Saturday, March 31, 2012

Silent Poetry In Los Angeles

Painting by Fabian Debora on cover of IMAGE Journal
  "Every painting is a silent poem."- that is the current signature at the bottom of a particular artist's posts in an ATC forum that I frequent. I thought that was an interesting statement when I first read it, and spent some time trying to figure out if I found it to be true. My next thoughts went to an artist I had just discovered from the East side of LA.

Por El Amor De Dios by: Fabian Debora
  Fabian "Spade" Debora has been hard at work documenting the presence of the divine within his neighborhood of Boyle Heights through murals and painted canvases. The painting to the left is an image of a young man inviting each viewer to meditate with him. The spilled can in his hand is a libation offering in remembrance of others, especially those who have passed away. We partake in a similar remembrance when we drink the symbolized blood of Christ during communion or eucharistic. My personal experience is that these types of meditation can be particularly powerful when practiced corporately. Whether we think we can or cannot immediately identify with the man in the painting, I hope that we can join him in such an important spiritual reflection.

Painting by: Fabian Debora
  I took some friends and students from my neighborhood in Pico Union to a gallery opening at Homegirl Cafe earlier this month to see Debora's work. I bought the print shown to the right from Fabian himself at the opening. When I met up with my group to head home a young friend of mine saw the print under my arm and questioned my decision in a half joking manner as if to say, "Isn't that a Catholic image? We're protestants." I realized this was a partial joke, but I take the intent of this piece very seriously so I challenged my friend with the question- "What is this piece saying?" He told me that he wasn't sure so I told him what it said to me. At first glance I saw the image of el Virgin de Guadelupe, but the next thing I noticed was that the girl is much younger than Mary was when she conceived the Christ, and this girl is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The girl exists within our era. The background is a depiction of Los Angeles' downtown district. These insights made me think about the women young and old in our city and the world who are, or soon become, objects of lust in men's eyes. These precious women are our: mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts etc. While viewing this piece I started to question why we only guard the mother Mary's purity and virginity with fervor. Why don't we as men regard all women in a similar manner? Of course this is a very important question that I have often asked through-out my life, but somehow this painting brought me to an even more profound perspective. My friend and I were both stunned at the insight the print in my hands offered.

  Debora used to "tag" the name Spade on the surfaces of his neighborhood before his life changed. Speaking of tagging, we need to realize that if you imagine your city as a body, the graffiti and tags will show you where the body hurts most. Who has a more in depth view of the pain in our cities than the taggers and street artists who frequent the deep industrial areas alleyways and crevices both high and low? It's important to not assume all is lost in these places though. This is why I'm glad Debora hasn't given up his street name since his life changed. His work, and some other street artists' work, proves to me that God is truly everywhere, and that there isn't just pain and darkness in the streets. Light can be found everywhere. Fabian's compositions take my spiritual eyes through lines and stanzas of prophetic experiences noticed by the artist. The narratives allow everyone to enter into the divine presence of God through the vibrant lens of Fabian's life and the lives around him. In the case of Fabian's body of work I would say that his paintings can indeed be viewed as silent poems.

  To gain more of an understanding of Fabian "Spade" Debora's unique vision I invite you to watch the video below. For more information and updates on Debora's projects go to

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