Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Found Art: weird and wonderful

Photo: Associated Press


Found: past tense and past participle of find.

Find: 1. To come upon, often by accident. 2. To perceive to be.

Art: Creative or imaginiative activity, esp. the arrangements of the  elements within a medium.


I’ve been writing this post in my mind for ages, as every day it seems I come across some form of art in the world, on the street, some creative expression of elements with the World as it’s medium. I’ve been trying to capture a photographic record when I come across this kind of artistic human imprint on the world, be it deliberate or accidental.  I’m fascinated with both the art that was intentionally given and just waits to be found, and the art that simply occurs for a single moment, in the eye of the beholder.

And as I was recently reminded, when it comes to finding art: nobody is safe.

Found, railway overpass, Sacramento CA

Recently on her way to work one morning, my friend Caitlin discovered that sprites and fairies had come to occupy Oakland, California. In the park  the Occupy protesters had recently evicted, the wee tents suddenly appeared.

Fairies Occupy Oakland. Photo: Caitlin Sweeney

I have another friend ( who shall remain anonymous) who took up the art of yarn bombing for a time. Similar to the seed bomber we met just a few posts ago, this creative outlaw of a woman loved to go coloring her town with sweet little crochet pieces that would surprise people wherever they appeared.

I love the Eye keeping at bay the ills brought on by the envious and the greedy, and I LOVE how it matches the natural ‘eye ‘ on the tree branch next to it. Brilliance.

Yarn bomber!

I’d tell you her name, but I can’t. My yarn bomber is, as one of her fans describes her ”  a bad ass mama! spreading love & happiness” but she denies a creative pseudonym or even a nom de plume so I just call her Octopus of Love.

photos courtesy of Nicole Stewart and Valerie Mitchell

I love the idea of yarn bombing, or art bombing or anything that involves creating something beautiful and purposely offering it as a gift for others to find. It brings some Magic, a new idea or vision, to the place around it.

Perhaps the thrill of others finding it is almost equal to the thrill of being the one who does the finding. I always feel I should be saying “thank you” to whomever left it.

Found on a in tree in Oakland , CA

Here’s a clip of my friend Liza discovering a strange creation in the park one day. I like her amateur archaeological commentary as she describes what she has found:

Walking in our own local park on a warm afternoon, my kids and I found a little twig house. Not quite an intentional art piece, it was all the more beautiful for perhaps just being someone’s spontaneous creative project.

We sat down cross-legged and looked at it and talked about where it might have come from. My boys (naturally) suspected the fairies and/or gnomes, and were thrilled to have evidence of their residency in Curtis Park. We told stories about who could possibly live within the little house, and watched it closely as the sun set on the day.

little house. Found in Curtis Park, Sacramento CA.

It was the way we interacted with this creation that I appreciated most about it. Our scale. It’s scale. The way it transformed the place around it into a lonely homestead. Someone else’s idea captured our imaginations and enriched our afternoon.

And it seems Inspiration or Imagination (or maybe just some Pixies and wee folk)  followed us home to our our house that day.

Sweet to see the natural imitative response of  my children, creating their own found art.

Found, at my house, a Fairy house.

Of course, it’s not just installations that offer the experience of found art. Graffiti is the  quintessential mechanism of street art, but I like to see here the mobile version which brings it’s friendly, colorful picture wherever it happens to go.

A pop of lovely on a grey day walking to the coffee shop is a welcome sight.

Found, Sacramento CA.

And sometimes, it’s just the coming upon something wonderful and unique that invokes a feeling within you; it’s simply that which makes it art.

Found, at College Cyclery Sacramento, CA.

The Japanese have a term Wabi-Sabi which “represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience” (thanks wikipedia). I’m not sure if I am completely correct it my understanding of this idea but I have always interpreted Wabi-Sabi to be, like the beauty of the moment. The seeing of  something imperfect and impermanent and how it speaks to your soul.

These moments to me are the finding of art.

Consider the random and comical beauty of these rain boots all travelling somewhere, together.

Found, at Alice Birney Waldorf methods school.

Or the disconcerting discovery of this lone pair of waders. Is there someone in there?

Caught napping? Found, at the Sacramento Zoo.

One very windy day, I spent a long time watching of the plastic flags outside a newly opened Dollar Store. I liked the sound they made, like the ocean and the way they made visible the rushing winds around them. I shot a little video which captures some of the feeling but I wish it was longer as I still find it mesmerizing:

But it’s not just these ordinary moments. Even the experience of unexpectedly coming upon public art (which is purposefully created with the intention of moving and engaging it’s viewers) can be a thrill in the way it transforms the every day.

The unexpected is the best gift an artist can give to it’s receiver. To be lifted, momentarily, above the ordinary. To pause and wonder.

Birdhouses? Alien mouse traps? Found, at Sacramento International Airport.

This weekend I dropped my twelve year old son off at the airport. He was flying solo to Colorado to visit his grandma, and I was battling parental anxiety over sending my child off into the big bad world. Travelling down the escalator at Terminal B, I came upon “Leap” the 56′ long red rabbit , that is suspended midair above the baggage claim area.

Down the rabbit hole, at SMF.

It was exciting and grandiose and in it’s freeze-frame leap of faith it seemed to somehow encapsulate the very feeling I was having after putting my kid on that plane. The act of taking the plunge, leaping forward into life even if the future is unknown.

The airport hubbub became muffled around me and Time seemed to stand still just for a brief minute. I suddenly felt reassured that All was well, and that we are all spinning down through this rabbit hole joyously together. It brought me right smack into the present moment.

And that to me is the mark of any good art, no matter where you find it.


6 Responses to “Found Art: weird and wonderful”

  1. Liza

    I love it all. Look at what we need as humans… A need to create, honor, make aesthetic. It reminds me of dancing… you know… left over instinct looking for applicability in this anti-biological age.

  2. spongeystef

    Lets do some guerilla creating**!! Callme. I’ve got some big clandestine ideas

  3. nerponline

    Good one. If the flags movie had been an hour long I would have watched it happily. And what can you say about sweet tepee mushrooms in the Frank Ogawa !!??

  4. oami powers

    Awesome! I’m glad you went the extra mile to add the videos, they are really neat, especially the flags. They remind me of footage I’ve seen of prayer flags flapping in the gusty wind of the mountains of Tibet, making a similar snapping sound. You have such a gift for seeing beauty in seemly ordinary, which is what art is all about.

  5. Jacquelyn Marie

    I love the way you see art everywhere. You are art itself, Rucha!


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