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City of Night

JoAnn Cowans

Los Angeles, The City of Night


I came to California in 1957 from North Carolina, the land of gentle sand dunes. A Hughes Fellowship for my husband, Ken Cowans, brought us here. In awe I saw at night a basin of jewels spread out before me. Jeweled lights spilled down the mountains filling the basin and flowing to the shoreline. This light reflected on clouds overhead and on the water, it bounced back and forth as the waves moved in. A view was framed by oil derricks, Venetian canals, and bridges, each representing a part of Los Angeles history and stories that might be lost and gone forever.

Building on my art degree, study and work back east, I focused on developing skills I could use to better capture and share this wonder. My husband encouraged study at UCLA and private lessons in classical painting and portraiture as to include the people of the area in my painting.

“City of Night was finished in 1962 just before the opening of my first solo exhibit. The 40 x70” painting was delivered wet to my framer, The Artist Corner, and then to Thorson’s Classic Scandinavian Furniture Store and Tora Gallery on Sepulveda. The painting also hung for some time in the entryway of Fritz Burns’ Airport Marina Hotel where the Emerald Gallery, located off the hotel lobby featured my work.

In 2009, with sunset fading, Ken and I flew into LAX from Mexico.  As the plane circled above the shoreline, I looked down upon a very different Los Angeles. Now the derricks and bridges are gone. Tall buildings rise around the Marina. Once open spaces and distant vistas are filled with houses, people and activities. The view was dramatically different!

From above, the lights were more magnificent. But nestled between these lights and in my heart are memories and dreams of the early years on the Speedway. Recollections are of the time spent with sketchbook, easel and paints on the canal banks.  Then stables and new Marina channel were overlooked from the patio of my studio. Remembered are the students I taught, artists exhibited, and open house events held there.  People whose portraits I painted came, and others visited just to look and talk. These are all a part of that wonderful past for which I am forever grateful and indebted to my beloved husband Ken.

                                                     To me, Los Angeles is and always will be the City of Night.

“City of Night” displayed in the museum under more subdued light

“City of Night” being delivered to Marina Del Rey in bright sunlight   

 *These originals were all painted on linen giving them a unique patina to the murals.

* Her paintings can be enlarged to Giclée on Canvas 58 in. by 40 ft.

* City of Night can be enlarged in custom sizes to 56′ x 98′.

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