Driving or walking along Camino Del Sur, you will probably notice an eye-catching pop of color against the flat, open field of Elings Park. Three structures, geometric mazes of criss-crossing metal, stand together in the middle of Isla Vista. They blend in with the eccentric creativity of the community with their vibrancy, yet they simultaneously create an atmosphere of mystery and wonder with their abstract shape. Those who venture closer will discover not only the intricacy of the sculptures, but also the unifying message that they convey.
A simple wooden sign next to the structures reveals that the display is called “Runaway,” designed by Greg Corso and Molly Hunker. The piece is part of a project by the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara called takepart/makeart: arte para todos, in which artists Cruz Ortiz, Tanya Aguiñiga and desertArtLAB host artistic programs in various places around Santa Barbara. The project is a response to recent cuts made to arts programs in the state and in the rest of the country, seeking to unite artists and art-lovers alike.
The project is made to be inclusive and bilingual with certain portions of the explanatory sign next to the structures in Spanish. According to the project description, the “Runaway” sculptures “serve as a central meeting point and information hub” and that “’Runaway’ becomes a beacon around which programming by artists … will take place.” The piece has been moved around the Santa Barbara and Isla Vista areas and will be standing in Elings Park until May 30.
From far away, the sculptures look like elaborate jungle gyms, conveying a sense of fun and childishness. The bright pink, blue and yellow colors of the metal also contribute to this playful and bubbly atmosphere. The idea seems simple at first glance, but there is an unusual quality to the structures in that their sleek modernity and abstract geometric shape stands out sharply. This quality of the sculptures is meant to draw spectators in by contrasting with the traditional Spanish architecture so prevalent in Santa Barbara.
Once viewers get close to the structures, they can see the intricacy of the grids of metal inside and can explore the ways in which the structures change from different angles. The first two structures allow people to see through the grids in many places due to their rectangular shape and from different perspectives, they create an optical illusion that looks like they are blurring. The third structure is made of various triangle shapes that overlap slightly with an impressive grid of diagonal bars inside that creates complicated patterns.
UCSB third-year and avid painter Diane Escobedo walked around the sculptures with me, bending down and tilting her head in different ways to admire the play on perspective of each structure.
“With this piece, you have to get close to it in order to actually be able to see the work that went into it and to understand the complexity. You have to see it in person and interact with it,” Escobedo said.
She related this quality and the shape of the sculptures to the place of art in our society today.
“These sculptures make you realize that you can’t just dismiss art at first glance. If you face the sculpture at a certain angle, it looks small and narrow, in the way that many people see art with a narrow mindset. But if you step around to another side, you see that it’s much bigger and more impressive than you realized.”
“Runaway” serves as a beacon for curious Isla Vista residents, bringing them together to appreciate art and to provoke discussion. It is a way for art to be accessible to all and a celebration of modern art in a time when its value is being questioned. Its simplicity inspires exploration and different ideas about its message. There are many angles, both literal and metaphorical, from which to view the project, allowing everyone and anyone to take part in the experience.