To Artist Clover, The Roads of Life Lead to Change and Resistance

By: Savanna Morgan
Editor: J. Cuevas

A few years ago Trenely “Clover” Garcia received a letter in the mail warning the artist that their household was subject to the danger air pollution was presenting in the neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. Years before this notice, members of the local community who grew organic plants and crops at an urban farm called the “South Central Farm”, were also affected by urban planning. At 14 acres, the farm was considered one of the largest urban farms in the United States. The farm was sold in 2004, and the city farmers were evicted in 2006. On July 5, 2006, developers began bulldozing the farm amidst strong protest by thousands in the community. To this day there is still strong resistance to this decision.

Among those resisting land use change in their neighborhood is Clover. Clover’s featured print at the 2018 Print Fair & Exhibition is titled “Los Caminos de la Vida” (The Roads of Life). The work sends out a clear message to urban planners to “give us back our neighborhoods.”

“The biggest problem facing South Central, is the crime that comes with placing industrial sites in residential neighborhoods,” Clover continued. One example Clover gives is the placement of “Elas Liquor Store” right beside train tracks. Clover explains that the accessibility of alcohol and drugs in the environment only makes the matter worse. In addition to this, there is also a perceived overwhelming amount of construction to contribute the disruption of peace. As seen in the background of the print, the nightlife and art scene downtown is rapidly encroaching upon the livelihood of South Central and Boyle Heights residents. What Clover once knew to be a hub for working-class people to grow and thrive in the American economical machine, is now transforming into unrecognizable communities that serve the wealthy, not the working class.

In addition to the tragedy of environmental injustice facing South Central, the G-word (gentrification) has also presented an uncompromising battle in the mostly Latino and Black neighborhood where they call home. However, Clover believes that their community still has what it takes to claim and revive their culture in the face of suppression.

Represented in the leaf-covered colossal heads located bottom center of “Los Caminos de La Vida”, Clover pays homage the Olmec people, native to the lowlands of south-central Mexico. The monuments were carved in this manner due to the broad noses, thick lips, the eyes of the heads and that all the characteristics that can still be found in modern Mesoamerican Natives. In the serigraph, the roots of the people persist though in the ground and buried. The artist wishes to see their community represent this concept by choosing to hold onto their origins and cultures, despite attempts to displace or erase them and their history from the neighborhood.

“Los Caminos de La Vida” gives Clover a space to articulate what the reality of South Central is, opposed to what the ideal is. In this space, Clover opens up a dialogue to allow people who are hurting, and inspire them to fight for rightful ownership to their land.

“Los Caminos de La Vida” is now on sale online and at Self Help Graphics & Art. 

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Savanna Morgan is a Self Help Graphics & Art Intern from University of Notre Dame.