Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

 Words and Photos by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt


Waiting for a sign

Walking around the UCSD campus after a recent event on a clear and not-too-chilly evening, I was reminded of a song I used to like years ago.

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery
Breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that
Can't you read the sign?
(from Sign,
by Five Man Electrical Band, 1970)

So I started taking photos of some of the many signs I saw.

This sign, where I started my walk, looked pleasantly creepy.

What really caught my eye and kept me standing still to capture varied views of what I was seeing was Bruce Nauman’s Vices & Virtues, a towering neon display of the seven deadly sins and their contrasting virtues that has always been one of my favorite pieces in the Stuart Collection of outdoor sculptures. It’s now hard to see from most places on campus since the university’s penchant for putting up view-blocking buildings. (In my college days we called that an Edifice Complex.)


Back home, I discovered a short documentary in UCSD Library Digital Collections where the Nauman talked about wanting to do something that would make people think about those words in different ways. And it was hard to look them up, he said: “Everyone knows what they are until they try to write them down.” I think this image reveals some of those complications.

Mixed Messages

Most of the signs were warnings, in one way or another.

One amused and confused me: 

Lost & Found? Maybe not?


Some offered good advice: 


Some were kind of attractive.

… especially with the moon overhead. 

 And in the end, I found encouraging words. 

And finally, a happy ending to my walk, in the latest addition to the Stuart Collection: Kahnop -To Tell a Story, by artist Ann Hamilton.

 It’s a small part of an 800-foot-long stone path that actually contains a readable story. You can try to put the story together as you stroll through, or just pick out the words that say something to you.

Here’s hoping you find that happiness for yourself. 

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at hew2@sbcglobal.net

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