Art can elicit all types of emotions: joy, hope, love and hate.
And Lucia Saldivar-Lozano’s art piece in Sylmar has been facing the latter.
Just before Thanksgiving, the 20-year-old California State University Northridge (CSUN) student got her first commission to paint an electrical box at the corner of Gladstone Avenue and Hubbard Street in Sylmar.
For years, the city of Los Angeles has been hiring up-and-coming artists to do these paintings in an effort to beautify the community. The artists submit their designs and city officials approve them.
The latest assignments were around the theme of “Social Justice.” Inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” marches this year in response to the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police, Saldivar-Lozano submitted a design featuring a raised black fist against a sky-blue background surrounded by Monarch butterflies. The butterflies represent the immigrant community.
The theme of the piece is “Black and Brown Unity,” says the university student.
On Nov. 28, she painted the electrical box, bringing a colorful display to the corner flanked by a gas station, a shopping center and an apartment complex.
Repeated Acts of Vandalism
The artwork stood there without any problems until Dec. 14 when someone erased the raised black fist by using blue paint to cover it.
Dec. 14 was the day the Electoral College voted to confirm Joe Biden as President-Elect after nearly a month of President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. For Wendy Lozano, Lucia’s mother, the date of the vandalism was no mere coincidence.
“Somebody lost their minds. They got really motivated and destroyed it,” Saldivar-Lozano says.
She restored the project to its original state. This time, it only lasted a day. On Dec.15, someone again erased the black fist and added “USA” and “1776” to it.
For Saldivar-Lozano, those words have another meaning. “(They’re) showing they’re anti-Black,” she said. “They want Blacks to be slaves.”
Saldivar-Lozano again returned the painting to its original state. However, a vandal whitewashed the entire piece soon thereafter.
On Sunday, Dec. 20, Saldivar-Lozano redid the piece for the third time. This time, her mother, uncle and cousin joined her to show their support and provide her some protection.
It was a smart move.
Not long after starting her project, a man in a white pick-up truck stopped by and angrily yelled, “This is my community. I don’t want that Black power here. All lives matter,” the man said while inside his car.
“We’re not here to fight,” Wendy Lozano responded, while her daughter continued painting.
“They think there’s only one side of the government in this country,” the mother said after the man left.
“Just Doing Our Job”
This was the first time her daughter had been directly confronted by somebody, Wendy Lozano said, although “she was flipped off before” by a woman.
Saldivar-Lozano was clearly shaken by the incident.
“It’s startling when people come at you like that,” she said. “But I have rights. I know I’m not in the wrong.”
She added that if people don’t like the art piece, they should complain to the city of Los Angeles, which is paying for it.
“They should take it up with [city officials there] and don’t harass the artist. We’re just doing our job,” Saldivar-Lozano said.
Not every reaction to the painting has been negative.
“I’m glad you are putting it back up again. It sucks that you have to do it again,” said Richard Hernandez, a neighbor, on Lucia’s willingness to restore the artwork.
“It’s stupid, immature. From people who are easily manipulated. It’s not hurting anybody,” he said.
This last time Saldivar-Lozano added an anti-graffiti coating to the painting right after finishing, instead of waiting the customary 48 hours to add that extra protection. She was hoping that would help against more damage to the piece.
But unfortunately, just a few hours after she left, vandals struck again. Perhaps deterred by the anti-graffiti coating, this time they painted a bright red ‘X” over the black fist.
Saldivar-Lozano and her mother are disappointed that a mere art project has brought out these acts of “racist” vandalism.
Saldivar-Lozano said she probably won’t redo the mural there and instead will seek another assigned location for her art piece.
“[LA City] is concerned for my safety and the work,” she said.
“It’s sad that a black fist raises this reaction. It’s crazy,” Wendy Lozano added.