Curious about public art in San Diego? Here are five key installations — selected for us by Dana Springs, ’95, herself — with the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s executive director’s keen insight.
Roy McMakin, Warren ’79, M.F.A. ’82, “Recreations of Furniture Found Discarded in Alleys and on Curbs While Driving Around San Diego Several Bright Summer Afternoons with David” (2013)
Public art installation, Helen Price Reading Room, Floor 8, Central Library
- McMakin’s public art installation is a collection of twenty‐five unique pieces of bright blue furniture interspersed among the library’s dark furnishings.
- Each piece of furniture was found — discarded — in alleys and on curbs of San Diego’s urban neighborhoods in the summer of 2012. McMakin and his friend and colleague David Jurist drove around the neighborhoods of North Park, East Village and others searching for cast‐off chairs, tables, cabinets, love seats and ottomans.
- The pieces were fumigated and transported to McMakin’s Seattle fabrication studio, Big Leaf Manufacturing, where each object was painstakingly recreated with McMakin’s signature attention to craftsmanship and quality.
“Watching people interact with Roy’s chairs is a unique kind of theater. I like to observe who chooses which chair, where they move it in the room, how they navigate the move, who they negotiate with, how they form groups, how they express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their choices – it’s a delightful display of human behavior – all inspired by blue chairs. I consider this artwork to be the most successful public artwork I’ve worked on in my career.”
Einar and Jamex de la Torre, “Corpus Callosum” (2013)
Public art installation, Floor 1, Central Library
- For the central elevator bay, the de la Torre brothers created an arrangement of oversized lenticular prints and stacked dioramas beckoning elevator riders into a wondrous trip of discovery within the library.
- I call the de la Torres the “bad boys” of glass. They are known for highly colorful, ornate and sometimes grotesque installations using religious and pop culture imagery.
- The de la Torres are local artists. They live the cross-border lifestyle with residences and studios in both Ensenada and San Diego.
“The de la Torre brothers have a wicked sense of humor and are known for using provocative imagery so I had to do a studio visit to make sure that all the human figures in their artwork were wearing pants.”
Teddy Cruz (UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts) and Marcos Ramirez ERRE, “Pump Station 4” (2004)
Public art installation, 2799 Carleton St., Point Loma
- Cruz and ERRE transformed a concrete block building which houses municipal pumping equipment into a public artwork that references the relationships between nature, man and machine.
- Unwelcome for its intrusive profile, the station, which was originally planned to be standard-issue gray, was painted navy blue with bright yellow geometric accents. The colors serve to make the building “disappear” into the built environment.
- The building is surrounded by landscape, hardscape, and sculptures of “masts” and “beams” all of which are designed to carry viewers’ eyes past the station and out to the water and boat dock beyond.
The metal “screen” spells out a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nature is a mutable cloud, always and never the same.”
“Some of residents living near this pump station just hated the artwork. They thought it was like putting lipstick on a pig; they disliked the idea of using public resources to ‘decorate’ a utilitarian structure. And yet, this artwork is the only piece in the City of San Diego’s art collection to receive an award for artistic excellence from a national organization in the past decade.”
Blue McRight, “Twist” and “Sprout” (2007)
Public art installation, North University Branch Library and Nobel Athletic Area, 8810-8820 Judicial Dr.
- McRight, inspired by the natural terrain of the site, created a meaningful sense of place by symbolically identifying the two main buildings, the library and recreation center, as the mind and the body respectively.
- “Sprout,” McRight’s large-scale light sculpture, is composed of two steel forms reminiscent of seeds or pods balanced by a stainless steel stem. The organic, tactile forms of the sculpture are striking in contrast to the geometric forms of the architecture.
- McRight’s installation “Twist” consists of flat, circular brass markers that have been set into the concrete paving in the dynamic, lyrical pattern of a DNA double helix.
Roman de Salvo, M.F.A. ’95, “Crab Carillon” (2003)
Public Art Installation, 25th Street overpass, corner of F and 25th streets
- De Salvo’s installation, “Crab Carillon,” is an interactive “chime rail” created as one of several pedestrian-oriented streetscape improvements made to the 25th Street bridge.
- The rail acts as protection for pedestrians from auto traffic as well as a delightful discovery for those who run pencils, rulers or sticks across the chimes. The chimes are tuned to play an original song composed by Joseph Waters. The song is palindromic and sounds the same whether played forward and backward.
- De Salvo’s concept for the chime rail was driven by the idea that art could do more than make people stop and look; it can have a purpose, and in this case, its purpose is to compel people to move across the bridge, away from the potentially dangerous auto traffic.
“Roman’s ‘chime rail’ was the victim of a car crash and a section of the chimes was severely damaged. The railing is so beloved by one of the neighbors that he fixed the damaged part of the railing without informing the artist or me in advance. The ‘fixed’ chimes weren’t correctly tuned and had to be repaired again, but it was a very nice thing to do and the neighbor’s demonstration of stewardship for a public artwork is just the kind of result we hope to achieve with public art.”