On Wednesday, Nov. 16, the exhibit “Walking L.A.” opened at Pomona’s Smith Campus Center (SCC) Gallery. The exhibit is part of the senior thesis project of Zoe Carlberg PO ’12 and features a series of 84 pen and pencil sketches that document her 60-mile walk through Los Angeles County. Carlberg, an Environmental Analysis (EA) major with a focus on urban design, spent eight days over the course of three weekends in September walking from Claremont to Santa Monica.
“I wanted to see what you miss when you drive everywhere,” Carlberg said. “For us especially, as college students, L.A. is such a destination… We speed along to get from here to a place and we miss everything along the way. We miss the whole city.”
Carlberg drew on her experiences in Claremont and abroad to inspire her project. She spent the fall of 2010 working on organic farm in Italy. Because she was not attending classes, Carlberg had time to walk around European cities.
“You just explore and you find so many new things and L.A. is not really a place where you do that,” she said. After experiencing very walkable cities in Europe, Carlberg said that she “wanted to see what it would be like to walk in a city that is not meant for walking.”
In Claremont, Carlberg has taken classes on the history of L.A., including ‘Building L.A.,’ which focuses on the architecture of the city. The class prompted Carlberg to discover new aspects of the city that are otherwise overlooked. The theme of the overlooked qualities of urban living figures prominently in her project.
“Urban environments get overlooked as valuable places because we live here and it’s normal to us… I want to show that it is special and it has value,” Carlberg said.
During her walks, Carlberg spent nights with family of friends in different parts of L.A. County and planned her route accordingly. She found some of the most interesting aspects of her experience to be the abrupt changes in surroundings, from low-income areas to wealthy areas and from suburbs to commercial areas.
Carlberg’s sketches, a variety of images ranging from neighborhoods to street advertisements, were drawn from a collection of over 1800 photographs she took while she was walking. She selected the photos she found to be the most representative of the areas she walked through or that gave the most unique perspective.
In the SCC Gallery installation the sketches are attached to individual pieces of cork board that are suspended from the ceiling by fishing line. On the floor, arrows made out of masking tape lead viewers through the sketches, which are arranged chronologically in the order that Carlberg saw them.
“You can take a journey through the drawings,” she said.
The sketches appear to be glimpses into everyday life. The exhibit’s more striking images include a Happy Birthday sign hanging across a front porch, a woman and a child on bicycles, a discarded bottle of Jack Daniels at a railroad crossing, and a section of sidewalk where tree roots had broken up the pavement.
Though Carlberg had initially planned to stop and sketch while she walked, she found it to be too time consuming and switched instead to photographing her journey. However, she always intended to make the sketches.
“I wanted to draw instead of taking photos because it takes more time and you have to pay more attention and look really closely,” she said. “You need to care about it. It shows much more intention—paying attention to this thing that people probably never pay this much attention to. I wanted to show that it had value that way by taking the time to draw everything.”
Creating sketches from photographs was more symbolic than aesthetic, and reflected the purpose of the project—to see the unseen, according to Carlberg.
“You can go snap photos and not even look at the camera. You have to take time and effort to draw,” she said.
“Walking L.A.” runs through Saturday Nov. 19 in the SCC Gallery, which is open today from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.