Student art featured in ‘Urban Trees’

Katrina Cameron

On a cool fall afternoon, many San Diego tourists and natives can be seen walking along the bay underneath Urban Trees.

The seventh annual Urban Trees exhibit features 30 sculptural “trees” designed by a variety of artists. The sculptures are installed on a quarter-mile stretch of the North Embarcadero in Downtown San Diego.

The Port of San Diego hosts the Urban Trees exhibit annually. This year, City College student Dana Kim Ogburn sculpted a piece called “Sea Level,” which is being featured in the exhibit.

“I dedicate the ‘Sea Level’ sculpture to my mom, Evelyn Rosetta Ogburn,” Ogburn said. “She supported and encouraged my education and personal and professional growth.”

Sculpture department Professor Terri Hughes-Oelrich introduced Ogburn to Urban Trees in a field trip in fall 2009. Following the trip, Hughes-Oelrich asked her students to build a model of an Urban Tree.

Ogburn made another Urban Tree model as his final project in a spring sculpture class. He then submitted the “Sea Level” model to the Port of San Diego, and the piece was juried and commissioned to be featured in Urban Trees.

“‘Sea Level’ is a product of my creative quest to use my experience in building construction with the art principles and composition design that I have been learning (as) a Fine Arts major at San Diego City College,” Ogburn said.

Ogburn’s primarily copper sculpture “Sea Level” is described as an “above and below water view of a kelp bed forest ecosystem.”

The piece features southern California fish, California birds and a kelp bed. The sculpture is made of steel, stone-plaster and Styrofoam coated in cement and paint.

“The inspiration (for the piece) is that kelp is very important for the existence of the marine life and bird life,” Ogburn said. “Kelp is an important ingredient in medicine and other products we use every day.”

The sculpture took Ogburn three months to build. The first month went towards research, while the second was productive work and the third consisted of “work like crazy.”

After the piece was ready, it was placed in its temporary home at the Port of San Diego. “Sea Level” is placed only yards away from Anthony’s Fish Grotto. The Port provided a crane, a worker lift and three operators to help Ogburn install “Sea Level.”

“They normally choose the sites for specific tree designs, (and) I suggested (it be) here,” Ogburn said. “It’s close to Anthony’s because it’s more appropriate for being in a high traffic area.”

Ogburn is being paid $2,500 to show “Sea Level” at its current location but hopes to sell it while it is on display.

“My hope is that ‘Sea Level’ will sell while it’s on display for the $17,500 asking price,” he said. “I may also get another sculpture commission as a result of this event.”

Ogburn is in the process of working on another piece in the theme of “Sea Level.” Although he has yet to come up with a name for the series, he is considering the “Ocean Ecosystem Series” as an option.

For more information on “Sea Level,” contact Ogburn at [email protected]