Friday, December 17, 2010



At the end of summer 2009 I received an extraordinary email - LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) wanted to use one of my photographs on a tote bag they would sell in their gift shops and online store. The photo was an image that I had taken of Urban Light - Chris Burden's sculpture of 202 restored antique cast iron Los Angeles street lights from the 1920's and 1930's.

Although Urban Light was only installed at LACMA recently (2008), it instantly became an iconic site in our great City of Angels. Day or night, drive by LACMA and you are likely to see people strolling between the lamps and taking photos of themselves amidst the lights. It is literally one of the most photographed things in Los Angeles.

LACMA found my shot among thousands of other Urban Light photos seen in Google images. When they asked if they could use my photo, to say I was floored is putting it mildly.

I grew up at LACMA and the La Brea Tarpits. LACMA is truly nostalgic and meaningful ground to me. Some of my favorite childhood memories were spent walking the grounds with my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Fritz, eating lunch at the cafeteria, tiptoeing across rocks in the meandering stream that cuts through the park, and climbing on the giant bear and sloth statues. Then as a 16 year old high schooler learning to use an SLR in Beginning Photography, LACMA became my muse as I took my first artistic shots of the architecture and galleries using a hand-me-down Canon AE-1 Program.

I may never have work hanging in the galleries of LACMA (it's not even something I aspire to), but to have my work sold there and represent Urban Light is a thrill.

My parents were longtime members of LACMA and I have been too. That the sales of my tote bag benefit the museum in any small way gives me great pleasure.

Nearly a year after first contacting me, the tote bag began selling in the gift shops. And this week, it's finally for sale in their updated online store. So after much anticipation and excitement, my tote bag "baby" is finally out in the world and I can share this great news.

And LACMA has created a special promo coupon code for me!

Use the coupon code LYDIA10 until January 5, 2011 to receive a 10% discount when purchasing the Urban Light tote bag from the LACMA online store.

LACMA members get their 10% discount in addition to this coupon if they enter their membership number in the comment box on the order form. The membership discount will not show up on the order - but LACMA applies it when they finalize the sale.

Me posing in front of Urban Light with my tote bag.

A screen grab of the tote bag on the LACMA website.

Here's the write up from the LACMA online store.

Urban Light Tote Bag

Member Price $25.20

This great tote is supersized to hold everything you could possibly want, including a lap top. The image on the front of the bag is a detail of the sculpture Urban Light, by Chris Burden, which can be seen in front of LACMA's entrance on Wilshire Boulevard. It has quickly become a must-see destination in Los Angeles.

We asked local photographer Lydia Marcus for permission to use her great image once we spotted it on the web. Marcus is a proud native Los Angeleno and self-proclaimed unapologetic Valley girl whose photographs have appeared in JPG Magazine, Light Leaks, and AOL City Guide Los Angeles. She uses antique Polaroid cameras and contemporary digital formats to capture L.A.'s car culture and vintage neon signage.

Bag is approximately 18 3/4 square with photo on front and solid black back

- Interior zipper pocket approximately 6 1/4 inches square
- Water resistant coating inside
- Sturdy 1 1/2 inch strap expands in length from approximately 28 1/2 inchs to approximately 54 inches
- Imported exclusively for LACMA

SKU #11896

My original photo of Urban Light that started it all.
Urban Light

Another shot of me at Urban Light.
Me & Urban Light at BCAM/LACMA

Information about Urban Light from LACMA.

Chris Burden
Urban Light, 2008
Sculpture, (Two-hundred and two) restored cast iron antique street lamps

This forest of city street lights, called “Urban Light” was created by artist Chris Burden. Despite initial appearances, the arrangement is not a perfect grid. Depending on where the viewer stands, the lamps arrange themselves in different angles and arrays.

These 202 cast iron lamps once lit the streets of Los Angeles. Burden bought one at the Rose Bowl flea market, and soon collecting and restoring street lights became an obsession. He painted them all the same neutral gray, in order to draw the eye to all the different varieties of cast iron decoration.

Burden says that street lamps like these were symbols of a civilized and sophisticated city—safe after dark and beautiful to behold. The lights all still work, and they are now powered by solar energy. They are switched on every night at dusk, until 10pm. At night, Burden says his sculpture becomes transformed into “a building with a roof of light.”

Interview with Chris Burden from L.A. Times.

A glow in the dark
Chris Burden's collection of restored lamps will put LACMA in 'Urban Light.'

January 30, 2008|Susan Freudenheim

I've been driving by these buildings for 40 years, and it's always bugged me how this institution turned its back on the city," Chris Burden said the other day as he sat in a new public plaza facing Wilshire Boulevard at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Linking the soon-to-open Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the museum's original campus, this plaza is taking shape as the setting for Burden's largest sculpture to date, "Urban Light," an installation of 202 restored and fully operational vintage streetlights.

Wilshire is one of the main thoroughfares of the city, but LACMA's multiple tall, imposing and mostly unadorned facades have done little to address the endless stream of traffic that flows by, Burden noted. There's nothing like the grand Beaux Arts entry staircase that serves as a meeting place and a lure for visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "What faces Wilshire," Burden said, "hasn't been very inviting."

The opening of the BCAM, designed by Renzo Piano to hold contemporary art, will mark a new beginning for the 42-year-old museum, and Burden, 61, hopes that his monumental installation of 1920s and '30s-era lamps will become both a city landmark and a more fitting entryway to the sprawling campus. Nearly all of Burden's cast-iron lamps once lighted the streets of this region, and their variety in a very literal way represents distinct styles that distinguish different neighborhoods -- present and past. Arranged so the visitor can walk among the fixtures, "Urban Light" is a nod, Burden said, to what a museum should be: "It sounds kind of corny, but when you walk through the lamps into the museum, it's like a pathway to enlightenment. It's symbolic."

Arranged in strict formation, with the tallest standing about 30 feet in the center at the back, flanked by others of various heights and forms, with the smallest standing about 20 feet tall, the lamps look like a platoon of soldiers ready to march. All their parts are original, collected by Burden over seven years. The bases display elaborate floral and geometric patterns, and the fluted shafts and glass globes that cap them have been meticulously cleaned, painted and refurbished to create an exuberant glow.

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