Erected at the north end of Skid Row in late July, beside decrepit buildings and desolate streets, was what appeared to be a statue of a distressed woman in a frayed Ancient Greek dress with no arms, almost resembling Alexandros’ Venus de Milo. Then last Thursday, all that remained of the artwork was a blackened fence and ashes. Someone had apparently burned it down. And it remains unknown if local police are investigating the matter.
Created by local artist Wild Life, the statue was called ‘Our Lady of Gentrification’ and was part of his ‘GENTRIFICIDE’ collection, which represents a social commentary on city government’s plan to renovate and reinvigorate Downtown LA from the trenches of poverty into an attractive area to live for young professionals and visit for tourists. Wild Life has been both a warrior and a messenger on this particular battle for the past few years, manipulating city signs (that direct people to various Los Angeles landmarks) to include ‘Hipsters’ and ‘Skid Row’ and constructing a paper-mâché surfer in the water-depleted Los Angeles river. He continually fights to maintain the culture and history embedded in the area and purposely attempts to slow down the inevitable, one profound piece at a time
What was actually a mannequin, the artist describes encountering it through a dirty window of a store which was going out of business. Wild Life said in a statement about the piece from LA Weekly:
‘Once upon a time, an artist with desperate thoughts was walking down Broadway between 5th & 6th Streets when he glimpsed her through a dirty window of a business that was shuttering its doors. As their eyes met, the man saw visions of artists of past history working in the salons of Paris and Vienna and the mannequins they used as their subjects and often a source of inspiration. Immediately, the darkness that weighed heavy on his heart and mind lifted as he recognized the pure intention of the frozen figure. He saw through her eyes the decades she spent staring out at the sea of humanity, their dreams, their desires, and the inevitable tsunami of change that was to crash on the shores of Broadway and wash away those same hopes and dreams. The artist witnessed impossible tears emerge from her eyes and flow down her fiberglass cheeks as he felt her heart breaking. The sign in the window read ‘EVERYTHING MUST GO!’ and the artist wondered if she would have to go as well. At that moment, in his mind, she had become a Saint. She was, is, and will always be Our Lady Of Gentrification.’
With homelessness increasing despite the growth of Downtown LA, Wild Life valiantly brings to light this harsh reality in the midst of being swept under the rug by luxurious condos and organic food markets.