Sensations in the Sidewalk: Photographer says look out for the art under your feet

By Will Bowen

Sometimes we look up into the starry night at the constellations, galaxies and nebulae, and we contemplate the patterns, the organization, the beauty, the art, and mystery of the universe. But artist Dwaine Best thinks it would be a whole lot better if we reversed our upward gaze and looked down at what is right below us, because there is, “a universe of art right under our feet.”“Art Under Our Feet” is the name of the photography project about the sidewalks of La Jolla that is keeping Best busy. He has explored all areas of town and taken more than 2,500 photographs of the cracks, crevices, lines, configurations, and colors of our sidewalks.

Best thinks that the cracks and wear-patterns that you can see in sidewalks are very similar to the patterns discernable up there in the heavens. All of these are universal patterns, a kind of sacred script of the cosmos with large, cryptic sentences from the Book of Life. Best has even named some of his sidewalk photographs after the constellations.

The original idea for the sidewalk photography project began as a response to a request from a friend for some artwork for a Chap Book. Best went out walking and thinking, and said he just started taking pictures of sidewalks.

“Patterns are the thing I became interested in,” he said. “Patterns, what I call the cosmological features discernable on the sidewalks — cracks, lines, curves, color oppositions, compositions, textures, graffiti, wear and tear, aging, break up, decomposition — all the things that signify the process of Time and Entropy, or the natural unfolding of an expanding universe moving to disorder. There is a great beauty in how this process unfolds.”

Best said he usually shoots his photographs standing up and pointing downward, and he doesn’t like it when his shoes accidentally get in the picture. “I may not like it that a leaf has blown into my shot, but I won’t move it. I don’t touch the painting,” he said.

During the day, Best works at the La Jolla Playhouse as a scenic design artist, painting the sets and backdrops. The first play he worked on was “Bonnie & Clyde.” Best has also worked on the sets at the Old Globe Theater. His favorite painting style is trompe-l’oeil, where you paint something in two dimensions (like a window or a sidewalk) and try and make it look 3-D real.

Best served as art director for the recent “Artlawn” show hosted by the La Jolla Historical Society and he has three photographs from his sidewalks collection at the new Riford Library Art Gallery Show, “Our Town.”

Best has been working on his sidewalks project for the last two years. “I would work on it and then give it up, but then I was drawn back. It’s like an obsession. I am not exactly sure why I do it, but I do.”

Where does Best think the most artistic sidewalks are in La Jolla?

“I like the sidewalks around Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, the Riford Library, and the Theater District at UCSD … Fay Street is good, so is all along Genter, Midway Street and the business area of Bird Rock, such as right in front of Everybody Loves Chocolate.

“The main thing I’m trying to do is to make a photograph of a section of sidewalk that looks like it is a high-level work of abstract art. I have at times accomplished that. Then I can say, ‘Hey you. Watch out! That’s high level art that you’re stepping on.’ ”