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A luminous structure forged from reclaimed plexiglass is currently adorning the entrance to Arroyo Burro Beach. Called “Camouflage House,” the object d’art was created by sculptor Tom Fruin as part of his Icon series and was brought to town by the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture (SBCOAC) in partnership with the County Community Services Department’s Office of Arts and Culture and Parks divisions.
Fruin, a California native and UCSB alum, is internationally acclaimed for his work, including his Watertower series, which consists of water towers (as the name implies) atop New York City rooftops and other U.S. cities, and “Kolonihavehus,” a garden shed — another piece from his Icon series — made from about 1,000 pieces of plexiglass. Both are currently on display in Brooklyn, New York, where the artist lives.
Fruin, who calls himself “scrappy,” sourced the materials for “Camouflage House” from upcycled plexiglass collected outside a closed Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. The plexiglass sheet had the “right color and vibe: multicultural, multicolored, made from scraps,” he said in a recent interview with the Independent, and the piece now stands strong despite its “humble origins.” Astute viewers may even notice legible signage remaining on the sculpture.
The moniker “Camouflage House” may seem antithetical, considering the eye-catching vividness of the sculpture. Explaining the name’s origin, Fruin said that when he was designing the piece, “one side was more vibrant Rasta colors and the other [was imagined] with more swampy natural blues and greens.” Now, however, the sculpture is anything but cloaked within its surroundings. Instead, it is a beautiful and striking standout.
“Camouflage House” offers viewers entirely different visual experiences depending on when they see it. During the day, the edifice exudes brilliance from the sunlight bouncing off the colored plexiglass; after sunset, however, it is illuminated from the inside and shines like a beacon.
Fruin believes his “work takes [on] different identities based on the time period,” he said. “Camouflage House” can serve as a respite from the tumult of current life as spectators interacting with the piece are offered a “personal moment to reflect on what’s happening right now in the world,” he noted. Before arriving in Santa Barbara, “Camouflage House” stood in front of Laguna Beach’s City Hall. The piece will be relocated to Elings Park at the end of August and remain there through October.
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