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Artwork In Carlsbad Mall Temporarily Halted By Management

Photo caption:

"Winter Wonderland" artist Armando de la Torre.

An art installation inside the Westfield mall in Carlsbad has been temporarily closed. Mall management is concerned about the content of the artwork titled "Winter Wonderland."

UPDATE: As of 5 p.m. Friday, the management of the Westfield Plaza Camino Real mall has agreed to reopen the art installation "Winter Wonderland" to the public beginning on Saturday, Dec 7.

Sandwiched between a Zales and a Cricket Wireless store in the Westfield Plaza Camino Real mall in Carlsbad, there's an artwork called "Winter Wonderland." It's not far from the mall Santa, in a vacant storefront that used to house a candy store.

Despite its nostalgic title, nothing twinkles in this edgy holiday scape. There are bare Christmas trees, murals, used windows and furniture and packaging scavenged from around the mall.

"The mall produces an enormous amount of trash," said Wonderland creator, artist Armando de la Torre. The Tijuana-born, San Diego-based artist recycles materials in his art.

"Winter Wonderland" looks like it belongs in a downtown alternative art space, not a shopping mall.

And that's exactly the point: put socially conscious art where it doesn't normally live to generate dialogue.

De la Torre hired a local tattoo artist to design a t-shirt logo for his art installation titled "Winter Wonderland."

But de la Torre says his Wonderland artwork has been "shut down."

"I would say it's on temporary hiatus," said Tara Smith, deputy director and chief curator at the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA). De la Torre's project is funded through a James Irvine Foundation grant allowing OMA to explore new ways of engaging audiences.

Smith has been negotiating with mall management to get the artwork reopened.

De la Torre’s Wonderland includes performances throughout the month of December, the first of which prompted the closure. A group of teachers/professors from Palomar College dressed up like a heavy metal band and performed on Black Friday.

"It just stepped over the line with what the mall people were comfortable with and what they were expecting," Smith said of the performance. The band read sales copy from store flyers and yelled "Black Friday" as part of the chorus.

Smith said the museum is fully supportive of de la Torre's vision and is trying to communicate more clearly with mall management about future workshops and performances. Those would include more music and an interactive event titled "Santa for Adults." San Diego artist Omar Lopex will dress up as Santa Claus and invite adults to sit on his lap while kids take the photo, turning the mall Santa paradigm on its head. Lopex is hoping to have elves on roller skates for the two-day performance.

But Santa for Adults may never come to pass if "Winter Wonderland" is not reopened. A representative from Westfield declined a request to be interviewed but issued the following statement: "We are excited about the partnership with Oceanside Museum of Art and look forward to the Winter Wonderland space reopening to the public this Saturday now that we have overcome a few technical difficulties." It's unclear what is meant by "technical difficulties" and management has not responded to a request for clarification.

A meeting will be held Friday afternoon to decide whether to reopen "Winter Wonderland" to the public or close it for good.

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