The Great Wall of Topanga: Phase II
The Great Wall of Topanga: Phase II
In this funky LA mountain town, meet the best known face. With 3 more, "MT. RUSH HOUR" will greet more than 22,000 every day!
In this funky LA mountain town, meet the best known face. With 3 more, "MT. RUSH HOUR" will greet more than 22,000 every day! Read more
About this project
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!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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