5 Questions With ELKPEN
A Frogtown Artwalk Artist Spotlight
Elkpen (aka Christian Kasperkovitz) is a street artist based in Los Angeles, whose work contemplates the effect of urban life on familiar, threatened or extinct flora and fauna. We were fortunate to have her exhibit some of her work at the 2018 Frogtown Artwalk at the Suay Sew Shop Parking lot on Knox Ave. Maybe you were lucky enough to view it.
Elkpen is known for her nature and conservation illustrations and for additional work she calls "ELKOLOGY", a branch of street signs painted on recycled cardboard and placed all over the city of Los Angeles. ELKOLOGY deals with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment. She is also known for her work with Friends of the Los Angeles River; creating various works including their famous "Froggy" mascot, T-shirt and tote bag designs for their annual "La Gran Limpieza - The Great L.A. River Cleanup". In 2014, FoLAR commissioned her to create the design on the exterior of their River Rover, a thirty-eight foot mobile classroom which is used to teach students about the history and significance of the Los Angeles River.
We caught up with ELKPEN this week to see what she's been up to since the artwalk and find out how she's been spending her time during the Covid-19 self-quarantine. Coincidentally and sadly, FoLAR's founder Lewis MacAdams passed away the day after we contacted her for this interview, so we asked her for some thoughts on Lewis and her work for the prominent L.A. River advocacy organization.
What have you been doing during the Covid-19 self-quarantine?
Reflecting a lot. The first couple of weeks of quarantine I was pretty immobilized. Thinking how much this crisis reflects so much of what is wrong with us, our disregard for wild spaces, clean air and clean water, equitable society, our love of the cheap and convenient, how it is a moment to emerge as better selves, and my pessimism about that, but I have come around to more optimism. There is a lot of good taking shape, and it is a moment to grow and connect those positive nodes, regenerative agriculture, new economies, sacred forests, healthcare for all.
Can you share anything about upcoming new projects?
I have an ongoing project TRASHCOMIC, a comic series I do for Geosphere Packaging, a new company creating packaging that is fully compostable in 90 days. There is so much to write and draw on right now, though it's a challenge finding a tone that is light, and not a screaming call to arms.
I am also finishing the design work for a set of four exterior murals for a school. It is a gigantic and wonderful project; the natural history of Los Angeles, its river and its first peoples, with an emphasis on citizen science. Hollywood Orchard, a non profit in Hollywood, has been the engine behind it. I love the project and also now that it has grown and lived for so long on paper, still unfinished I’ll add, I am anxious to get on site with a paintbrush.
What inspires you these days?
The color of the sky, how the trees seem to be psychedelically articulated in the peace, how bird song is slowly taking over, there is water flowing in the canyon above me.
You exhibited some of your work at the 2018 Frogtown Artwalk. We certainly hope you'll join us again in 2021. Can you give us some thoughts and impressions about the artwalk?
A lot of energy and enthusiasm that night. A lot of energy and enthusiasm to activate! Maybe next walk everyone can join hands, safely!, and recognize all we need is each other, clean air and clean water. Bond over the idea that simplifying our lives will lead to more peace and more clean air. We could all stop for a moment and sing a song. We have to heal ourselves to heal the earth.
On April 21st, we learned that Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River passed away. You have done quite a bit of artwork for FoLAR over the years including the designs on their mobile classroom, the River Rover, their annual clean up T-shirts and more. Tell us about some of the projects you worked on. How did you come to work with them and what was your first encounter with Lewis like?
I loved Lewis. He was a master of the unexpected, committed to wonder, and a real revolutionary. The first time I got a call from him, without a salutation or introduction, he asked me “what do you think of red legged frogs?”
"Christian Kasperkovitz is a trumpet sounded
for the L.A. River." -- Lewis MacAdams
Lewis started by cutting a fence and walking down to the River. Showing up at city council meetings and shouting the word River whenever they said flood control channel - small individual actions. FoLAR, when I started doing work for them was a small group of committed souls working on the river when no one else was. It was funky and real and they changed the city. It is an example for all of us to not be afraid of the size of the challenge and live the change. I still think the first project we did together, the bag for the clean up, was the best project we did. I came up with the phrase "Bring the River to the People, Bring the People to the River", and the art had a fist raised with water coming out of it. Lewis the revolutionary made me think like that. Shout out to Shelly and Karen :).
You can follow ELKPEN on Instagram at @elkpen
About the Author
Michelene Cherie is a Production Manager and Content Curator for The Elysian Valley Arts Collective. She works with non-profits, animal advocacy organizations and owns a boutique marketing and event company - Cherie Creative Company. In her free time, Michelene volunteers for several cat rescues in Los Angeles. More info at: www.cheriecreativecompany.com