An immense red-and-white carton of popcorn displays its flashy materiality before the blue smudge of San Diego Bay and a California Sky. Numerous golden chickens are perched atop the container, sitting lazily in the sun with smiling eyes and matching tufts of red feathers atop their heads. Artist Bonn Liang’s humorous creation, specked with water and heat, is part of San Diego’s eclectic Urban Trees public art exhibit. The exhibit, created in 2003 by the San Diego Public Art Department, consists of 30 original urban trees. The trees are replaced each year, with older trees sold to the public or returned to their artists. Varying in color, form and material, the trees invite public interaction and interpretation. The artists also bring their own meaning to each work: Bonn Liang’s sculpture reflects his memories of the circus, particularly its bold colors and the omnipresent scent of fresh popcorn. The Urban Trees exhibit spans half a mile on San Diego’s North Embarcadero and is free and open to the public.
Images of Urban Trees 6, courtesy of the Public Art Department of San Diego:
Popcorn Chicken by Bonn Liang
This pop art sculpture turns in the wind, or with the touch of a hand. It is a bold addition to the waterfront.
SIC’Emore (doggie tree) by Neal & Tiffany Bociek
Puppies might sniff this colorful work – the sculpture’s base is a yellow fire hydrant and its body is a branching tree. Canine figurines stand alert on spinning posts at the end of each branch. The top dog, a puffy poodle, is also a weather vane.
SWEET MUSIC by Amos Robinson
This spinning sculpture depicts a musician serenading his dancing lover. Artist Amos Robinson’s work evokes the notion of love “making the world go ‘round.”
My Ocean is Your Ocean, Mi Mar Es Tu Mar by Avra Michelle Strauss
These two mother mermaids remind San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico of their shared responsibility to curb human pollution in local beaches. The delicate figures with closed eyes appear calm and radiate otherworldly wisdom.
Metamorphosis by Mike Tauber
This sculpture is rooted in fantasy: on one side, fruits are changed to well-formed Garibaldi fish, on a perpendicular panel, the bright fruits are transformed into flying hummingbirds. In this work, artist Mike Tauber communicates the beauty of the natural world.
Tropic Bird Tree by Steven L. Rieman
True to the project’s name, this sculpture is in actuality an urban tree. Artist Steven Rieman’s work sways in the wind; flying birds are visible just above the vine-covered tree’s canopy. The San Diego sky, visible through the work’s steel body, creates an elegant juxtaposition.
Thank You by Cathy Ann Janes
This work is a tribute to the valor of American soldiers as well as a thank you for their service. The shining eagle’s foot is draped with replicas of military dog tags, including POWs, MIAs, and purple hearts.