Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Philistines Unplug Phonehenge West

Alan Kimbel Fahey is eccentric, like many artists and visionaries. He lives on 1.7 acres in Acton, California in the high desert of the Antelope Valley.

Fahey is retired after 30 years as a telephone company technician, giving rise to his dream, his vision, his art.

Generations have enjoyed building out of Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, Erector Sets, and Legos,

His vision is different, radically different and unique: To build out of telephone poles not just fences, but entire structures.

He started building in 1986, and building, and building, and building – 20,000 square feet of an unique edifice, a work of art, based on telephone poles – 13 structures including a 70’ tower, two windmills, a 16th Century Viking House replica, a yurt, and a barn where the family lived. Bridges and ramps connected the structures.

Words alone cannot do justice to Stonehenge West, but photos are available on line. It’s not my kind of art, but a lot of “art” doesn’t appeal to me. His artistic vision is worthy of respect.

His vision followed that of Simon Rodia, who from 1921 to 1954 built the equally eclectic Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The City of Angels mounted an assault on the Watts Towers in 1959 and unsuccessfully attempted to raze them. The Towers were recognized in 1990 as a National Historic Landmark.

More traditional visions were held by Gutzon Borghum with Mount Rushmore and Korczak Ziolkowski with the Crazy Horse Monument.

All their visions survived, but Fahey’s is only in digital form today.

Fahey’s problem is that Acton and the Antelope Valley may be anti-LA in their values and life style, savoring open space and freedom. They are not cool, or hip, or avant-garde, or haute couture. They are of the salt of the earth or true individuals, but their curse in life is that they are a remote corner of Los Angeles County, and thereby subject to the Los Angeles bureaucracy they so wish to avoid.

The inspectors of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Building, and Safety paid a visit in 2008. They did not like what they saw. It wasn’t just art; it was unpermitted art. Mr. Fahey lacked building permits from the county.

The inspectors asked to see his Phonehenge West specs and plans. He refused, explaining he did not know here it was going. Of course, true art cannot be designed by Etch-a-Sketch. Bureaucrats are Philistines who cannot appreciate free form art. 

They piled on an assortment of Mickey Mouse charges against him with the assistance of the prosecutor’s office.

They include:

1)   Failure to abide by setback requirements;
2)   Exceeding the height limit of 35 feet; and
3)   Possession of two non-commercial windmills.

They also pointed out that the building was primarily constructed of wood (What a novel concept!) and thus would be at risk for earthquakes and fires, but lacks water and a proper access road for firetrucks.

This is the desert!

So much for green power in LA; Fahey should have stuck with solar in the desert.

Setback lines are used in urban communities to increase the cost of construction by limiting the amount of land that can be built on. They are irrelevant and unnecessary in relatively unpopulated desert land.

Part of Fahey’s problem is that the County is displeased with the citizens of the Antelope valley and is doing its best to harass them.

The Philistines of the County of Angels destroyed Phonehenge West. They could not value “art” when they sought it out, when they saw it. 4 big rigs hauled 53 tons of telephone poles away as well as an additional 280 tons of debris.

Having destroyed his art, they then billed the “public nuisance” for their costs. They wanted $83,488 from him.

He was criminally prosecuted on 14 misdemeanor charges, convicted on 12, each giving rise to a possible 6 month sentence.

His crime was non-violent. LA is releasing prisoners early because of overcrowding. Celebrities, such as Lindsay Lohan or Winona Ryder barely get booked before being released.

His art was to show contempt for the proper authorities. That crime could not go unpunished.

The prosecutors sought a tough sentence. They had to make an example of Alan Kimble Fahey. Judge Daviann L. Mitchell threw the book at him on Wednesday, December 19, 2012: 539 days in jail for misdemeanors of a chicken feed nature. Merry Christmas, Alan. The judge thought you were holding out on your assets.

What assets?

He’s an artist whose major asset was destroyed by the County.

Phonehenge West will not be confused with New York’s historic Penn Station, but it could appear in a future edition of “Lost Los Angeles” or “California Crazy.”

Alan Kimble Fahey has become becoming an international celebrity. Check out his Facebook page: :Support Alan Kimble Fahey."

The destruction of Stonehenge West, his creation, and the jail sentence are giving him more publicity, at the expense of Los Angeles, than he ever could have imagined. Most people, outside LA, don’t know the difference between the city and the county. It’s just LA that destroyed his art, now the world’s art. 

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