Earth Art Meets Clever Proposal

Last week, 7×7, a San Francisco blog, picked up photos of this proposal written in the sand (above left) at Ocean Beach, not knowing who the proposal was to or from or who did the art and asking if anyone had any information. Just the kind of mystery I love!

Quickly, readers identified the artist as Andres Amador, who frequently creates artwork in the sand at Ocean Beach, and by today, the whole case was cracked.

This is a pretty amazing proposal story:

“Here’s how it all went down: Several years ago, Jason and Kelly were enjoying a picnic of Thai take-out on Ocean Beach when they noticed Amador creating a mural in the sand. “It was one of our first dates in San Francisco and it was just so cool,” says Kelly. “We took a bunch of photos and it was a great memory.”

Three years later, Jason tracked down the artist via the Internet and asked him to create a wedding proposal sand mural on February 12. The artist conceptualized the design and directed a handful of the couple’s friends in raking it into Ocean Beach. It took them, according to Amador, about an hour and a half to get the job done; then everyone took cover on the sidewalk above the rocks.

Meanwhile, Jason was luring Kelly back to the picnic spot. “As we walked down the beach, we talked about the mural we’d seen years ago,” Kelly says. “When we came upon the patterns in the sand, I couldn’t believe the artist was back!”

Because the design was so large, Kelly couldn’t read the message until she climbed up on the rocks (which took some coaxing). The waves were just starting to erase the edges of the mural when Jason pointed out the words and got on his knee. “I was in total shock,” says Kelly. “I mean, after five years I was getting a bit impatient, but I had no idea he would do anything like that! He told me that he’d made me wait so long, he knew he had to make it really good.”

And, as I said at the beginning, she said “yes.” Jason slipped the ring he’d designed on her finger, their friends (and the small band of onlookers) cheered and the champagne started flowing by a fire pit on the beach.”

Tiny Street Art

I LOVE these street art installations of tiny people in tiny vignettes by Slinkachu!

Slinkachu, a 28 year old British guy, takes people and parts sold by model train companies, paints and customizes them, and then creates these miniature scenes around various European cities.

Unlike most street art, which calls attention to itself via size (remember JR’s mammoth photography installations) or vibrant colors splashed up on public property (like David Walker’s amazing graffiti portraits), Slinkachu’s work sits quietly, only to be discovered and enjoyed by the most observant of passersby.

And what a delight they would be if you did come across one! Can you imagine one of these tiny things catching your eye, and you get closer to see what it is, only to discover a complete, carefully constructed little tableau that mirrors a plausible real-world scene? It would absolutely make my day!

The video below shows the water park installation with the speakers Slinkachu planted beneath the grate to play sounds of water splashing and kids playing! So if you saw this one, in addition to finding the little scene, it would actually sound like there’s a secret water park going on in the sewer system!  It reminds me of some of the fun Amelie gets up to, making people question reality, even if just for a fraction of a second.

A fantastic example of injecting experiences of wonder into the world…

Yamamoto’s Salt Labytinths

Most beautiful things made from unusual mediums will catch my eye (I think the fascination began with the work of Vik Muniz), and these salt creations by Motoi Yamamoto certainly fit the bill.

However, the rationale behind the medium in Yamamoto’s work ensures that it is not just beautiful, unusual, and wow-inducing for the time it takes to make, but also meaningful.

The artist began working with salt, which is significant in the mourning process in Japanese culture, after his sister died of brain cancer in 1994  at age 24 as a way of dealing with his grief and frustration. The labyrinths and complex patterns, according to Yamamoto, are meant to convey a sense of eternity.

Don’t they also remind you of the raking in zen gardens? Knowing the reason for the use of salt, the pieces take on a highly meditative effect.

More at this NPR article.

Gene Davis and Multicolored Stripes

I came across the above street painting by Gene Davis today on Black*Eiffel and totally fell in love. Seriously, how could you not just love this street painting? How fun is that? I would be so elated if I stumbled across something like this in real life without expecting it. Nothing like an unexpected bit of creativity in the world.

Typically, Davis just painted stripes on canvases, but he did the one above street painting in Philadelphia, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and then in 1987 and again in 2007, a group got together to honor Davis (who had died in 1985) by painting a similar scheme on a street in D.C., where the artist had lived for most of his life.

But in addition to loving the street paintings, this sent me into a multicolored stripe-inspiration frenzy. Paul Smith has used multicolored stripes to great effect, as has Kate Spade on the stairs of the London store. I’m also a big fan of the multicolored stripes used in Rebecca Ward’s tape installations and even Ball-Nogues Studio’s thread installations. Now I’m wondering if they were all inspired by Gene Davis! Isn’t cool how your picture of the world keeps making more sense as you learn more and can piece together what/who inspired what/whom?

It makes me want to paint some bright stripes somewhere fun and unexpected. Maybe the inside of my medicine cabinet doors?

Dana Tanamachi’s Chalk Installations

I love chalkboard paint (see past post on chalk paint walls), and I love chalk writing (don’t menus in cafes look so much more charming when they’re written on a chalk board?), so naturally, I love Dana Tanamachi’s chalk installations.  Their retro hand-painted storefront window sign quality is so appealing!

In addition to her chalk work, Dana also works for Louise Fili, so it’s no surprise that she’s a whiz with letterforms and signage.

Check out this fun 30-second time-lapse film of her Cooper Collection installation.  I love that it’s set to a Morning Benders song!

Jan Fabre at Art Basel Miami

At Art Basel Miami back in December, in addition to Seydou Keita, the other exhibit that majorly caught my eye was this series by Jan Fabre.

Each of these iridescent, irresistibly shiny pieces is about eight feet tall, so it is hard not to notice them, but then they become much more intriguing when you realize that their enticing appearances and glossy surfaces belie a controversial subject– the Belgian Congo.

THEN, you read the placard to see what that shiny green stuff is, as it is slightly dimensional and doesn’t seem to be paint (maybe a synthetic thread, woven into images?), and find out they are BEETLE SHELLS.

So now you realize you have a fraught subject represented not only in a rather eerily beautiful way, but also that the medium that underlies the intense shine of the facade is totally creepy (for a lack of a less-pun-ish, more erudite term), and the entire exhibit takes on a chilling effect that turns out to be perfectly appropriate for representing the colonial period unforgettably described by Heart of Darkness. You are literally looking at pieces that appear beautiful but have a heart of darkness. Pretty powerful. Oh, and in between the large canvases, in a rather Damien Hirst-esque move, are beetle-covered skulls with beautiful (taxidermied) birds in their mouths.

Interestingly, Fabre also once covered a ceiling (and chandelier) in the Belgian palace in over a million beetle carapaces:

For more on Jan Fabre, check out the gallery that presented this exhibit– Magazzino, out of Rome.

2011 TED Prize winner: Street Artist JR

For street artist JR’s work, size matters.  So does location.  Though his content– portraits of marginalized members of societies the world over– may not be unprecedented, his presentation is, and that changes everything.

Using insanely large-format photographs plastered up on sides of buildings, trains, stairs, bridges, or really any public structure, JR’s work is not only made accessible to the public, it actually confronts the public in an unavoidable way.

What his various projects have in common is that they represent an overlooked or misunderstood group of people– the elderly, women, member of different sides of conflicts, etc.  For his 28 Millimeter project, he had residents of a slum outside of Paris (that had recently been in the news for the riots that had started there) act out the stereotypes they knew of themselves, photographed them, and plastered them around a bourgeois neighborhood of Paris along with the subjects’ name, phone numbers, and building numbers– effectively emphasizing that they are real individuals, not homogeneous representatives of a stereotype.

For his Face2Face project, he photographed residents living on either side of the wall dividing Israel and Palestine, basically making silly faces and looking utterly, universally human, and posted them on the opposite side of their respective sides of the wall.  As he explains in the video below, he expected hostile reactions, but amazingly, he received none.

Check out the two videos below for more info and more installations.  The first is the video posted by TED, and the second is about his upcoming film, “Women are Heroes.”


Michael Cross’s meditative, yet playful, installation, “Bridge,” an abandoned church filled with 5ft of water and mechanical, “magically appearing” stepping stones, is like Alice in Wonderland-meets-a dream state-meets-those lily pad pools at water theme parks.

As you approach the water, one stepping stone emerges from the water in front of you, and another one doesn’t appear until you’ve stepped on the first one.  The water is only five feet deep, so it’s not like you can drown, but that’s still deep enough to get totally soaked if you fall in! (The guy in the pictures looks so casual about it, like the stepping stones are just in a shallow puddle, but it’s five feet!).

Hence the water theme park reference– remember those pools at water parks with the shaky “lily pads” on springs that you would try to walk across?  So I imagine it would actually be sort of stressful to get across, and yet also like some sort of zen-meditation exercise.  The space certainly is beautiful and the whole experience must feel rather like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.

Check out the video below for what it actually looks like walking across it.  About a third of the way through the video, the angle switches from first-person to panoramic so you see the whole space.  Pretty beautiful.

The Seed Cathedral

Have you see this?  The Seed Cathedral?  I just came back across it after it was named one of the top 50 inventions of 2010 by Time Magazine, and it is indeed pretty amazing.  The “cathedral,” designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick, was Britain’s contribution to the Shanghai World Expo, which had a theme of “Better City, Better Life.”

Its facade is constructed from 60,000 fiber optic rods, which filter light into the interior in the day time and radiate light outward at night.  During the day, this light illuminates the different seeds at the end of each of the 60,000 rods.  The seeds were provided by Millenium Seedbank project, which has an aim of collecting the seeds of 25% of the world’s species by 2020, and after the building is taken apart, the rods are going to be distributed to schools around China and the UK as a legacy of the project.

The rods are also able to sway gently in the breeze, making the entire building look like a giant dandelion.  The video below shows this, as well as really cool views of the interior of the space all lit up.  It’s pretty amazing!

For more info on the mission of the project and its construction, go here.

New Anish Kapoor: Turning the World Upside Down

Anish Kapoor’s new installation at Kensington Gardens, on view through March 13th.

Check out the video to see the effect on the pieces of the clouds moving across the sky… the photos don’t capture the fact that the pieces are always in flux due to the ever-changing sky.

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