JOHANNA POETHIG “CALLE DE LA ETERNIDAD” RENAISSANCE/DIGITAL RESTORATION
STORY: Calle de la Eternidad was the former name of Broadway Blvd., where the mural WAS located (SPARC is working to bring it back to Broadway). Poethig emphasizes the nature of time and of space. Using images familiar with the Latino community who live and work in the area, the words of Octavio Paz around the Aztec calendar express the feelings of dislocation and adaptation. Resembling the city’s high-rise buildings are two enormous golden arms reaching up to the sky in a gesture of great plea, accompanied by two seated pre-Columbian figures. Poethig’s imagery and the poem offer a reality where place becomes changeable and time is frozen, to the viewers along the street engaged in the everyday struggles of life in Downtown Los Angeles suggesting the reality of being at home in Los Angeles with feelings of living in exile.
Twenty-four years later, Johanna has returned to SPARC to help digitally restore the mural—and given her new environment, it’s seemingly quite the contrast. Now, she works from UCLA@SPARC’s Digital Mural Lab (DML), zeroing in on details of the mural on a large tablet. But Johanna says, apart from the markedly different physical nature of the lab, it feels the same. “It is the same,” she asserts.
Working in the DML allows Johanna to engage in the same “back and forth” process that she uses when painting her murals on site. “I have to get really close, and pull back, just like when you paint a mural—but this way, you’re just working on the screen.” In some ways, Johanna notes that the technology gives her more control over the artwork—the power to manipulate a 40 x 60 foot-wide image. “It’s interesting, the kind of control you have with this, and the fact that you can get it so close to the original is really great… At the same time, the technology is its own thing so in a way I can enhance it in ways that are new.” Johanna utilized the original palette from her mural, sampling its original colors to mix and create the digitally conserved full scale file.
Digital drawing, which is what Johanna describes above, is just one step of a multifaceted and difficult process. “Once the CityWide Mural Program (CWMP) Team heard that the building [of Johanna’s mural] would be removed in 2012, we came up with a plan to come up with a hi-res digital composite of the mural,” CWMP Project Manager Carlos Rogel says. “But while we had done a lot of works that were smaller scale and gotten really good results, including the digitization of the Great Wall of Los Angeles, we hadn’t done such a vertical mural like Johanna’s. It produced some unique problems to solve on the site.”