September 23, 2004 - The Art No One Knew
In 1963, they built an office building on the corner of State Street and Pedregosa. They named the building El Dorado, after the legendary city in South America where huge amounts of gold lay ready for the taking. The name El Dorado, or ‘Gilded One’, derives from an ancient ritual on the shores of Lake Guatavita where new rulers of the land covered their bodies with gold dust before assuming power.
There is no legend associated with the El Dorado Building in Santa Barbara. In fact, there are few who know of its existence or its name. Inside the building, a personnel agency, some accountants and some lawyers, share 10,199 square feet of office space and ample parking. The building is managed, but not owned by, the Towbes Group.
The reason that the dedicated staff of edhat.com was drawn to El Dorado was not dreams of riches – gold or commercial real estate.
We were drawn to the building by the piece of art attached to the front. As you can see in the picture on the right, the sculpture is compromised of tile, mosaic rocks, wood objects, and animal cutouts – some identifiable, some abstract, some, well, we really can’t say.
Edhat subscribers didn’t do a very good job of locating the art piece (no right answers), but their artistic interpretation and critique proved to be first rate.
“Nice, but the burned marshmallows on skewers in the middle of the piece are in opposition to the work's overall primal creative - Yes!”
“Drive thru menu window at a Buddhist temple.”
“It's a Hawaiian menu with a coordinating abacus which tells you the price. As you can see, the price of the buffalo dish is quite steep.”
We got a more detailed critique from one of our subscribers, who knows a thing or two about art, but who shall remain nameless.
Maybe our subscriber doesn’t want their name associated with a piece such as this, or maybe our subscriber had an incident in their past which involved a buffalo. Our subscriber said:
I think there is a buffalo - traditional symbol of the "Wild West". I think there is also a cow with three figures riding it - I'm a bit lost on that one, mythologically speaking. It may be a fertility symbol, but sometimes a cow is just a cow. The mosaic is also a thematic question mark. The whole piece I would call an assemblage (think Louise Nevelson) or literally an "assembly" of elements. Popular in the 60s - Duchamp is well known for his "Found Art" pieces where he assembled items he found and called them sculpture. Those "marshmallows" could be and abacus, or just shapes. Geometric elements like that were popular with Modern Art. Overall, I'd have to put this down to someone's vision. Not all art speaks to everyone,
but whoever put it together is trying to call on primitive and design motifs to achieve an overall visual statement. The response lies in the eyes of each viewer.
The dedicated staff did a little research hoping to shed some light on the sculpture, the responsible party, and the reason for its existence.
The Santa Barbara historical society, a wealth of knowledge regarding most things that happened here long ago, drew a blank. The building to them was ordinary. Files from the City building department were no help either. There were some notes about what type of ivy they could plant, but nothing about the buffalo or the marshmallow abacus.
Robin Buskuhl at Towbes Group knew of the statue at first mention. She kindly did a little research herself, but alas, to no avail. She thought the art might be Polynesian, an opinion shared by many of our subscribers who guessed “Chuck’s Steak House” as the location of the sculpture.
So, there you go. You are traveling up State Street. There is a piece of art up ahead. It’s something!
Well, no one ever found the gold of El Dorado. And likewise, no one could locate this piece of art. The awesome sandwich prize from Cantwell’s Market will be added to today’s giveaway.
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