What the heck was that on Sunday?

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Giant statue floating on a barge off the coast of Malibu on Sunday as seen from the hillside. Photo by Bobby LaBonge.

Giant statue off Malibu coast, which turned out to be part of a promotional stunt, creates unexpected spectacle 

Anyone is southern Malibu Sunday who caught a glimpse of a giant statue floating slowly up the coastline near the water’s edge must of asked, “What the heck is that?” There hasn’t been such a large spectacle like that in Malibu since the filming of 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” surprise ending featuring a 30-foot high Lady Liberty head half buried on the beach in Point Dume. Sunday’s bizarre statue sighting up and down the Malibu coast was quite a head scratcher for many startled by its presence.

The Malibu Times first noticed the huge statue Sunday morning at 10:30 in the water off Sunset Boulevard. At first glance, it resembled an oversized army man toy or even a variation of the La Salsa taco man with outstretched arms. The statue, placed on a barge pulled by a tugboat, continued north making a stop near Surfrider Beach, then turned around to head south. But by 3 p.m. the mysterious figure was being tugged again northbound for a trip toward the pier and seemed to be anchored there until The Malibu Times lost sight of it by dark. 

Turns out the statue is part of a promotion for the rapper/musical artist Kid Cudi who released a new album Jan. 12 and one of the artists who worked on the piece is a Malibu native son. Sean Clark, born and raised in Malibu, comes from a family of sculptors and artists, including his stepfather, Malibu Arts Commission Chair Fireball Tim Lawrence, who’s also an accomplished artist. “I came from a world of sculpting,” the 36-year-old Clark explained.

The Malibu High School graduate is now a union sculptor for the film industry’s Local 755. When the writers and actors strike hit, Clark said, “It was a really weird year for our entire union.” He and his coworkers pivoted to concert artwork and commercials to stay busy. 

Then just two weeks ago, after New Year’s Day, Clark was hired for a rush job. “It was really crazy,” he said.

He became part of a 10-man team led by Travis Craven to sculpt three separate larger-than-life statues of the rapper in just seven days.

Clark and his team only had one day’s notice. They worked 12- to 18-hour shifts to get the massive job done.

Even though the 30-foot tall statues may seem to be carved from stone or cast in bronze, they are actually made of foam. But don’t let that fool you. The foam used in each statue weighs 1,000 pounds and that weight doesn’t include the leaden skeletal “rock and roll trusses” hidden inside.

The heads were constructed of urethane for more detail, the body from Styrofoam. The statues were coated in material resembling a “truck bed liner.” The art pieces were assembled in Pacoima at DeRouchey Foam, the biggest supplier for the film industry.

The first of the three effigies was completed in three days for a quick shipment to Paris, where it was unveiled Jan. 12. The second was shipped to New York City and also debuted last Friday, and the third emerged Friday in Long Beach Harbor. Cudi spent that afternoon in a nearby record store to sign copies of his new album “INSANO.”

The sculptures have received mixed reaction. “Jaw dropping” for some and for others, critiques ranged from “satanic” to “disturbing,” perhaps due to the gaping mouth and empty eye sockets depicted. In some photographs, the eyes on the statues are glowing from neon lights inside. “We rigged them up for glowing,” according to Clark, who added that the lights can be controlled through a phone and can change colors too. That may not have been visible in Malibu on Sunday during daylight hours.   

Cudi, born Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, didn’t exactly pose for the artists who sculpted his likeness. “That’s the crazy thing,” Clark explained. “They lidar scanned Kid Cudi.” The process uploads the images into a computer. Giant blocks of foam were cut “so our sizing was right,” according to the sculptor. With proportions correct the team of artists added to the technology with their hand-chiseled artistry to make Cudi appear like a bronze or metallic monument.

As an expert foam sculptor, Clark has worked on many unique pieces for the film and entertainment industry. 

“It’s always fun. I love this job. We do everything in the world and it’s always different and cool. I feel blessed to have grown up where I did. I think that’s what placed me in this situation,” Clark said, laughing.