Malibu’s rock star

Who needs a real job when you can hang out at the beach all day mesmerizing tourists and locals with your ability to stack large rocks in unimaginable angles?

By Stephen Dorman /Special to The Malibu Times

Some people paint. Some sing. Others make movies … the list goes on as far as the work of artists.

Todd Kline balances rocks. It’s the one thing he’s really good at. It’s also his way of expressing his artistic abilities to the world, and, in a sense, it’s the way the world shows its appreciation to him in return.

Klein, a 43-year-old artist, writer, poet and painter, doesn’t have a mailing address. He doesn’t own a car, which is good since he quit driving a year and a half ago. He isn’t interested in working a nine-to-five job either, although he once worked as a producer for ABC covering the Super Bowl and the Olympics. No, he just wants to be an artist, and if that makes him a little money down the line, then so be it. If not, then that’s cool too.

“Every artist has a different signature,” Kline said. “There are many painters, writers, everything. Mine is just the way I pick the rock. I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest way because it’s the easiest way for me.”

When he’s not spending time in the Great Northwest or San Francisco, Kline’s rock sculptures can be found all over Malibu, from Topanga Canyon to County Line, along Mulholland Drive and the shores of Point Dume.

His work seems to defy every law of gravity. Large boulders, sometimes weighing 15 or 20 pounds each, are stacked on top of smaller rocks often half the size. This goes on and on for five, seven, nine rocks at a time, straight up in the air. Kline even claims to have constructed a sculpture 17 rocks high several years ago.

He says everything is accomplished by recognizing a “through-line,” a vertical access point that somehow, he explains, is the key to all things good in the world.

“The through-line goes through everything we do, from architecture to a sunray to a wave,” Kline said. “Even the fault of an earthquake has a through-line through it.

“I can actually see it in people. I can tell people when they’re balanced in their life. I see a through-line in them.”

Kline’s work, and perhaps his words, are the types of creations most people can’t help but to stop and stare at in amazement. His sculptures are so natural that he never needs to utilize rods, glues or resins to keep his rocks in place. Most amazingly, his sculptures remain perfectly balanced in the face of 15-knot winds, as was the case on a recent Friday afternoon on Leo Carrillo State Beach.

“Look what somebody has done with those rocks,” a woman walking with a group of young girls said.

“Wow!” the children replied in unison.

Kline doesn’t say anything to the girls or the woman, but there’s no doubt he enjoys their enthusiasm. Not that he doesn’t like being noticed. In fact, in Malibu, known for its movie-glamorous citizens, Kline has become somewhat of a pseudo celebrity, despite his ragged jogging pants and 24-hour, open-toed shoe policy.

“He gets plenty of reaction around here,” said Lee Woodford, manager of the Leo Carrillo general store. “You take a rock and balance it at the strangest angle, people are going to come look…It takes a unique mind to do that, a very unique mind. Let’s just say Todd is very beloved in our hearts. And he’s a little off too, that’s part of why we like him.”

Added fellow campground local Jamie Ault, “His work is rad. It’s original. It’s unique. He’s the original rock star. Nobody does it better.”

Kline grew up in Ballard, Washington, graduating from Blanchett High School in 1980. His father, John Kline, worked as a TV producer in Seattle before moving to Oregon. Todd said his dad has become more supportive of his career choice later in life, but that wasn’t always the case.

“Family and friends have not thought balancing rocks was going to get me anywhere,” Kline said. “No one really believed in the balancing rocks until I got back to Malibu. Like I said, in Seattle I was known as weird, in San Francisco I was know as a freak, and in Malibu, I’m just an eccentric artist.”

The Rock Guy, as he is known locally, appears poised to break into the mainstream. He is currently working on a display project for the Malibu Garden Center. Furthermore, he hopes to one day publish a photo memoir of his art and plans on keeping a running documentary of his sculpture-building travels on his Web site, www.stonestill.com, which, like his cell phone, is currently inoperable.

“Zen doesn’t pay the bills, man,” Kline said. “I’m ready to start making some things happen for myself.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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