Photos by Asia Morris.
The experimental music made it almost too loud to hear the young artist, who’d been standing sheepishly next to his wall, but he yelled into my ear nonetheless in an effort to explain the meaning behind one of his pieces. An image of four teeth, only one of them white, floating above a hand, didn’t mean much, he'd said with a shrug, but it had to do with the phrase “sweet tooth,” a common trait he was apparently hard-wired without.
“I've never liked sweets,” I remember him having to shout.
“You know, I love that piece,” I shouted back. “Teeth are interesting... especially if you think of them as the only bones situated outside of our bodies, and the only bones we, most of the time, willingly expose to other people.”
This conversation had come nearly an hour after our group of four had wandered into Joe Jost’s for pickled eggs, pastrami sandwiches and schooners of brews from Stone Brewery, where one of the bartenders brought out a styrofoam to-go box, opening the lid to reveal two slices of carrot cake sized for a glutton. The bartender’s reason for giving it up for free: “I don’t like sweets,” he’d said with a shrug.
The artist, who I later discovered was graphic designer Rafael Ramirez, whose work you can see more of here, was showing as part of the exhibition Scraps and Trash: The Side Effects of Art, a years-in-the-making passion project curated and organized by local artist Shane Sun and held at From the Moon on East Anaheim Street in the Zaferia District.
The show featured artists Bri Joy, Eric Zendejas, Hannah Griffith, Ian DeLucca, Lil Jet, Nelson Magdaleno, NYX, Riddick Nuferro and Sundraws (Shane Sun) as well as live music by Bad Joy, Pauline Lay, I Woke Up You Were Half/, Chef Vibes and most notably, The Vespertines where lead singer Vanessa Acosta wailed on both the mic and the trumpet.
“So what’d you do today,” I asked, speaking from the passenger seat of my new friend Serena's Subaru earlier that evening. A transplant from Washington who I’d met at a POW! WOW! Long Beach press event, she was one of the reasons I and two of my coworkers decided to go out on this particular Saturday night. She told me she’d started at The Center at Kashink’s mural and wandered around town in an attempt to find street art, an activity arguably more interesting to someone new to the city, but also inspiring to someone like myself who was born and raised here.
Serena didn't realize that the Scraps and Trash show I’d suggested we attend was curated by the artist who’d painted the only interesting mural she said she’d seen on her walk. It was an “aha” as well as a very Long Beach moment when she realized one of the prints she’d admired during the show was created by that person.
“There were two hands, kind of like this,” Serena held up her own pair in a strange, twisted way, trying to describe the mural she’d seen on 4th Street earlier that day. “They were coming down from the top of the wall.”
“Oh, and they have like a string running through them, right,” I interjected. “And they don’t cover the whole wall, they’re in the top left corner.”
“Yeah, yeah, that one!”
We’d later end the night sitting at Alex’s bar watching a movie, completely entranced by Uma Thurman’s Pulp Fiction character being brought back to life, instead of dancing to the live ska energetically taking place behind us. Too busy babysitting our beverages, I think we were at ease being boring together, exhausted and slightly inebriated from a night of making connections, exploring Zaferia and me, rediscovering, once again, the city I grew up in.