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Under Deadline, Pt. 3: Suspended Water

March 21, 2014


NOTE: Another in a series of projects completed for a new local newspaper publication. To read the first post in the series click here.



‘Zuni’, in a photo from 2009

When I finished my “portable mural”, ‘AGUA’ (‘WATER’), at the end of last year, I did so hoping to sell it. But somewhere between its completion and its presentation at the Long Beach Flea Market, I began hoping that no one would buy it (Paul had already expressed that very sentiment early in its creation). Still, despite my ambivalence, I was determined to test the strength of the piece’s appeal; its sale the ultimate positive response. At the flea, reactions to the piece were positive but I don’t think many people bought the idea of its portability … even those who expressed interest in it were heard to wonder how they might get it home. It appeared that even though I’d made the calculated decision to paint the mural on four separate, easy-to-transport panels, it was too large/heavy/unwieldy for its admirers (a fact my booth-mates probably wouldn’t dispute, either). Anyway, it didn’t sell and we brought it home. Weeks passed and it languished in the garage; Paul and I discussing its possible location and display with no great urgency. Everything we came up with seemed overly-complicated, not to mention expensive; his desire to include a water feature a sticking point. That changed once I’d gotten the two-week deadline call. I made the decision: It would take the place of ‘ZUNI’, the rapidly deteriorating painting that had hung outside, and over, a built-in planter since we’d moved to the Rancho (see inset). Now, I just needed a mode of display.


Paul had already made the separate panels a unit with heavy-duty screws, which made transporting the mural both more difficult and easier to move: It was easier to move in one piece, but much heavier. Again, stronger backs were needed; my brother Mario and brother-in-law, José supplied those. They also served as consultants for the mechanism of display. At first I thought we might just stand it within the planter atop cinder blocks, but that was deemed a bad idea quickly; it was nearly impossible to achieve level. Next, I suggested we hang it under the eaves above the planter. A trip to the hardware to pick up possible materials and we found the best and simplest solution: heavy-duty eye-hooks and chain. In a major stroke of luck, Mario and José were able to suspend ‘AGUA’ level on the first attempt! Now the mural fit the space over the planter perfectly; its proportions just right.


One reason I thought the mural would look great displayed over the planter is because it overflowed with a very simpatico succulent: Senecio mandraliscae (see foreground, above). Also known as blue chalk stick senecio, this plant visually says “water” to me for more than its color; its form also reminds me of undersea anemones. Also present: The large, central aloe and other succulents and rocks.

I’m very happy with my mural, its setting and the interaction it has with its surroundings. And, I enjoy that I was able to present the idea of water without use of an actual fountain or similar water feature, and by using plants that don’t require much of it to flourish. Best of all, with ‘AGUA’ suspended above them, all the succulents in the planter have taken on the look and feel of water plants, undulating with some unseen current.


Next post: Bright Spot 

20 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2014 10:49 am

    lovely !!!!

  2. Jeanmarie permalink
    March 21, 2014 12:30 pm

    Reuben, as with all your projects AWESOME!!!! Jeanmarie

  3. Dave in Toronto permalink
    March 21, 2014 2:08 pm

    Fantastic, my friend!

  4. Carol Booth permalink
    March 21, 2014 2:17 pm

    Brilliant placement! So happy it didn’t sell.

  5. March 21, 2014 3:38 pm

    You know exactly how I feel about that painting… It’s incredible and that wall is the perfect spot. I hope you don’t get tired of it too soon because I want to see it in that location for a long long time. Ha, hearing the back story of what it took to hang, I doubt you’ll be moving it anytime soon.

  6. March 21, 2014 3:46 pm

    That is simply perfect, bravo!

  7. March 21, 2014 4:24 pm

    I LOVE it Reuben………for all the reasons you talk about and more. I see Aqua also as healing energy for you, it jumped right out to me. It’s a wonderful piece and place. xo

  8. April 1, 2014 1:32 am

    Chain is such a good friend! I can’t believe how fast RR jumped into high gear.

    • April 1, 2014 1:40 am

      Hey, Denise, YOU can’t believe how fast I jumped into high gear! I’m still shaking my head over it all … especially since I was really despairing that this place would ever be presentable again.

  9. Catherine McMillan permalink
    April 7, 2014 10:18 pm

    I love this one Reuben! Keep up the fun work!

  10. April 14, 2014 6:07 am

    You are lucky no one bought it because that mural is PERFECT for that spot in your garden. I love it! You have a great eye for artistic arrangement, Reuben.

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