-- It is the place where Gary Sweeney and his sister came home to after being born in the hospital. It is the spot where Sweeney and his friends would meet up and play as kids. It is the home both his grandfather and father died in. And it is the home that not only holds Sweeney’s childhood memories, but also holds part of his identity.
So when Sweeney had to put the home up for sale, he knew he had to do something special to say one last goodbye. Sweeney had one condition for the buyer: let him put up his own art installation in the home before the home would be demolished.
The installation, “A Manhattan Beach Memoir: 1945-2015,” pays homage to his childhood home and “sleepy little beach town” of Manhattan Beach, California. It includes 100 blown-up photos that Sweeney’s father took of their family. And it covers the entire outside of the house.
“My father took a million pictures of us,” Sweeney told ABC News today. “The hardest part was deciding which ones would make the cut.”
Sweeney’s father, Mike Sweeney, was an active part in the community from “the time I was born to the time he died,” Sweeney said. The elder Sweeney was a member of the city council and owned the only hardware store in the neighborhood. He was admired by everybody, and Sweeney knew that he had to use his father’s photos to “highlight the way Manhattan Beach was in the 1950s and 60s.”
Sweeney’s family had owned the home for 70 years. Back in 1945, when his mother bought the home, there was “very little” in the town. “My childhood friends and I said it was a very unique town to grow up in,” Sweeney said.
Now, Manhattan Beach is a place for prime real estate, with old beach shacks being torn down and replaced with million-dollar homes and condos.
Sweeney, 63, said it was a tough decision for him to sell. But with no children of his own and the home in disrepair, he decided it was time to say goodbye. After being offered “two armored cars full of money,” Sweeney sold the home.
But he made sure to go out with a bang.
In January, Sweeney drove from his home in San Antonio, Texas, to Manhattan Beach with the photographs, which were scanned on giant slabs of weatherproof plywood. He and a college student then assembled the photos on the outside of the home, “sort of like a jigsaw puzzle,” according to Sweeney. The assembly took about a week. The installation was launched on Jan. 30.
An artist, Sweeney has done installations on themes of family vacations and nostalgia before, but this installation is “a very definitive piece of my artwork,” he said. "There have been people who have teared up when seeing the photos as “so many people relate to this family life."
People have been coming from all across the country to see the installation. Sweeney said some of his childhood friends have even come back to their hometown to see it.
The installation will be up until Feb. 29 and there is a reception event tonight to “say adieu to the home.” Sweeney is currently staying in the home during that time, sleeping on a small mattress in the empty house.
“It’s kind of fun,” he said. Living in the home one last time “really softens the blow," he said.
“This home is in my DNA,” he continued. “It will always have a warm spot in my heart.”