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Santa Monica man's mural becomes eyesore

September 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Beauty may lie in the eye of the beholder, but who decides what art is?

Santa Monica has a reputation as a colorful community. And nowhere is that more obvious than on the city's northeast side.

A Santa Monica property owner who wanted to improve an eyesore drew the attention of the city and he's being ordered to take down a large mural.

"It looked like a big billboard to me and I said let's do something special," said property owner Adam Corlin.

That something special turned out to be a four-story mural. Corlin says he commissioned two local graffiti artists to create an artistic message supporting the Santa Monica-based environmental group "Heal the Bay."

Only the message is written in a strange combination of what Corlin says is Egyptian hieroglyphics and Hebrew symbols.

"From the top down is 'oceans at risk,'" said Corlin. "Then it says 'heal the bay' and then below that it says 'sea shepherds.' And when you really look at it, it will eventually come to you and you'll see what it says."

But the language isn't the only thing some people can't understand, and Corlin says the city of Santa Monica is telling him it has to come down.

The city's building office issued a written statement: "Although the City of Santa Monica is very supportive of culture and the arts, the installation of the scaffolding and panels are a direct concern for life and safety and are therefore subject to immediate removal."

"I believe it's safe and my structural engineer says it's safe," said Corlin. "It's only going to be here for a week."

Corlin says the plan has always been to take it down after Heal the Bay holds its annual beach cleanup on Sept. 19.

The $30,000 mural is attracting a steady stream of onlookers, and many are armed with cameras and compliments.

"I think the fact that it's temporary makes me feel very accepting of it," said neighbor Elizabeth Gabay.

Especially when you see what's behind the mural- Corlin is renovating the long-time blighted property.

But with the city threatening fines, Corlin says this mural may have to come down sooner than he planned. The writing, quite literally, is on the wall.


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