June 29th, 2015

Progress on Cabrillo’s San Salvador

June progress on replica of San Salvador

June progress on replica of San Salvador

mast on ground in May

mast on ground in May

We’ve been watching the building of the replica of Cabrillo’s ship San Salvador by the San Diego Maritime Museum.  It is now really looking like a ship.  In May 2015 the masts were on the ground.  Today two masts are up, the anchors and cannons still on the ground.  But the sail maker, the blacksmith, and the 1500ish Indian village are gone.  Looks like the final push.

The fence still gets in the way of good photos and it’s hard to get a complete view, but from the freeway the ship is now more than scaffolding and obscure lines and colors.  We couldn’t find out the expected launch date but it can’t be to far off.





October 21st, 2014

Chihuly in Denver’s Botanic Gardens

Summer Sun

Summer Sun

Blue and Purple Boat

Blue and Purple Boat

We recently explored Denver’s Botanic Gardens which currently has Dale Chihuly’s art glass sculptures incorporated with the water ponds and flowers. Around every bend is a new group of glass creations which are part of the flowers, grasses, or ponds. They are surprising and exciting.

We were there on a gray morning, not too many people, and the light was perfect to catch the glass pieces without glare. I’ve seen other Chihuly sculptures but these were so much a part of the different “gardens,”  Asian, Plains, rose, etc., that they blended and added at the same time.

Yellow and Black Herons

Yellow and Black Herons

The glass is lighted at night for a totally different experience.

Purple reeds and Yellow sculpture

Purple reeds and Yellow sculpture

Do not miss this if you are in Denver.

July 29th, 2014

Bicycle as art

My Bike by  Amos Robinson

My Bike by
Amos Robinson

Amos Robinson created this whirling bicycle in 2008 for the San Diego Port Authority’s Urban Trees project. The  Urban Trees lined the waterfront for several years but the various sculptures have since moved to private settings or other public places. This “tree” is now in Coronado along a different waterfront but still part of the Port Authority’s domain. It sits along a path the rental bikes and walkers frequent and you have to stop and look up into the sky to really see it.

I think the bicycle probably was a bright red before the years of ocean air muted it.

Amos Robinson's bicycle at Scripps Memorial Hospital

Amos Robinson’s bicycle at Scripps Memorial Hospital

Robinson has another incredible cycle in front of Scripps Memorial Hospital and I saw it when it was shiny new. Occasionally he appears with a new sculpture on the lawn in La Jolla to photograph the new piece before it goes to a home.

We saw the Coronado bike on the last day of the 2014 Comic-con gathering across the bay at the convention center so Spider Man, Men in Black, and a ninja of some kind were walking by on their way to the harbor ferry to take them across the water to the convention.  And real bikes whizzed by as well and one Harley.

It was also a rare day for weather; we had rain drops and thunder but no one seemed to care. “My Bike” blended into the gray but it still was impressive.

I always enjoy Robinson’s pieces. They capture the sense of wind and freedom that comes with the ocean–and a bike ride.

March 12th, 2014

Outdoor Art: Murals and Trash Cans

Mural by Irwin and Rittermann

Mural by Irwin and Rittermann

Irwin and Rittermann Mural

Irwin and Rittermann Mural

I try to keep up with the Murals in La Jolla but the last one popped up several months ago and I went in search of it.

Searching is not as much fun as discovering outdoor art unexpectedly.  Outdoor art often is  a destination, like monuments and murals.

The La Jolla murals (now twelve) have been up awhile and each one is remarkable but not all provide a sense of wonder as in “wow!”

Robert Irwin presented an installation in London and Philipp Scholz Rittermann photographed it. The result is a relatively new mural in La Jolla. It’s a visually challenging play of objects and perspective, mixing real elements, i.e. palm trees, cars, and streetlight, with the stretched vinyl reproduction of the photograph. It’s hard to walk by without trying to figure it out.  That sets it apart from some of the murals which require only a quick glance to sense the artists’ subject. But like most, it is impossible to photograph without the environmental elements—hence, outdoor art.

On a smaller scale are this car seat and trash can on the waterfront in Moro Bay.  We definitely just tripped upon this art on a walk around the small bay.  Both pieces are fun.

Car Seat

Car Seat

The car seat looks real from a short distance and seems to be abandoned junk that didn’t make it to the landfill. And it is impossible to look at without seeing the boats and wharf. But when you get up close, you can see a plaque in memory of a friend and we can read a little history into the torn car seat and the tools. No doubt it was placed here for a reason. We don’t need to know the reason or the person. It is a tribute.

Trash Can

Trash Can

The interesting trash can is obviously a way to spruce up an ugly container for, well, trash. It’s a mosaic with a waterfront theme–a surprise. Definitely site specific, definitely part of the setting, a human comment on the harbor.

Trash and art. That about says it all.


November 18th, 2013

The Surfing Madonna

The Surfing Madonna

The Surfing Madonna

She’s back!

First location The Surfing Madonna

First location The Surfing Madonna

When Mark Patterson first bolted his 10 x 10 foot mosaic, The Surfing Madonna, to the support arch of the railroad track in Encinitas, he did it quickly wearing a hard hat and disguised as a construction worker (he had help from other “workers”). But, in addition to being a religious subject on public property, it was, broadly speaking, graffiti. No one knew the artist. No one gave him permission. We loved it. But it couldn’t stay.  That was in 2011. It resided on another wall for awhile but it wasn’t very visible.

Now it is on a private wall, hence legal, and we are grateful to be able to see her again as we drive down Encinitas Boulevard.

I really liked the first location better, thought, because it was approachable. I walked up to the mosaic and almost put my nose on it. The tiles are beautiful. The silver and gold and the blue have deep color and shine even in the shadows. People even brought flowers to that first location. It was a fun “happening.” And mysterious because Mark Patterson didn’t admit to creating it for some weeks.

Now it is official, outdoor art. Still colorful. Still with an important message, “Save The Ocean.” But it’s rather aloof now, up from the sidewalk. It is still visible from a car as you drive by and you can walk along a sidewalk to get in front of it. The wall of the Leucadia Pizzeria is much better with art on it.

The graffiti artist Bansky just finished a three week blitz in New York. The fun of that, in addition to the art itself, was that no one knew ahead of time on which wall or truck door his spray paint might land. That element of art-on-the-fly is what The Surfing Madonna had.

She’s more secure now. I hope she stays for a long time. Considering all she’s been through, she still sparkles.




August 22nd, 2013

Denver’s Big Blue Bear

I See What You Mean

I See What You Mean

Denver's Convention Center

Denver’s Convention Center

This big blue bear is one of Denver’s 150 outdoor art pieces and hands down one of the most joyful. It is forty feet tall and stands peering into the Convention Center. It’s a show stopper and one which made me happy all day. Not only is it surprising in height and color but the title has to be about as inspired as the bear itself, I See What You Mean. That phrase connects the bear to the viewer and whatever is going on inside. So great.

And the bear definitely makes a connection to a lot of people. Tiny four inch replicas are available to buy in gift and museum stores.

But some want to connect with it in not a good way. It has had green paint poured down its back and been tagged with a yarn bomb by street artist Esther’s Ladies Fancywork Society. The green paint was harder to remove. The yarn bomb was 15 miles of yarn in a big ball placed by the bear’s foot. No harm done with that one.

Lawrence Argent is the artist. This is one of many works. He teaches at the University of Denver. Here’s a nice interview with the artist and overview of the sculpture.

June 23rd, 2013

Gajin Fujita and Fred Tomaselli: Murals in La Jolla

Fujita's Tail Whip

Fujita’s Tail Whip

Tomaselli's Learning to Fly(for the Zeros)

Tomaselli’s Learning to Fly(for the Zeros)

There are two recent additions to the murals in the village of La Jolla.  Gajin Fujita’s Tail Whip and Fred Tomaselli’s Learning to Fly (for the Zeros). And they are widely different and both sort of alarming at first glance.

Fujita’s is on a wall on Fay Street which used to have Anna Gallaccio’s electron microscope picture of a sand grain Surf’s Up on it.  The last time I saw Surf’s Up it did look a little faded but I really have no idea why it’s been replaced. The official webpage for the murals offers no explanation and in fact Gallaccio’s name is gone from that site.  I thought that was odd.

Fujita’s piece is on a black background and looks very “urban graffitti.” There is a dragon swooshing through it, although from a distance it’s hard to pick out. A passerby said it was very controversial but I think anytime you put something on a wall it’s controversial. This, more than the other murals, requires a certain suspension of OMG IT’S GRAFFITI.  It is not the only mural in La Jolla that causes instant opinions.  Thankfully.  We hardly need art that nobody notices.

Detail, Tail Whip

Detail, Tail Whip

Fred Tomaselli’s piece is very noticeable. It’s at the intersection of the major road into La Jolla, Torrey Pines Road,  and the major shopping street, Girard. I was in heavy traffic slowing to the intersection and glanced up and whoa, there it was. This naked guy falling through space. Tomaselli’s explanation of the piece involves considering the wall as a stage and his nod towards the “punk scene” of his earlier time in L.A. (see the writeup in The La Jolla Light). But that is not the instant impression.  It reminded one of my friends of 9/11.  And at the intersection, in traffic, it is a little scary.  Up close, butterflies and insects can be seen in the black space and the body is filled with internal organs.

Detail, Learning to Fly

Detail, Learning to Fly

So, what does it all mean?  Go figure. I think both pieces are great murals because each gets an instant gut reaction from the viewer. That’s a lot better than nobody noticing. A large wall and seconds to make a point—the challenge of murals.

May 3rd, 2013

Murals of La Jolla-Richard Allen Morris

Applied by R. A. MorrisDetail, "Applied"

Detail, "Applied"

The eighth mural of La Jolla is on an accessible wall and is printed so well on the large Miroflex cloth that the texture of the impasto looks three dimensional. Richard Allen Morris uses texture and vivid colors in his paintings; this mural is called “Applied” and is printed from a photo of the original eight-by-eleven inch work. The mural is surprisingly clear and the textures pop. This is easy to relate to,  easy to walk up close to. It reminds me of scoops of ice cream–maybe because it was especially warm on the day I walked by.

A couple of the murals seem a little worse for wear in the bright sunlight–Anya Gallaccio’s electron microscope image of a sand grain seems to be fading–the dark valleys are not nearly as dark as they used to be and Ryan McGinness’s “53 Women” is not quite as vibrant–the primary colors are just a little less startling. Of course, maybe it’s not the sun’s fault. Maybe I’m just used to seeing those two.

Baldessari's SeaScape & Brain Cloud with Palm Tree

I had lunch at George’s of the Cove and sat next to John Baldessari’s brain cloud and it is just as weird as ever. That third floor terrace is about the only place you can really see the whole of Baldessari’s mural. From the walkway below by the sea,  the top part is visible but not the deep blue of the ocean below the brain cloud.  It takes a while to get used to Baldessari but the brain cloud is my favorite Murals of La Jolla.
There will be eight more murals in the next months.

Richard Allen Morris’s Applied is fun.  It kind of sneaks up on you as you walk up Fay Street. It seems more “universal” in that you only need to appreciate the artist’s use of color and the movement given the color with the use of texture and not ponder what the deeper meaning might be. It’s a great swirl of energy.

March 27th, 2013

Terry Ambrose and License to Lie

Terry Ambrose sets his second novel, License to Lie, in a beach city. So like his first novel, Photo Finish, we are treated to a beach dweller’s use of the sand and sea: “The fleet of ghostly fog ships was dissipating as the sun took control of the day.” And those descriptions fit the mood of his new character, a criminologist who works with the police, but doesn’t feel too good about himself at many points in the story: “The marine layer blanketed the sky above, the reflection of city lights gave the sky a dull sheen reminiscent of dirty white linoleum in a half-lit room.”

This novel is full of Terry’s subtle sense of humor and I found myself laughing out loud more than once and needing to turn pages fast. His criminologist is also a “forensic hypnotist.” How can you not read on to see what that’s all about?  And his second lead character, a stunning blonde, is “kidnapped by Bush and Nixon.”  No way I could put the book down there.

License to Lie is a detective story full of rapid plot twists, fun characters, and a computer-geek-saves-the-day ending. Ambrose tells the story through two protagonists. She is a con artist, a liar-for-profit with five million dollars of other people’s money in her bank account, and a cynic. He is her opposite, a criminologist, a hard worker, a guy with a soft spot for folks in trouble. She is definitely not attracted to him: “The last thing I needed was to be around a guy I couldn’t manipulate.” He tries hard not to fall in love with her:  “She was captivating, seductive, and something else–yes dangerous.” Together they must track down four kidnappers. It is this relationship full of friction which keeps our interest as the plot zips along.

Ambrose has carefully stacked the deck in this novel so that each chapter, like the flip of a card, reveals and entices. He piles on more and more complications with each chapter, giving us great details so that we can visualize each scene–including some very good fight scenes. And occasionally he throws in some wonderful descriptive sentences, poetic language that is never too much:  “The words came out as no more than a breath. Soft as the silk of my favorite blouse.”

This is well crafted storytelling.  I think it would make a great beach read.  Or, if you prop it up next to your Starbucks coffee, the beach will surround you anyway.  I highly recommend it.

February 12th, 2013

Murals of La Jolla-Robert Ginder


Robert Ginder's "House"

Detail, Robert Ginder's "House"

Robert Ginder’s House is the seventh mural to find a home on an empty wall in La Jolla, California.

And it is the most accessible. It’s on the wall of a former art gallery right on Prospect in La Jolla. And it is between two buildings that you can walk through. And no cars can park in front of it.  So it was easy to get up close.

The original painting is oil on wood and uses 22-karat gold leaf in addition to the oils. The details show up very well on this enlargement. The reflections in the windows and the shadows on the “stucco” make this very realistic and a good reason to walk up and peer at it.  If it wasn’t printed on a large piece of vinyl and attached to a large wall it would be easy to miss as a painting. There are a lot of houses in San Diego that look like this. Unfortunately, when I was there in mid-morning not one passerby looked up at it.  That might be the case with all of the Murals of La Jolla. Maybe they only get, at best, a passing glance. But this one is so easy to examine and appreciate the details. If you can find a place to park, be sure to walk up close to this.


I’ve blogged about the first six in previous posts. They represent a wide variety of artistic viewpoints, from clean design such as   Kim MacConnel’s tall ribbons of color, Girl From Ipanema and Roy McMakin’s ceramic tiles, Favorite Colors.

Anya Gallaccio’s electron microscope photo of a sand grain, Surf’s Up is getting hard to see. It seems to be fading or maybe it’s just hard to get a handle on what it is. Close up, the unusual shapes are more interesting than the whole.

Ryan McGinness’s  53 Women causes a lot of comments. I always hear one or two similar to “Holy Cow.”

John Baldessari’s odd pairing, Brain Cloud with SeaScape and Palm Tree is not easy to see. You have to look way up from the sidewalk by the cove on a wall facing another high wall.


But Ann Hamilton’s at sea is easy to see on the CitiBank wall which is directly opposite 53 Women and it is an image we can recognize.