Filipino American artist Allison Torneros, who works under the name Hueman, has filled an empty wall with a giant mural on the Neptune Building in the Los Angeles Arts District. The realistic spray-painted work “Bloom” depicts the artist’s hand clutching a beautiful bouquet of flowers, entwined with the mural’s title and set against a simple pale blue background. Incorporating text is a departure for Torneros, but in the case of “Bloom” she wanted to honor the unofficial mayor of the area, the late urban pioneer, actor, and activist Joel Bloom, who helped shape this neighborhood before his death in 2007.
Torneros is a female muralist in a field dominated by men. She grew up in the Bay Area and was aware of street art, graffiti, and murals from the time she was young. Recently she came to the defense of Beau Stanton’s Koreatown RFK Community Schools mural project. His mural depicts the face of Ava Gardner with orange-red and blue rays fanned out around her face. Koreans and Korean Americans say that these stripes bear a resemblance to the World War II-era imperial Japanese war flag and that the mural should be removed. Torneros disagrees. “As a Filipino American – because Filipinos went through a similar thing with the Japanese during World War II – it’s definitely something I can relate to in terms of history and my culture. But I don’t think this is about that. It’s about censorship.”
Graduating in 2008 from U.C.L.A., Torneros resides and works in Oakland, California. However, since Los Angeles decriminalized street art in 2013, she and others were free to create this vibrant art form in the beautification of the city.
Her high power murals are known for their bright colors and the mixing of figurative and abstract imagery in her compositions of hybrid beings. Unlike the traditional rendering of flowers in “Bloom,” her murals usually show ethereal motion in a freer style, where she employs splashes, drips, and spray paint’s gauzy effects.
Torneros has had commercial commissions, one of which was a Nike portrait of Kobe Bryant. She has produced art work for gallery settings and has had solo exhibitions in San Francisco, Hollywood, and Los Angeles’s Think Tank Gallery.
She has several murals up across L.A., including one on the campus of the Robert F. Kennedy Community School in Koreatown and another downtown at 9th and Main Streets. Torneros also has a mural at Rose Ave and 4th Street in Venice, California.