Opening Tonight: Ghost Bikes of L.A. Art Exhibit

An image from the studio installation. Image from Nona Varnado

Ghost Bikes L.A., a local art show honoring a decade of art, advocacy and community opens tonight 7 pm at Red #5 Yellow #7 in the Hel-Mel Bike District in East Hollywood.

“Through visually stunning art installations we aim to inspire viewers,” explains Nona Varnado, the curator of the exhibit. “We explore in depth the question of what ghost bikes are; their dual purpose of commemorating fallen cyclists while creating awareness of the need to demand change in our communities.”

Ghost Bikes are memorials honoring cyclists who are fatally – or sometimes critically – injured due to unnecessary collisions on streets not designed for shared traffic. They are a unique and positive response to a terrible event. By using art, communities around the globe have begun making individual memorials a powerful public awareness tool. Ghost Bikes are not put together by family or friends, but by local bike advocates to pay respect while making it publicly known that a death has occurred and making it obvious that a street or intersection is dangerous.

One artist featured in the exhibit is Sahra Sulaiman, one of the editors here at Streetsblog Los Angeles. Her featured work is a photo of cyclist Jose Vasquez lighting a candle for friend Luis “Andy” Garcia. Garcia was killed by a drunk driver as he, Vasquez, and several other cyclists rode home over the L.A. River on Cesar Chavez this past September.

“What is so important about ghost bikes is that these hit-and-runs leave families and friends utterly devastated. Not only are their loved ones mowed down, but most are denied any sort of closure because the perpetrators are rarely caught and/or punished appropriately,” Sulaiman writes.

“On one hand, the pain is compounded by the idea that someone would leave a wounded brother, sister, mother, or father in the street to die — the cruelty of it shakes your faith in humanity to the core. On the other, the incidents are so senseless…often the product of carelessness or selfishness. They didn’t have to happen or play out the way they did. I can’t imagine how hard it is to get past something like that. I know for the family of Benjamin Torres, not having any answers and not feeling like they can trust the police to tell them what happened or help them find the perpetrator makes the healing process hard.”

The show runs through November 16. For show times and event information, visit the Red #5 Yellow#7 website. Or visit Facebook for event details for tonight’s opening, a session with the families of bicyclists killed in car crashes, and the show closing.

2 thoughts on Opening Tonight: Ghost Bikes of L.A. Art Exhibit

  1. I ‘ve seen a couple of “Ghost Bikes” here in the San Gabriel Valley. I wonder how many people who are not Streetsblog readers or members of the bicycling community know what they signify. I hope I don’t see any more (considering what they represent), but should another “Ghost Bike” appear, I will take a photo of it and send it to some of the people I know at the local newspaper. I suspect that many of the really bad drivers don’t read a newspaper, so maybe if we could get one of the local TV stations to do a segment of “Ghost Bikes” (since they seem to have “If it bleeds, it leads” news philosophy).it would get the word out. Can’t hurt, might help, although one cynic observed, “Most drivers, after passing the aftermath of a nasty collision, will drive more carefully, at least for the next mile or two.”

  2. That’s exactly what we like to hear. We need people help raise awareness about this. This exhibit will feature prints by Genea Barnes, Sahra Suliman, Kat Jarvis and myself Danny Gamboa. Kat and I have documented Ghost Bikes in SoCal since Feb 2011. We are working on a documentary and will be at the opening tonight.

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