A Voice in the NELA Wilderness
by Christopher Nyerges
Over tamales recently at the Highland Park Farmers Market, I spoke with John Zender, 53, a prominent Highland Park muralist. The interview included a tour where Zender showed me some of his murals that are within walking distance of the market – on Figueroa Street at Avenue 61, on Avenue 56 just west of the Highland Theatre and in the parking lot to the rear. His murals can also be found at Luther Burbank Middle School and Garvanza Elementary School.
And those are just a few of his intact creations. There are many more in the East Los Angeles area where he was born and raised and lived before moving to Highland Park in 1993. In all, he says he has created more than 300 murals in Los Angeles, often working with other artists, and that about 100 of them are still around, mostly in schools. Others have been painted over.
While Zender is renowned for his big and beautiful murals, he is focusing these days on easel work that he exhibits and sells. Zender says that his easel work allows him to explore more personal issues and to seek the spiritual foundation of art.
“I believe that we are born spiritually deprived,” said Zender. “To develop a spiritual component, we must seek a higher source, a creator. I am a believer in Jesus Christ the Messiah, so my concept of spirituality is aligned with a Biblical theology. My work throughout the years has explored all three of these components – the body, the soul and the spirit – and in this current work I attempt to unify all three.” He calls the series “Triunity.”
Zender’s work is infused with love and respect for “Los Tres Grandes” – the three Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros – and for Jorge González Camarena, another Mexican muralist he cites as an inspiration.
His own style emerged and developed over the years. He started as a pioneer of sorts in the 1980’s when graffiti art was burgeoning. He also studied fine arts study at the Otis Art Institute and learned by doing over decades as a full-time muralist.
Along with his prolific easel work – he creates 10 to 12 paintings a week – Zender has become a mentor for young artists, providing advice and collaboration on how to design, paint and market murals.
You can read more about Zender and see his art at: johnzender.com, zenderone.com and creativeartsolutions.com.
Christopher Nyerges is the author and teacher of survival skills. For more information, visit his website: www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com