Shipload of artists team up for event at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego

Hugo Crosthwaite’s ‘Siren Song 2015’ illustrates the story of Odysseus and the Sirens on the white columns made from old ships’ masts that stand at the entrance to Cabrillo Visitor Center. L-R: A Siren, Odysseus and Hugo, Man chained to mast.
(Maurice Hewitt)

WSOHOIDPS: it stands for A Ship in the Woods. If you don’t get it, don’t feel bad; it took me awhile. (Hint: first find the SHIP, then the WOODS around it.)

But the artful nonprofit, which stages inventive, interactive events combining art, music and science, didn’t take long to win me over.

For the past five years, WSOHOIDPS has been based in a sprawling, midcentury home in the hills of Del Mar, a rental they turned into a cultural crossroads where they welcomed the public to meet a changing cast of visiting artists and immerse themselves in thought-provoking installations.

Now their lease has ended, and they’re moving toward Ship in the Woods 2.0, and a new, permanent space whose whereabouts are still unrevealed. But first, they engaged in a grand-scale collaboration with the Conservancy and Artist-in-Residence Programs at Cabrillo National Monument — an ambitious group show they called “Convergence.”

Hugh Davies and Joanne Hayakawa inspect her sculpture, ‘Dead Bird,' at the WSOHOIDPS (A Ship in the Woods) artists event at Cabrillo National Monument on Nov. 14, 2015.
(Maurice Hewitt)

For the event, more than 45 artists responded to Cabrillo’s convergences of land and water, history and ecology, with a panoply of site-specific artworks. The seven-hour opening, from 4 to 11 p.m. on Nov. 14, had more than 1,000 visitors, and included kinetic sculptures, video projections, performance art, live music, and many opportunities for audience participation. It was impossible to see every one of the pieces, but it was part of the adventure to roam around the park with a map and your flashlight and make your own discoveries.

Ruben Ochoa with ‘No Man is an Island,’ his homage to migrants, stalked by searchlights, but walking on toward the beacon of a better life. The piece was inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s 1872 photographic series ‘Horse in Motion,’ the first representation of movement in still images.

Perhaps the most stunning artwork was the place itself, and the chance to see it in daylight, at sunset, and then with the lights of downtown and Shelter Island twinkling in the distance. An additional perk was that visitors had an opportunity to climb the narrow, winding staircase up to the top of the lighthouse, past the giant, diamond-like lenses of the light and out onto the tower’s parapet for a truly awesome night-time view.

It was a fine idea to choose Cabrillo as the setting for Convergence, and find so many high-level artists willing to take part. Kudos to WSOHOIDPS curator Lianne Mueller and all those involved for pulling off this great convergence of nature, history and art. Let there be more!

For more information on Convergence and future events, contact

La Jolla artist Becky Guttin in the garden she enhanced with repurposed sculptures made of cornhusks, glass, tools, compacted radiators and other detritus connected in some way to the area’s history.
(Maurice Hewitt)

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••• Convergences: HUGO CROSTHWAITE is equally at home in Mexico and the United States; his grandfather was one of San Diego’s founding fathers. In “Siren Song 2015,” he converges the ancient Greek tale of a hero’s journey with the journey of contemporary immigrants to our shores. The Visitor Center’s white-painted masts/columns, near the point where Cabrillo’s ships landed, suggested the theme.

In Homer’s epic, Odysseus, knowing his ship must sail by the Sirens (whose sweet song lures men to their death), orders his crew to plug their ears but has himself tied to the mast so he can experience the singing. Modern-day immigrants struggle to make their way here, despite all deterrents and dangers, lured by the siren-song of the American Dream.

“The piece represents restraint and opportunity, free will and the idea of being bound to your fate,” said Crosthwaite. “At the end of the exhibit, the painting will disappear. Once the story is told, it’s gone, remaining only in memory.”

••• Convergences: NEIL KENDRICKS had never been to Cabrillo before he was invited to create a video for Convergence. He joined forces with Carlos Pelayo, a longtime friend and collaborator, and on his first visit to the park, was immediately attracted to the great white wall of the lighthouse — a perfect screen. Voice and Video sent someone to help with the set-up; it turned out to be an old friend, Jim Geary. “I went to his wedding in Maine,” Kendricks said. “This is a real, unexpected convergence!”

Neal Kendricks, film curator at MCASD-La Jolla, partners with Carlos to create an evocative video that was projected on the wall of Cabrillo’s Lighthouse.
(Maurice Hewitt)
Jenna Ann MacGinnis with figures from ‘Kinfolk,’ her installation inside the Lighthouse
(Maurice Hewitt)