The Coast News Group
The collection of Joe Brubaker’s sculptures done over a 20-year period. “They are amassed into a group of secular ‘saints’ reflecting the value of everyday people, and are looking across the divide between the place they are stranded and the island where they want to be,” explained Brubaker. “The theme is the universal bond we have of 'longing' to know where we are going, where we came from, who we are...philosophical questions of destiny.” Photo by Lillian Cox

Library exhibit turns trash to treasure

CARLSBAD — Sculptor Joe Brubaker has proven again that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The Bay Area artist, accompanied by a group of visiting artists, traveled to La Costa at the end of March in a 26-foot truck full of fine art and junque to install “The Exquisite Garden” in the William D. Cannon Art Gallery at the Dove Library. The exhibit will be on display through June 24.

Gardener Dan Brubaker's work of collected turkey feathers created improvisationally, and onsite, during the five days of the installation of “The Exquisite Garden” in William D. Cannon Art Gallery at the Dove Library. The exhibit will be on display through June 24. Photo by Lillian Cox

“The garden itself has hundreds of different components — bottle caps, four trees made of recycled materials and 31 of Joe’s sculptures,” curator Karen McGuire said. “It’s not just recycling, it’s repurposing. The artists look at ordinary things and give it new life.”

Scout for the tribe. “He is beckoning his ‘people’ to come over to the island. His eyes are meeting theirs. He is sitting atop a huge pepperwood log that is attached to a steel base. The island is made of junk-found objects,” explains sculpture Joe Brubaker. Photo by Lillian Cox

This is the fourth installation of its kind created by Brubaker and his team, which consists of a core group of 10 artists who have worked with him on previous projects, as well as experienced artists and tradesmen recruited from the local community.

Brubaker explains that 80 percent of the installation is kept in a storage container that is transported to the site.

“I call it a creative high-wire act,” he said. “We have a broad plan, but it is at least 60 percent improvisation. It’s not what most artists are accustomed to. We only have five or six days to install it, so we can’t afford to have a down day. Part of it is having a team that works well together that will make good decisions creatively.”

Local collage artist Ron Juncal was invited to participate in the latest project.

“We unloaded a giant truck full of junk like nails, bedsprings, car parts, an old boat – and stuff that washed up on the beach,” he said. “We dumped it into the center of the gallery and separated it.”

He added, “Each artist took an area and made their art. A yarn artist created a spider web. Another artist created trees from old driftwood that were screwed together. We were hanging fishline tumbleweed from the ceiling.”

Afterward, Juncal invited the team to his studio for a barbecue.

“It was a great group of people,” he said. “It was a camaraderie of friends and artists who enjoy working together.”

Tim Weldon (left) and Joe Brubaker, members of Exquisite Gardeners Art Collaborative group. Courtesy photo

McGuire says the exhibit has been received well by the community.

“It has been just terrific, and seems to appeal to every age,” she said. “My grandchild came to the opening and spent 40 minutes looking for new discoveries. There’s a sense of familiarity and nostalgia about the show.”

Brubaker will be returning to Carlsbad to load up when the show closes at the end of June.

“We’ll rent our truck and it’s kind of like the genie goes back into the bottle,” he said. “We try to do at least one installation a year and it’s obviously not a for-profit thing. We make enough to cover our expenses.”

One of the reasons he goes through all the work is for people to realize that there is art everywhere, in the everyday world.

“I hope when they walk out that they’ll experience the world with fresh eyes,” he said. “It’s the friend you know who dresses strangely, comes to dinner too late, and talks too much, too loudly and sometimes incomprehensibly. But at the end of the night, as people get to know him, they love him and can’t stop thinking the next day about some of the things he talked about.”

Brubaker’s next installation is titled, “Ghost Ship.” For information, including how to be a sponsor, visit

The Cannon Art Gallery is located at 1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call (760) 602-2021.