Why Is There a Giant Red Shoe Off Highway 101?

How can I make a request for you to investigate that huge red high-heel shoe before Seacliff on the northbound 101? —S. 

I don’t have the heart to make people read this entire post just to discover that, despite the efforts described below, I was unable to get any traction. If you know anything about the shoe, please contact me at [email protected] or 917-209-6473.

The shoe appears to have made its debut in February. No one took credit, but theories abounded: the shoe was part of an American Heart Association publicity campaign, or a prank, or placed there by a real-estate agency as a joke.

I had noticed the shoe on a previous drive up from L.A., but I went back for another look. The shoe is midway between Mussels Shoals and Faria Beach, and it’s only visible from the northbound lanes. There’s no sign or marker, and there’s no way to get close to it, unless you want to hop a barbed-wire fence.

My first call was to the Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau; they had heard a real estate agent put it there as a joke.

As soon as I realized that the photo in Realtor Trini Hernandez’s Facebook post was taken from the KEYT report, I assumed she was joshing but asked anyway. Sure enough, she said she thought it was funny because she’s known for her red heels. But she had nothing to do with the shoe and no idea who put it there.

Then I contacted the office of state assemblymember Steve Bennett, but I never heard back. (Poor form, Steve.) The rep for Caltrans District 7 said he’d check into it and keep me posted, which is much more polite. Figuring the shoe must be an artwork, and that perhaps a local arts organization would’ve heard something, I also tried ArtsVentura (no idea) and the Ventura County Arts Council (no response).

As a general rule, the more specific you can get when searching online, the better. But I wondered whether I was Googling too narrowly. Indeed, searching “giant red shoe” with no mention of Ventura or the 101 led to what I thought was a Eureka moment: a BBC article from July 2019 about this sculpture in Northampton, England.

At first glance, the shoe looked the same. Upon closer inspection, however, it has a pointier toe and no platform sole. “Alas, it is not one of mine,” confirmed artist Noel Blakeman. “Although if you would like me to make the left stiletto, so you have a matching pair, I would be happy to oblige.”

And then I realized that there were many more search results for giant red shoe art: sculptor Bruce Gray made a strappy one; there was one in Lynchburg, Virginia, with seats for posing; a creepy one with toes at Broomhill Sculpture Garden in England; a peep-toe one in D.C.’s Union Station installed as a Mastercard promotion (below); a Cubist one by Elizabeth Murray at U.C. San Diego. You can even buy one from lifesizestatue.com for $840.

I went back to Google Maps to see if I could tell who owned the land or whether anyone nearby might know something. The folks at the Cliff House Inn had no idea, and the person who answered the phone at Ventura County Fire Station 25 started laughing before I could even finish my question. He said the land is privately owned and the oil field has all the leases. (He also said there’s a black dog statue south of the shoe and he has no clue whether it’s related, but I can only handle one sculptural mystery at a time.)

I drove down again to look for contact info for the leaseholder. Indeed, a sign identified it as the California Resources Corporation. Two emails and two phone calls later, I was told that the company doesn’t “have any information about the shoe.”

And that’s when I accepted that I was at a dead end—for now. Someone out there knows more, and eventually, it will come out. I can be reached at [email protected] or 917-209-6473.

UPDATE 5/25: Two folks on Instagram said that the shoe had previously been seen on Toro Canyon Road (“put out with the trash […] and someone nabbed it”). Anyone else see it? Or know more?

UPDATE 5/26: “I can confirm that this red shoe was put out with the trash at 326 Toro Canyon Rd,” emailed J. “I took this photo that night in mid-February with this mystery dog owner sitting in the shoe. What I don’t know is who took it from that driveway and put it in the field where it sits now. That part remains a mystery to be solved….”

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Previous Burning Questions:
••• Is Timbers Restaurant in Goleta really going to reopen?
••• Will the Dorinda Triangle ever get beautified?
••• Are we no longer allowed on the SBHS baseball field?
••• What does “SBTP” on this post mean?
••• What’s up with the “no e-bike” signs on local trails?
••• Why is Franceschi House in a holding pattern?
••• Why is there a train station inside this State Street storefront?
••• What’s happening with this derelict house in Summerland?
••• Is there a story behind Lucky Penny’s bell?
••• Why is there wood on some power lines?
••• What are these black beetles that are everywhere this spring?
••• Can you explain how sundowner winds work?
••• Why is there a pressure cooker attached to this utility pole?
••• What’s this concrete ramp thing on East Beach?
••• Why does “USA” get written on the street?
••• What are those poles in the ocean near the Ritz-Carlton Bacara?
••• Are people really allowed to set fires in the middle of Montecito?
••• What’s the story with the half-finished lot next to the Montecito Country Mart? 
••• Is the bridge over San Ysidro Creek ever going to get repaired?

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