It all started when this Indian shows up on my retaining wall, just before the Academy Awards last year. Suddenly I've got people I've never met knocking on my door, telling me not to destroy the "Banksy". The local newspaper wrote about it, saying I'd wake to the sound of jackhammers of someone trying to steal the darn thing! http://www.topangamessenger.com/story_detail.php?SectionID=2&ArticleID=4333 I'm thinking, What the hell is a "Banksy" ? I look it up, and see a human sized rat, with a propensity to paint peoples private property. It started to attract tagging, which I detest. I'm thinking "How do I protect my wall from mutant rodents?" So I built a big ol' rat trap, baited it with an oversize can of spray paint, and hung it on the wall.
Word got out I was looking for a big RAT, but some dyslexics thought I was looking for big ART, and started nailing it on the wall. Some was ok, some was downright awful.
'Round that time, I was collecting scrap metal from around our house. Stuff we didn't need, but would be a shame to toss into a landfill, like the vent hood from an indoor BBQ we'd demolished, and a stainless steel sink. I'd tried to sell these on Craigslist with no luck, and was about to haul it all to a scrap metal yard. I set the sink on top of the vent hood and, Whoa! A car repair ramp and a jacuzzi cover were not more than 10 feet away, and within an hour I located a broken broom, a couple of horseshoes, old flower pots, cd's, chunks of fence material, a broken boogie board, a pool "Noodle", a pair of plastic balls, and a toilet paper dispenser. I bolted it all together and hung it on the wall.The result is what I believe to be the best known face in Topanga. I never left the property for a single piece of it!
I sculpted the words "Got Art? out of odd items I'd kept around, came up with the moniker "Great Wall of Topanga", printed it on the wall, and set up a Facebook page for it. Someone at LA Weekly magazine noticed the wall's metamorphosis, and sent out a reporter. She interviewed me, then penned this scathing criticism: http://blogs.laweekly.com/arts/2011/09/topanga_art_wall_denman.php
Ok maybe it wasn't so scathing, but I do get lots of criticism. On the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Great-Wall-of-Topanga/176129415781067 Someone wrote "I like the idea of the wall, but most of your art is JUNK!" At first I was offended, but realized he was right. Much of what is on the wall would otherwise be in a landfill. It got me thinking: What other trash can I give a second life?
"Toys wuz Us" was born (Or at least concieved). What happens to all the plastic junk our kids go through? Mostly to the landfill. It wasn't difficult to accumulate what you see now on the wall, with the exception of one letter. I had to ride 5 miles on my bike with the fish/rocker that makes the "O" over my shoulder. I found it it in someone's trash, and was worried that If I didn't take it with me right then, someone else would snag it. Can one find art in trash? Sure, the first 3 letters backwards! I coined "Artsh", but now think "ShArt" is even better.
Loads of passers-by seem to like it-they stop all the time for pictures. Some professional film crews even (Though I've yet to be asked permission or offered recompense). You can see a PSA shot for PBS at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTjF11TfZj0
So what now?
I'm lousy with computers, and there's no way I could have even come up with this Kickstarter project without a heck of a lot of help from a friend. I'll keep "Posting" things on the "Great Wall", but posting on virtual ones drives me batty. I need to start paying for professional help (With the computer, not a psychiatrist-though there are many who think that might be a good idea as well!)
Lots of projects are rattling around in my head, and I get regular submissions thru Facebook or from the local arts community. Several are mentioned in the video and rewards, like "MT. RUSH HOUR". (I also like "Mt Rush N'More and "Mt. Rushless"). I am pleased to have received 2 Chinese Warrior sculptures from a generous fan of the wall. In order to display these, I will need extremely beefy display pedestals, as they weigh 4 to 500 lbs, and I'll need to take security measures, such as a video surveillance system. I'm remounting the rat trap to accommodate those who want to be photographed caught in it. I would like to be able to bring pieces down to the display from my property without having to jump the fence and slide down the dirt hillside, and for this I need to build stairs. I'll be adding display space to the main wall as well as the adjoining walls for both 2 and 3 dimensional pieces. I want to add a sound element to the display, and toward that end I have stripped an upright piano down to it's heart and am working on wind powered pluckers and chimes.As an avid bicyclist, I have several cycling related projects (Including but not limited to the Solar Cyclists mentioned in the rewards). Have you visited the "EXPLORATORIUM" in San Francisco? If so, you may remember the bizarre visual effect of the offset black and white tiles as you enter the restrooms. There are other ideas I've picked up there as well, but that would be a good one to start with. Do you like the message of "TOYS wuz US"? What about E-waste? What I've come up with will be made of discarded high tech gadgetry, and spell out "BEST BUrY...FRY'd ELECTRONICS".
My most involved project will be to light the wall during morning rush hour, using the sun and a (Solar powered) solar tracking motor on a large mirrored platform mounted on the hillside opposite the wall, where the sun shines hours before it hits the road. This is listed as a reward for several large donors, but if none appear, it could become it's own Kickstarter project (If this one is successful, that is).
Is this stuff ART or TRASH? As I say in the video, that's up to you to decide. Especially if you're thinking of helping make and display more of it. Before you decide, take one more look at the face at the top of the page. Is it not sincerity personified? If this face has brought a smile to yours, consider helping some of these other outlandish projects come to be. Thanks
Risks and challenges
The most frustrating challenge is dealing with taggers. Several times now I have spent hours cleaning up after their destructive behavior. I have taken pictures of their damage, but choose not to show them, as it would get them the exposure I assume they are looking for. Instead I remove any piece I can't restore ASAP. I'm getting to know what materials, media, and clear cotes/sealants to work with to lessen this problem, ones that I can use paint remover on and pressure wash without destroying.
If I am successful in this project, I plan to install video surveillance. Though it won't prevent destructive behavior, at least I'll be able to post video of it on the Facebook page and enlist the help of supporters to identify and if not prosecute, at least shame the culprits. If they even feel shame.
I have also had to deal with both zoning and law enforcement. I was cited by the county for solicitation (Of art, that is, not that other type). Some months later, a highway patrolman thought the rat trap presented a hazard to passing pedestrians and cyclists. I was in Colorado at the time, but managed to get it moved before I was fined (Or jailed!) So far, I've managed to conform to their standards, though these tend to be made up on the spot by the individuals involved, as there tends to be no precedent in a case like this.
The project toward which I feel the most trepidation is the solar tracking spotlight. I'm no rocket scientist, but I do have a friend who was a solar astronomer at UCLA and now works as a trajectory specialist for JPL. He figures out how to get rovers and such to Mars and beyond. He's assured me that the solar tracking motors are reasonably common and available, and would be easy to program. Easy for him maybe.
Otherwise it's just a lack of time and funds to spend on these projects, let alone the social media and computer stuff where I'm so incompetent. Along with the environmental consciousness of our neighbors and passers-by, we have 2 young boys to raise. They take precedence. Oh yeah-and a certain amount of financial resources as well. I've spent quite a bit of ours thus far on this arguably artistic endeavor, as yet with no recompense. For that reason I'm going the Kickstarter route, and throwing this project into cyberspace, to see if it sticks to something. Is it worth pursuing further? I'll know on New Years Day, 2013!
Us real Topangans are known by our exclusive 455 prefix phone numbers, (This reward is supposed to be for $4 and 55 cents). Anyways, you'll get a call from a 455, and it'll make you feel real special. (I'm gonna hafta call from my wife's phone, cuz they ran out of 455 numbers when I went mobile). Oh yeah-If your number has more than 10 digits, We'll be sending our thanks...Telepathically!
($9.95 for the lousy 995 prefix number I got stuck with).
I'm thinking custom Great Wall postcards here...remember postcards? Way back when, a guy in funny shorts would actually walk up to your house and put pieces of paper through a hole in the door. What a concept!
"Greetings from...Wherever", they'd say. "The weather's here-wish you were beautiful".
I'll put one of them "Forever" stamps on it. That means that guy in the funny shorts will be trying to track you down...forever!
('Cuz the wall is at 1100 Topanga Canyon Blvd, near Hillside and Bonilla. That's pronounced "BONE-E-YA. I member once a buddy tol me to come on down and visit him near San Diego. Said he lived in La Hoya. Man, I drove all over tarnation lookin' for that place. How's I supposed to know they pronounce J-O-L-L-A, Hoya?)
Anyway, I'll throw a few extra postcards in an envelope, so you can send them yourself.
All right then.
(The century I'm not at all prepared for). If you live in the LA area, when you find yourself passing through this funky town, stop at the wall and hit the buzzer. Chances are I'll be able to give you a quick tour and background info on the current display. I'll take a pic of you in front of it. Better yet, bring your own irresistably tempting bait, and I'll get a shot of you stuck in the human size rat trap! What a fine Christmas gift for mom-a nicely framed photo of you squashed in a rat trap, baited with Jack Daniels!
(Topanga Canyon Blvd is CA State Route 27). How'd you like to have only 2 degrees of separation from KEVIN BACON himself! I'll send you an autographed photo of Kevin and me from the 1985 movie "Quicksilver, where I was Cycling Technical Advisor and Cycling Cameraman. Hey, I didn't say he autographed it did I? I'll sign it to you, and, tell you what. I was at "Knott's Berry Farm" with my kids, and saw a display where famous guests had signed thin slices of Geodes. He had signed one, so I photographed it. I can include a copy of that as well, if you really want it. Not a Bacon fan? I can make it an autographed photo of Tour de France Winner Jan Ullrich and me, from an Adidas commercial we filmed in the Pyrnees, or one of me and Eric Heiden (Who performed arguably the greatest athletic feat ever, winning 5 gold medals, one in every distance, in Speedskating in the 1980 Olympics. That's like Usain Bolt winning the 400m, 1500m, 10km, and marathon as well as the 100m sprint!) We filmed a commercial for Cadillac, along with the US greatest cyclist ever Greg LeMond and Olympic Champion swimmer Janet Evans. Eric and I are on ice with someone who's name is even more famous than his, though you won't know his face. He's an inventor by the name of "Zamboni"!
(Width of the wall in feet) You can hang out on the deck above the "Great Wall" and watch the traffic crawl by, while we feed you breakfast, or lunch of some leftovers or whatever happens to be in the fridge that day. That's what we eat, but if you prefer, you can take our family of 4 out to Froggy's accross the street, or one of the other nice dining establishments here in the canyon. Help us cajole our 5 and 8 year old boys into eating something other than noodles.
(The last 2 digits of our zip code-90290, often get people confused because of that other wannabe area of LA, 90210. They're not allowed here).
This'll get you tired. We'll walk, run, mountain bike, road bike, fixie, or unicycle through the surrounding hills for a few hours until I have to pick up my kids from school-which I generally do on a tandem bike (Or triple). Weekends one or both kids might have to join us.
Not inclined towards sweat? I suppose we could just sit around and talk for the same period of time, but if I don't move I'll likely fall asleep.
(Height of the Great Wall in inches)
When a stencilled indian first appeared on the wall, Everyone said "It's a "Banksy". The local rag wrote "The owner may wake to the sound of jackhammers of someone trying to remove this". I feared for the wall, as it holds back one heck of a lot of dirt. The piece was painted over a rapidly deteriorating surface, so I had an artist make a duplicate stencil in case some idiot tries to remove the original. Thankfully no one has. I can paint this in your choice of colors on your choice of material. Canvas, cardboard, masonite, plywood, Hardibacker, or cinderblock will all work, though some are easier top transport than others. Materials and shipping can vary greatly, so are therefore not included, and will have to be arranged and paid for seperately. It will have to be at least 3' wide and 4' tall.
If you don't already know, 310 is the most sought after area code in all of telephonedom-just try to get one sometime-they ran out years ago. Bidding wars abound for the numbers of recently deceased subscribers.
Well, you can't have one of ours, but you can borrow one, make some calls and impress some friends. We'll throw in one of each from the lower $ levels, and in addition, I'll engrave your name into one of the cinder blocks of the wall. (I have no particular talent in doing this, but am willing to give it the old college try). Or I could burn your name into one of the wooden railings on the deck with a soldering iron, hopefully not setting the whole place on fire. That costs extra.
(For the famous 405 freeway that during "Carmageddon", or any other traffic snafu, sends a huge influx of automobiles through Topanga Canyon. The Great Wall gets much more eyeball time/person on these days, though those eyeballs may be seeing more than a little red as they crawl by). This reward enables 2 backers to each open one of the crates that I can be seen pushing around in the video. They contain statues of warriors, sent directly from China, and haven't been seen by me or anyone else since they left the other side of the world. Be the first! By the way, they weigh on the order of 400 lbs. I've got hammers and pry bars, but bring your own hernia belt, as we're nearly ready with pedestals to display them. This level also includes your choice of the lower $ level rewards.
(I'm soooo hung up on that 455 prefix) B&B on the GWoT! Spend the night in lovely Topanga! We have a trampoline with a privacy screen all around it, it's pretty comfy, or I can set you up with a tent on the deck above the wall or, my goodness, if you seem a decent enough sort, we might even invite you inside the house! (If the guest room isn't being used by some octogenarian or other, that stop by from time to time). By the way, we celebrate my dad's birthday each year by riding (Bicycles) his age in miles-87 last January-in the company of many of the US top Olympic and RAAM (Race Across AMerica) cyclists from the 70's and 80's- So if you would like to ride 88 with us in early January, 2013, we'll throw that in, as well as any of the lower $ level rewards.
OR: Make an impression in this small corner of the art world. Got a piece you want displayed on the wall? Work with me on one of my ideas that has yet to be realized in 2 or 3d. I've got plenty. I've got bits and pieces of potential wall projects strewn all about this place, let alone inside my head.
(From the silly 995 prefix I got instead of the way cooler 455). See the "Blockhead" in the video? he's gonna require a lot of engineering, and that still leaves me one face short for "MT. RUSH HOUR", (Also we're still considering the names "Mt. RUSH n' MORE", or "Mt. RUSHLESS"). You can build the blockhead with me and my mason, or come up with your own face idea for the fourth.
(The address of the Wall on Topanga Canyon Blvd)
Each of the sculptures on the wall thus far have been constructed of one of a kind materials, with the exception of one: The 4'x8' rat trap. Got some really big rodents around your place? I'll make you one, and you can bait it with whatever you think they'll go for. I used a giant paint can cuz I was after a man size rat with a penchant for painting people's private property. Mine is not operable, but while building it, it became obvious that I could make a working model. So if you're a real sicko who wants to go that route, it can be done, but at double the rate.
Either way, this will have to be picked up in LA, unless you want me to drive it out to you or come there to build it at your site. Both cost extra, the amount will have to be negotiated.
Most physics geeks out there will be familiar with a little desk top solar powered cyclist made out of bent wire. Put him in the sun and he pedals incessantly. I've always wanted to build something similar but full size, maybe even an adult riding along with a kid. I've got much expertise in pe purposing bikes. Years ago, I made a bike stand up and start riding, turn, brake, skid out to the side, etc, all with no one aboard! This was for the tv show "The Invisible Man", an episode called "The Importance of being Eberts" (If you want, you can stream it on Netflix. No offense to the show, they paid me after all, but I'd recommend skipping to the last 10 minutes for the chase).
Anyway, this proposed piece will go on the wall, not to the sponsor, though we could perhaps work out a deal for a duplicate or the original after it's display.
Light the wall with a Sun Tracking Solar Spotlight! Most of the year, the road through canyon is dark during morning rush hour, but the canyon wall opposite is fully lit by the sun. We'll mount a movable, mirrored platform on that steep, unused canyon wall, with a solar tracking motor to keep the reflected light on the wall. I've designed the platform, and already spoken with the owners of several properties that would work) Wouldn't it be great to have traffic come crawling around the bend to see the wall brightly lit, with the aforementioned solar powered cyclists pedaling away? (Yes, I am trying to make a statement here). Due to the limited $ amount one can ask for, I will only take on this project with a minimum of 2 backers, though I would prefer 3 or more.