It’s probably fair to say that most people view Los Angeles as a sprawling megapolis through which you can’t drive fast enough, but that’s not the way artist Barbara Thomason sees it.
“Los Angeles is really a collection of neighborhoods and I live in one of those neighborhoods,” explained the longtime Los Feliz resident who was born in San Diego. “I can go to the hardware store and people know me. When I’m at home I’m in the mountains, but I go to the bottom of the hill and I’m in the city.”
The 2.61-square-mile Los Feliz neighborhood is part of what locals know as Central Los Angeles. The area sits just south of Griffith Park and according to census information is “highly diverse ethnically” and includes a pocket of multi-million-dollar homes.
Thomason shares her views of the City of Angels in her recently published “100 Not So Famous Views of L.A.” (oversized hardback; Prospect Park Books). As the title suggests, readers will not find paintings of the usual Los Angeles landmarks. What they will find is a collection of atypical, “intimate and quirky” scenes of L.A. as visualized by Thomason and others who call the city of 3.8 million home.
“My objective was to pay homage to both Los Angeles and Hiroshige’s wonderful prints,” Thomason said.
Utagawa Hiroshige was a 19th century Japanese printmaker whose works Thomason discovered in 2006 at Chicago’s Art Institute.
“I brought back a book of his ‘One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,’ a series of woodblock prints that I’ve always loved.”
Three months later, Thomason decided to create her own series of 100 paintings done in cell vinyl — paint that resembles woodblock ink in texture and tone.
To be included in the artist’s collection, locations had to be within the Los Angeles city limits.
For instance, one painting was created after she accidentally discovered the Los Angeles Police Academy firing range “while driving around the hills in Elysian Park … I heard lots of gunfire, so I stopped my car and walked over to the edge of the road where it drops off to the south, and there at the bottom of the hill was a target range packed with shooters.”
In another painting, the artist shares her favorite view of Hollywood, which is from the upper deck of the Hollywood Home Depot parking lot. Yet another painting features a view of the city from Forest Lawn Cemetery, where there are enough stars buried “to fill up the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party.”
Thomason discovered most of the scenes she painted by driving around L.A. for hours. When she had finished 100 works, she had a showing at Los Angeles City Hall, which is where she connected with an editor from Prospect Park Books. Until that point, she had never thought of creating a book with the paintings.
In the foreword of Thomason’s book, the words of urban and media historian Norman Klein are cited: “Los Angeles remains the most photographed and least remembered city in the world.”
That may be true, but Thomason has done an effective job of making L.A.’s otherwise unremarkable places quite memorable.
“100 Not So Famous Views of L.A.” is available at Barnes & Noble and through Amazon.com.