The Carlsbad Arts Commission wants to meet with the New York artist who created the controversial "Split Pavilion," an oceanfront sculpture that was paid for by the city and has engendered loathing in some residents.
The commission listened for two hours Thursday to public haranguing over the merits of the $338,000 artwork--a 7,500-square-foot, metal and cement triangle with trellises, reflecting ponds and an 8-foot-high fence--then recommended that the mayor appoint a committee of five to suggest changes to Andrea Blum, the internationally acclaimed artist who designed the sculpture.
"This is an attempt to temper justice with mercy," said Gary Wrench, the commission member who drafted the recommendation.
Before construction was completed earlier this year, the sculpture's aesthetics had been attacked on several points: The drought-resistant landscaping (ice plant) "lacks the color and personality that are characteristic of Carlsbad," said one critic. The reflecting ponds unnecessarily obstruct the view of the Pacific Ocean, "like taking a peanut butter sandwich to a steak dinner," said another. The tall fence makes passersby feel as if they are being held captive by a warden with esoteric taste, said Jane Stimmel, the manager at Harbor Fish South restaurant situated next door to the pavilion.
Stimmel appeared at the Arts Commission meeting wearing a gorilla suit and carrying a placard that drove her point home. On the placard was a drawing of baboons swinging from the sculpture's fence.
"I feel like I'm behind gorilla bars when I look at that thing," she said.
Supporters of the sculpture, including three of the six commission members, asked the public to be patient and allow for a "cooling off" period before attempting to change or destroy the work. Time recommendations ranged from three months to five years--the time it took for the city to commission and construct the sculpture.
"I'm not real wild about Salvador Dali, either, but some people like him. That's how it's supposed to be," said Hope Wrisley, a travel agent who supports artistic freedom but doesn't particularly care for the work. "Not everyone likes the same art. And I'm not going to let myself be swayed by the mob psychology that's been coming out."
Acting City Atty. Ron Ball earlier advised the commission that the sculpture is protected by the California Art Preservation Act of 1980, which prevents destruction of any public artwork without consent of the artist.
Ball recommended that the city negotiate changes with the artist, or purchase rights to the work. The recommendation adopted by the commission stated that no changes to the sculpture may be initiated until the mayor's committee reports to the council in six months.