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Vasquez Rocks sculpture packs history

Artwork will slowly reveal contents

Posted: August 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Sandy Betts, of Los Angeles, compacts dirt as artists work on the first of many layers of a rammed earth sculpture at the Vasquez Rocks Interpretive Center in Agua Dulce on Saturday.

As volunteers began tamping down the pungent earth with handheld tools, a woman moved closer to the wooden mold, a small pin clasped in her hand.

The Altadena woman dropped the tiny saxophone-shaped pin into the earth and stepped back slowly.

The gold pin was once owned by Karen Bonfigli’s father, who enjoyed collecting tie pins. After he passed away recently, she wanted a way to always remember him.

Bonfigli was one of several volunteers working Saturday on a new sculpture at the Vasquez Rocks Nature Center, which is currently under construction.

The volunteers were working to build a rammed-earth sculpture, which will have several layers of earth mixed of concrete that will gradually be worn away over time.

“It seemed appropriate because it’s about geology, which is what Vasquez Rocks is all about,” said sculpture creator Oliver Hess.

The bottom layer, where Bonfigli placed her father’s pin, could take up to 500 years to wear away, according to Jenna Didier, one of the sculpture’s creators. The sculpture, which will look almost like a chaise lounge when completed, will serve as a sort of time capsule in front of the Vasquez Rocks Nature Center.

“What the time capsule will do is echo the process that formed Vasquez Rocks,” said Linda Chiavaroli, director of communications for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.

The top layer may only take five years to wear away, Didier said. The rammed earth technology has been around since ancient times and was used to construct the Great Wall of China.

In addition, Didier and Hess each made half of a small bronze sculpture that they did not see after it was put together. The bronze sculpture should serve to add some mystery to the project, Didier said.

As each layer was tamped down, volunteers were encouraged to add personal mementos that would be able to withstand pressure.

“I thought he would like (to have the pin in the sculpture) because he liked that pin,” Bonfigli said. “I’m OK with it being in a bottom layer.”

One woman added a 20 peso bill, while another added a necklace. Greg Sagherian, of Glendale, brought a plastic bag full of childhood mementos, including a plastic monkey, a piece of the Great Wall of China, an arrowhead and a tennis racket keychain.

“I couldn’t decide and I didn’t think there were too many people showing up,” Sagherian said.

About 50 volunteers showed up Saturday, with another 50 expected to show up Sunday to complete the sculpture, Didier said.

“You know people in the future will enjoy seeing what little magical thing appears,” Bonfigli said.



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