Public art in aquatic places

Last weekend I took a stroll through Ducky Waddles, that cool little art nook in Leucadia on Coast Highway near Lou’s Records. There, I found a million inexpensive pieces for sale, walking away with only one, a unique vase by a local artist that covered the smudge on my wall and the minor ding I had incurred in my marriage through my weekend selfishness.
With our first North Swell in full swing and offshore winds blowing the waves clean, the drive proved a nice post-surf diversion, cruising the highway to view the fruits our community has to offer, including art meant for public consumption.
As you enter Encinitas there is a retiring Native American. Not sure how he would react to that idea that his tribe has been relocated inland, the game killed off, the creeks dammed, and the oaks, for which our city is named, nearly gone. A
worthy piece, nonetheless. Compliments to the artist.
The Encinitas sign that spans Coast Highway 101 is also a welcoming site. The iron pieces subtly placed into the sidewalks, surrounding trees, are a nice touch. Then, as if to signal a coming tidal wave, we hit a stucco wall shouting that we have arrived in a less subtle and far more frantic place and time. I suppose these new structures mean downtown will be divided into “new” and “old” Encinitas. Don’t need a show of hands to see which one most coast dwellers favor.
No big surprises until Swami’s, where a surfer is pictured squatting in the park, going left, (Swami’s is predominantly a right) on a stone pedestal, along with a sign announcing that a place once known as Noonan’s Point then Sea Cliff Park, immortalized in Surfin’ USA by Beach Boy’s singing “At Hagarty’s and Swami’s,” is now officially called Swami’s.
Something’s different here. The park looks more open than it once did as one of the oldest pines has been humbled to stump size, after an apparent beetle infestation. While I have yet to confirm this, rumor is that the stump is going to be carved into an Easter Island sort of statue, something that can never be called a kook. If so, I hope the statue will look west, toward the sea, as its famed island siblings do, rather than east, toward traffic.
My random and quick poll, accurate to within 97 percentage points, indicated that most would rather have another tree. OK, that’s not happening, so I’m assuming we’re getting Easter Island instead. I imagine the city will hire someone who knows his or her way around a block of wood. OK, the carving is done and it looks good. No prizes for guessing what happens to a ground-level statue in a place where surfers walk each day. (Please don’t insult nature by erecting a Big Brother spy cam on one of the remaining trees.)
That now lifeless stump, which seems about a foot closer to Cardiff than Encinitas, could soon find itself wearing the hand-me-downs of its humiliated brother to the south. San Diego in general hasn’t exactly welcomed public art in the past, especially when it involves the beach and its icons: Windansea locals demolished Hot Curl, Carlsbad freed itself from the Bars, Scripps Clinic La Jolla flushed “Plop,” the million dollar turd. So now the Swami’s stump waits to see if it will become something greater than the trunk of a tree, or another outlet for artists and decorators who strike at night. Like that now never-to-bud piece of wood, like all of you, I will wonder wait and hope for the best.


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