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Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 51  |  June 28, 2022

Artist of Kobe Bryant tribute mural painted on wall of Landmark Surf Company remains a mystery


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Sometime on Friday night, a mural appeared on the wall of Landmark Surf Company, on the corner of PCH and Cress, as a tribute to Kobe Bryant. Bryant, the legendary star of the Los Angeles Lakers, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, were among the nine killed last week in a helicopter crash. 

Dillon Leanna of Landmark Surf Company says, “The mural wasn’t there when I closed up on Friday night, but when Julian, the manager, arrived on Saturday morning, it was there.”

Although HungFineArt is claiming to be the artist, it remains unconfirmed, since he hasn’t returned messages from Stu News.

Dillon at Landmark has no knowledge of who painted it. Based on the time frame, it appears both the little girl and Kobe were painted at the same time on Friday night.

The store’s reaction has been good. “There’s a lot more foot traffic,” Dillon says.

However, he has no idea if the mural will be allowed to remain.

Artist of dog

Click on photo for a larger image

Mural has attracted more foot traffic

As defined, street art is visual art created in public locations, usually unsanctioned artwork executed outside of the context of traditional art venues. Other terms for this type of art include “independent public art,” “post-graffiti,” and “neo-graffiti,” and is closely related to guerrilla art.

Well-known Laguna artist and Festival of Arts Exhibitor Mike Tauber says of the Kobe mural, “It’s a great piece, in the style of British artist Banksy, in that the characters are interacting with the location. Kobe’s net is an actual vent, and the child is reaching for the actual shadows. I would title this ‘Reaching’. Our City Arts Commission would likely approve this as they are very encouraging – I would hope the artist went through the appropriate process!”

Banksy is an anonymous England-based street artist, vandal, political activist, and film director, active since the 1990s. The little girl with the balloon in the Kobe mural was originally a Banksy work.

Released in 2004-2005, Balloon Girl, or Girl With Balloon, has grown to become one of Banksy’s most iconic works. According to, it depicts a young girl, whose hair and dress are blowing in the wind, reaching for, or releasing, a red, heart-shaped balloon that has slipped from her grasp, flying out of reach. The red balloon is an archetypal symbol many of us connect with, as the only spot of color in the work; more than a child’s toy, the red balloon evokes fragility of what it stands for: innocence, dreams, hope, and love. Whether you see the girl as losing the balloon, or about to catch it, the meaning can be interpreted as a loss of innocence, or the arrival of hope and love.

Artist of girl

Click on photo for a larger image

Passerby stops to ponder mural

This Banksy work, which was accompanied by a quotation that read, “there is always hope” originally appeared in London’s Southbank, though the city council ordered the work to be painted over.

Reactions from Laguna locals on social media regarding the Kobe mural have been relatively positive.

Doug Poole says, “This is super rad. I think it’s colorful and positive and should remain up.”

“Love this. Please don’t remove it. We need this visual message right now. It’s a reminder that life is short and love will always prevail,” says Cindy Ortiz-Plant.

Traci Bowman says, “This gives me hope for the Laguna I love. Please let it be.” 

Laguna is not without its share of murals. Although the murals at the Hive were commissioned by Laguna Creative Ventures, they have added a new element of street art to the canyon. Ben Rubin, owner of fine art print studio Elephants and Castles, along with Torrey Cook, founder and owner of contemporary art gallery Artists Republic, who commissioned the murals last year said, “Every other city in the world has street art or murals and it’s only natural that at some point the tipping point would occur here. These projects just reemphasize Laguna’s art heritage and its ability to adapt to changing times.”

Now there is a new element to the wall of Landmark Surf Company, and just as the original message of Banksy’s Balloon Girl, the mural reminds us that “there is always hope.”


Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - [email protected]

Lana Johnson, Editor - [email protected]

Tom Johnson, Publisher - [email protected]

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

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Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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