New digital art series on A Line (Blue): Artist Angela Willcocks

Metro Art has been piloting a new digital art series, and the inaugural exhibition is launching at A Line (Blue) stations. More People Than You Know features portraits of transit patrons created by local artists. To celebrate the upcoming reopening of the refurbished rail line, we are featuring an interview with each of the commissioned artists. Make sure you look for these portraits displayed on the newly installed digital customer information panels. This is Metro’s first transit corridor with this new cultural amenity.

Lives and works: Bluff Park, a historic district of Long Beach

Where do you live and work?

Since 2007, I have been living and working in Long Beach. For three and a half years, I had a shopfront studio in North Long Beach, where I embedded myself into the community and culture.

When I established the shopfront studio, I had an open studio practice, where people from the community would visit; visitors range from troubled youths to business executives. I engaged with, made a portrait of, and gave the painted portrait to each visitor. I was there just to “be,” as a professional artist who gave the gift of art. I was creating and displaying in a space that was part of the community. People there didn’t go to museums or galleries, so it was a way for me to introduce art to them.

I also teach digital media at Long Beach City College and universities throughout Los Angeles County. I now live and work in Bluff Park, a historic district; my house is a block away from the beach, which I love!

What is your primary medium?

I love the medium of painting. I used to paint with oil, now I use primarily acrylic. It’s versatile. You can do so much with paint. I love the physicality of paint and the act of painting. I also spend a lot of time looking at people; I photograph my subjects and use the photographs to paint the portraits.

How did you approach this Metro project?

The portrait of the young girl Faith grew out of my experience of having the shopfront studio. She and her teenage mother visited my space about 5 years ago; I took their photographs and created painted portraits of them. As a single mother, I have a genuine connection with Faith and her mother because I witnessed them growing up in the neighborhood. It was important for me to use Faith as the subject because she is from the neighborhood and also uses public transportation. I am interested in the way digital media is used to interpret portraiture. My investment is in the empowerment of women. I want to depict this young girl as a beautiful, uplifting figure. It’s crucial that we embrace diversity in a positive manner. The California poppy flowers in the background are also a metaphor to identify with the child as if she is growing and blooming.

What is your connection to the A Line (Blue)?

I am a public transportation fan. My kids and I always travel along the Blue Line and also use the buses; it’s an inexpensive and viable connection coming out of Long Beach. Using public transit is a great way to know the people. Being an immigrant from Australia, I am always thrilled to get on the train and be a part of the cultural experience. It’s being a part of America.