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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Look! Look! Look Again! (Feb. 16, 2011)

If you read my last blog, you know the joy I take in stumbling upon a happy surprise. A few days ago we were in Riverside, CA on business and I had an hour to kill. In driving around I passed something so cool I had to circle the block for another look. It’s Tio’s Tacos, a landmark in Riverside, as well as one of the coolest visual spectacles I’ve seen in some time. It’s a restaurant, sure. Or is it a museum and artist’s studio, rolled into one, where they happen to sell food?

As I drove by, what caught my attention was the giant human figure made of beer cans, sitting atop the second-floor roof. Once I parked I realized there was more. So much more! In back of the restaurant is a huge courtyard, filled with unique creations of recycled, repurposed materials. Being a mosaic enthusiast, I loved seeing the many funky tiled tables, as well as the found object art, items from everyday life embedded in the cement underfoot. Phones? Yes. Toys? Countless. Shells? Car parts? Tools? Of course. Imagination times a million. A lot of the creations have a playful feel but there are macabre elements, too. Masks, headless creatures. Halloween plus Dia De Lots Muertos. A cornucopia of colors and patterns.

Apparently Martin Sanchez, the owner, has not thrown away anything in seventeen years, and creates art from the materials. Hundreds of beer bottles form a teepee-like structure with a bottle cap chandelier inside. There are other outbuildings, decorated on every surface. There are animals, and many figures, some fifteen feet tall. Plants grow out of some of the objects, giving it a lost city feel. What I took from our unexpected adventure was a happy reminder not to take life, or myself, so seriously. A healthy dose of silliness is good medicine. And magic.

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