City leaders and residents gathered at Swami’s Park on Monday for the official unveiling of the newest work of public art in Encinitas: “Swami’s Easter Island Head,” by local artist Tim Richards.
The sculpture—a representation of the monolithic human figures carved from rock in Polynesia—features a stone-like finish and a dark gray stain to imitate the look of the originals.
“I’m really happy with it,” Richards said at the early afternoon ceremony. “It’s gotten a lot more attention than I thought it would and people really seem to like it, so that makes me happy.”
Despite its official name, Richards said the leaning sculpture is already starting to generate some playful epithets, like “Mai Tai Moai”—because “it looks like he’s had one too many”—and “Swami’s Slant.”
“I think it’s great,” Richards said. “I hope people give it a nickname, because ‘Swami’s Easter Island Head’ is a mouthful to say all the time.”
Just don’t call it a “tiki”—a term widely applied to any carved human figures originating in Polynesia. The correct name for the statues of Easter Island is “Moai.”
The project was offered as a volunteer opportunity late last year in an effort to make use of the 11-foot trunk of a dead Torrey Pine within the park. The more than 80-year-old tree was plagued by a bark beetle infestation and was considered a threat to public safety.
After the tree was removed in January, several large sections of the trunk were locally milled, while other, smaller sections were given to carvers to make bowls. The bottom portion of the trunk was left intact for the sculpture.
Woodworking artist Richards, who splits his time between Encinitas and Cedar City, UT, was awarded the opportunity to carve the stump after city Arts Administrator Jim Gilliam put out a call to local artists. Two responded, and the city selected Richards’ concept of an Easter Island Head.
Richards began carving the stump in February, after the project was approved by the City Council.
Swami’s Easter Island Head is a site-specific environmental temporary sculpture, meaning that although attempts will be made to preserve it, the life span of the public art is unknown.