Department of Water and Power (4030 Crenshaw Blvd.)

On the Saturday I visited and photographed the Department of Water and Power building at 4030 Crenshaw Blvd. I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t stopped to videotape a Juneteenth Day parade in front of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza with my iPhone. Out of the corner of my left eye I saw it, and was so excited I started photographing it immediately from across the street.

Exhausted and hungry, following a busy morning at BLK MKT FLEA, I ignored the urge to go to the Krispy Kreme next door for a doughnut, and explored the site instead. While this Art Deco Modern building was conceived in 1954 and it has the “rounded edges and smooth wall finishes” indicative of the style the aspect that most fascinated me was how crisp, timeless, and glamorous it looks compared to the bustling urban blocks surrounding it.

A natural landscape of trees, grass and bushes effectively shade its walkways, and the variegated palette of green compliments the red brick and light brown walls of the structure. Overall, after perusing the site, and noting all of its diverse features, the most memorable thing about it was the way squares and rectangles are consistently repeated without making it look bland or boxy. As strong and bold as the Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59 I visited previously, at 11701 Venice Blvd., this one also has an added touch of lightness representative of the early 1950s.

Department of Water and Power (4030 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA. 90008)

Black is Always Beautiful: Juvia’s Place Makeup

I’ve always adored makeup, even though I rarely saw myself as an African American female depicted in Maybelline or Cover Girl ads, when I was growing up during the ’60s and ’70s. Of course there were the models Sandi Collins, Donyale Luna, Pat Cleveland, Beverly Johnson and Naomi Sims, but they always seemed too perfect for me to relate to. Instead my mother Jacqueline, was my role model. Elegantly dressed in Evan-Picone separates and suits, hair perfectly coiffed, and makeup impeccable she was the epitome of chic. In February, when she passed away at 82, this is the version I remember of her, and still look to for inspiration.

This is a 1960’s photo of my family. My mother is on the right looking down at me.

The Department Store

The only other time I really examined and became aware of how much makeup could enhance one’s looks was during my Freshman year at Holy Names College the private university I attended from 1979-1980 in Oakland, California. At 17 1/2, and fresh out of a six-week makeover course at John Robert Powers Modeling School I was happy with the tailored pants, colorful blouses, midi skirts, pullover sweaters, soft dresses and heels I wore, but I didn’t feel the same about my makeup. Back home, in Los Angeles, California the simple “makedown” technique I learned at JRP didn’t suit my new lifestyle and I needed an update.

“You should go to San Francisco, then visit one of the major department stores there, and have a makeup session with a cosmetics clerk.”

I consulted one of my new friends, an African American model, and asked her what to do. “You should go to San Francisco, then visit one of the major department stores there, and have a makeup session with a cosmetics clerk,” she said. “After she shows you how to apply everything, you should buy it, so you can do your own makeup once you get back to school.” Unfortunately in 1979, there was still a lot of bias against African Americans, within the beauty industry,, so I wasn’t surprised when the Caucasian clerk I worked with at the Cosmetics counter, didn’t know how to help me at first. Finally after experimenting with a variety of foundations, concealers, blushes, eye shadows, and lipsticks she found the perfect combination for my olive skin tone. She even suggested blue, pink and purple eyeshadow to bring out my brown eyes and deep fuchsia lipstick to balance my overall maquillage. Slightly disco, but radiant, the two hours I spent recreating her expertise everyday in front of my dorm room mirror increased my self-confidence when I most needed it.

Dealing with Beauty Challenges

Besides not seeing enough Black representation in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and the other fashion magazines I’ve read throughout the years, personally I’ve had issues with acne, vitiligo, skin discolorations and dark spots caused by lupus and Stage II A Breast Cancer. Now that I’m older, I’m also dealing with challenges related to age. Despite all of this I’ve become more determined than ever to find makeup companies that’re inclusive regardless of the race, age, sex or lifestyle of their target market. It was during this continuous search that I discovered Juvia’s Place

Juvia’s Place Makeup

Created by Chichi Eburu, an entrepreneur from Nigeria, it premiered in 2015. Working with the small budget of $2,000 out of her apartment, her goal was to offer a line that complimented darker skin tones. Initially I was hesitant about how the makeup would look on me, since my skin is medium-toned and I have a plethora of facial issues, but once I perused the website I decided to try it anyway. After ordering the I Am Magic Velvety Matte Foundation, the I Am Magic Concealer, the Multi-Purpose Foundation Sticks, the Afrique Blush, the So Red Velvety Matte Lipstick and the Masquerade Palette eyeshadow kit I applied my purchases and photographed myself wearing my pink and blue Oh Shitake! print Zuri dress.

Vibrant and complimentary I truly felt like Nefertiti, or one of the other African queens that inspired Eburu, when she envisioned this line. Truly inclusive, I later discovered her customer base “includes men, women, and individuals with all types of skin tones.” Besides the stunning packaging, the other thing that sets Juvia’s Place apart, within the industry, is the way Eburu was able to become successful by emphasizing “the African concept of beauty” instead of the European. She even named her company after her two children-Juwa, her son and Olivia, her daughter. Her ultimate goal? “To make blackness as mainstream as its counterparts and for people to see and love blackness.”

Back-To-School Dressing

The first day I officially went back to working on-site at the elementary I work for as a Special Education Instructional Assistant for LAUSD last week I was surprised that the style tribe who always wore the skinny jeans and t-shirt uniform were still wearing them in the same way. Fortunately time was probably kinder to them than to me because I’ve been through so much I don’t even remember how I dressed them or where a lot of those clothes are.It didn’t help that I’ve changed significantly in the time I’ve been away due to my mother’s passing in February, my graduation with an MA in Fashion Journalism and my continued battle with lupus. I’ve also joined the Art Deco Society Los Angeles and Fashion Group International Los Angeles and am still a member of the International Women’s Writers Guild. I guess when I started there again I shouldn’t have been surprised that they were meeting a virtual stranger. Still as the school year awaits, in the near future, my back-to-school wardrobe plans are on my mind so I’ve had to do a lot of sartorial organizing to arrange my outfits accordingly to fit my Zoom to reality lifestyle.

Since I wanted to look both professionally chic and comfortable I borrowed the skinny Jeans uniform of my co-workers, swapped them out for a wider, more distressed version from Forever 21 and mixed and matched them with various blouses and cardigans for my own back-to-school uniform. Slightly retro, yet feminine and contemporary I feel it’s definitely a go-to look I can easily coordinate for a busy week on campus.

I Finally Bought a Zuri Dress and I’m So in Love with It I’d Love to Buy a Few More

Ever since I first saw the beautifully patterned dress and I wanted one. Finally when they’re pink and blue mushroom print oh Oh Shitake! hit the site I took the sartorial plunge and put it on my wish list.

Made out of 100% washed cotton Kitenge cloth sourced from Tanzania the mid-weight fabric stands away from my body elegantly. Side pockets and a row of black buttons sewn down the front complete the spacious silhouette.

Oh Shitake! dress

Created in 2016, when New York fashion designer Sandra Zhao married invention with necessity the dress is comfortable, versatile and attractive enough to be worn anywhere. For Zhao, that included “her travels to the southern Sudan from her home in Nairobi Kenya.”

LBD (“little black dress”) classic, but also unique as a snowflake, she discovered it was a conversation-starter as well. On the day she attended a wedding, wearing the dress, another guest Ashley Gersh Miller approached her and proposed they become business partners and start a company together. Launched in 2017, they named it Zuri which means “beautiful” in Swahili.

Zuri means beautiful in Swahili”.

Oh Shitake! dress

One of the biggest selling points of the design is it accommodates most sizes, ages, and lifestyles within its large demographics. Another big selling point is his flexibility. Whether worn with a sun hat and shades, as a tunic top over black leggings, or as an open coat over a white tee and slim cut jeans it’s the perfect addition to any woman’s wardrobe.

Oh Shitake! dress over white tee and jeans
Oh Shitake! dress over a white tee and jeans

Although all of these reasons, and the $145 price tag, are why I considered buying a Zuri dress, my purchasing decision was finally made when I realized it would allow me to express my African American heritage and comfortably deal with my lupus photosensitivity outdoors.

Challenging and stressful at times, especially in the sunny clime where I live, this side effect of the disease really impacts my social and professional life. To cope with it I continually search for clothes, like the Zuri dress, luxuriate in their stylishness, and remember while wearing them I’m a woman who is actually a warrior instead of a wounded victim with a challenging disability.

Product Rating: 5 Stars for affordability, comfort and versatility

The Charm of Gingham (Fashion: Retro Print)

I’ve always loved gingham and buy it whenever I can to brighten up my look. I’m so obsessed with it my younger brother swears every time I give him a new shirt, it’s gingham.

Throughout my research about the textile I discovered seven very interesting facts about it:

  • Characterized as “lightweight plain-woven cotton cloth” it’s usually in a checked pattern consisting of white and a vibrant contrasting color.
  • The word “gingham” is a reinvention of the Malayan term ganging (“striped).
  • Since the initial yarn is “dyed” before it’s woven it’s also known as “dyed in the yarn”.
  • Associated with more rural settings than urban in Europe and the United States, the fabrication reminds one of the country and rustic themes.
  • Gingham is popular with fashion designers during the summer, and is considered a “classic”.
  • It’s always been a favorite with Hollywood celebrities like Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Today the love affair continues and it’s been seen on Rihanna and Reese Witherspoon.
  • During the 17th-century when it was first “imported to Europe” it was striped instead of checked. Then in the mid-1800s when it was manufactured in England, it was woven into checks or plaids.

How to Wear Gingham:

Despite it’s pleasing appearance gingham isn’t easy to wear and has its own rules:

  • Shirts should grace the body, but fit comfortably loose too.
  • Gingham separates look amazing on people over 40.
  • For a retro vibe, cropped pants, pencil skirts, and tie-front tops are cool when made out of gingham and cut just so.
  • To make it appear more picturesque, coordinate it with splashy polka dots, wild leopard prints, and pretty florals. Even flannels will work, but as with all contrasting patterns, be mindful of color before trying.

Places to Buy Gingham Online:

Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59

For many years, whenever I passed by the Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59 on 11071 Venice Blvd. on my way to the Mar Vista Public Library,I always wondered if it was an Art Deco building. Solidly built, but elegantly simple, it beckoned me from the car and bus window to come and check it out up close.

Finally, one afternoon after picking up some books from the library, I walked the long city blocks down to its location.Using both my I-Phone camera and a small 35mm camera I battled the overhead sun and photographed the framed door, the striated line details, the rectilinear lights, and the period typography of the sign.

Accentuating the structure with equally sparse loveliness was the landscaping in the front that brought a touch of naturalness to its gray minimalism.

Backstory of the Building

Department of Water and Power Distributing Station No. 59

Constructed in 1940 out of “smooth stucco” this particular building is a prime example of PWA (Public Works Administration) Moderne or Depression Moderne Art Deco. Representative of the “public works projects” Franklin Roosevelt proposed through his New Deal”it is one of a number of buildings in the United States overseen by the Office of the Supervising Architects. In addition to civic structures like the “Department of Water and Power”, from 1933 to 1944 “schools, hospitals, post offices, libraries and banks” were also built in the PWA Moderne style.

Sturdy and reliable, the goal of the style was meant to “depict permanence, stability and authority”. That doesn’t mean there isn’t grace and elegance in their classicism, it just means their characteristics are more subdued. So instead of the splashy effects that traditional Art Deco was known for in the 1920s, this time there is a more sombre hand at play rendering quadrilateral justification to “symmetrical exteriors and recessed windows organized into vertical panels”.

The Great Depression

To understand why this type of architectural image was so important, during its heyday, you need to know a little about The Great Depression. Since its start in 1929 until its end in the late 1930s, there was such an economic downturn, unemployment was out of control, and the overall morale of the people was at a low point. To turn this around the buildings designed as PWA Moderne personified the security society was seeking in their lives then.

PWA Moderne

In 2021, during the midst of our own crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to minimize the effects of The Great Depression if we didn’t live through it or know others who did. Still, regardless of this, the fact that we continue to appreciate such an important part of our past through architecture is encouraging and a great way to face the future.

Nature Thoughts, Part 2 (Inspiration)

Flourishing in Full View (4/7/21)

Jacaranda Tree

Dripping down with subtle grace,

the jacaranda blossoms dance.

Seasonal and pure they delight.

Beloved Visual Spritz (4/8/21)

Green Plants

Elegance fawning downward

the delicate spray of greenery,

Humble within its soul.

Soft Petal Pink Glory (4/9/21)

Pink Flowers at Kaiser-Permanente, West LA Cadillac

Aromatically fragrant and splendid

the graceful petals fell

An inspired ground accepts them.

Red and White Flora

Orange flowers near and on the fence at the Natural History Museum

Extravagant in the garden,

a flower radiates brightly

Against a blue fence.

Perfectly Small and Meticulous (4/11/21)

Small Orange Flowers

Virtuous and serene

the tender buds bloom

Decorating the earth forever.

White Among the Green (4/12/21)

White Calla Lily at Kaiser-Permanente, West LA Cadillac

Decorating the space in splendor

the blissful white flowers grow

Spreading upwards towards the sun.

Nature Thoughts, Part 1 (Inspiration)

Buds on Tree (4/2/21)

Jacaranda Tree

Fragrant early dewdrop day.

‘Tis the approach of blooming,

the center of harmony.

Red Green Leaves (4/3/21)

Red Flora

Sun nestled the flowers,

Leaves crouched alongside them.

Next to the rosy apartment building.

Together Forever (4/4/21)

Rose Bush

Everlasting and conjoined sweetly,

Two flowers barely touch,

a miracle of togetherness.

Rose Garden near the Natural History Museum. I took photos there before attending the “Dinosaur 101” Workshop at the museum.

Back to It (4/5/21)

Deep yellow blooms pushing upwards,

Softly the petals sigh,

the sun brightly shines.

Birds of Paradise at Kaiser-Permanente, West LA Cadillac

Romance in Bloom (4/6/21)

Lush and entertained it grows,

Decorating the barren dirt,

a touch of nature exists.