Art Meza outside Antigua Coffee Roasters in Cypress Park

Art Meza outside Antigua Coffee Roasters in Cypress Park

Librarian by day, social media aficionado the rest of the time, Art Meza, who was born in Echo Park before it became a paradise for artists and hipsters, started posting pictures to Instagram, often of snazzy cars called low riders. Next thing you know, he’s being published, and having his work hung in City Hall.

“I still don’t consider myself a photographer,” he said modestly as we sat in a cafe on Figueroa Street in another gentrifying neighborhood near his workplace to talk about Lowriting: Shots, Rides and Stories from the Chicano Soul. The book is out from Broken Sword Publications and it’s a collection not just of Meza’s photographs, but of essays by the likes of Luis J. Rodriguez, Luis Alberto Urrea, Lalo Alcaraz, and Gustavo Arellano.

“A big part of lowriding is pride,” Meza explained — not just in one’s car, but in one’s history. Here’s our frank conversation about the incursion of outsiders into neighborhoods like Echo Park and Boyle Heights, that whole Eastside/Westside debate, and the switch from iPhone photography to a “real” camera.

photo copy

Meza donated this photograph of the Sixth Street bridge, which is in the new book, to City Hall

Meza donated this photograph of the Sixth Street bridge, which is in the new book, to City Hall


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  • Rita Vega-Acevedo

    Fantastic story. Thanks! Grew up in Española, NM, another 'Lowrider Capital of the World!'

    • Art Meza

      Thank you, Rita! I hope you pick up and enjoy the book. Española does represent in Lowriting. :)

  • No Thank You.

    Low riders are part of gang banger cholo culture.

    I don’t know when this criminal sub-culture became okay and cool. I don’t understand it. It’s like you complain about gangs and then you support this.

    And in actuality, it’s rather regressive and also does not represent all Latino cultures. Non-Chicano latino’s have to struggle to distance ourselves to this type of ‘cholismo’ and ‘pandilleria’ all the time.

    But I’m not so surprised that KCRW and its audience doesn’t see anything wrong with this type of gang banger-ism, especially when it’s wrapped up as if it’s some kind of harmless “art”.

    • Art Meza

      That negative way of thinking is a big reason why this book needed to be published. Who are you to judge anybody? Who are you to say your idea of "art" is better than anyone else's? What I choose to photograph is my choice. You had it right when you said you don't understand. Lowriting never claimed to represent all Latino cultures.

  • Sd Liz

    Apparently someone needs to get schooLed on Chicano Studies!

    • Art Meza

      Thank you, Liz!

  • No Thank You.

    Art, you walking misnomer:

    Who are we to judge? Judge what? You homies and homettes, from the more apparent to the ‘on the down low’ kind, are responsible for YOURSELVES.

    You are what you are – pochos that want to twist, spin, distort something that belongs to a criminal sub culture into something its NOT – an “artform”. HA. That’s funny.

    Lowriders are part of CRIMINAL GANG cholo gang banger thug sub cultures. PERIOD.

    There is nothing, NOTHING you can do, even with the help of enabling, ignorant thug loving hipsters and artsy gentrifiers, that will change that fact.

    It’s a regressive, it’s part of GANG culture, I don’t know how many times I have to repeat that, you know GANGS homie, the kind that shoot innocent people, babies, each other, and extort ala Mexican MAFIA style, businesses into paying them to continue business, engage in human trafficking, ID theft, drug and now cyber crime trafficking, you name it.

    LOWRIDERS is all part of that. Regardless of what you attempt to do by propagandizing and twisting LOWRIDERS and some wholesome benign “art form”.

    Other Latino’s have to fight hard to counter these regressive, crab-pulling-down, traditions in order to advance. Why because ALL Americans think that ALL Latino’s of every Latin American country also support or engage in this old tired tradition and LIKE lowriders. When the majority of other non-Mexican Latino’s DO NOT.

    • "no thank you" sucks

      What a clueless, dumbass! Don't feed the trolls, folks! Marco Rubio here doesn't like lowriders – what a shock. Go find a bridge and jump off, clown.

    • Art Meza

      I guess this means you won't be buying my book, huh? LOL

      • Joe Saenz

        Haja! Get down brother!

  • Joe Saenz

    No thank you, you definitely have a right to express your own opinion but where does that hate come from? Where are your solutions? At least this young man here is taking something from his life and making it a positive instead of a negative! I don't see guns hanging out of the windows, or people being threatened by young brown and black men. I see hard work and craftsmanship that goes into these works of art. Art is not taking or using anything from the "gang subculture," he's just taking it back! If you had your eyes open you'd know that everything that's been used in that way of life started from something innocent like shaved heads and boots from the original skinheads who just loved music! Bandanas used by hard working people to simple colors! We'll never get anywhere if all people like you do is kick and scream with hate in your heart. Maybe Art grew up different from you and sees beauty other than what you do and to that I say RIGHT ON HOMIE!!! No Thank You, stop pointing fingers and do something to get rid of all that sarcasm like taking a cruise with some oldies on.

    • Pocho Propaganda

      A positive out of a negative? So you and your other homies admit, it's a negative. A positive in this case, if there is such a thing in gang banger low rider culture, is that this homie is making MONEY off of his on regressive culture.

      $$$ – that's the only positive. But at the expense of pushing his gang banger culture pride as bullshit propaganda that it's "ART". Prrft, right.

      You don't see guns haning out of the windows because that would inconvenience of white washing a criminal sub culture.

      I'm sorry homie, Art is taking a key criminal gang banger sub cultural element, don't to to say it isn't you're lying and you're lying to yourselves.

      Back from what? What are you talking about?!

      You're full of it Joe… oh yeah, criminals are so innocent… oh gang bangers are just victims and are just innocent little birds that couldn't harm a fly… GTFOOH.

      Hate, is it bad to have a strong feeling towards criminal violent cultures? Is there something wrong with a strong dislike of criminal cutlurees that are were responsible for a lot of suffering in neighborhoods?

      Art grew up loving that culture, and making excuses just like you and seeing an opportunity to push that element, in a propagandist way, cleaning it up for mainstream cultural consumption. But its dirty… and oppressive and regressive.

      Oldies is right. you people live in the past. But you know, I don't really want to fix you… I'm after letting other fools and even ACTUAL innocent children, know that this isn't something cute or fun, it's old world dated, regressive, oppressive crap made to look cool for consumption.

      This doesn't and never will represent Latino culture. I'm shooting for better, you people… on the other hand…

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  • P. Bernardino Ruelas

    Mr. Meza! Good to know there are active Chicano LIBRARIANs! out there in the community. I am currently on the road to completing my MLIS and it is a tough road. Did you go to UCLA, San Jose? Keep making a difference, hermano. Hope to meet some day!