written by:
April 2, 2009

In 2008, Mimi Cahalan, a Santa Cruz, California-based artist, was commissioned to create a piece of art to line the outdoor entranceway to the Lido Apartments in Santa Monica, California. After months of design and fabrication work in her garage-cum-studio, the piece, titled "Good Long Look," was installed and unveiled to the public earlier this year.

 

Just like an architect designs his floor plans to guide visitors through doors and walkways to curated views, Santa Cruz, California-based artist Mimi Cahalan paid close attention to how the metal mosaic she created for the entranceway to Lido Apartments
Just like an architect designs his floor plans to guide visitors through doors and walkways to curated views, Santa Cruz, California-based artist Mimi Cahalan paid close attention to how the metal mosaic she created for the entranceway to Lido Apartments in Santa Monica, California, would be appreciated by passers-by. “It’s long and I wanted people to look at it,” she says, hence it’s title, “Good Long Look.” But the piece is also about slowing down and taking in ones surroundings. “When I was making the sculpture, I kept picking up sections and turning them as though I was walking past so I’d know what it’d look like once assembled,” she says. The painted board shown here was Cahalan’s hand-painted color piece that she worked from to create the final, large-scale sculpture. Although she often hand-cuts the metal she uses in her art, Cahalan created these drawings to send to Large’s Metal Fabricator, the Wastonville, California-based company that cut the aluminum pieces for "Good Long Look." Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Creating an outdoor sculpture, not to mention one over 120 square feet in size, was a first for Cahalan, whose previous work had been limited to smaller-scaled wall art. Though metal is her regular medium, Cahalan chose 5051 aluminum for this project beca
Creating an outdoor sculpture, not to mention one over 120 square feet in size, was a first for Cahalan, whose previous work had been limited to smaller-scaled wall art. Though metal is her regular medium, Cahalan chose 5051 aluminum for this project because of its higher-than-average copper percentage, which makes it more resistant to corrosion. To ensure that the acrylic paint she used would adhere to the aluminum pieces, the first step once was to degrease, abrade, and prime each piece. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Here, the primer-painted aluminum pieces lie out to dry in Cahalan’s studio, a 20-feet-by-23-feet converted two-car garage next to her house in Santa Cruz. “It’s great because I can throw the chicken on the cook and come back out to work,” she says.

Phot
Here, the primer-painted aluminum pieces lie out to dry in Cahalan’s studio, a 20-feet-by-23-feet converted two-car garage next to her house in Santa Cruz. “It’s great because I can throw the chicken on the cook and come back out to work,” she says. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Cahalan’s design for “Good Long Look” is purely abstract. “It doesn’t represent anything in particular—even though there’s a shape at one end that looks like a fried egg,” she says. The mosaic instead represents adjectives like “whimsical” and “constructe
Cahalan’s design for “Good Long Look” is purely abstract. “It doesn’t represent anything in particular—even though there’s a shape at one end that looks like a fried egg,” she says. The mosaic instead represents adjectives like “whimsical” and “constructed” and is “all about color and movement,” Cahalan says. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Though she didn’t cut the aluminum , Cahalan constructed the rest of the sculpture herself, including the wood frame onto which the aluminum pieces were attached. “I had never really built anything before besides helping build walls for nonprofit projects
Though she didn’t cut the aluminum , Cahalan constructed the rest of the sculpture herself, including the wood frame onto which the aluminum pieces were attached. “I had never really built anything before besides helping build walls for nonprofit projects," Cahalan says. "I had to buy all this equipment and learn to use it and then actually do it the next day.” A drill press was one of the many additions to her studio. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Cahalan glued the aluminum pieces to four panels of four-foot-by-eight-foot marine plywood and framed each one with two-inch-by-two-inch lengths of ipe wood, known for its dense quality and imperviousness to rot. To connect the four pieces upon instillati
Cahalan glued the aluminum pieces to four panels of four-foot-by-eight-foot marine plywood and framed each one with two-inch-by-two-inch lengths of ipe wood, known for its dense quality and imperviousness to rot. To connect the four pieces upon instillation, Cahalan devised a dining-room table extension-like system of pegs and holes. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Nails are an important element of Cahalan’s work. “They add a textural quality and they create a punched-in look so that the piece looks soft and handmade,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
Nails are an important element of Cahalan’s work. “They add a textural quality and they create a punched-in look so that the piece looks soft and handmade,” she says. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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For her indoor wall art, Cahalan usually affixes the aluminum pieces to the framing with small nails and the use of needle-nose pliers and a hammer. For “Good Look Long,” she used aluminum much thicker than that with which she normally works so needed to
For her indoor wall art, Cahalan usually affixes the aluminum pieces to the framing with small nails and the use of needle-nose pliers and a hammer. For “Good Look Long,” she used aluminum much thicker than that with which she normally works so needed to purchase and learn how to wield a nail gun. “It was crummy on my back but now I have very strong arms,” she says. Upon instillation, the pegs sticking out of the end this section slid into holes in the adjoining panel to form one cohesive piece. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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Due to the small size of Cahalan’s studio and the large size of the commissioned piece, the mural existed only in pieces until it was installed. The painting palette of Cahalan's mother, also once an artist, hangs over the door of Cahalan's studio.

Photo
Due to the small size of Cahalan’s studio and the large size of the commissioned piece, the mural existed only in pieces until it was installed. The painting palette of Cahalan's mother, also once an artist, hangs over the door of Cahalan's studio. Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan
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At home, Cahalan refers to the piece as “Gargantua,” which at 32 feet in length and four feet in height is a well-earned nickname. Its installation at Santa Monica’s Lido Apartments took place at the end of February 2009 and marked the first time Cahalan
At home, Cahalan refers to the piece as “Gargantua,” which at 32 feet in length and four feet in height is a well-earned nickname. Its installation at Santa Monica’s Lido Apartments took place at the end of February 2009 and marked the first time Cahalan saw “Good Long Look” assembled all together as one. “I love architecture and design,” she says. “It’s very excited that people are able to see my artwork whenever they want”—herself included. Photo by Ed Carreon
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Just like an architect designs his floor plans to guide visitors through doors and walkways to curated views, Santa Cruz, California-based artist Mimi Cahalan paid close attention to how the metal mosaic she created for the entranceway to Lido Apartments
Just like an architect designs his floor plans to guide visitors through doors and walkways to curated views, Santa Cruz, California-based artist Mimi Cahalan paid close attention to how the metal mosaic she created for the entranceway to Lido Apartments in Santa Monica, California, would be appreciated by passers-by. “It’s long and I wanted people to look at it,” she says, hence it’s title, “Good Long Look.” But the piece is also about slowing down and taking in ones surroundings. “When I was making the sculpture, I kept picking up sections and turning them as though I was walking past so I’d know what it’d look like once assembled,” she says. The painted board shown here was Cahalan’s hand-painted color piece that she worked from to create the final, large-scale sculpture. Although she often hand-cuts the metal she uses in her art, Cahalan created these drawings to send to Large’s Metal Fabricator, the Wastonville, California-based company that cut the aluminum pieces for "Good Long Look." Photo courtesy of Mimi Cahalan

To view the process of how this painted metal piece came to be, click "View Slideshow" in the upper right of this page.

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