Opening Reception: “Compass Rose”

May 28, 2019 | 5:00pm TO 7:00pm
2019-05-28 17:00:00 2019-05-28 19:00:00 Opening Reception: “Compass Rose” <p>Join us at Oxy Arts on York for the opening of <em>Compass Rose </em>by Debra Scacco</p> America/Los_Angeles public
View Event Photos on Flickr
On view through August 16

Compass Rose

During the Spring semester of 2019, community members from Highland Park shared their histories and personal journeys with students from Occidental College Professor Dr. Jeremiah Axelrod’s course “Countercultural Northeast LA: the Arts of Resistance”. The completed interviews were digitized, archived and will be available online. These interviews are the first in NELA Stories: an ongoing program of community story collection and archiving to be housed at Occidental College.

These personal stories are at the heart of Compass Rose, an exhibition by artist and Highland Park resident Debra Scacco. The exhibition utilizes these interviews in tandem with the historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas (1867 - 1977) to create a new kind of map: one built by the stories generously contributed by community members. Compass Rose deconstructs the map of Northeast Los Angeles, transforming a historic set of lines into a series of unfolding stories. Compass Rose proposes a contemporary cartographic rewrite. One which does not compress, but expands. One which does not dictate, but invites. One in which the map is made by stories, not the other way around.

Compass Rose is a collaboration between Oxy Arts, Institute for the Study of Los Angeles, Occidental College Library Special Collections & College Archives, and the Center for Digital Liberal Arts, Occidental students and members of the community in Northeast Los Angeles.


Artist Statement:

Every map is a story. A set of lines that connects here to there and me to you; an intricate web of time, memory and place formed by the politics and power that precede it. Every map is both truth and fiction: a singular world view at a moment in time, an exercise of power told by and for the powerful.

We live within the map: connected by the grid, represented by a dot. Instinct tells us to locate ourselves within these paper places. We identify the dots to create the maps that hold our stories, often crossing city, country, desert and ocean boundaries.

Colonial history rewrote the past. Early maps of Los Angeles make no mention of our Tongva origins, and scarcely acknowledge boundaries in which California was Mexico. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas, now a key tool in decoding the evolution of American cities, literally pasted new information atop the old, leaving no access to the stories beneath. Compass Rose challenges this singular narrative of the map, and invites its undoing by a conceptual redrawing  based on the lived experience of the community.

“Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.”

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby


Debra Scacco is a multidisciplinary artist and curator. In addition to living in Highland Park, her studio was once located at 4755 York Blvd: the same building that is now the Oxy Arts complex. Her personal relationship with the space makes this one of the most meaningful projects she has embarked on.

Her work deals with contemporary and historic structures of permission and has been seen at LAX Airport, Royal Academy of Arts (London), and Viper Basel (Switzerland). And can be found in collections including LACMA, Hammer Museum and CAA. Origins: Los Angeles River 1815/1825, an installation about the history of the Los Angeles River, is on view at Los Angeles State Historic Park. In 2012, she was the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the Ellis Island Museum (NYC).

Curatorial projects include La Reina de Los Angéles (Descanso Gardens, September 2018) and On Going Home (Charlie James Gallery, 2017; part of Pacific Standard Time:LA/LA).

Made possible by the Arts and Urban Experience Initiative, which is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

compass rose exhibit at oxy arts