Cashing in on Trash
Just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, the little town of Sebastopol, California is well known for its spicy Gravenstein apples and plethora of antiques stores. Its proximity to Sonoma County wine country and the rugged California coast makes it a regular destination for city dwellers needing a break. But hidden just a block away from Sebastopol’s Main Street is a lesser-known treasure: the sculptures of artist Patrick Amiot.
Florence Avenue boasts the charming turn-of-the-century homes typical to the original neighborhoods of downtown Sebastopol, with front porches slightly askew from age and gardens gone just a bit wild. But the first thing visitors will notice is the giant caveman.
Cooperative neighbors allow Amiot to display what he calls his Urban Folk Art collection on their front lawns, creating an unofficial walking tour that attracts locals and out of town visitors alike.
Using materials that would normally be relegated to the trash pile, the artist uses a fresh eye to see the possibilities in items such as an old teakettle, broken bike chains and discarded golf clubs. Finished with a bright coat of paint, these pieces depict a slice of American life – a fireman, Dalmatian in tow; a hula girl; a baseball player complete with catcher’s mitt and glove; and (since this is farming country) a replica of an old Oliver tractor.
To see these oversized pieces of art, from downtown Sebastopol head north on Highway 116, then take a left on Florence Avenue. Park where you can on the narrow street and start walking. The displays begin about a block away from Highway 116, with the artwork flanking both sides of Florence Avenue.