LA’s east side, as seen by a transplant, and rendered in watercolor

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Jennyportrait2Like most people who move from the east coast to the west, artist Jenny Ziomek approached LA with a mix of wonder and confusion. She was mesmerized by the open skies and the neighborhoods, and has created a charming body of watercolor, pen, and gouache artworks of East LA storefronts.

Starting tonight, her work will be up on display in one of them, in fact–not at an art gallery but at a dress shop on Sunset Blvd. As an east coast transplant myself, I was curious what inspired her move–and how she’s been inspired by LA:

KCRW: What brought you from NYC to LA?

JENNY ZIOMEK: A whim. And my brother. I was walking down the street in New York, where I’d lived for eight years. I was having one of those moments in life where I felt like I was throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping some of it will stick. The phone rang and it was my brother, who lives in Los Angeles. He asked what my summer plans were and I didn’t know. He said, “Why don’t you spend the summer in LA?” I said, “Done.” I found a sublet and moved “for the summer.” It’s been a year and a half and I’m still here!

KCRW: How has moving coasts influenced your work?

JZ: LA feels like a newer, easier, more open-minded city to be an artist in. I have so many artist friends in New York who work 50 hours a week at an unrelated job. Here I’m constantly meeting people who are able to pull off a lifestyle that really allows them to hone their craft and focus on their work more than their day job. That inspires me.

More specifically to my own paintings, I love the colors and lines here. Having lived in New York for so long, surrounded by tall, grey buildings (which are beautiful in their own way), I was shocked by the stark contrast from NYC when I moved. I love the low buildings here, set against power lines, palm trees and so much sky. LA has amazing old signage and colors everywhere. Aesthetically, it just feels like an alien world compared to New York, and I find I have an almost compulsive desire to document it.
KCRW: Many people who come to LA from New York have a hard time adjusting here. How has it gone for you?

JZ: I have a complicated relationship with LA–to me, it feels like the polar opposite of New York in every imaginable way. Everything New York has, LA doesn’t. And vice versa. Sometimes I am enamored with the LA lifestyle, the weather, how accessible nature is here, that the dog can run around my yard! Other times I feel like it’s the loneliest place in the world; I miss people-watching on the subway, walking everywhere, and the sense of community that NYC has. I also admit that I had an advantage moving here–both of my brothers live in the city and are two of my best friends.

KCRW: What neighborhood in NY does Silverlake remind you of, if any?

JZ: Williamsburg or the East Village ten years ago.

KCRW: How much do you drive?

JZ: Too much. Any amount of driving is too much for me–I hate it! All my close friends in New York, who have never seen me drive, say, “For some reason you seem like you’d be a terrible driver.” I don’t know what that says about my personality.

You can see Ziomek’s Silverlake Storefront Series on display at Matrushka, 3822 W. Sunset Blvd. The show opens tonight with a reception from 7-9pm.