I spent my earlier years developing an approach to defining and articulating the importance of places through sculptural and social investigation. The Sutro Baths Project was my Master of Arts thesis, an investigation of historical, sculptural and social phenomena surrounding a popular recreation site, a ruin on Point Lobos in San Francisco.
The project was a site-specific proposal comprised of drawings, a topographic model, and sculptures built to scale.
Cliff House Visitor’s Center Exhibition
From October 7 – December 7, 1986 all but the larger sculpture were exhibited at the (what is now the former) Cliff House Visitor’s Center adjacent to the site. After viewing the proposal, visitors could peer out of a large picture window overlooking the baths, or go down to explore the site themselves.
Part of the appeal of showing this work on location was the large ready-made non-arts audience. At peak season, 1000 people a week walked through the Visitor Center’s door. I was exhibiting in a space that was an alternative to alternative arts spaces.
To directly experience this contact with the public, I gave four tours of the baths through the course of the exhibition to narrate the history, to engage with others about their past experiences, and to delineate my proposal on site. The tours were performance pieces intended to tie the proposal to the site and the public.
I also produced a video, a people’s version of the baths, in the form of an oral history. Six San Franciscans ranging in age from 94 to 35 narrated stories about their own experiences there.