Growing up in the Bay area and living near San Francisco, artist Allison Torneros saw a fair share of street art. She quickly started making her own art at a young age and eventually got her work into a number of galleries.
But she always wanted to create something on a larger surface than a canvas. Now, Torneros works both inside and outside creating murals with spray paint, a medium she remembers as “love at first spray.”
Her ethereal, dream-like style now embellishes some Los Angeles walls, most recently one near the intersection of 3rd and Main in Downtown. The expansive mural, titled Inner Space, Outer Space, shows Torneros’ trademark mixture of colors dynamically clashing with black and white portions that meet in the middle. Torneros noticed that lately the colors she uses almost recall human organs, creating a visceral portrait of one’s inner space, so to speak. The outer space portion refers to the more cosmic feeling that some of her color choices evoke.
Inner Space, Outer Space came about with the help of Daniel Lahoda of LALA Arts; through LA Freewalls, Lahoda helps artists find spaces in the city on which to create murals. LALA Gallery will soon host an all-female street artist show in which Torneros will show alongside Swoon, Lydia Emily, Lady Aiko and more.
Inner Space, Outer Space also comes at an important time in the history of Los Angeles’ public art scene. Art-minded Angelenos continue to wait for an official meeting that will discuss a mural ordinance (now scheduled for August 28 after much rescheduling). Passing the ordinance would make art legal on private property and give artists more opportunity to create sanctioned art on the street.
“Coincidentally that wall is three blocks away from City Hall,” says Torneros. “We didn’t put it up because of that but the timing was kind of perfect so we kind of used that as a way to defend our case and show City Hall why we should get rid of the mural ban. Everyone in the community was hanging out… We were right next to the St. George Hotel. It’s on the fringes of skid row and those people were literally protecting the mural. One guy came up and was like ‘Yeah last night I saw two guys standing in front of your mural and I saw them pull out a small spray can and we chased them down...’ They feel ownership. They think, ‘This is in our block and our neighborhood and we like it and we’re going to protect it,’ and that kind of goes against the mural ordinance.”
Torneros wants people to really look at the piece, whether driving past the intersection or walking across the street. She places a pair of eyes near the bottom to draw pedestrians into the work; those arresting eyes relate to some of her earliest drawings.
“When I was a kid I used to – really I’m such a weirdo – I used to draw weird looking faces and creepy faces until I creeped myself out and then I would cross it off,” says Torneros. “I would scare myself and then I would scratch it out. Now I’ve embraced these weird kind of faces so I wanted to paint them. The eyes aren’t really creepy, they’re kind of beautiful. But the way they’re placed in the mural is kinda creepy, so people have told me when they crossed the street – people have watched the mural stare at them.”
Torneros joins a small group of women creating huge public works in Los Angeles and hopes that the upcoming LALA Gallery show will encourage more female artists to make art in the streets.
“I would just hope it would inspire more girls to get into it. The whole reason it took me so long – I’ve always admire street art and graffiti – was because it was a male dominated world,” says Torneros. "It was intimidating, and it took women like Swoon and Miss Van to pave the way... When you see women doing amazing shit you’re like, ‘Oh shit maybe I can do that, too.’”
(All images: Hueman/Allison Torneros, Inner Space, Outer Space, 2013; Courtesy LA Freewalls Project)