ENCINITAS — Have you ever walked a quiet coastal street and gazed in awe at a front yard adorned with sculptures and plants that just seem to go together?
Or maybe you’ve admired the mosaic work at Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, or the light sculpture right up the road near the fire station.
This is landscape art in action. You’ll most likely see it in public cities, hospitals and corporate campuses, but private citizens also commission artists to get in on the scene.
What is landscape art?
This takes on several forms, but the best way to understand landscape art is to see it in action. Jeffery Laudenslager’s front yard in Leucadia is a prime example. Five unique metal sculptures shine in the sun and twirl with the wind, adding even more character to the beautiful modern-contemporary home that rests behind them.
“Most people don’t see it as being landscape sculpture or landscape art, but art that’s in a landscape,” Laudenslager, the creator of the sculptures, said.
Of course, these dancing metal sculptures didn’t come with Laudenslager’s landscape. It was an intentional design process that integrated his work with the look of his home. This is every artist’s challenge — to make the unnatural seem natural, as though the piece was there the entire time.
“Art is another way on focusing attention and bringing something to kind of a conclusion,” Laudenslager said. “What kind of landscape you have and how you want to incorporate art into it is very different.”
Landscape artist vs. landscape architect
Most landscape art projects involve a landscape architect. A landscape artist designs the sculpture or artwork, while the landscape architect handles logistics.
They are a state-certified professional, and on a project, they handle grating, drainage, cement, etc.
Megan Allison, professor of Landscape Architecture at MiraCosta College, says this distinction exists for the public’s safety and well-being.
“Landscape architects design things that, if they go wrong, they can hurt people,” Allison said. “Walls can fall down, things like that.”
Working with a landscape architect is an important piece of the production process for public and corporate projects.
Encinitas-based light sculptor Deanne Sabeck has worked with landscape architects on many occasions. She says artists ideally want to get involved during the design phase, before any construction begins.
“The sooner the artist gets involved with the project, the better,” Sabeck said. “The landscape architect might even modify things to fit the art piece. Once you have a finalized situation, it means that the artist has to conform everything to what’s existing.”
See the art in action
Aside from private homes, landscape art is all around us. Big construction projects and local municipalities often commission artists like Sabeck and Laudenslager to help beautify parks, hospitals and office buildings.
Laudenslager says the art helps humanize these spaces.
“You can go to the post office and mail a letter, but if you go to the post office and it has a nice garden out in front and a little decoration, it’s a different experience,” Laudenslager said.
There are several spots in San Diego County to view landscape art projects: The park at Swami’s Beach on K Street, Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, Scripps Hospital in Encinitas and many other places across the county.