Can You Dig It?

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MIKI IWASAKI, Aqueous Skin

TIM MURDOCH, And The Tree Was Happy


On exhibition at Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, through 2016 




In the wake of the water crisis in California the public has been forced to reconsider how they use water in their everyday lives. The temporary art exhibition Can You Dig It? features three site-specific installations in Plummer Park that utilize recycled and repurposed materials, address the ecological issue of the current California drought, water conservation, and touch upon our roles as active and responsible citizens.

Art on the Outside projects are supported by fees paid by developers of private projects into City’s Art and Beautification Fund in conjunction with the City’s Urban Art Ordinance. For more information on this project and other West Hollywood Arts and Culture projects please visit


Tim Murdoch, And The Tree Was Happy 

Location: Center of Plummer Park

approximately 5' x 30'

The title of installation is derived from Shel Silverstein’s famous children’s book, “The Giving Tree”. The story is a complex metaphor describing our willingness to consume nature at a rate that will eventually leave us with a barren planet but it's also a story about generosity and love. Dr. Seuss's book, “The Lorax” is another source of inspiration where he tells a very serious story in a humorous, approachable way. Using the strategies employed by the authors I wish to talk about a number of ecological issues in a way that’s accessible and engaging to the public. In the installation, plastics in the environment, water conservation and our active roles as responsible citizens will all be addressed with humor and absurdity.

Made from segmented, colorful, polyethylene tubes, this vine will climb the tree, winding its way to the lower branches, culminating in blossom-like funnels. The funnels will serve to collect rainwater meant for the tree. At the base of the tree, the vine becomes a bulbous knob that contains a faucet to access the surreptitiously obtained water. This valve represents an opportunity at redemption, our redemption. We could choose to take the water and use it for ourselves or we could choose to return the water to the tree. [Please Note: The water is not safe for drinking.]

The polyethylene tubes are bright yellow, beige and black and would normally be used for natural gas plumbing. The artist has collected them over the years to use in various art projects. They've come from dumpsters, empty lots, cut offs from gas line construction projects and general waste, all salvaged from an eventual future in a landfill. Polyethylene is durable. It’s one of the most stable plastics and is used in many applications from gas lines to grocery bags. To construct the vine the tubes are cut and heat welded together. Once the sections are welded together the tube will hold its shape without need for fasteners or wires, in no way harming the tree. The seams are hand carved with wood chisels creating an even textured surface. The funnels at the top of each branch will have a protective cone covering as well as a fine screen filter to keep out insects and debris.

The obvious artificiality of the plastic and the absurd attempt to mimic nature are a striking reminder of how extreme the contrast can be between manmade and natural. If we are to protect the natural resources active participation is necessary. The faucet symbolizes a choice that is still available, a hopeful yet ominous one, as was the final word left by the Lorax “Unless”.



Miki Iwasaki, Aqueous Skin

Location: Plummer Park Community Center

50' x 10' x 5'

During the exploration process for Can You Dig It, research was conducted on two levels. First the artist looked into how water was experienced, which evolved into an exploration of the surface of water. Iwasaki focused on how one perceives the almost magical nature of that extremely thin barrier between liquid and air. The second area of interest was the site. He examined the possibilities of each site within Plummer Park and the physical attributes but also the broader contextual issues within Los Angeles and Southern California. The result was Aqueous Skin - a suspension structure that is made up of repurposed sheet metal panels which are arranged to resemble the surface of water.

This project utilizes recycled and repurposed materials in a way that intends to engage the viewer and encourages them to make associations with a range of issues relevant to local and universal ideas about water and our environment while also creating a dramatic visual and visceral experience.

The form of the piece relates to the surface of water and the texture of liquid surfaces in our environment. The shadow patterns generated also relate to our experience with reflections of water on other surfaces. Water has a unique and distinct optical effect in certain lighting conditions and the piece, through the play on shadows, begins to emulate this natural phenomena.

The structure and construction of the piece is akin to shade structures and canopies that are seen throughout Southern California. Los Angeles’s ongoing love affair with mid-century modernism is referenced within the structure and detailing of the piece. The structural supports will be built with repurposed and salvaged steel components. Depending on the sourced materials used, the paint and patina on the pieces could expose the history of the reused materials.

The shade tiles themselves are also sourced from recycled materials. The tiles will be sheet metal cut from automobiles in salvage yards. It may not be immediately recognizable however when approached and inspected the viewer will realize that the material is pulled from a vehicle due to the paint finish remaining on the metal. This would of course immediately make associations to car culture, traffic, fuel and other automobile issues that are relevant to life in Los Angeles. As one discovers more about how the piece is made and the ideas behind it, the hope is that one can contemplate their own role as well as the collective whole and how we continue to affect our environment.

The position of the finished piece is at head height allowing the viewer to get the oblique view of the surface and perceive the subtle undulation in the arrangement of the panels as well as the texture of the individual pieces. The tension created by not being able to fit underneath the installation comfortably, while still providing shade strengthens our perception of the other elements and subtle nuances in the piece.

The site proposed is the decomposed granite patch adjacent to the City of West Hollywood Community Center at Plummer Park. The configuration of the site would allow for visibility of the piece with enough space to move around it. Although the site was selected and represented in this proposal this piece is also designed in a way that allows multiple arrangements, budgets and site possibilities. The modular nature of the grid can be fit with alternate proportions. The orientation can also be changed to create a vertical surface that can be read from below, the side or from different angles.

Snyder, Morris, Saylor_Food-Prints 1

Brett Snyder, Edward Morris, Sussanah Sayler, Food-Prints

Location: East side of Plummer Park near Fuller Avenue entrance

56' 8" x 23' 10"

Food-Prints is a dry garden illustrating the water footprints of some of California's most abundant agricultural products. The temporary installation creates a Zen-like garden allowing contemplation for some, while at the same time offering large playful sculptures in the shapes of fruits and vegetables, aimed at the park’s youngest visitors. These large sculptural food objects (under 30" tall) represent produce grown in California.

CYDI - Food Prints 2Upon closer inspection, these food objects are each situated in a circle that represents their comparative virtual water footprint. The entire garden is based on the proportions and layout of the Ryoan-ji, the famous Japanese Zen garden. This classic Zen garden layout is composed of a simple long rectangle with small pebbles and strategically located rocks. In Japanese Zen gardens large sculpture-like rocks often represent mountains or other landscape elements while small pebbles that make up the ground represent water. In place of the large rocks, will be wooden food objects, for contemplation or climbing.

Snyder, Morris, Saylor_Food-Prints 3

By showing how our most precious natural resource – water – affects the food we eat, this project will bridge the gap between nature and culture without preaching and it will accomplish this in a playful manner. Further, by situating the project in proximity to a farmer’s market it will valorize the market and will point to the very history of the Plummer Park site, which was itself a farm, growing not just one type food, as is common these days, but a whole range of produce.

Visitors will have access to a handout explaining the water footprints comparing food objects such as strawberries, grapes, and almonds. The almond, commonly a scapegoat in water-use politics, will be compared to the entire footprint of the rectangular art zone, which represents the virtual water for a single piece of steak.

Snyder, Morris, Saylor_Food-Prints 2




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For questions, contact Rebecca Ehemann, Public Art Coordinator at (323) 848-6846 or

For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, please call, TTY: (323) 848-6496. To learn more information about the City of West Hollywood and its arts programs visit