A Piece of Laguna

I’ve been meaning to share one of our iconic artists with you for a long time. His name is Marlo Bartels. First, I totally dig mosaic art. Second, I love to feature outdoor artwork. And thirdly, his home is Laguna Beach! So you must get to know Marlo. His work is ubiquitous in this coastal community–at least if you know where to look! 

 My husband was so nice to drive me around town as I jumped out of the car and shot different pieces of Marlo’s work. We started at the junior high school, name Thurston Junior High, which is located off Park Avenue, almost to the top of the Top of the World neighborhood.

Marlo has pieces throughout the hilltop campus, including benches, a sun dial and signage. His bold, stylistic designs have really given the school’s landscaping a unique identity.


 Here’s another Bartel bench at the school. Most of these pieces are also commemorative on some level. I like how the school hires Marlo for these works because they not only give visual continuity to the campus, but also link the school with the artistic vibe of the town.

Next we drove down the hill and this is a private home and garden near the high school. I think I know the owners, so I felt kind of creepy shooting these photos. I hope they don’t mind.

 This front yard garden is packed with potted succulents. I think Marlo’s art fits perfectly in a garden, not by blending in but by making a bold statement as a focal point. If you are interested in seeing if you can swing a piece of his art for your home or yard, check out his web site by clicking HERE.
Next, we hit our lovely little public library, which is located just off the main drag downtown on a sidestreet. I love this totem. The place just begged for a playful, vibrant piece of art!!

I don’t know who Joan Abbe Evenford was, but this is a lovely tribute!
I really like the 3-D nature of this half obelisk. Marlo has done many commissions for individuals, cities and public places all over the country, and world. I almost forgot to mention that I wrote a profile on Marlo about four years ago for a local magazine called Laguna Life and People. (I remember having to admit to him that I had never heard of Gaudi. That was pretty embarrassing.) 
Couldn’t help but appreciate this speckled succulent under the totem. 
The bold lines of succulents really compliment his work.

After the library, we drove out Laguna Canyon Road a bit to the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival (which just ended. Yea!! Sorry, I’m a local and rejoice when the tourists clear out in the fall. We love you tourists and all, but too much of a good thing…)
I’m assuming you can recognize Marlo’s style by now. He probably wouldn’t like this, but I totally think of it as very  “’80s.” All that black and purple and pastels. His palette has evolved, but I like that the old stuff sticks. Talk about making your mark. This stuff lasts forever!

Speaking of his evolution, this is one of his most recent pieces. This is across the street at the Festival of the Arts, another summer art festival in town. The blue backdrop is actually painted–like a lot of the Festival decor–but the bench and giant urn are Marlo’s mosaic.

I’m not an official Marlo Bartels’ art critic, but I have noticed this bronze luster glaze seems to be a recent addition. (You can also see this bronze in his recent murals at the new Rock’N Fish restaurant in town.)

It adds a nice warmth and metallic glow to his work, I think.

Okay, this is my favorite Marlo piece. It’s been around a while. So simple. How can you not love these basic geometric shapes in primary colors with the white top. The perfect bench for our art museum!

And how about that cooperative agave (yucca?) blooming away right next to it!! 

This is the last one on my Marlo tour. (There are many other works all over town. One of the coolest is the stairs at Brooks Street mural, where the best surf break and locally famous surf contest are in town.) This chair is part of a pair that is set up for chess players. I would say this is probably the most iconic work he has in town, mainly because it’s been around a long time and is the heart of our central park right on the beach, called Main Beach.

A close-up of the chair.

I think I rudely interrupted this woman’s evening, 
but she was kind enough to let me shoot some photos at dusk. 

So next time you are in town, keep on the look out for Marlo’s work. If you recognize some of these places, you are officially in the know. Marlo is pure Laguna!!

5 thoughts on “A Piece of Laguna

  1. Wow! This is eye opening. Marlo's work is spectacular. Now I can identify his work around Laguna…cool. It's so iconic.

    stop by and say Hi soon…


  2. Gorgeous place to hang out and rest a spell. Great bold colors. Hey, I think that speckled succulent you saw is the Manfreda Blood Spot. Matti

  3. Thanks for showcasing so much of this wonderful artist's work! I love the obelisk at the library, but the arch and the curve up the side of the building is my favorite.

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