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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: 70 Years Of Family Photos Are Plastered On This Manhattan Beach House

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Manhattan Beach-raised artist Gary Sweeney has created a huge installation of blown-up family portraits on the exterior of his childhood home, which will be demolished next month.

The installation, titled A Manhattan Beach Memoir 1945-2015, features 80 large-scale versions of personal photos of Sweeney and his family, who have lived in the home in Manhattan Beach for 70 years and been a major part of the community. The enlarged photos were printed on plywood and fixed to the entire exterior of the house. Visible from the street and the side alley, the installation is currently on display to the public until February 29. The artist will also lead private tours of the photos in the early evening on Wednesdays this month.

Sweeney, who is now based in San Antonio, felt the project would be a fitting farewell for his childhood home, which will be torn down in March as the family decided to finally sell the property. At the same time the images will serve as a vivid illustration of how Manhattan Beach has changed and evolved over the years.

The collection of photos were taken by Mike Sweeney, Gary's late father, who took hundreds of family photos over the years and developed many of them in dark room in the home. The senior Sweeney—who built the home—was a pillar of the community for decades, serving as an LAPD sergeant, mayor of Manhattan Beach, city councilman, and event PTA president. He was also the owner of Sweeney's Hardware, a long-time Manhattan Beach institution that closed in 1988.

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LAist spoke to Gary Sweeney to learn more about his beautiful tribute to his family and the beach community.

What inspired you to create A Manhattan Beach Memoir?

The inspiration came when I sold the house, and it dawned on me that I needed to do something to pay tribute to both the family home and my father's photography.

How does creating the installation on your childhood home instead of in a gallery help inform the work?

I felt that putting the photos directly onto the house made an immediate and direct statement.

How have you seen Manhattan Beach evolve over the years?

Manhattan Beach began evolving in the late 1970s, when people with money began the cycle of buying modest houses, and replacing them with large houses built to maximum size. These would then drive existing prices up, and the cycle would start over.

What are some of your favorite memories of growing up and living in the area?

Growing up at the beach was an idyllic time as a child. We played in the street. We played at the beach after school. We spent the entire summer on the beach, and we never wore shoes during that time. Our parents didn't hover over us, nor did they think it was necessary to be constantly involved in organized activities.

How has your life and your family's life been tied to Manhattan Beach?

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I will always be tied to Manhattan Beach. We come out from San Antonio often. I've lived in Denver and San Antonio, and even though I love both places, Manhattan Beach is home. It's in my DNA. Everywhere else is just a mailing address.

How does it feel to say goodbye to your childhood home and how long has your family lived there?

This has been our family home for 70 years. My sister and I came home from the hospital to this house. Both my father and grandmother died in this house. It's going to be very sad to say goodbye.

What are some of your favorite photos from the exhibit?

As you can imagine, every photo holds a special meaning for me, but the ones with me in the Davy Crockett outfit and our dog Cappy are particularly special. And the one where I'm standing on the tricycle seat—that's a favorite!

What are your plans after the demolition, both for yourself and the photographs?

After the exhibit, I'll be taking the photos down and shipping them back to San Antonio. The house will always be in my heart and my memory.

Gary Sweeney will provide guided tours of the exhibit on the remaining Wednesdays of this month (February 10, 17 and 24) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. And a special open house will take place on Wednesday, February 10, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The house is located at 320 35th Street, Manhattan Beach.