The Meaning of Hahamongna

The original settlers of the region were sometimes called the Hahamongna Indians. The word means "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" in the native Tongva language.

Hahamongna News

Title:

A mile of smiles

Subtitle:

Date:

2003-11-09

Author:

Gene Maddaus, Staff Writer

Publication:

Pasadena Star News

Content:

NewTown art show on trail draws variety of reactions

PASADENA -- It's not every day you see a tree with a sweater on it, but one will be available for viewing today as part of a mile-long gallery of outdoor art at Hahamongna Watershed Park.

The crocheted piece, "Untitled, sweater for tree,' took artist Elaine Bradford a solid month to create. It is exactly what it sounds like, a form-fitting sweater that climbs high up several large divergent trunks.

"It's about comfort and wanting to comfort this thing that wouldn't normally be,' said Bradford, sitting nearby with some other artists. The piece seems to inspire environmentalist instincts in some viewers, she said. "Some people go up and hug it.'

The showing is titled "Trail Mix: A Mile of Art' and features 21 pieces that blend with the natural environment. It began Saturday and concludes today. It takes about an hour to walk through, and will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Several of the artworks have an environmental theme, and some relate specifically to the politics of the Hahamongna area.

One piece, "River Bed,' is comprised of a metal drainage pipe with blue cloth running for several dozen yards down the trail, representing the artificial diversion of water resources. A message from the artists, Marcus Civin and Deborah Keeth, warns that "the houses on the hills surrounding Hahamongna claim a stolen birthright.'

But most installations are apolitical and tilt toward whimsy. There is the one with the spray-painted crow carcass, surrounded by a parti-colored checkerboard of spray-painted dead branches. In another, a woman sits in a tree, strumming on taut wires with a hollow branch.

NewTown, a nonprofit arts group, has presented the array of exhibits in the Arroyo Seco each year since 2000. The city's parks department facilitates the event, making sure it doesn't do irreparable harm to the environment or interfere with the flying disc golf course.

"It's a very likable form of art,' said Richard Amromin, the event's artistic director. "So much of art criticism makes art very intimidating, and it shouldn't be intimidating.'

Still, some left the showing a little baffled.

"Obviously it's not my cup of tea,' said one woman, who gave only her first name, Althea. "It seems to me like some of these people have too much time on their hands.'

Her friend Dave Rolfe had dragged her to the exhibit. He said he was intrigued by the way in which the installations made things "slightly out of harmony.'

"I find it interesting, even though a lot of it I don't get,' he said. "Anybody who says they get it all should be institutionalized.'

In years past, the exhibit has led to some interesting police activity. One year, someone saw trash strewn in the park, assumed that it was a homeless encampment and called law enforcement. Police informed the complainant the trash was actually art.

Another year, the police discovered what they thought was a body underneath the Colorado Street Bridge. It was actually a papier-mache mannequin.

The installation that came closest to causing a problem this year was titled "Flow Study (b).' Artist Stanton Hunter set up tiny wooden boats on dry grass, to show how the patterns of the grass mimicked water flow. He placed a rectangle of magnifying see-through plastic above each cluster of boats, to allow people to get a closer look at the exhibit.

When he set up the installation Friday, the sunlight became intensified by one of the magnifying lenses, and some dry grass started to smolder.

Hunter said he quickly extinguished the grass, and then put umbrellas over each cluster of boats, to prevent a brush fire.

-- Gene Maddaus can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444, or by e-mail at gene.maddaus@sgvn.com.