Lydia Emily on herself and The Karma Underground Charity Art Show on September 17th for Karma Blast

Written by Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix

Photo courtesy of Jan Reurink

The Karma Underground (“TKU”) is going to do a series of street art piece auctions for Tibet. This show, the first one, is to benefit Karma Blast, a 501 (3) (c) which will be using the funds to build a School in Tibet for nomad girls. The soon to be brick and mortar school will bring the girls into the town where they will live and learn before returning to the plateaus with their families. The silent auction will be on Friday, September 17, 2012 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Art Share LA – 801 East 4th Place Los Angeles, CA 90013. Bidding will start at half of the artist’s value and end at 9:00 p.m. During the auction, there will be live painting and t-shirt printing, along with music, drinks and snacks. Suggested Donation for admission, $5-10, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
I talked to Lydia Emily about her art and why Tibet.

It’s fitting that The Karma Underground‘s first art show benefit show is for Nomadic Tibetan Girls. Street Art and TKU founder, Lydia Emily, has lived a nomadic life. She was born in Chicago to – – as she calls them – – “trustafarian” parents. Lydia has lived in places as diverse as Chicago, an Emu (an ostrich like bird native to Australia) farm in New Zealand, Guatemala, and also on board a cruise ship.

Photo Courtesy of Karma Blast

The Tibetan nomads, on the other hand, roam the grassland regions of the Tibetan Plateau. The Plateau, surrounded by mountain ranges, lies between the Himalayan range to the south and the Taklamakan Desert to the north, according to Wikipedia. Not knowing much about Tibet, I searched the Internet for some independent information. On the blog Life on the Tibetan Plateau, I found what I thought was the best description of life for the Nomadic Tibetans:

“Tibetan nomads herd yaks, sheep and horses. Herding the livestock is done mostly by men and older children. In the summer, the yaks are milked before they are taken to be grazed and again when they come in for the night. Each nomad family has specific areas designated by the government where they can graze their animals. The government also regulates when and where they move. They move 2 or 3 times per year. Most nomads now are only semi-nomadic. They live in their yak wool tents for 6 to 8 months each year and live in small mud-brick homes the rest of the year. Nomad children are now required to go to school for at least 9 years. These nomad students usually live in boarding schools which are often quite far from where their families live. Nomad numbers continue to decrease each year as more and more of them are being resettled into villages and towns.”

Photo courtesy of Jan Reurink

I would later find out that Lydia learned about Tibet the same way I had, through the simple act of reading about it. Lydia hopes that TKU, in addition to raising enough funds to build the girl’s school, can give the public – us – enough information about the plight of the Tibetan people so we will care more about their status vis a vis China. The TKU is a group organized to facilitate an anonymous benefactor known as “Nicholas”.  As TKU describes him, “Nicholas directly, financially supports Tibetans and their culture in the Tibet region. He builds under-ground schools and monasteries that teach the Tibetan language – outlawed by the Chinese authorities. He plans to educate Tibetan children to a high level while still supporting the Tibetan culture. This goes directly against the unstated Chinese policy to eliminate that very culture.” The Tibetan has been cultivating compassion for all beings for the last 1300 years. TKU assists with logistics and they raise money. Thus, the charity art show which will raise money for a Tibetan Nomad Girl’s school. But to pull this off, it takes a lot of people. LALA Arts, proponents of the LA Freewalls Project which brings incredible murals and art to downtown Los Angeles, stepped up and facilitated making the show happen as did the various artists who donated their art. That artist list includes: Artists: Allison Torneros, Andrea Lahue, Angela Clayton, B+, BD Miller, Birdman, Brenda Proudfoot, Casey Gray, Chuck P, Coop, Cyrcle, Daniel Jung, Dawn Wirth, Deedee Cheriel, Devin Liston, D Young V, E , Eddie Colla , Edition 100, Eric Pederson, Erwin Recinos, Esther Pearl Watson, Filthgrime, Gilbert Johnquest, Greg “Craola” Simkins,

Greg “Craola” Simkins

Tom Neely Blots

Shauanna Peterson

Samir Arghandwall






Lydia Emily (photo by Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix)

Heather Hoxsey, Henry Rollins, Ken Lee, Hugh Leeman, Jack Speciez, James Moreno, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Jennifer Lafferty, John Carr, John Park, Kevin Rolly, Kiino Villand, Kofie, Koffinz, Lantz Huston, Laura Shumate, Leba, Lydia Emily, Malleus, Margaret Leahy, Mark Todd, Michaela Devon Kary, Mike Maxwell, Miles Thompson, Paul Chatem, Rich DeSimone/Lucky Bunny, Risk, Sage Vaughn, SALTR, Samir ìEVOLî Arghandwall of Seventh Letter, Sean Cheetham, SEEN, Sequoia Emmanuelle, Shaun Roberts, Shaunna Peterson, Shepard Fairey, Skyler Grey, Sophia Gasparian, Steven Ballinger, Tada Chae, Tara McPherson, Texas Tom Carr, Tim Kerr, Brendan Behan, Ruby Hurley, Medgar Evers, Tom Neely, and Van Arno.

Unlike her daughter, Dorothy, who displays amazing talent for such a young age – and was working on making a felt volcano while I interviewed her mom at their kitchen table, Lydia did not start out as an artist. Originally, she was the guitarist for “Sweet Pea”, an Austin, Texas based noise band. She did the cover art for their first album. Impress, but feeling she could do better; she worked at expanding her abilities as an artist. Soon, she had left the music world for the arts.


Lydia’s artwork and life is about speaking truth to power. Her “hippie” parents were fans of Will Shortz’ Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle. They could accurately complete a puzzle in “one sitting, two hours, in pen, no mistakes”. Lydia grew up believing that the New York Times was gospel, a trusted newspaper whose word could be taken for granted. Later, she discovered that “the old grey lady” was not as venerable as she once thought. Instead of truth, there is “opinion; mistakes; there lies; there are all kinds of things wrong with it” according to Lydia. So she started using the Sunday New York Times as a background for her paintings as a way to remind her that “to not believe everything that she sees.” Truth also plays a part in what she paints. Lydia feels there are two parts to every painting: Truth and Commerce. She has to paint the truth, what she thinks is the truth, about the world around her. But she also has to paint what will sell because her two children have to eat. Lydia is a single parent with no income other than from what she creates. So she paints the truth, with an objective to mix commerce therein. She cites as an example, her Obama “Audacity of Compromise” painting. “People love it, they want it as a screen saver”, but they don’t want it on their wall “staring at them every day while they eat breakfast”. They want to put the news away sometimes. Instead, what sells is happy stuff – flowers, little kids, smiling sunsets, etc. When painting don’t sell or she no longer likes it, Lydia is known to paint over prior art. Some of her paintings may have 3 or 4 paintings underneath them. Like the Sunday Times being thrown away, her paintings are necessarily all that permanent.

In Lydia’s viewpoint, the most important thing that is happening in Tibet is genocide….an ethnic cleaning of the Tibet people. The people being ethnically cleanse are the most fragile, they do not carry weapons, nor will they raise armies to fight. “People always make jokes about Monks being barefoot, but they are barefoot because they do not want to step on ants and kill them!” China represents the scariest entity to her because the Chinese Government is attacking these gentle, nonviolent people. The Tibetan people are being sterilized, murdered, and they set themselves on fire because that is the only way for them to scream. Nothing is being done about it. China owns the United States in Lydia’s opinion and that is why we won’t do anything. The U.S. can’t say anything because China is the bigger bully.  As Lydia sees it, the Tibetan people need a spokesperson. “There is not George Clooney for Tibet”, comparing the uproar that Clooney has been making on behalf of Darfur. When asked about Richard Gere as a celebrity spokesperson, Lydia indicated that Gere is taking a soulful quiet stance on Tibet, when the Tibetan people need someone with a bull horn!

Lydia and the TKU want to be that bull horn.

DATE: Friday, September 17, 2012

TIME: 7:00pm until 10:00pm

PLACE: Art Share LA – 801 East 4th Place Los Angeles, CA 90013

WHAT ELSE: This exciting evening will include live painting by Samir Arghandwall of 7th Letter and DJ sets by J.Rocc, Tick (Latch Brothers/Routines/Dragons), Kiino Villand and Special Guests. There will also be live screen-printing by Hit + Run. A limited edition print by Malleus will be for sale to benefit the cause. There is a SUGGESTED donation of $5-10 at the door.

SPONSORS: 12 oz Prophet, Art Share LA, Cool Haus, Edition One Hundred, Endless Canvas, Hit + Run, Karma Blast, Komodo, LA Taco, LAB ART, LALA Arts, Mad Props, Malleus, The Do Lab, Pabst Blue Ribbon, The next TKU art charity show will be in April 2013 in Zurich, with a different Tibetan benefactor.

Important Links:

The Karma Underground –

Karma Blast –

LALA Arts –

Art Share LA –


About Afropix

When my father gave me a Kodak Brownie as a child, I fell in love with photography. I have been shooting pictures ever since. I am also an avid genealogist and can trace one of my family lines back to 1620! Check out my photography at!
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2 Responses to Lydia Emily on herself and The Karma Underground Charity Art Show on September 17th for Karma Blast

  1. Shirley Pena Shirley Pena says:

    Exquisite photos as always! 😀

  2. Karin says:

    Great, important work! Free Tibet! Richard Gere has been a longtime advocate, activist, and “bull horn” for Tibet.

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