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Artist creates massive Obama portrait near Barcelona beach

  • Story Highlights
  • Cuban-American artist finishes Obama portrait before U.S. elections
  • 500 tons of material cover 2.5 acres of beachfront
  • Democratic presidential candidate is "larger than life," artist says
  • Project also aims to address issue of "trying to find heroes"
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From Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Barack Obama sometimes gets ribbed for his outsized ideas, like the massive stage built in Denver, Colorado, to accept the Democratic presidential nomination. But an artist in Barcelona, Spain, has outdone even the candidate himself.

Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada's portrait of Barack Obama is revealed on Barcelona's beach.

The artist has created a gigantic face of Obama sculpted from gravel and sand, covering nearly 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of Barcelona beachfront before the U.S. elections.

"The size of the piece is intrinsic to its value," the artist, Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, said.

"Obama's personality -- his youth, personal history and message of a new politics -- has fused with the historical moment to create someone larger than life," says the artist's dossier about the work, titled "Expectation."

The huge size also alludes "to the global impact of this election," the dossier adds. What do you want to ask Sen. Obama?

Rodriguez-Gerada, 42, is a Cuban-born American who grew up in North Plainfield, New Jersey, near New York, and now lives in Barcelona.

The artist, who has long focused on large-format sketches and other designs, said he had been planning to put an anonymous face on Barcelona's Mediterranean beachfront but shelved the idea. Then, seven weeks ago, he decided it should be Obama's face.

"Everybody's doing work about Obama," he said. "I was talking to my wife about the importance of this election internationally. It all came together."

The artist has created what he calls a "vectored image" from different photos of Obama, showing the candidate's face looking left over his shoulder.

He has used 500 tons of material -- mainly gravel but also sand and possibly some soil in black, brown and white tones -- to create the image on a flat piece of land slightly raised and overlooking the Mediterranean, near downtown Barcelona.

The artist and a Barcelona newspaper say the city has temporarily ceded use of the land for the project.

The portrait of Obama's face is 445 feet long by 264 feet wide (139.28 by 82.67 meters) and the artist completed it the day before the U.S. elections.

The materials have been donated, along with bulldozers and their drivers. The crews initially spreaded the materials along white lines, and other markers laid out according to the sketch.

Then, the artist's technical team directed volunteers with garden rakes to put the final touches on the materials, making sure the various colors were spread properly on the ground in order to depict Obama's eyes, hair, cheeks and collar, according to the plans.

He said it's his "biggest work ever, in scale and complexity."

He's a self-described political independent until recently, when he joined Democrats Abroad in Spain. But he added that the art project is his alone, without help from any political organization or campaign, and he won't be paid for it.

Rodriguez-Gerada said this project also aims to address the issue of "trying to find heroes with empathy for the problems of the world. We really need empathy from Barack Obama. There's a need to do positive things for the future."

Obama's giant face is environmentally friendly, with all natural colors, so the materials can be recycled, the artist said.

Rodriguez-Gerada's not sure how long the face will remain in place in Barcelona, because the site is slated to be used for a new municipal building.

But even if the face isn't permanent, it might be the start of outsized artistic images of Obama.

Barcelona journalist Matt Elmore contributed to this report.

All About Barack ObamaU.S. Presidential ElectionBarcelona

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