Sonny Behan’s ‘Beneath the Waves’ advocates for ocean conservation in downtown Laguna
A community rich in environmental interests has a new messenger pushing the cause of ocean conservation, as a storytelling, large-scale mural addressing marine plastic pollution has been placed in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach.
Sonny Behan, a 36-year-old artist from South Africa, created the piece called “Beneath the Waves,” depicting the Pacific Sea Nettle jellyfish in clear waters on the left and, as viewers works their way across the wall, increasingly in turmoil as it is confronted by unnatural invaders.
Laguna Beach has endeavored to bring about a balloon ban, as well as a prohibition on single-use plastics at its beaches, parks and trails.
The artwork, located in the Peppertree Lot between Forest and Ocean avenues, aims to heighten awareness and lead to individual accountability as one prepares to head to the beach.
“I feel like the more people are aware of things, the more they’re one to take action,” Behan said. “You can donate a lot of money, and you can raise a lot of money and stuff, but I’ve always felt from experience that the awareness is the sharpest tool. I think murals do that quite a lot because I’m obviously on the streets for the week, two weeks, speaking to people and sharing the message, but then it continues online.
“The more people know about these [environmental] issues, the better. It’s important, especially with the oceans, I think. Knowledge is everything, so the more people know about what’s happening, the more people try to help fix things.”
Behan, who is known for his murals depicting nature, has done multiple projects for PangeaSeed Foundation as part of its “Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans” initiative. The public art program has seen more than 400 artists produce over 500 murals in 19 countries.
“It’s almost like a storyboard,” Behan said of his mural in Laguna Beach, which is 1,090 square feet in size. “On [the left] side, things are very calm and colorful and pleasant. As it gets to the right, in the middle there, it starts to go through some turmoil, and it starts to abstract the art, and then [it] goes into sort of this spiral to the right.
“As it does, you can notice that everything desaturates, and the jellyfish turn into plastic bags, and the plastic bags desaturate and turn into a black and white world on the right, which is obviously symbolic of the turmoil of the oceans at the moment if we don’t continue to do what we need to do to preserve everything.”
The project was planned to be completed in time for Earth Day, April 22, but wet weather contributed to delays in the timeline. Additional work done by Behan can be seen at sonnyonline.com.
The Offield Family Foundation provided financial backing for the project. Chase Offield, a self-proclaimed “diehard waterman” and director for the foundation, indicated that the location for the mural’s display was of vital importance to him.
“We wanted a wall that was going to get a lot of eyeballs on it, and that Peppertree Lot — of all the options that were presented to us — was the one that was in the center of the village, gets a lot of foot traffic, is one of the main parking lots for the downtown area,” he said. “We wanted people to see that as maybe one of their last visual reminders before they hit the beach to be cognizant of things that they take to the beach, to pack out their trash, and for everyone — residents, visitors — to be mindful that all that single-use plastic, a lot of it winds up in the oceans.”
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.