Archive for May, 2011

Wind Harp by Ross Barrable and Surfing Madonna by Who?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Surfing Madonna

More about the Surfing Madonna in Encinitas which I posted last time.  Still nothing is settled.  Still a lot of controversy and commentary.  It’s  illegal art by placement.  Phony construction workers clandestinely epoxied Our Lady of  Guadalupe riding a surfboard to a cement support of a railroad overpass in Encinitas, California.  Hence it is “graffiti” and not commissioned public art. Lots of people coming to look at it, though.  Some hate it as sacrilegious. Some think it is perfect to represent the surfing city. No doubt about the “thought provoking” label. Understandably, the Encinitas City Council says it can’t stay where it is, a “religious” piece on public property. But what to do with it?  It may not be able to be saved and moved if the epoxy is strong.  It’s made of hundreds of tiny mosaic tiles. It may have to be chipped away. And who will pay the cost of conserving it or destroying it? It’s not over yet.

Fortunately, there are many public art pieces not surrounded by such controversy and which present us with an inspiring and appreciated art work.

To Remember Me by Ross Barrable

Singing strings on To Remember Me

One is Ross Barrable’s memorial piece for a Chula Vista leader, Ronald J. McElliott.  It is a Wind Harp.  It hums with the wind in a spot by the bay at the Chula Vista Marina.  I had to stand close to it to hear it but a couple passing by suggested I put my hand on the metal base and my ear close to the base. The metal vibrates like the wire strings above and the whole piece reverberates in the changing wind currents. I can’t image anyone would not be glad to come across it.

There are rocks on the ground with words, “Inspire,” “Listener,” “Friend.”  They reminded me of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring in which Tolkien’s heroes stand in front of the magic gate to the mines of Moria trying to figure out the writing, “Speak, friend, and enter.”

These rocks, however, do not lead to an Orc infested underground city. The ships in the marina, the California sun, the singing harp are exactly the opposite. Bright day, blue water, a memorial to a friend.  Can’t get much better.

Surfing Madonna–More Street Art

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Encinitas' Surfing Madonna

Encinitas' Surfing Madonna

Graffiti/Street Art is a sticky issue.  It’s been around a long time, its underground, and its illegal.

Since MOCA in Los Angeles currently has an exhibition of Graffiti/Street Art, a lot of new graffiti has been sprayed on and painted out on the walls around the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo where the exhibition is housed. Brought inside, the graffiti is okay. Outside it’s not.

A May 1 Opinion in the LA Times by Heather MacDonald restates a major issue.  She complains that MOCA gives no “hint” that graffit is a crime against property owners and tax payers who foot the bill for graffiti removal and that moving some of the art and artist into a respectable establishment muddies the waters by honoring illegal art.

And writing a series of articles for ARCA’s blog Katherine Ogden deplores the popular representations of the art criminal as “heroic”.  Well, art criminals can no more be stereotyped than other criminals.  They come in all sizes from respectable gallery owners and dealers to talented forgers to lets-make-a-quit-buck-and-steal-from-this-poorly-protected- museum/private collection.

Or, they place their art on other people’s property.

One of the problems with street art is that the original product can’t be separated from its display place.  Sometimes it is ugly.  But sometimes the art reaches  viewers who respond favorably to it in spite of its placement. Witness the 10 foot by 10 foot mosaic made of hundreds of tiles forming a surfing Madonna, Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Those who know say the face on the nose of the surfboard is Saint Juan Diego.  The mosaic was put in place just before Easter by phony construction workers under a train overpass in Encinitas, in broad daylight, a spot where 18,000 cars drive by daily.

The blue tiles are BRIGHT blue and the gold is GLITTERING, and the Madonna’s face is an intricate pattern of small tiles.

People are leaving flowers in front of it.  Photographing it with cell phones and expensive cameras.  Touching it. Wanting the city to leave it alone.

Is it “defacing” public property or making gray cement worth looking at?

I had to park in a dirt lot, cross the busy street, and wait for the traffic to stop uphill at the red light to photograph it from the opposite side of the road.  While I waited, at least ten people came and went on the sidewalk in front of the piece, taking pictures with cell phones and touching the tiles.  They all seemed to like the piece. The bouquets of flowers were already there, obviously placed by people who like the piece.

The powers that be will have to decide whether it stays or goes.  Right now, it’s art worth seeing.