Meet Shrine On, the Artist Behind the Towering Coachella Installations

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One of the literal high points of Coachella over the years has been the one-of-a-kind, mind-blowing complex, giant, towering installations built entirely out of trash and reclaimed items that loom over the weekend music festival. These dominating sky rises are assembled by artist Shrine On who has been building shine towers for Coachella and other festivals around the world, as well a creating his smaller, personalized art for galleries. The goal of  Shrine On’s installations is to get  20-something-year-old concert-goers, who came to a festival for the music and merriment, awestruck when they receive a jaw-dropping experience with art.

During the construction for his Coachella 2013 monument, we were able to score an exclusive visit with Shrine On at his workshop to capture this year’s work in progress as he and his crew built and painted the tower’s many pieces, readying it to be assembled at Coachella. (Cindy Schwarzstein has known Shrine On for years, and it’s this magical connection and mutual respect that can grow between a collector and an artist that makes such things possible).

The tower is a tall structure on tripod legs, built with the help of carpenters and painted with the assistance of workshop volunteers. Garlands of cat food can lids  are strung between points to make organic music in the Indio evening breeze. The tower’s name is Empire of Love 333 for the structure’s tri-points. Unlike the intricate mosaics and assemblages that sprawl throughout Shrine On’s home (images below) and the pieces at his recent Oakland show, “Friends and Lovers” at Old Crow Gallery, the artist builds his Coachella towers to make a visual impact from a distance.

Shrine On doesn’t sketch out his structures before he builds them — his prep-work is more about dumpster diving and street salvaging. His three-decade resume includes painting the first staircase of La Luz de Jesus Gallery, the original Wacko murals, the interior of the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd., The Lucent Dossier Experience, the 2008 Burning Man temple, and seven years of Coachella tower/shrines.

Shrine explains part of the genesis of his towering installations:

The first piece we ever did was called the Tasseograph — tasseography is the art of reading tea leaves — in Oregon. When we were lifting the last piece of the thing on, it’s 5 in the morning, the whole thing just goes [swoosh]. And a couple of guys go, ‘Oh hey, you don’t have any right angles in there.’ It was a box with no right angles… now I know that that’s insane. …This is how it started.

In last year’s piece — all those lines are structural, but they’re beautiful. Now that I put all the lines in there to make sure it doesn’t fall apart, I put even more lines in and that’s the design.

Complete interview with Shrine On coming soon!

Top image: Shrine On’s towers await the gates of Coachella to open the morning of Friday, April 12, 2013.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival
April 12-14 and April 19-21, 2013
81-800 Avenue 51  Indio, CA 90036


Shrine On’s 2012 Coachella installation

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Coachella installation tower by Shrine On, 2009

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Coachella installation tower by Shrine On, 2009

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Coachella installation tower by Shrine On, 2009

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Coachella installation tower by Shrine On, 2009


Shrine On (Complete interview coming soon!)


The Coachella structure for 2013 in progress. (updated Apr. 12, 2013)



Building and painting the Coachella structure for 2013.





Volunteers signed up for a month-long workshop to work on the 2013 tower.


Art is in the details: Shrine On’s shoes.


Older projects waiting for yet another life.




Completed installation at Coachella for 2013!


Art in the artist’s front yard.


Art in the artist’s front yard.


Art in the artist’s front yard.



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