"Do you know, I always thought unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!"
"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn, "if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.
— Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Since it may be the end of the world as we know it, perhaps we should consider believing in magic now. Shall we? This is the story of some magic that started on Halloween night 2010 that continues to this day.
One day several months prior to the potentially scary supernatural night, New York pop artist Camomile Hixon was riding the subway down the west side of Manhattan, along with hundreds of grim-looking Wall Street types. Perusing their long faces, she wondered what it would take to make them smile. She wanted to create art that would make them smile. She thought that posters might work. Then it came to her: “What if I could get Wall Street to think about unicorns for three seconds?”
She found the perfect unicorn model, and designed the now world-renowned “Missing Unicorn” poster. On that fateful Halloween night, she and several adventurous friends plastered 1500 copies of the poster up and down Manhattan.
The unicorn “elves” hid behind corners and trees, watching for reactions of passers-by. Late that night in Battery Park, Hixon says, “We ran into a posse of kids who first appeared to be on the street intending to intimidate. I could feel them watching me put up a poster. When I walked away, they ran up to it. Then they whipped around and looked at me with huge beautiful smiles on their faces. There was such joy! The unicorn was like an olive branch. We could all agree that this was something entertaining and fun. They all ended up high-fiving me!”
In Bloomberg’s cleaned-up New York, Hixon laments that public art is not as easily found. The posters were swiftly brought down. But they lasted long enough to become a sensation, news of which spread around the world in a matter of hours, and continues to this day.
One major reason the word spread worldwide was Lori Kozlowski’s article in the Los Angeles Times. She lit the wild gas flame of unicorn seekers, and the rest is history continually making itself around the world. Lori says, “I just happened to be in New York visiting friends, and we had dinner on the Upper West Side. We meandered toward the park and in the distance I saw the poster. When I called Camomile, I didn’t know what to expect. When we spoke, I realized I was dealing with a serious artist, and the reasons for her doing the project were more charming than I could have imagined. I’m just happy to have been part of the magic. It’s exciting.”
Since Lori’s article hit the the online LA Times, there have been thousands of unicorn sightings reported regularly on Hixon’s website and on the Missing Unicorn hotline voicemail. Every continent (except Antarctica) has reported sightings. One gentleman from Mexico City sent in this photo recently, promising it was not altered with Photoshop.
Sightings continue to this day to be reported on the voicemail in languages that Camomile does not even recognize. One teacher in County Kerry, Ireland called the hotline from her school and allowed several students to tell their elaborate stories of recent unicorn sightings.
Even though the physical art was placed only in New York City (with additional posters in a few other cities still popping up), the magic spread around the world. Hixon is delighted by its reach. She says, “When you create art on the street, it becomes interactive. The viewer becomes a part of the art.”
Laurie Frank of Frank Pictures Gallery agrees: "The Missing Unicorn Project is one of my favorite artist's installations because it goes right for the heart of what true interactivity should be in its purest, most conceptual form. Like Lost Dog posters from a fairytale, the Missing Unicorn announcements are each a personal discovery in the cacophony of the streetscape. The work also insists that the observer become a participant once the art is discovered, thus eliciting an active response both spiritually (in believing in the unicorn presence and subsequent absence) and materially (calling the unicorn hotline with sightings)."
Hixon confirms Frank’s curatorial instincts. “If my art can remind people that they have the capacity to play and be creative even in a small way I am happy,” she says. “That’s the mission I’m on.”
Hixon quotes her father-in-law, the renowned spiritual leader Lex Hixon, with a seminal lesson that left a mark on her as a young adult. “The most evolved manifestation of the human being is the child’s heart.” Camomile reminds herself and others, “We need to have wonderment to evolve. Once that’s gone we’ve lost the magic of what life can be.”
Magical it is. Shall we join in the fun? I say we might as well.
If you’d like to experience more of pop artist Camomile Hixon’s unicorn magic (including listening to recordings of messages re: unicorn sightings), go to the Missing Unicorn website. In Los Angeles, you can meet Camomile on February 12, 2012 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the opening of her SEQUENtial LOGIC show at Frank Pictures Gallery, Bergamot Station, A-5, 2525 Michigan Avenue Santa Monica California, 90404. Tel. 310-828-0211. See more of Camomile’s art at her website.