I recall an artist called Christo who, in 1976, covered 24 miles of California Coast in plastic.
I doubt if Christo cared much for the nesting birds and other life that lived along his “Running Fence.”
It always seemed to me that he cared most about making a name for himself. Regardless, suffocating the living beneath dead plastic made little sense to anyone and was undoubtedly environmentally unsound.
Gladly, Christo’s fence was removed in 14 days, without leaving a trace.
Artist Matt Beard and his newest book project, “Painting the California Coast,” have little in common with Christo’s vision, except that they are both highly ambitious works and neither leaves a permanent scar on the land.
In Beard’s case, however, there is hard evidence of his caring and covering (figuratively) the coast. That is because he’s spent decades tromping the underbrush, with evidence in the form of his recently released tome.
This 15-year-long project not only offers a fresh perspective on places as familiar as Malibu, San Onofre and Swami’s, but takes roads less traveled into paths unmarred by footprints where the only sounds are of your own heartbeat, raindrops falling from towering redwood branches, breaking waves, seabirds and barking sea lions.
While the fine artwork in this volume stands tall and alone, other intangible benefits arrive in the form of inspiration, causing the introspective city surfer to wonder why they have been battling through fiberglass jungles to glean a few scraps from those spots broadcast daily on cell phones internationally.
It’s been a few years — make those decades — since I scoured Highway One without the use of any surf guides, in search of a few hidden coves and secret surf spots. For that reason alone, I thought I knew the 800-plus miles of coast in my home state.
And yet I often found myself at a loss when challenged to put name to beach. Stumped and somewhat frustrated, I nonetheless am thankful that Matt understands the frail nature of his chosen subjects and defies surf magazine tradition of blowing the cover on secret spots.
The reader is left without a hint as to physical location, but a feeling that discovery is just a tank of gas away.
It’s been a few years since Matt Beard became recognized as one of the best in the plein air genre. Since then I have come to know him as a surfer and an adventurer, living beyond the Orange Curtain, in the cold and damp Northern California coast.
While the above facts about the artist are readily apparent, who would know that his gifts for the pen are nearly equal to his gifts with the brush?
The prose and poetry, some serious, some comedic, some a blend of both, add a new layer of fuel to his work, igniting each of those 196 pages until they are burned forever in the memory.
To learn more about Matt Beard and his book, “Painting the California Coast,” visit, http://mattbeardart.com/book/