints’ names are common enough, we drive them every day,” Mr. Walker said one recent morning, dodging traffic en route to St. Vincent Court in his beat-up gray Hyundai wagon. “But we see them without looking, without thinking of the resonance of names.”

Consulting city transportation records, state and local histories, religious documents, vintage photographs, advertisements and 18th-century diaries, Mr. Walker pieced together the stories of all 103 streets. He had originally counted 78 until — with a tad of consternation — he realized that some saint streets like Avenue San Luis in Woodland Hills and Via Santa Maria in Sylmar did not begin with the letter “s.” The roughly 55 paintings, the result of his seven-year odyssey, are the subject of an exhibition at the Autry National Center here, which runs through Sept. 7.

Street banners for the Autry show are all over L.A.

LAT feature by Lynell George
LatinoLA feature
The Tidings feature

Photo: Axel Koester / NYT

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