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Morris: When the bouncers were at my side, the skinheads' feelings were hurt, their toes had been stepped on. "Oh, woe is me! Poor little me!" At the end of the night, after everybody left, our equipment's still on stage, we're celebrating that we made it through another show, and the bouncers were laughing it off. And the owner said, "We're going to be here at least a couple of hours." I go and I crack the door open, and I look out in the parking lot, and it's all the skinheads, they're in their four or five cars, and they're driving in circles in the parking lot, waiting for us to come out. A couple hours later, they were gone.
WILLIE HERRON: So I went to County General. He was there. And once I saw they were going to take care of him, then I decided to walk home. So from the County General, I walked all the way back to City Terrace. So that took me a little bit, walking. And as I was walking, I was collecting all my ideas. I started to envision, I know, essences of street performing. Like all these ideas, painting the mural, doing paintings that really - Like I said, I really crystalized everything that had been going through me prior to that incident that that was another level that propelled me into my career because of that incident and painting "The Cracked Wall," I then thought that I should sacrifice something of myself. And that evening, when I got home, I collected some cans of paint in the garage, some black and some brown, some red, a little bit of green. And they were all oil based enamels, which I wouldn't have painted a mural in oil based enamels to begin with because I was allergic to oil based paint. And I had already had experiences trying to paint with it and I just reacted. My eye, ear, nose and throat kind of thing did a major reaction. So it wasn't anything that I was comfortable with painting but that's all I had available to me. And I said a few prayers and like Van Gogh and like other artists that do something physically to themselves to put themselves on a plateau that allows them to get to the next step, or the next level of their work, I shaved - I decided to shave my eyebrows because I didn't feel like taking something away from me that then would have to put me in the hospital, or like cut off a hand or chop off a finger or whatever. I felt that I could do something to my self that I wouldn't do to myself anyway and that was shave my eyebrows off. And I thought about the whole idea of being humiliated by being called something other than what I was. I knew I was a man. I knew it would probably make me look and come across more feminine because I remembered the cholas and a lot of the girls growing up and some of my aunts shaving their eyebrows off and penciling in their . . . And having that look of no eyebrows, not the natural eyebrows but the lined in. And so that smoothness over the eyes to me was a very feminine thing. And so that humiliation and putting myself in a humiliating way re-presenting myself to society physically was not the machismo uncles with the suits and the zoot suits. It was like a total opposite. And I felt that I would have to deal with that humiliation and deal with that explanation for months to come. So I told God, "Save my son and I'll shave my eyebrows and I'll deal with humiliation for the next eight months." I'll deal with it! That was the deal. I'll deal with humiliation but save my brother. So I did that that night and went over maybe, it was already close to two o'clock in the morning. Some of the guys were still hanging around with my brother when I got home. When I did this little ritual thing and gathered the paints, I was in my studio in the garage away from my brother and his friends talking about, "Well, I'm going to get so-and-so. And it was so-and-so from Big Hazard. And I know that vata. And vato va a machar" and all this vocabulary that was going on. And I just totally separated myself from all of that because I knew that they had to vent their frustration their way. And I wasn't going to vent that way. I wasn't going to vent with violence. I wasn't going to vent in a physical way that they vent. I wanted to vent, tap into the intellect. To a way that twenty, thirty years from now, that work of art is a documentation of that incident which was typical to barrios all over the world. To me it seemed like a very typical issue. And I had already lived through a lot of those. But it was never my own brother. It was never my own flesh and blood. That it took that to crystalize in my head to say, "You've got to paint a piece that is the epitome that symbolizes this incident which is a common incident. We have to come out of this." So I decided to do "The Wall That Cracked Open" and turned it into the idea of breaking down everything that has already been established, everything that has always been has to be broken down. It has to be bulldozed. It has to come down. And you have to rebuild something new. So I decided to make it the wall cracking open and breaking open, the negative part of the wall cracking open forming this tree that represents life, and it could be also a dead tree. I didn't know at the time whether I was creating a dead tree or a tree that was going to spring life. So with that shape, I filled in the tree like you would carve a tree because the prior mural, "The Plumed Serpent," if you noticed the left side of it has a tree again. And the tree is carved and painted like the cave paintings from ancient times, the beginning of man. I felt that that was my connection to creating something, including something that was organic that was of the earth and tree representing the life, representing off shoots of generations where we mix with each other and it becomes part of the tree. I felt that that was very symbolic, a very symbolic shape that I included in both of those murals . . . "The Plumed Serpent" and "The Wall that Cracked Open". And then including my grandmother holding on to the middle of the tree with her faith, with her sincerity of wanting things and hoping that things improve, hoping that things get better. I wanted to show that the first generation. I wanted to include my grandparents in there somewhere because of the strength and stability that they gave me growing up and that I still felt that I was receiving from them. Because I did get permission from my grandparents to paint that mural that night. My grandfather was at the bakery making bread and so was my aunt. And they were both emotionally moved by the whole incident that they said, "Si, go ahead, 'mijo, paint your mural.'" And they allowed me that time and that space to do it. So by the crack of dawn when the sun was coming out, I no longer needed a couple of the guys holding flashlights during the night and I was at the top of the ladder finishing it up, putting the final details ten, eleven hours later. I finished it. And at the top is this person that sort of comes out of the tree and he just sort of looks totally diseased and totally plagued and his tongue's hanging out and it's like he's exhausted and he's tired but it is in the form of a man. And he's diseased and plagued by everything that has produced him that he almost lacks regurgitation. He almost lacks something coming out of his mouth. It's dry. There's nothing there to come out any more. And to me, it was the best I could do in that amount of time while I had everything just flowing through me and that was my best attempt at producing this work that was inspired by all of this prior to 1972, which really put me under the microscope at that time. I think "The Cracked Wall" put me under the microscope because at that time there was throughout the community this anti-graffiti which is still common today. This whole anti-graffiti attitude was major. And the way that I felt that I was communicating to the home boys, communicating to that life style that my brothers were involved in and that influenced me in the first place to create "The Wall That Cracked Open" was that incorporating the graffiti and the graffiti becoming an integral part of the work of art like "The Plumed Serpent" also incorporated graffiti. I was being criticized by the art world. I was being criticized by other artists for the most part for incorporating graffiti rather than approaching muralism and approaching graffiti by using murals as a replacement and getting rid of the graffiti. That was the early murals from the early seventies, the late sixties where artists were dealing with graffiti and were being hired in the early seventies to do murals was so that they could get rid of and replace the graffiti. And I did not do that with my murals. I did the total opposite. I embraced graffiti and graffiti became part of my work because I respected the voice of the community. And I added to their voice. I didn't get rid of their voice and say, "My voice is superior." Again, it's the image that my uncles portrayed, that machismo, that street savvy with the intellect wanting to fuse rather than saying, "I'm better than this" or "You're better than that. And we're separate."
WILLIE HERRON: And I have all the audio tapes. I have all the original audio tapes. All the out takes, everything, and we're laughing and cracking up. It's like really cool. Real candid, like the whole thing. But he used excerpts of that for his video. And I don't know to this day where the video is at.
WILLIE HERRON: Right. Well, just the other day, restoring "The Wall That Cracked Open," just the other day, there was three individuals that I didn't even know. Okay? They approached me and they had just come from the liquor store. And they cracked open their cans of beer like that's what everybody does. When they go through the alley, they find a spot. That was a famous spot for guys who just sit on the steps and drink their cold one for the day, right? All three of those individuals - one was from Mexico, two were born here and were from East L.A., half my age - all three of them had a completely different interpretation of the Wall that Cracked Open. All three of them! And they were all very interesting perspectives and I just even hesitated to tell them the reason behind the mural . . . . 2b1af7f3a8