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The Sidewalk Face Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sidewalk Face.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I work as a documentary film editor and therefore am often seated for hours at a time in front of a computer. It’s really engaging mentally but a bit static physically. For over a decade, the majority of my creative energy, professional and personal, had been happening in the virtual world and I was feeling a bit vitamin deficient in terms of tactile creative expression. In the past, I had done a lot of painting and darkroom photo printing, activities that happen in time and space, not on a screen.

So back in October of 2015, I was on break walking my dogs and listening to Terri Gross interview British environmental artist Andrew Goldsworthy. I’ve always admired his work. He makes beautiful and surprising site based sculptures using only natural materials found nearby. The interview was agitating me. I had this strong feeling of I want to do that. I want to make art outside.

The next day I made my first face. A child had left an orange chalk circle on the sidewalk about a block away. It seemed like an eye, so I added a pupil, another eye, nose, mouth and took a photo. Something clicked right away, and within a month I had made over 100 faces, most on the sidewalk pavement, a few on the dirt or grass nearby. I had an Instagram account and posted them there. Two years later I changed my Instagram name to Sidewalk Face. It’s totally taken over.

Please tell us about your art.
I make faces out of the stuff I see while walking my dogs. Then I photograph them and post to Instagram. As of right now, I‘ve posted 808. I’ve made 3 or 4 times that many but only share the best ones.

Andrew Goldsworthy mostly makes his work in nature, and he might spend the whole day or many days on a single piece. I make my work in my neighborhood, and I have to work fast. I have two small dogs with me, and they don’t like to sit for long. He makes works of great beauty, I often work with trash and stains and lots of man-made detritus. His work is abstract; my work is about characters and expression. But like Andrews Goldsworthy, now my studio is outside, and all my supplies are free. As he said in the Terri Gross interview that inspired me: “People are the nature of the city, and you can feel it in the pavement.”

Artistically, I’ve always been interested in people and faces. We mostly read each other’s emotions through facial expression, and I feel like my photographs work when you get a clear emotional vibe when the face makes you think of a story or someone you know. The ones that don’t work aren’t telling me anything.

I think the reason I keep doing this is it makes my life fun and meaningful. I really like the act of being observant. Instead of ticking walking the dogs off my to-do list, I’m on an adventure. I am looking for something, but I don’t know what. The face is a surprise gift for myself. I never know what it will look like, who it will be, what they want to tell me. Since they’re all ephemeral, some blowing away before I can even capture them, they remind me to be fully alive right now, in this moment, enjoying simple pleasures, being with my dogs, feeling the sun and wind, making something from nothing.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
Success for me is building a body of work and challenging myself to make it better. I like seeing the variation that comes from making many things under the same constraints. Patterns, style, and themes become apparent. This analysis helps me improve. Being in the process and striving to surprise myself is the fun part. Constraints make it easy to know what the process is. I always say, art made is better than art unmade. So as long as art is being made, I consider that success.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I post one a day on Instagram @Sidewalkface. You can also see the photographs much larger as well as behind the scenes images of the dogs on Sidewalk The website has galleries grouped by themes so you can view all the faces made from bananas, or all the smokers (so many discarded cigarette butts in LA) or all the ones made out of gross stuff like melted popsicles and moldy oranges. There’s also a gallery for Runyan Canyon. I take the dogs there every weekend and make a bunch of faces. I’m sure most people reading this have been there. It’s our much needed non-pavement time! Good for the soul. If people dig the project, prints and wall hangings of the work can be purchased through the website.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Andrew Southam
Caren McCaleb

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Cassandra

    October 24, 2018 at 22:39

    Thank you for this uplifting story of someone who is doing Thought provoking art and making reflective personal choices and making a happier and more curious world every day. Love it!

  2. International Kathy

    October 26, 2018 at 00:08

    I love you sidewalk face. What a brilliant idea leave it to you my dear. Congratulations Kare I love you sidewalks face. What a brilliant idea read it to you my dear. Congratulations on such a beautiful piece so happy you’re getting recognition. No where’s your coffee table book?!

    • International Kathy

      October 26, 2018 at 00:10

      Can you please change the word KAAre to Caren? Typo that’s important . Sorry and thank you.

  3. Kristina

    October 29, 2018 at 16:21

    Love it! Caren’s instagram often makes my day. The faces add a little whimsy to an otherwise stressful onslaught of the daily news. I highly recommend following @sidewalface to balance your daily diet of news.

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