When you turn on to Florence Avenue in Sebastopol, California, it will take only a moment for a whimsical metal sculpture to catch your eye.
Then you’ll see another. And another. And you’ll quickly realize that quirky, charming junk art is featured in front of nearly every home along the street — a mermaid here, Batman there, and The Wicked Witch of the West is just a few doors down.
A neighborhood art walk
The eclectic junk art throughout the neighborhood — and elsewhere around this sleepy town in Sonoma County, about an hour north of San Francisco — is part of a collaborative effort: they’re built by local urban folk artist Patrick Amiot, and painted by his wife, artist Brigitte Laurent.
“A large number of our sculptures may be seen throughout the charming town of Sebastopol, California,” says the couple on their website. “Florence Avenue is lined with our past work, a must-see if you visit our neck of the woods.”
Visitors agree. “Don’t miss this street if you come to visit Sebastopol! It’s super cute — the creative metal sculptures you see all over town are in almost every front yard on this street,” writes one Yelp reviewer. “We had SO much fun looking around, as did a number of other folks walking the few blocks. It’s amazing how original and creative they are — and they match each house so well.”
In 2002, Amiot told the San Francisco Chronicle how, the year before, he placed a 15-foot tall sculpture of a fisherman — made from old vacuum cleaners, a wheelbarrow and a barbecue — in front of his house.
“I was the weirdo until I put that out front, and then I became the artist. Cars started slowing down. People began talking about it. From that, came the idea of doing others,” he told the paper.
“At the point I made these things, I knew what I wanted to do. And I felt happy about it. I still feel happy about it. It’s simple. When people drive by, they get it. That’s the perfect way of expressing myself,” he said in that interview. “People slow down. They like what they see. I get that approval in the local community… Like everyone else, I just want to be loved in life.”
Florence Avenue junk art metal sculptures
Take your own virtual tour of this neighborhood in the gallery below! Click one picture to start, then click each image to view the next.
Junk art metal sculptures: Video interview from KQED (PBS)
“Drive into Sebastopol, a town of about 7,800 people located 50 miles north of San Francisco, and you won’t be greeted with the sort of welcome plaque commonly posted at the entrances of so many small towns. Instead, you’ll meet the ‘Star Caster,’ a fanciful fisherman created by artist Patrick Amiot using more than 1,000 can lids and other cast-offs. Another 170 of his sculptures are scattered up and down the town’s streets. On Florence Avenue, where Amiot lives, at least 25 sculptures are on display, many on neighbors’ lawns.”