Aside from a few small exhibitions years ago, Bob Matheny and Armando Muñoz Garcia's quirky sculptures known as "Infamous Babes, Chicks, Dames, Dolls and/or Statues of Liberty and Freedom" have largely lived inside a dark, crammed storage room at Matheny's Point Loma home.
"They've just been standing by, waiting for something to happen," says Matheny, a longtime local artist who helped found the art gallery at Southwestern College.
CityBeat detailed the interesting history behind the collaborative sculptures in 2012. Then, it seemed as though the "Infamous Babes" would never see the light of day again, but, recently, most of the gals were dragged out of Matheny's so-called "art vault," taken across the border and driven to their permanent home at a new art gallery inside a giant mermaid sculpture located near Puerto Nuevo, Mexico.
Muñoz is the man behind the famous, 58-foot-high "La Mona" sculpture (officially "Tijuana III Millennium," a title that never caught on). The proud, nude woman towers over a rundown neighborhood on a Tijuana hillside; the impressive, inhabitable concrete sculpture has drawn oodles of tourists and media coverage since its construction in 1990. "La Mona" is the inspiration behind the "Infamous Babes," which began as small-scale plaster replicas of the sculpture, handcrafted by Muñoz years ago as a way to generate money for the upkeep of his larger-scale work.
Muñoz is also the creator of the lesser-known but just as incredible "Eve of the Sea," or "La Sirena," a giant, livable mermaid sculpture located just outside of Puerto Nuevo. He started the mermaid in 1995 and still isn't done, but he says he's close.
"She's almost 100-percent complete," Muñoz laughs. "But the most important thing is that the gallery inside her is finished, and, not only that, but the 'Babes' are already installed."
Matheny is a fan of Muñoz's ambitious work, and that's why he purchased several of the miniature "La Mona" sculptures years ago, transformed them into famous women he admires and then raised modest funds for his friend by exhibiting and selling the work. Muñoz, too, transformed a few of the blank white "La Mona" miniatures into famous women. Both artists' creations will be permanently on view inside the new gallery, which opens to the public from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18 (email firstname.lastname@example.org for directions and details). The gallery's also open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Muñoz, who splits his time living inside "La Mona" and "La Sirena," says he wants to eventually sell the mermaid so he can get started on his third and largest-yet artwork.
"'La Mona,' she has her fans already. I'm hoping the art gallery will help build the mermaid's fans," Muñoz explains. "Then it's time for the next project."