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Artist hopes public art piece will help re-envision city, nature

May 02, 2014
  • Visitors to "The Unfinished" stand near the tip of the obelisk and check out the roughly two-foot-deep ditch that surrounds the public art piece.
Visitors to "The Unfinished" stand near the… (Courtesy of Emma…)

For Michael Parker, there would be no better place to carve a 137-foot obelisk into asphalt than a plot of land bounded by the Glendale Narrows of the Los Angeles River, boxy industrial buildings, power lines and the Glendale (2) Freeway.

Standing on the massive earthwork — fenced-in on all sides by a 2-foot-deep ditch and piles of infill dirt — visitors are surrounded by a mixture of urban and environmental landscapes, the Los Angeles artist said standing atop his creation this week.

“My hope is that it makes you re-envision what the city is and also what nature is,” Parker said. “It’s kind of a way of bringing people to think about the city and the built-in environment they live in and ask them to pay attention.”

California State Parks officials had their own motivations for approving the public art piece: getting backing for a new park on 18 acres known as “the bowtie” along the Los Angeles River.

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“We really want to drum up public support for actually building a state park out there,” said Sean Woods, superintendent for the Los Angeles sector of California State Parks. “We thought, ‘Why not engage the art community to sort of rock people’s perspectives of what they expect a park to be?’”

Parks officials and politicians are in the early stages of analyzing a bond proposal for the proposed park on the site the state agency bought about a decade ago for $11 million, Woods said.

The park plan comes as multiple government agencies are working to revitalize the Los Angeles River. River. In December 2012, Glendale opened the first phase of its Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, a trail, park and equestrian center on the Glendale side of the narrows, which stretches through Los Angeles.

Glendale officials are currently working on expanding the trail and considering a proposal to build a bridge over the river to Griffith Park. 

The obelisk, called “The Unfinished,” was funded by Clockshop, an arts nonprofit in the Elysian Valley. With $1,800 and more than a dozen volunteers, Parker spent several days using what he called “childhood fantasy tools” — a concrete saw and excavator tractor — to cut straight lines for the obelisks outline and dig out mountains of dirt.

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