Ocean in motion
Ocean in motion
Pablo Vargas Lugo

Seascape Floats On the Waters Off Laguna's Main Beach [Paint It Black]

Nature's pattern-making capability fascinates Pablo Vargas Lugo, particularly the way animals use them "to defend, make friends [and] deal with enemies." But when he considers how to represent humans in nature, the artist is thoroughly into breaking patterns.

For Ovipositor, the Mexico City-born Lugo took a cement conduit used everywhere in Mexico for conducting electricity and transformed it into a missile. The work's title refers to a tube-like organ female insects use to deposit their eggs. For a penile object to be fashioned into another penile object, then named after a female insect's phallus cracks me up. And so does Lugo, who has an affable manner, even when describing the complexities of urbanization and conquering space.

Laguna Art Museum (LAM) has commissioned Lugo to create an outdoor piece for its fifth annual Art & Nature festival. While the four previous installations were stationed on Main Beach, Lugo's will be anchored a couple of hundred feet out in the water.

Right away, Lugo knew he wanted to use a streetlight, but he had been spending a lot of time looking at images of sailing ships. The two merged in his mind into Seascape, "a lonely streetlamp out there" in the ocean, floating as if after a flood.

While giving a nod to the town's legacy of open-air painters and the ongoing construction that covers up the landscape and erases ocean views, the piece breaks up our notions of a seascape. The streetlight-and-buoy hybrid can be viewed from the beach and surrounding cliffs, but people can also view what it sees. Mounted below the streetlight's arm will be a waterproof camera pointed toward the water that will send its feed to the LAM lobby. Accessible even after closing time, the real-time seascapes will be captured all day and for about four hours into the night, which is how long its solar panel can power the battery.

Though, if the seas are churning, it may be a "dizzying image," one that Lugo jokes might require motion-sickness meds.

Aside from being attached to a spar buoy, the streetlight itself is utilitarian in design, indistinguishable from any you'd see illuminating the 405 or Beach Boulevard. The task of making the structure float went to Andrew Bloxom and Mark Peters of Morelli and Melvin Design and Engineering.

They are confident that birds won't be crapping all over Seascape because it will be in constant motion. Perhaps, during its two-week run, open-water swimmers will use it as a rendezvous or photobomb the feed.

The naval architects "think it's hilarious to be making a floating streetlight," says LAM director Malcolm Warner. "But they have been enthusiastic, patient and up for all the challenges," such as devising the contraption that will tow it by sea from Newport Beach, where it was constructed by Maika Scott.

However, the weather and the state haven't been so cooperative. Seascape was supposed to make its journey on Nov. 1 so that it would be ready for its big reveal the next day at First Thursday's Art Walk and Art & Nature's opening. But the timeline was delayed by rain and concerns over the nearby Marine Protected Area. Hopefully, Seascape will be anchored by a diver and the feed will go live before its closing date.

"I would never have thought of doing something like this," says Lugo of the commission. May we all be as open to smashing the same old, same old—starting with how we look at streetlights.

Seascape appears off Main Beach and at Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach; lagunaartmusuem.org. Through Nov. 16. Free.

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