It's amazing what you'll find if you explore a city on foot.
I was walking down Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, CA. It's a diagonal stretch between Venice Boulevard and Main Street, lined with small bungalows and quirky modern structures, housing an eclectic mix of cafes, thrift stores, galleries, architects' offices, bars and boutiques. On this street you can buy a $600 handbag, herbal medicine to cleanse your colon, a vintage surfboard, a pair of used jeans, a pint of whiskey, frozen yogurt, a piece of architectural salvage, or a delicate French macaron.
You can meet all kinds of people here, too. During a Sunday afternoon stroll, I spoke with a grizzled old antique dealer, a young man walking a tiny black pug puppy, a young Japanese woman working at a T-shirt shop, a clothing and fabric designer, and a tall elegant grey-haired woman boutique proprietor. I eavesdropped on the conversations of two Brooklyn-accented older couples, sightseeing along the boulevard. I smiled at two razor-thin pierced and tattooed lovers, twining their limbs around one another while peering into the window of a home-decor store, and I side-stepped the baggage-hauling homeless woman, shouting angrily at a clerk ejecting her from a jewelry store.
But sometimes you don't need to buy anything, or eat anything or even talk to anyone. Sometimes you just see something that just makes you smile.
What first caught my eye were an array of bright colors in the grass behind a chain-link fence. It made me turn and look at the rest of the space. A vacant lot between two buildings was filled with glittery things, burgeoning plants, and strange objects.
There's a sign that says "Robin's Sculpture Garden." This is the outdoor gallery of artist Robin Murez. If you visit her site, you can see the sculptures and objects on display here, and you can also see photos of public art installations Robin has done in a variety of locations. Her sculpture garden is also a performance venue for musicians and poets and performance artists.
Poke around at her site. There are unexpected links and bits of art to discover. There's a stairway to nowhere - or is it a pedestal for a winged goddess? There are mosaic spheres, glass and bronze blades of grass, bronze figurines and sculptures that glow at night. I didn't see these pieces when I first visited her Sculpture Garden - but I think they're there, on the wall to the south. I'm going to go back and see if I can find them.
When I first discovered the garden, I didn't know anything about Robin Murez. I just knew I'd stumbled upon a crazy little haven of wonders on a street of stores. I like the authenticity of this kind of art. The way it's there for you to take or leave as you like, without explanation. The way you can't take it all in on first viewing - you have to go back and discover more each time.
And I like the way it's out there, just behind the fence, underneath the open sky with the grass and the trees and the concrete block walls. Somehow, seeing a dandelion bloom among the sculptures makes it seem alive to me.