‘Life Logistics’ art exhibit targets Inland Empire warehouses

Posted by admin on

Is the anti-warehouse movement getting anywhere? I haven’t seen tangible results yet, but momentum seems to be growing. Like a lot of us depressed about these blank-walled fortresses blighting the Inland Empire, I have hopes that a corner will turn.

I turned a corner myself on a recent visit to The Cheech, the Chicano art museum in Riverside. A literal corner, I mean. And suddenly, confronting me on a fresh wall, was a piece of warehouse-hating art.

Toni Sanchez’s print has a stylized Amazon warehouse in flames depicted in triplicate. Around each picture is the same message, also in triplicate.

“Burn Them All Down.”

Startled and delighted, I laughed out loud.

Sanchez’s piece is part of a group exhibit, “Life Logistics,” that showcases 20 San Bernardino-area artists reacting to the logistics industry’s presence in the Inland Empire.

San Bernardino’s Garcia Center for the Arts, a community art space, organized it.

“It was easy to put the show together. All the artists have the same lived experience,” Eric Servin, the center’s program director, told me. “It’s sad we don’t have other options than ‘Oh, go work in a warehouse.’”

“Life Logistics” is in place through April 16 in the Community Gallery inside the entry. You can see it for free. Shows like this can be perfunctory, something to walk past on your way to the admissions desk, but not “Life Logistics.”

Artist Michael Segura of San Bernardino, with daughter Maya Segura-Nieto, 2 1/2, stands next to his painting
Artist Michael Segura of San Bernardino, with daughter Maya Segura-Nieto, 2 1/2, stands next to his painting “Eastgate,” a sendup of Amazon, founder Jeff Bezos and a massive warehousing project in San Bernardino. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

I saw the show while wandering The Cheech in preparation for writing about its six-month anniversary. I had the notion of trying to track down some of the artists if I had time.

Serendipity took care of that. Back at The Cheech two weeks ago for the opening reception of the “Land of Milk & Honey” exhibit, I was recognized by a photographer with work in the “Life Logistics” exhibit, Anthony Victoria, who introduced me to another of the artists, Michael Segura.

I was happy to meet him, because Segura is the artist behind my second-favorite piece, a tall painting with multiple scenes titled “Eastgate,” the shorthand name for a massive logistics project near San Bernardino International Airport.

The topmost portions take place in outer space with Jeff Bezos’ rocket flying by and a saintly Bezos in robe and halo addressing an audience in front of an interplanetary geodesic dome.

In the middle, back on Earth, there are Amazon trucks and warehouses, protesters waving signs outside. At the bottom: caricatures of the politicos then serving on the warehouse-lovin’ Inland Valley Development Agency.

I never expected to see familiar faces like John Valdivia, Dawn Rowe and Theodore Sanchez immortalized in art, but there they are.

A detail from
A detail from “Eastgate” by Michael Segura featuring area politicos then serving on the Inland Valley Development Agency board. From left, Larry McCallum, Dawn Rowe, Penny Lilburn, John Valdivia, Ovidiu Popescu and Theodore Sanchez. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Segura, a 31-year-old San Bernardino resident, said it’s telling that despite its interstellar ambitions, Amazon doesn’t establish high-paying technology or executive positions in the IE, just warehousing.

“They bring pollution but they don’t want to bring any high-tech jobs. They’re aiming for Mars but they’re not worried about the fires they’re leaving behind,” Segura said.

Servin, the exhibit’s organizer, was at The Cheech that night too, as were several of the artists. I was there for “Land of Milk & Honey,” but the chance to talk to the “Life Logistics” folks was too good to pass up.

Servin told me the show loosely connects to and complements “Land of Milk & Honey,” the ticketed show upstairs that’s part of the MexiCali Biennial. That exhibit is about agriculture and foodways.

“Life Logistics” is about such themes as economic security, food insecurity, environmental justice and the need for more oversight of the warehouse industry, Servin said.

That said, pieces with positive messages of strength and resilience were chosen too, Servin said, to balance out the portrait, like Priestly Henry’s “Rebuilding,” a painting with a swirl of shapes and colors around the central image of the San Bernardino arrowhead.

“Everybody in San Bernardino, we’re all resilient,” said Servin, a city native. “We have all these injustices, but we find a way to get by, day by day.”

Photographer Sadie Scott took pictures of the Garcia Center’s community garden, a place she said increases the availability of healthy food. That contrasts, she said, with logistics, which takes away land and through trucking increases pollution.

Finally, I met Toni Sanchez, the “Burn Them All Down” artist. She was carrying a self-made tote bag emblazoned with the same image.

For the record, she does not advocate arson or vandalism, nor did I think she did.

“It’s really inspired by my anger,” said Sanchez, a UC Riverside political science major. “It brings me back to Bloomington where my abuela lives.” A warehouse occupies a former cornfield on Cedar Avenue where her father played as a boy.

She’s organizing a related show at The Little Gallery of San Bernardino that will run July 29-Aug. 19 to continue the anti-warehouse conversation.

I told Sanchez about my reaction to “Burn Them All Down,” explaining that I’d laughed because the message and image were so blunt and effective.

Also, I said, they called to mind Ed Ruscha and his terrific deadpan paintings of well-known buildings engulfed in flames: “Norm’s, La Cienega, on Fire” (1964) and “Los Angeles Museum of Art on Fire” (1968).

Sanchez, understandably, wasn’t aware of him. She was thinking of Indigenous practices from a class she’d taken on fire ecology, in which purposeful fire can lead to healthy growth and transformation. “Burn it all down,” she said, “so something good can come from it.”

She emailed me the next day, having thought more about my comment on her piece’s bluntness.

“That stems from the fact that we are tired of not being heard from city officials who vote on and approve warehouse building,” she wrote.

“We need them to listen to us community members when we tell them what we want from them and how we want the land to be used,” she said, “whether that’s for community parks, community gardens, anything but warehouses.”

David Allen’s columns appear anytime but Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Email dallen@scng.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →