Lifelong artist Elliott Pinkney, a muralist, sculptor and printmaker who lives and works in Compton, spoke to a roomful of neighbors and students from Davis Middle School at a program hosted by the Compton Library on Tuesday morning. The topic was the original artwork for the poster “Compton,” in the “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster series commissioned by Metro for display on buses and trains.
The popping, colliding bursts of energy and color, barely contained within the 3 x 6 collage of Compton, seemingly jumped off its modest pedestal to keep time with Pinkney’s litany of the nearly 50 subjects that make up the city’s portrait.
It’s a depiction of a thriving Compton, with parks and recreation, established jazz, rap and gospel concerts, a golf course, Compton College and new shopping centers with big box conveniences (where Pinkney buys flowers and art materials), and rocking, spiraling figures of famous sons and daughters who hail from Compton, among them tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams, coached by father Richard on Compton tennis courts.
Microphone in hand, Pinkney stepped to the easel-borne artwork and began the litany of Compton icons that appear in the collage, much to the delight of the wide-eyed students in the audience about to have their appreciation of their neighborhood raised to an entirely new level.
Among those icons: The Par 3 Golf Course, flowers and butterflys, soccer ball, baseball, football, an in-your-face Rap note, a moon-walking, high-stepping marching band leader parading through Compton’s three high schools, a nod to the city’s hotel and convention center, tucked into a suitcase. There’s the traditional Juneteenth celebration, Cinco de Mayo day, the perennial and established jazz and gospel concerts, the Compton Airport with its museum and annual air show flying on a banner across the canvas behind a small aircraft, the new skateboard park at Wilson Park. “Education is primary,” says Pinkney, pointing to the math problems etched in chalk at center, top. “Lots of Rap artists from Compton,” he says. Is Compton the birthplace of rap? “Could be,” he muses.
There are many profiles, outlines of faces filled with art, music, calendars, colors. There’s a golfer in perfect swing, a horse and rider trailing along Compton Creek and a graphic marquee of the city’s “Children and Young People’s Film Festival.”
One more thing. Why do they call Compton the “Hub City?” Well, it’s almost the exact geographical center of Los Angeles County and, as clearly defined on the poster, it’s bordered by four major freeways — the 710, 110, 91 and the 105.
And another thing. A photographic image of a pigeon and a seagull sit side by side, under the red graphic figure of a saxophone player wailing the blues.“The pigeon used to be the city bird but now the seagulls have arrived and chased the pigeons off. Now, the poor pigeon doesn’t have a chance,” says Pinkney, with a tinge of melancholy.
Life in Compton today is good, says Pinkney. “I’ve been here for 40 years and I’m still here and my studio is the same for years. It’s been fun.”
The local library tour of poster artists began Tuesday in Compton. Next up: Jane Gillespie Pryor immortalizes the bees of Whittier at the Whittier Public Library Oct. 6.
Categories: Metro Art