Founded in 1887, Occidental College has proudly called the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles its home for the past 100 years.
To commemorate our time in this community, Oxy commissioned alumna and artist Margaret Gallagher ’13 to create six unique illustrations that evoke Oxy’s sense of place in the community. The illustrations serve as the focal point for a new series of streetlamp banners “100 Years in Eagle Rock” that began to appear throughout the city of Los Angeles in late August. View the gallery.
Gallagher, an Oregon native, chose to call Northeast Los Angeles her permanent home after graduating from Oxy in 2013 with a degree in studio art. She works as a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, and fine artist. You can read her artist statement below and learn more about her other work at margaretgallagherart.com.
Occidental College Streetlamp Banners
Six vivid and detailed illustrations with Occidental College’s name on them appear on banners that grace the streetlamps of Los Angeles this year. Each illustration tells a story of a city that exists somewhere on the borders of imagination, and a reality that is at times gritty and at times stunningly beautiful. Coyotes, praying mantises, and hummingbirds mingle with buildings, telephone poles, trashcans, and bright sprays of foliage. Plants and animals sometimes loom larger than buildings yet coexist naturally with the built environment.
These images, more than anything, speak of awareness. While the city they depict doesn’t literally exist, it is present in more ways than are apparent to many people. Los Angeles is a vast ecosystem of a place: people, neighborhoods, and infrastructures intertwine with the natural world and with each other, bound together by a multitude of history, ideas, and perceptions. Many tiny worlds exist beneath the surface. Sometimes it requires only a small shift in perception to begin to understand its complexity.
Occidental College is fundamentally, inextricably a part of this living, urban ecosystem. As a student, the college nurtured and encouraged my exploration of Los Angeles—not just the exploration of geography, but of ideas. This allowed me not just to see the city with greater detail, but to understand where it comes from and where it is going. Moments like the flight of wild parrots over the neighborhoods and the beauty of a shimmering fountain intertwine with ideas like the preciousness of water in the middle of a desert, the struggle for safe and affordable living, the bittersweet competition between native and invasive species. Armed with such awareness, it is impossible to simply observe a landscape. It is impossible to remain apart: you yourself become a part of the living ecosystem.