by Fiorella Calderoni
photo by Jack Burleigh
If you have strolled Ventura beaches, chances are you’ve seen stacks of seemingly gravity-defying rocks perfectly balanced into unique works of art. People from across the country, even across the world, have seen this art either through live streams, on the news, or on social media. Specifically, one famous piece was shared thousands of times and reached over 16 million people last holiday season. The guy behind the rock stacks? Juan Manuel Cisneros.
Manny’s story is inspiring to anyone that hears it. He did not go to art school or architectural school or any other type of training to hone his skills. He found them while homeless, living on the beach, surrounded by rocks, needing a way to escape the worries in his mind and find a peaceful state -balancing rocks did just that.
Manny doesn’t use any tricks or tools. He finds rocks of all different shapes and sizes and twists and shifts them very slowly until the balance between them feels just right. Then he lets go. To the shock and awe of his fans, the rocks stay standing and he’s able to create unique works of art that dot Ventura’s beaches.
It was last December that Manny created his most famous piece; a nativity scene that brought visitors from across the United State’s to Ventura’s beaches to admire his art. Manny could not believe the ways his art touched people. He had hundreds of people surrounding the nativity scene at the beach, bringing flowers and thanking him for creating it. Some even cried. It was this event that inspired Manny to chase his dream of building rock art for a living.
It’s obvious that Manny has a unique talent and he’s grateful to those that have recognized it. He’s built unique works for private homes and has been offered jobs that would be an amazing opportunity for him. For example, building rock art to decorate the lobby of a hotel in Beverly Hills or designing a unique piece for an architecture firm in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Manny has had to turn down some of these opportunities because he doesn’t have the tools he needs to create permanent pieces or even the means of transportation to get to the jobs.
It wasn’t long ago that Manny was homeless. He’s eternally grateful for a woman he now considers family who offered him food and shelter in a spare room in her house, and he continues to work toward his dream of making a living off his art. But he knows he has a tough road ahead.
“I will not give up on this dream. I know that my art has made many people smile. Often they thank me for building it but when I see them smile, I feel like it’s a gift for me. This is something I am good at and something I can give to Ventura and all the people who come to see it. I hope to have the tools I need to make a living from my art one day.”