NEW YORK — Perhaps more than in any other American city, things in Los Angeles are not as they would first seem.
So it is fitting that artist Lauren Bon set up her “Not a Cornfield” project on a 32-acre industrial brownfield in the City of Angels’ historic center.
Most artists would not want to deal with the challenges of arranging for 1,500 truckloads of fresh dirt to be ferried in and for one million seeds to be planted. But Bon did so enthusiastically to restore the land, which is north of Chinatown and south of Lincoln Heights. Aside from giving West Coasters a welcome distraction on their morning drives, she raises questions about the use of urban public spaces, as well as the politics and inequities of land use. Bon has also created a place to have fun.
Campfires, storytelling, drum circles, school tours, open microphone sessions and movie screenings are among the many activities that have taken place at “Not a Cornfield.” Thanks partly to Bon, an Annenberg Foundation scholar, the former polluted industrial site will be turned into a park by the California Department of Parks and Recreation faster than it might have been.
The artist said her aim was “to open up a space for possibility.” The project was seeded by a dream she had since childhood to see the area “abundant with corn and awash in blue light.” Once the corn is harvested next month, it will be dried, displayed and eventually used to make biodegradable containers.
Of all the reactions to “Not a Cornfield,” Bon’s personal favorite is provided on a daily basis by Running Wolf, a conductor on the Mass Transit Authority’s gold line, which runs adjacent to the site. When passing the 12-foot stalks, he uses the loudspeaker to perform an Apache salute to the corn.