More Deja Vu Than Burma Shave for Laguna Canyon Road : Giant Mural Would Mimic Scenery

Times Staff Writer

Drivers leaving Laguna Beach by way of Laguna Canyon Road during the summer of 1989 may notice an illusion, a sort of double look at the passing landscape, if the dream of two photographers comes true.

As of Wednesday, things were looking good. Tuesday night, the photographers received permission from the City Council to display a 600-foot-long photo mural along--and of--Laguna Canyon Road scenery during the summer of 1989 as part of the city’s celebration of Orange County’s centennial.

The project, described as “monumental and courageous” by Leah Vasquez, chairwoman of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission, will be the largest color photograph ever put together, according to one of the photographers, Jerry Burchfield.


It will consist of about 150 sections, each eight feet high by four feet wide, raised four feet above the ground on a heavy steel-rod framework.

It will be on the east side of the road (to the right of cars heading north out of Laguna Beach), and will “flow with the terrain” at the base of the Sycamore Hills, Burchfield said, running roughly at right angles to the roadway at a point just north of the El Toro Road junction.

Originally, the mural had been planned parallel to the road. But because drivers going in opposite directions might be overly distracted by a relatively long look, the placement was changed so that only drivers leaving Laguna could see the mural, and then only for a few moments unless they pulled off into a rough field parking lot for a longer look.

“It’ll be called ‘The Tell,’ ” Burchfield said, “because it will be intended to narrate the story, the history, the ecology of the canyon and its seasonal changes. It’s also designed as an illusion, because it will look very much like the surrounding terrain, but the perspective will change as you drive by.”

Burchfield and his partner, Mark Chamberlain, work out of the B.C. Space Studio in Laguna where, during the last 10 years, they have photographically documented just about every inch of both sides of the canyon road, from the ocean inland to the Santa Ana Freeway.

Burchfield said Wednesday two obstacles remain before they can start taking the photographs that will make up the huge mural.


One is permission from the California Department of Transportation; the other is money, about $200,000. Several individuals and corporations, he said, “have indicated support.”

And with the city’s approval, Burchfield said, “I don’t think we’ll have any problem with Caltrans. We’ve had meetings with them and worked out most of the guidelines, and about all we have to do is make formal applications with them.”