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Mystery of Hoodhenge unearthed in Petaluma

By Dana Denesha
On October 1, 2013

Deep in the heart of Petaluma lies something strange and yet eerily reminiscent of years gone by. On the corner of Baker Street and Bodega Avenue is a circle of painted car hoods in the middle of an empty lot. 

The display was created by one man to spark intrigue and mystery for those who stumble upon it.

Sonoma State University art professor Carlos de Villasante strived to recreate the feeling of the archeological ruins that surrounded him while growing up in Mexico City. After living in various places, Villasante purchased and moved into a home in Petaluma last year. 

The dead grass-covered vacant lot next door was part of the deal. In 1942 that lot was occupied by a gas station, but had been empty for over 15 years. Villasante left the space untouched until one day an idea came to him.  

"A lightbulb turned on. I could create a testament to what the space was before," said Villasante.

Villasante took a work of art he painted on an old car hood and displayed it in the middle of the lot. After positive reactions from those who saw it, Villasante was inspired to expand. Due to the triangular shape of the lot, he was limited with the design of the project. 

He realized that displaying his art in a circle would be the easiest solution. It was then that the vision became clear. In only a few days time Villasante created a modern day Stonehenge in the middle of the suburbs. 

Villasante created Hoodhenge in a way that would make people feel as though they had just stumbled upon a hidden treasure. He wanted audiences to experience the joy that comes from discovering something meaningful and previously unseen. 

With modern designs and the flair of street art, Hoodhenge brings ancient architecture into the present. 

Villasante loves to watch how it sparks curiosity in those who take the time to stop.

"Sometimes when I am outside watering my plants I will see someone trying to figure out what it is and why it is there," said Villasante.

The paintings he selected to display are all unique but have a similar modern style. He started painting hoods in 2005 and completed the final work in 2012. Until the creation of Hoodhenge these pieces of art were hidden in storage.

The paintings on the hoods contain bright, bold colors that pop against the dead grass and dirt on which they sit. 

Many of the paintings portray people in abstract silhouettes. The chain-link fence surrounding the lot prevents vandalism, but also reminds viewers of the urban environment. 

Villasante feels a connection to the public and people as individuals. He wanted his art to reach an audience that did not just consist of connoisseurs and gallery regulars. 

He also wanted to create something for the community to enjoy, a place where imaginations could run free.

Villasante strives to inspire creativity in others and loves working with students at SSU. He also uses teaching as an opportunity for self improvement. 

"I am greatly inspired by my students. As I push them to stay open to new things I keep myself open as well," said Villasante. 

Hoodhenge is Villasante's first public display and he has received positive reactions from those who have stopped to see it. 

Hoodhenge is also visible to everyone driving down Baker Street or Bodega Avenue. 

While standing on the sidewalk as cars race by, one can't help but be intrigued. By combining the most current artistic style with ancient architecture, Hoodhenge is visually appealing as well as perplexing. It leaves viewers with unanswered questions that can only be answered by their own imaginations, and that's exactly how Villasante wanted it.


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