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‘Sunset Trace’ brightens day for attendees of Laguna Art Museum’s Art and Nature

A couple take pictures of the Laguna Art Museum's Art and Nature exhibit, "Sunset Trace."
A couple take pictures of the Laguna Art Museum’s Art and Nature exhibit, Patrick Shearn’s “Sunset Trace,” suspended along the coastline path from Las Brisas to Main Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It stood out and seemed to fit into the surrounding landscape at the same time.

Tied to the palm trees and buildings in and around Heisler Park, “Sunset Trace,” a colorful “Skynet” created by Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics, soared in a steady coastal breeze on Friday.

“The thing is it’s so ultra-lightweight that the smallest breeze can get individual streamers dancing,” Shearn explained, “and then when the wind picks up, depending on the direction of the wind, you can really see and experience the sort of larger symphonic motions of the wind at large, how it wraps around the buildings and passes through the trees. ... You really become aware of sort of how much we’re not aware of, or how much we don’t really experience that’s hidden from us visually.”

The 650-foot-long exhibit is the featured installation for Laguna Art Museum’s Art and Nature, an annual event that is now in its eighth year. Art and Nature came to fruition under Malcolm Warner, who plans to retire as the executive director of the museum at the end of the year.

“I think it was really a master stroke by Malcolm Warner, the executive director, to come up with this concept eight or nine years ago,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said of Art and Nature. “Art and nature are kind of two of the key elements that Laguna loves, right? We love art, we love nature, the open environment.

“To blend those two together in an outdoor art display, which they’ve done yearly now is just very impactful, and the community looks forward to it every year.”

Whalen added that this year’s Art and Nature installation was a collaboration between the Laguna Art Museum and the city’s Arts Commission.

Patrick Shearn's "Skynet," called "Sunset Trace," suspended along the coastline.
This year’s Laguna Art Museum Art and Nature exhibit, Patrick Shearn’s Skynet called “Sunset Trace,” suspended along the coastline path from Las Brisas to Main Beach near the Laguna Inn.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The community has turned out to view the exhibit, some saying that they have already seen the Skynet multiple times even though the official introduction of the artwork took place on Thursday. “Sunset Trace” will remain up through Nov. 15.

Given its skyward location overlooking Heisler Park, Main Beach and Bird Rock, the impact of the artwork could, in part, be felt by its accessibility.

“It brightens up my day,” said Olivia Bernal, 41, of Laguna Hills. “I love the colors, and it’s just something cheerful in this dark world we live in, being home alone and isolated [because of the coronavirus pandemic] and everything going on political and stuff like that. It’s just a nice diversion, a nice change of scenery.”

Marshall Aren, 67, who said he has been a Laguna Beach resident for about 30 years, brought his camera to engage with the Skynet. He said he had seen a number of outdoor public art projects, some of which he felt did not always fit into the landscape, but in his mind, Shearn’s project was able to do so.

“I always find them interesting, but this one just really feels … like it belongs there,” Aren said.

The Laguna Art Museum's Art and Nature exhibit, Patrick Shearn's "Sunset Trace," suspended along the coastline.
The Laguna Art Museum’s Art and Nature exhibit, Patrick Shearn’s Skynet called “Sunset Trace,” suspended along the coastline path from Las Brisas to Main Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

People of all ages derived enjoyment from interacting with the Skynet. Theresa Marino, 67, of Laguna Beach brought her 6-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn Darby, with her to check it out.

The breeze picked up as the two of them walked across the pathway below. The Skynet reflected its natural environment, a collection of colors moving violently beneath cloudy skies and above crashing waves. Another observer compared the ability of the exhibit to capture sound to the rustling of tree leaves.

“You can feel it,” Marino said. “That’s what I like. You can feel it. You can see it. You can hear it.”

Added Brooklyn, “I love that art can be really nice, and it can also make nice memories.”

The beach sometimes acts as a place to leave the world behind. Theresa Cavanaugh, 61, of Laguna Beach described how “Sunset Trace” could have the same effect.

“It puts you in a different frame of mind when you’re just present to the beauty,” Cavanaugh said. “Just the color, the motion, it changes your perspective.”

Shearn is scheduled to give an online lecture on the museum’s website to discuss his work, including “Sunset Trace,” on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Art and Nature will also feature a variety of virtual events. Among the offerings are museum tours, as well as workshops with family activities covering the fields of art, nature and science.

Laguna Art Museum's Art and Nature exhibit, Patrick Shearn's Skynet called "Sunset Trace," overlooks Bird Rock.
Laguna Art Museum’s Art and Nature exhibit, Patrick Shearn’s Skynet called “Sunset Trace,” overlooks Bird Rock in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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