City Celebrates Sculpture Exhibition

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Matt Hagemann of Newport Beach with daughter Hillary, 8, posing in the “Pebble Series” sculpture.  — Photo by Christopher Trela ©
Matt Hagemann of Newport Beach with daughter Hillary, 8, posing in the “Pebble Series” sculpture.
— Photo by Christopher Trela ©

The final elements of the Newport Beach Civic Center and Park were unveiled on Saturday when Mayor Ed Selich dedicated the final phase of the Sculpture in Civic Center Park Exhibition during a ceremony in the Civic Center’s community room.

“Today is the culmination of a 10 year journey,” Seliech told the overflow crowd. “When we looked at building the city hall 10 years ago, and then this site was approved by voters, we created a panel of landscape architects and selected Peter Walker, who designed the water feature where the World Trade Centers stood.”

Initially the park element was passive, but it evolved to provide opportunities for people to interact with it, said Selich.

“Now we have miles of trails, a pedestrian bridge, an observation deck, a dog park, benches for seating and picnicking, and by early 2014 we had a program in place where we could have sculptures on a rotating basis,” he continued. “Today we dedicate the final sculptures, the final step in the vision of the city hall and civic center. We now have the most usable park in the city. On any given day there are people in the park. The park is not static, it will continue to evolve.”

The evolution will occur annually, starting in 2016 when the original 10 works that were installed last year will be rotated out and replaced with a new set; the newly installed artwork will be rotated out in 2017.

New sculpture in the park at the civic green.  — Photo by Christopher Trela ©
New sculpture in the park at the civic green.
— Photo by Christopher Trela ©

Among the new works of art: a giant metallic dragonfly named “Demoiselle,” a pebble weighing 12,000 pounds, an intricate white “La Cage aux Folles,” and a sphere made out of recycled bicycle chain rings.

For the new additions to the sculpture exhibition, a call for artists was opened in early March with a May 1 deadline. The city received 81 submissions. A judging panel of three city arts commissioners (Rita Goldberg, Robert Smith and Charles Ware) and three outside experts (Julie Perlin Lee, vice president of collections and exhibition development for Bowers Museum; Todd DeShields Smith, Director and CEO of OCMA; and Joseph S. Lewis III, Professor of Art at UCI), narrowed it down to 26 finalists and then down to the top 10 and four alternates.

The entire Arts Commission then reviewed the selected pieces and approved them for recommendation to the City Council.

The selection criteria included the artistic merit, durability, practicality of installation, and appropriateness to the site.

Arts Orange County, the countywide nonprofits arts council, was hired to manage the exhibition process.

“We were invited to bid on managing the sculpture exhibition and were the successful bidder,” said Stein, who attended the dedication ceremony, along with many of the artists from around the country whose works were selected to be in the exhibition. “We managed the process of artists selection, jury panel, installation, and contracting with the artists. Last year we were also asked to do an arts master plan for Newport Beach, which we completed last fall. We’re hopeful the city council will renew the project next year, and that we’ll be invited back to assist.”

David Aeppli with Display, a company that specializes in installing artwork, said the entire process of installing the sculptures in the park took about seven days, except for the intricate “La Cage aux Folles,” which took about two and a half weeks.

New sculpture in the park at the civic green.  — Photo by Christopher Trela ©
New sculpture in the park at the civic green.
— Photo by Christopher Trela ©

“The artist thought it would take a week,” recalled Aeppli. “But it was really fun to work on.”

Aeppli said the “Pebble Series,” which weight around 12,000 pounds, was also a challenge to maneuver into place, and the “Re-cycled” sculpture had 161 sprockets that needed to be inserted into a base, which took three of his crew about four hours to complete.

The biggest challenge, said Aeppli, is the dirt in the park.

“The ground in this park is hard,” he said. “The first inch is hard, and as deep as we set the concrete it’s hard. It’s a workout.”

During last weekend’s grand opening celebration, many of the artists were on hand to talk about their artwork, and visitors took walking tours of the sculptures led by members of the Newport Beach Art Foundation.

There is also a downloadable cellphone app with a guided tour available for iPhone and Android users.  

Children’s art activities were held in several areas of the exhibition.

For more information on the exhibition, visit, under Public Art, or contact the Newport Beach Cultural Arts Services Office at (949) 717-3801.


Guide to the New Sculptures

The new sculptures are (with descriptions courtesy of the City of Newport Beach):

• “La Cage aux Folles” by Warren Techentin: Techentin is an architect who reportedly took inspiration from cages, follies, and the nomadic Mongolian yurt to create his adventurous and interactive La Cage aux Folles. The work explores the craft of pipe bending, computational procedures, and fields of linear strands in which each element becomes a participant with numerous roles to play. La Cage has also been treated with a TNEMEC architectural coating to reduce the effects of rusting. The dramatic sculpture has been sited along the entry drive to the Civic Center parking area as its color and linear aspects compliment the City Hall architecture nearby. It took workers several days to painstakingly erect the artwork in the park.

• “Re-cycled” by Jarod Charzewski and Sean Mueller: Re-cycled is designed to evoke a viewer’s inherent connection to preservation by exploring objects and their ability to be tethered to emotional attachments and the resulting inability to throw things away. The sculpture is primarily composed of repurposed bike chain rings and is a little over four feet in diameter. The work is centered where the pathways converge at the primary entrance to the dog park in the upper park area.

• “Prime Commonality” by Luke Crawley and Quincy Owens: “Prime Commonality” represents the ancestral commonality between humans and chimpanzees, with dramatic evidence exhibited in chromosomal similarities. Each pillar is seven feet high and is styled to represent human and chimpanzee chromosomal banding using panels of aluminum and translucent acrylic. The three pillars have been installed around the stairway entrance at the very top of the park on Avocado Avenue.

• “Decline” by Grant Irish: Oakland-based artist Grant Irish focuses much of his work on bronze sculptures that investigate the relationship of instinct, imagination and normative thought. “Decline” is a part of a larger series that was conceived when the artist was confronted with discarded fragments of machinery along Kauai’s North Shore. Fabricated from Corten steel and measuring 15 feet long, the artwork is placed at the top of the lower park’s entry stair.

• “Three Saplings” by Diana Markessinis: Made from reclaimed steel, the “Three Saplings” have been previously exhibited in both indoor and outdoor public settings including the LA County Arboretum, Cypress College, and the Tustin Marketplace. The work began as a gesture drawing, a quick framework noting the foundation for a much larger, sought after organic form. These pieces have been installed along the sloped y hillside adjacent to the parking area at the park entrance.

• “Double White” Bertil Petersson: This 400-pound artwork measures six feet high and is intended to be a minimal visual element in an otherwise busy visual environment. The artist chose steel as the primary material for this artwork because it is relatively mobile while easy to maintain. This work is sited in the upper park and can be viewed from the nearby outdoor seating area.

• “Demoiselle” by LT Mustardseed: “Demoiselle,” first featured in the 2009/2010 El Paseo Invitational Exhibition in Palm Desert, was designed to be weather tolerant, able to withstand high winds and extreme sun exposure. The piece is a metamorphose of the damselfly, a native species to California, created using recycled materials, especially automotive parts. The mouth of the demoiselle fly is made from the grill of a 1940 Chevy truck. The head is made of a motorcycle fender.  

• “Equator Z360” by Kenneth Capps. The Carlsbad artist has created a significant body of work that has gained national recognition. He describes this sculpture, made of zinc on steel, as “a split atom that fell from the sky; incessantly in motion.  This is only a stopping of point.” It is sited midway up the lower area of the park.

• “Pebble Series” by Edwin Hamilton. This piece is part of a series of works created by the artist that aspires to tap into a universal human psychic content evoked by ancient stonework in a contemporary sculpture. Hamilton’s complex granite assemblages are inspired by a simple form found in the natural world. This sculpture rests in a site near the center view area at the middle of the lower park, and took a heavy duty fork lift, five workers and a little ingenuity to manhandle the 12,000 pound sculpture into place.

• “Sunflower” by Patricia Vader: “Sunflower” is a wind-driven kinetic metal sculpture that supports eight windmills representing the petals and heart of the flowers. This piece will not be installed until January 2016.

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