By Christina Campodonico

Oaxaca and Los Angeles are 2,000 miles apart, but stories of migration have made these cities inseparable. That’s the idea behind the Annenberg Community Beach House’s “Memories of Diaspora: Narratives of Los Angeles” exhibit, which places artwork by first-generation Los Angeles artists alongside works created in Oaxaca.

Participating local artists are affiliated with Art Division, a nonprofit based in the Rampart District that offers visual arts programming to young adults who’ve aged out of youth-serving art programs. The exhibit sprang out of Art Division’s ongoing collaborations and exchanges with artists in Oaxaca. Art Division hosts artists from Oaxaca to teach workshops and sends students to teach or take classes in Oaxaca as well, which creates “a rapport between the artist and the students,” explains Art Division Assistant Director Dagmar Brown.

A recent Art Division trip found more Oaxacan artists tackling immigration in their work — particularly “that trip from Oaxaca all the way to the border,” says Brown. “At least one member of their family will make that trip in their lifetime.”

Immigration is also a common theme among Art Division students.

“They may not have done that trip,” says Brown, “but maybe their parents have crossed the border in the past. There’s a memory of immigration, of crossing from one place to the next.”

In “Memories of Diaspora,” for example, one print depicts a truck piled high with mattresses, suggesting a life on the move. Another shows a little girl blowing Monarch butterflies into the air as if they were kisses. A skeleton, holding a flower to its mouth as if it were a telephone receiver, takes them in as if they were sounds waves traversing great distances. The monarchs are a fitting symbol for migration, too, as portions of the species make the long trek between the U.S. and Mexico each year.

“Memories of Diaspora: Narratives of Los Angeles” remains on view through Jan. 5 at the Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica. Call (310) 458-4904 or visit for gallery hours.