Cultural Cocktail Hour

The Best Exhibit in Los Angeles. Hands Down.

If there is only one exhibit you see in Los Angeles this year, this is IT:

J. Michael Walker walks where Angelenos fear to tread

All the Saints of the City of the Angels

The City of the Angels is a commuter city. We spend time enclosed in cars, in serpentine lines of traffic crawling around our city’s landmarks. Freeways form boundaries- the 110, 405, 134, 101, 10- a plethora of numbers dividing East from West, Suburb from Metropolis, Have from Have-Not.

What if we could just get out? Out of our cars. Out of our enclosures. Remove our armor of road rage and glide through out city like Angels.

With J. Michael Walker as our guide, we certainly can.

His exhibit, All the Saints of the City Of the Angels, holds court at the Gene Autry Museum until September 7th.  The gold-tinged book, with a portrait of Saint Moritz on the cover, serves as our city’s Illuminated Manuscript, on many different levels.

“Illuminare” from the Latin means to spiritually enlighten, and Mr. Walker’s exhibit and book nourish the soul. Moreover, “Illuminare” means to “Cast Light. “ The paintings and stories shed light on Los Angeles like a luminous burning torch, majestically revealing the jewels behind our city’s history, spirit, and most of all, people. Never before has Los Angeles looked so beautiful.

Who are the angels that we meet? The gentle candle casts radiance on the faces that may pass unnoticed on harried commutes.  San Julian Street and Place downtown allude to the story of San Julian, a once homeless saint who welcomed the weary into his abode as his guests.  Coincidentally, San Julian’s Street downtown is home to LAMP, which provides housing and services for persons diagnosed with mental illness. Like San Julian, the Staff of LAMP calls those who enter “guests.” In the powerfully vivid paintings, those without homes look us straight in the eye.  The paintings remind us that we are in this together. The City of Angeles belongs to us all.

What about San Ysidro Drive in Bel Air? San Ysidro Labrador, a saint from the Twelfth Century, toiled on other men’s lands to support his family. On this street today, on the well-manicured estates one can observe modern day San Ysidros bringing life to the gardens, making them lush with a careful touch. Hours of labor produce a moveable feast for our eyes.

These are but two illustrations of a much larger exhibit, a glorious and seamless tapestry that weaves California history, the stories of the saints, and the triumph of the human spirit. How fortunate we Angelenos are to have an artist who captures our city’s cultural icons, enriches us with history, and makes visible the unseen souls who inhabit our City of Angels. True humanity is divinity. J. Michael Walker portrays the dignity of all our city’s inhabitants- mothers, children, homeless, fathers- and helps us to see the face of God.

For more information please visit:

Autry National Center of the American West. 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027. 323.667.2000. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays.

The BookAll the Saints of the City of Angeles; Seeking the Soul of L.A on its Streets. Paintings and Stories by J. Michael Walker. Gold Foil Cover, 230 pages. 

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