Street art intended as a critique on gentrification downtown was recently destroyed in a fire.
The sculpture of a teary woman in a flowing but tattered dress was titled “Our Lady of Gentrification,” says Stephen Zeigler, an advertising photographer and downtown local. It was created by street artist Wild Life.
The piece was installed on the north end of Skid Row in late July but was burned to the ground, apparently on purpose, last week, Zeigler said. It wasn't clear in police or fire officials were investigating.
The art was part of a project by Wild Life called Gentrificide. Zeigler explained:
He spent over a month at our gallery These Days doing a residency where he built work based on mythologies of his own creation. The end result was a group of work titled GENTRIFICIDE, as most of the pieces commented on the changing landscape of downtown.
On Friday the photographer told us, “Last night someone lit her on fire. There is nothing left but some ashes and a blackened fence.”
As you probably know, downtown has experienced a wave of growth in the last 10 years that will culminate with the opening of a Whole Foods in fall. But even as thousands of units of new housing have become available near Skid Row, homelessness has actually increased.
Wild Life didn't want to speak with us directly, but he wrote this statement about his piece:
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.
Before the sculpture burned, Zeigler said, Wild Life was offered $1,100 for the piece. He turned it down.