Pet Peeves: Watch Your Step

By Mark Crantz

By Mark Crantz

Laguna Art Museum has embarked on an exciting new project that redefines art inspired by nature.  I believe this new approach will strike a chord with residents. Jim Denevan is a land artist whose work elevates making sand angels by creating huge circles, squares and other shapes that go on for miles on the beach.  His work is ephemeral because nature erases it as the tide rises.

I feel Jim’s pain. My brother did the same thing to me.  I would spend entire days on my Etch A Sketch, and just as I placed the final stroke, my brother would bump me and all would be lost. He always claimed it was an accident, but I knew it wasn’t because his smile didn’t reach his eyes. Jim must have had a brother like mine to be tough enough to watch his creations wash away time and again by Mother Nature, whose Mona Lisa smile is even less revealing than my brother’s.

Experts say things are better now.  You can save your work by hitting the save button on your computer. But I have never had this experience. Computer failure and back up programs have washed away my career over and over. Like Jim Denevan, I have learned to suck it up and recreate my work from scratch. I don’t believe I’m alone in losing important work and starting over. The first time my work was lost I was devastated and wondered how I could go on. But I did. The second time my computer ate my homework I thought that the Byte Gods were cruel and had singled me out as punishment for the time that I had cleaned my computer with 409 cleaner instead of a more eco friendly solution that would have left my computer with soft and ageless circuits. The third time I lost everything I decided like Jim that the working process was more important than its permanence.Jim is right about this. The creation of art is paramount over its permanence.

When my kids were little, they caught on quickly to each person’s place in the pecking order.  It went Mom, kids, dog, cat, turtle and Dad.  I didn’t mind.  Well, maybe a little. I think I should have been ahead of the turtle. One day, my precocious middle kid, Stephie, informs her Mom that Dad can only do things one at a time.  “He’s not an octopus,” she chastises. I believe this moment was our family’s inspiration for our first try at performance art.  At the following summer vacation in the Outer Banks, N.C., my kids and I spent an entire day building a gigantic octopus at the beach. The head was about 10 feet high.  The tentacles were approximately 20 feet each. The kids were in charge of finding beach chairs, umbrellas, buckets, and as I remember, one very sandy half eaten baloney sandwich for the octopus to hold. It turned out really good. Fellow vacationers began to pass the word that the Crantz kids had made a great sculpture. You should take a look before the sea reclaims it.  Hundreds of people came by and took pictures of my kids and the great octopus that eats baloney sandwiches.

The Laguna Art Museum’s inaugural Art & Nature festival will open the museum’s agenda to broader explorations how art and nature intersect.  On Saturday, Nov. 9, Jim Denevan will work all day at his creation at the north end of Main Beach and he will illuminate the work shortly after dusk. I’m going to go and you should, too.  But watch your step. You don’t want to walk on a masterpiece. And rumor has it, that Jim’s creation might involve a Monte Cristo sandwich, which would surely trump my sandy baloney sandwich. Well then, I better give the grandkids a call for a repeat performance. Don’t tell the turtle.


Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago.  He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.”  His recently deceased Border Collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.


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