At the top of Elings Park overlooking the ocean, a small, vibrant structure suddenly appeared on Sept. 2, and will remain for viewers’ enjoyment through October.
The “Camouflage House” is a sculpture created from powder-coated steel and salvaged acrylic, with brilliant multi-colored pieces that form a little house for admirers to enter and exit at their leisure.
The Manhattan-based artist, Tom Fruin, said this specific piece is a little more personal than his others as a UCSB graduate.
The Camouflage House is part of a series Mr. Fruin calls the Icon series, where he finds overlooked infrastructural or architectural items and creates art with them.
“I’m trying to find things maybe so commonplace you don’t pay attention, like a smoke stack or a billboard or a water tower, and make them fantastic,” Mr. Fruin told the News-Press. “The viewer might have the experience of re-recognizing their familiar surroundings in a fresh, new way.”
The internationally acclaimed artist graduated from UCSB in 1996 with an art degree, and he’s been making sculptures, artwork and holding gallery shows ever since in New York.
“I tend to just use whatever’s around — cardboard, rocks, twigs. I was quilting together beer cans, coffee lids, drug bags, trash I would find on my daily walks,” he said. “Surprisingly, they turned out to be really aesthetically pleasing. They were meant to be emblematic of that location or my experience in that location, which directly led to the Camouflage Houses.”
Mr. Fruin has another series of water towers that are typically on rooftops and inaccessible. He said the Camouflage House at Elings Park provides the art on a more intimate scale.
As for the house itself really being “camouflage,” the artist just chuckled.
“It’s funny because one side has a more grassy appearance and I was actually trying to reference a more swampy condition with weeds growing so that no matter what location you were in, there would be one side like a more bright, beachy environment and also a park, green environment mellowed into the surroundings,” Mr. Fruin said. “It’s kind of a joke. They’re all very outrageous colors and nothing’s very calm at all.”
Overall, he hopes to bring meaning to the meaningless.
“I tend to sort of collect things and represent them with some kind of spin on it that makes it somehow meaningful to me and hopefully everyone else,” he said.