Under the Sun and Closer to Home:
The Pageant of the Masters Shines Brightly.
William Griffith, Joseph Kleitsch, William Wendt and his wife Julia Bracken Wendt, Anna Hills and Franz Bischoff. These and other early masters’ paintings and sculptures are brought to life at this year’s Pageant of the Masters titled “Under the Sun.”
“William Wendt at Work,” by William Griffith exemplifies the closeness of the Laguna Beach arts community. Everyone knew each other, looked out for each other and, presumably, also painted together. Hills, for example, was instrumental in founding the Laguna Beach Art Association, a forerunner of the Laguna Art Museum which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
Hence, it’s fitting that “Under the Sun” spotlights what we might by now call our very own “old masters.” William Hahn’s “Mexican Cattle Drivers in Southern California,” had been shown in a previous LAM show as was Charles Christian Nahl’s “The Fandango.” The latter, with its vivacious couple dancing, is an ideal Pageant choice since it’s not too crowded and so showcases the skill with which performing volunteers bring a painting to life.
As has been customary for the last few years, Pageant narrator Richard Doyle is letting the audience in on technical and staging secrets.
More modern Laguna Beach icons are getting their due as well. Roger Kuntz’ “Interior with Figure,” “Thirty-Three” and “Court Pattern,” are converted into the Pageant’s signature tableaux vivants this year.
A surfer, jazz musician, sculptor and craftsman, he was as at home on Laguna’s beaches as he was in his studio and yet, he also found beauty in Southern California growing network of freeways and bridge overpasses. The Laguna Art Museum has staged several retrospectives of his work.
A large segment of the first act is devoted to surfing, another Laguna preoccupation. The audience applauded Rex Brand’s “Surfriders,” and Millard Sheet’s “Pleasures Along the Beach.” John Van Hamersveld’s iconic poster “Endless Summer” evoked memories of the flick and the carefree youth it portrayed.
Speaking of youth, it’s fun to see the diversity of Pageant audiences ranging from pre-schoolers to grandparents who all seemed to enjoy gaggle of skateboarders rolling past the stage and orchestra pit. It would have been cool to see a few tricks in the lineup.
Throughout, the orchestra seamlessly segued from surf music to jazz to more eclectic strains which made music once again a huge part of the enjoyment.
As before, viewers were awed by realism of the living “sculptures,” as in Joe Rosenthal’s photographic tribute to the veterans of WWII and the civilians who endured it “Flag Raising Over Iwo Jima.
The second act moves the narrative to Europe and Polynesia. John Singer Sargent’s “The Gondoliers’ Siesta” and “The Garden Wall” are engaging and the series of three-dimensional Art Nouveau pieces as fantastic as ever. I can never get enough of the way Pageant performers and make-up artist present what some have dismissed as “decorative art.”
Director/producer Diane Challis Davy and script writer Dan Duling also provide material for thought with their presentation of Claude Monet’s “Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) and “The Boat at Giverny.” Many might not have known before that Monet, known as the father of impressionism and seemingly everyone’s favorite painter, at times struggled to feed his family.
More interesting even is the inclusion of Paul Gauguin, a wildly talented and innovative painter whose life-style would today elicit howls of outrage, especially in the wake of the “me-too movement.” Some might have been inspired ,as I was, to re-research the man and his art. Meanwhile one of his major works “Where Do We Come From? What We Are?” transcend times, cultures and mores. But, a mensch he was not.
I recommend three links worth follow up reading:
As has become Pageant tradition, the show closes with Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper” which to to many comprises the closest thing to a religious experience.
As every year, the souvenir program is well worth acquiring since it contains a wealth of background stories and information about the Pageant and the army of volunteers that keep it humming along. For example: Did you know that the Pageant has become a family tradition to some? At least seven couples participating in the Pageant have met and married while there. And, volunteer Charles Thompson retired after portraying Jesus in the Last Supper for 30 years. This year, his grandson is in the cast of “Fandango.”
—Daniella B. Walsh
Other faves are Lorser Feitelson’s “Maternity” and Millard Sheets’”Abandoned”—The list goes on. There’s not a clunker in the line-up, testament to Blake and Solon’s experienced eyes.
The catalog accompanying “Art Colony…” is a worthy investment not only for the quality of the reproductions but also for cogent essays by the curators and Lindy Narver who delves into the artists’ community ties.
Hills, "High Tide, Laguna Beach"
In 1918 an enterprising group of 13 artists including Mabel Alvarez, Roy Clarkson Colman, Frank Cuprien, Conway Griffith, Anna Althea Hills, Edgar Payne, Hanson Puhufff, Jack Wilkinson Smith, Gardner Symons, Elmer Wachtel, William Wendt and a group of their friends staged a show of their work in an abandoned community building, officially kicking off what had been founded as The Laguna Beach Art Association by 150 charter members. Wend served as its first president.
Altogether the group showed roughly 100 paintings that by accounts were seen by 300 visitors on opening night, a deluge in those days. When the show folded, more than 2,500 people had signed the guest register.
As San Francisco transplant Norman St. Clair had envisioned in 1903, Laguna Beach had indeed become an art colony.. The LBAA soon boasted 150 charter members.
During the ensuing century, this association of Laguna Beach painters intent on selling their work to a bourgeoning number of tourists morphed into the Laguna Art Museum, currently led by British-born executive director Malcolm Warner who is as intent on guiding it into the 21st century.
To celebrate its centennial, the museum has staged “Art Colony: The Laguna Beach Art Association 1918-1935,” an exhibition curated by Janet Blake, curator of historical art and guest curator Deborah Epstein Solon. A winning combination as it turned out.
The museum has also published a separate book, “Laguna Art Museum: A Centennial History, 1918-2018.” Penned by executive director Malcolm Warner, it’s evidence of Warner’s enjoyment while rumaging through the museum’s historical files and permanent collection. Here we see what Laguna Beach and the people who comprised its communty looked like throughout its history. Note the photo of G. Ray Kerciu and his “Save Laguna Art Museum” 1996 Patriot’s Day float and a replica of the poster alerting the communty of the museum’s, thankfully, temporary endangerment by a voracious institution known now as the Orange County Art Museum.
Viewers can commune with what amounts to our “old masters” Hills, Payne, Kleitsch and the like but also with more modern painters such as American Scene painter Barse Miller and the incomparable Helen Lundeberg. George Bandriff’s “Sunday Reflection” and “Sunday Fish Market” as well as Hill’s “The Spell of the Sea” and Clarence Hinkle’s abstracted “Laguna Shoreline” resonated with this water-sign viewer. Then there’s Frank Cuprien’s iconic “Untitled sunset Laguna,” a treasure for the ages.
Kudos also to museum design staff that transformed the main gallery into a close replica of the first Laguna Beach Art Association replete with dark wood benches and wainscoting. I suggest beginning the first visit in the back gallery containing the scale model of that historic gallery, a standout for replication of paintings found in the initial exhibition.
A&M contributor Liz Goldner introduces "The Laguna Canyon Project: Refining Artivism," written by the late Mark Chamberlain, in conjunction with other activists successful in preserving the bucolic nature of Laguna Canyon as well as part of Laguna Beach's socio-political and artistic heritage.
She also pays loving tribute to Chamberlain, her partner for at least 15 years.
In her own words:
“The Laguna Canyon Project: Refining Artivism”
relates the history of an art project that helped save Laguna Beach
Mark Chamberlain, co-founder, Laguna Canyon Project, possessed natural charisma and grace; qualities that helped him attract people to the activist causes he championed throughout his life. His Canyon Project, in particular, was a photographic/installation documentation of the Canyon Road, documenting its changes over time, while creating awareness of regional and global environmental issues. The project (co-founded with partner Jerry Burchfield) had sixteen phases, the most impactful of which was “The Tell,” a 636-foot-long photomural, erected in today’s Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. With this public art installation as backdrop and stimulus, many thousand artists and activists protested construction of a massive housing community in Laguna Canyon. They ultimately prevented this construction in 1989, and today the canyon is designated as undeveloped land into perpetuity.
Laguna Wilderness Press (LWP) was founded in 2003 by Burchfield and UC Riverside professor emeritus Ron Chilcote. Among LWP’s original goals was to publish a book on the Canyon Project. In 2013, Mark Chamberlain and I were asked to create “The Laguna Canyon Project: Refining Artivism.” http://lagunawildernesspress.com/product/the-laguna-canyon-project/. He wrote the main essay and chose its images. I oversaw his essay for accuracy, helped edited the book, and wrote the Preface.
Chamberlain’s 13,000-word essay begins with his journey to Laguna Beach in 1969, then includes this area’s archeological, indigenous, artistic and counterculture history, the history of BC Space and the Laguna Canyon Project. The chapter, “The Iconography of The Tell,” reads in part: “As the story progressed, coming out of the hillside down toward the road, the mural had the first recognizable shapes at the fifty-seven-foot long Barosaurus dinosaur. Then there appeared a depiction of the Indian Ceremonial Plaza, followed by a Conestoga wagon careening downhill overtaking a startled deer. This was followed by other symbols of the white man’s influence, such as a telegraph pole with a dollar sign and a cactus made up of steel and glass buildings.”
Contributors to the book are former Irvine Mayor and OC Great Park chairman Larry Agran, Jerry Burchfield, who passed away in 2009, Paul Freeman, lead negotiator for the Laguna Canyon land purchase by Laguna Beach; Mike McGee, Cal State Fullerton art department professor, Mike Phillips, Laguna Beach news writer, and Leah Vasquez, former chair, Laguna Beach Arts Commission. Collectively, they address the history and dynamics of the canyon and of the Laguna Canyon Project.
Chamberlain grew up in a conservative Iowa family—with his father descended from Peregrine White, the first white child born in the New World. http://mayflowerhistory.com/white-peregrine/. Yet his leftist political leanings grew from his spirit to embrace people who dwelled beyond his patrician homestead. He wrote in 2012, “From age 12, my summers were spent on the Mighty Mississippi in a wooden flat boat with an outboard motor, prowling the mysterious backwaters, tributaries and sloughs. I philosophized with the commercial fishermen and cottage dwellers, and got to know every river rat, wing dam and whirlpool within fifty river miles of Dubuque.”
His political proclivities became more pronounced while receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa, and in the army in Korea during the Viet Nam War. Chamberlain wrote, “I picked up a camera as a means of focusing my attention and observations while maintaining a certain objective detachment, but also providing a way to share my views with others. I came to embrace the power of the photograph to communicate ideas, not just convey images of things or activities.”
Chamberlain also developed a growing awareness of the horrors of war, especially from observing “damaged” soldiers who were sojourning in Korea before returning home from Viet Nam. He soon turned his back on his early destiny, which was to run his father’s insurance agency. “After being discharged, I decided to come to California in 1969, where the action was, with the ambition of creating a gallery devoted to fine art photography. The rest is the history of BC Space in Laguna Beach.”
BC Space, which Chamberlain and Burchfield opened in 1973, became a venue for exhibitions, often addressing political and social issues. It also became a launching pad for the Laguna Canyon Project.
Mark Chamberlain and I put the finishing touches on “The Laguna Canyon Project: Refining Artivism” in December 2017. By then, our collaborative composing and editing of words had become a labor of love. The book was sent to the printer, with the first few copies arriving from China in April 2018. Chilcote brought a copy to Mark, who was by then confined to a hospital bed, due to lung cancer. For the next several weeks, he proudly showed the book to the hundreds of people who visited him in the hospital. Before he passed away peacefully on April 23, 2018, I assured him that I would continue to promote the Laguna Canyon Project book and his amazing legacy to save Laguna Canyon.
Also noteworthy are the references to the museum stage “Art and Nature” symposia, series of exhibitions, installations and events evidencing the confluence of art, science and the abundance of natural beauty.
There’s plenty of time to see the show more than once. It runs through Jan.13, 2019.
—Daniella B. Walsh
"Tests of Time"
A Photographer's Journey and Tale
Muhammad Ali, Tina Turner, John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, Woody Allen, Robert DeNiro and a plethora of Kennedys—world traveler, photojournalist and fine art photographer Brian Hamill has captured them all in images that eloquently reveal his subjects and the places and times onto which they made their indelible marks.
Mr. Hamill was born in Brooklyn, NY and studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Beginning in the mid-1960s, he covered nearly everything from the Rock’n Roll scene and entertainment to politics and sports, particularly boxing.
He has exhibited throughout the US and Canada, and his work has appeared in numerous books, including the acclaimed “Woody Allen at Work: The Photographs of Brian Hamill.”
The Forest&Ocean Gallery is proud to stage an exhibition of Mr. Hamill’s photographs titled “Tests of Time” between July 24 and August 27, 2018. Julie Laughton, proprietor of Julie Laughton Design Build, brings Mr. Hamill and his work to Laguna Beach/Forest&Ocean Gallery.
A collection of his fine art prints will be available for sale.
A detailed profile of the artist and examples of his work can be found at www.brianhamill.com
Kleitsch, "Old Post Office"
Kleitsch, "The Drug Store"
Let It Bleed Bro
by Brian Hamill
The sixties were--mostly--way cool.
Lights and darks. Highs and lows. Cheers and tears. Always, excitement.
Despite the roller-coaster extremes of what was going on, those of us who partied hard in that decade will always remember it as the best of times. And the worst of times.
This generation is sick of hearing all that. I can dig it. But those of us who lived it have it carved in stone in our collective memories. A lot of shit went down. It wasn’t just our long hair. We didn’t need technological devices that the Looking-Down (at cell phones) generation of today depend upon to function. Technology is their new drug, adding layers of distance from face to face real life, and creating anxiety with “social media” pressure.
We looked into each other’s blood-shot eyes and spoke live.
We didn’t need to look at a screen to know how to act.
We believed in a form of hip chaos.
We didn’t worry about ending sentences with a preposition.
“Where the party at”?
My crew was: diddy- boppin’, finger-poppin’, jukin’, jivin’, dancin’, table-hoppin’, joint-sharin’, bar-hoppin’, club goin’, fun-lovin’ protest-marchin’ motherfuckers.
We didn’t need no stinking cellphones!!
Let the music roll now.
Sinatra, Elvis, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, The Isley Brothers, and lots of Doo-Wop were in my music stash as the decade began.
In the fall of 1963, Marvin Gaye released a single, “Can I get a Witness”. My man Marvin was totally cool. I listened to that 45-R.P.M. several times a day during my freshman year at college. I will listen to him until the day I throw a seven.
Two months later, on November 22nd, President JFK was assassinated by a crummy stooge. The nation was shocked and saddened. We all remember where we were when it happened.
The Beatles exploded on the set too. NYC was like, WOW! The nation was like, WOW! We dug them to the hilt. In a small way they helped lessen the pain of our President’s murder. On February 9, 1964 we all got to see them perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Another WOW!
In my hood in Brooklyn, they helped turn dudes, me included, from hitters into hippies. Bob Dylan reinforced that vibe with great songs of protest like, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “The Times They Are a Changin”. He was “our” poet. A definite WOW!
Another big event of 1964 was the first Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston fight on February 24th in Miami. We saw Ali (then Cassius Clay) put a ti-fi ass whuppin’ on the Big Ugly Bear. My crowd was jubilant. We loved him. We still do. Ali is one of the truly great Americans and the most iconic person I have had the privilege to photograph.
In July there was a riot in Harlem a few days after a cop shot and killed a 15 year old black kid in the east 70’s during a lame incident and a questionable confrontation. It was a long hot summer afterward.
Then came The Rolling Stones.
Also in 1964, while working a summer gig as a copy-boy at the NY Post, my co-worker Fred Waitzkin (who is now a gifted, distinguished author) pulled my coat to The Rolling Stones. I had heard them on the radio, but I was still all over The Beatles and Dylan to pay them “no-never-mind”. The next day after our Stones convo Fred brought in The Rolling Stones recently released first album, “The Rolling Stones”. The cover photograph provoked my interest.
They looked bad. The old school Brooklyn in me liked that look.
Fred implored me to get a copy.
To this day I am indebted to Fred’s fabulous taste in music. The Stones did awesome rockin’ covers of songs from America’s wonderful, under-appreciated, black blues artists. The album still rocks my soul. The Stones most definitely mined the U.S.A for much of their creative inspiration and to honor those legends like Muddy Waters whose material they covered.
In late October, 1964 I took the subway to E14th Street to cop a pair of kicks. It was an early Saturday afternoon and in those days, E14th between 3rd and 4th Avenues had at least ten shoe stores to explore and I was a shoe freak. I was very down with the block as well, having trained as a teenage fighter there at the storied Gramercy Gym run by the legendary boxing guru Cus D’Amato who made Floyd Patterson, Jose Torres and Mike Tyson into world champions. From 1960-1962 I was taught the boxing skills and discipline of Cus’s style by the brilliant boxing trainer Joey Fariello.
The Gramercy stable-mates often watched championship fights on closed-circuit TV next door at The Academy of Music. As I started eye-tapping the parade of shoes in each store window, I gazed up at the Academy marquee: The Rolling Stones—2:00 and 7 PM.
In those days I lived on very short dough, barely enough to buy the European shoes I dug. I walked in my worn shoes to the box-office and confirmed that the Stones were playing an afternoon gig. As I recall, a ticket was a pricey $6.00. (Stones freaks can check the internet). I decided to score the shoes.
As I started to descend the subway steps after my shoe purchase, with less than ten dollars left to my name, I heard Mick Jagger’s voice in my head singing his cover of “I Just Want to Make Love to You”. Later for Brooklyn. I ran back up the subway stairs and I took my impulsive young ass, and my new kicks into the Academy of Music to see The Rolling Stones.
The joint was half-empty.
Mick Jagger moved around the stage like an epileptic chicken but the dude was dazzling. He sang like a champ. The band played an energizing, unpolished yet mesmerizing combo of blues and rock. Jagger did not have James Brown’s moves, but he displayed a certain uninhibited moving, stage-mastery that made one believe the man could actually dance. Put all those elements together with heartfelt, powerful songs and I knew I had just witnessed a sensational show. I can’t remember what those 14th Street/European shoes looked like, but I’ll never forget the Rolling Stones at The Academy of Music. Their future was stretched out in front of them.
It was a bright one.
My Stones Jones began after watching that gig and it has lasted a lifetime
On February 21st, 1965 Malcolm X got assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC. He was only 39 years old. They arrested, tried, and convicted three people for his murder. Another sterling leader with vision was gone too soon. That following summer, I was trying on a pair of shoes in Bloom’s in the Village on 6th Avenue next to the Waverly theater when a gorgeous girl with long blonde hair, and a long white dress holding a large bouquet of flowers came up to me, and handed me a beauty and said:”Flower Power”, and hit me with a big, radiant smile. I smiled back, speechless. It was a serenity moment.
But it would not last for too long.
I was listening to a lot of Motown including Smokey, The Temps, Mary Wells, Marvin, Martha and the Vandellas. I was just layin’ in the cut when I heard about the Watts riot in LA. It was a different kind of “Dancin’ in the Streets”.
During the summer of love in 1967, Hippie Hill in Prospect Park where we hung out attracted hundreds of people not only from other hoods, but from other states! It was a cool outdoor party day and night.
Lots of my friends, including me, had gotten drafted into the “green-machine” (US ARMY) in 1966. A chunk of them went to Vietnam including my kid bother Johnny and my best friend GR (George Ryan). Luckily, I didn’t. I was still able to do the hippie scene traveling home from my Army base on many weekends minus my long hair. Most neighborhood Nam’ dudes came back to the world. Sadly, a few didn’t. Several of those who returned had emotional guilt-ridden thoughts, vivid nightmares, and panic attacks that were later characterized as PTSD. It was disturbing to witness. Some still suffer from that serious illness. It is truly a drag. I got out of the “green-machine” in April, 1968. But a week before I was discharged Martin Luther King was murdered by a racist creep. I remember my mother crying on the phone about Dr. King right after his murder.
Another strong, peaceful leader was gone.
Six weeks after that I was in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in LA with my camera when Bobby Kennedy got assassinated on June 5th, 1968 by a young fanatic with two first names. I had just walked right past this bum before he pulled out the gun. It was the worst night of my young life. I spent the next month after that horrible night hanging out in Laguna Beach listening to music, drinking beer, smoking weed, looking at beautiful surfer girls, just trying to cool out and maintain.
On July 18th, 1969 Teddy Kennedy had an alcohol-influenced car accident but did the wrong thing right after at Chappaquiddick. A special young woman died.
On August 9th, 1969 the jailhouse punk Charles Manson manipulated some of his stupid, idolatry-prone, and acid-laced minions to go from the Spahn ranch in the desert to LA to murder “rich people” and ended up slaughtering a cluster of decent, nice people including an eight and a half month pregnant woman named Sharon Tate. That swine Manson had the nerve to use a Beatle song (Helter Skelter) to swindle the minds of his fucked-up followers. That whole deal wigged me out. The whole nation shuttered behind it.
Yeah, the sixties had its casualties. It wasn’t all a cool party.
A few days later I landed in Woodstock—the festival—not the actual town. I needed the “peace and serenity” and, of course, the wonderful music, but equally important the four hundred thousand people who shared the fantastic, once in a lifetime event with me, including GR and about twenty other people from my Brooklyn neighborhood.
We just had a ball-that’s all.
At around the same time, Richard Nixon was slithering around the White House already adding names to his “enemies list”, the dirty tricks were in action, and the “Peace with Honor” jive was getting swallowed by the Silent Majority while the real “silent majority” were the dead Americans in Vietnam.
The “Summer of Love” was a fading memory.
On November, 15th.1969 I found myself in front of the White House with a group of friends and a couple of my brothers at the Moratorium March on Washington where we further protested the Vietnam War. It was like the Woodstock of protest marches among another half million people demanding that Nixon should end the war. It fell on deaf ears.
There were three New York miracles in 1969.
First, the Amazin’ Mets won The World Series. Then Joe Namath’s white kicks danced The Jets to a Super-Bowl triumph.
The third miracle happened forty-six years ago today. On Thanksgiving night, November 27th, 1969, The Rolling Stones held their first Madison Square Garden Concert. The Stones had moved from the half-full Academy of Music just five years earlier to a sold-out arena holding twenty thousand people. I photographed that astounding show from the lip of the stage. It was a ringside seat to history. I was in the right place at the right time. I was lucky. The Stones kicked out the jams with a wild, foot-stomping, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. The audience went crazy! The Stones were in superlative form.
Jagger bounced on stage wearing an Uncle Sam hat, and that man’s hat was where he was at! He had on a black outfit with an eye-catching design on his chest (a Leo sign, an Omega sign, take your pick, freaks). The dramatic lights illuminated the silver studs up the seams of his skinny pants. He sported a studded black choker and a crimson colored scarf around his long neck. He looked as bad as he wanted to be! He was dancing’ and prancin’ and singing his young ass off! That night, at 27 years old, Jagger owned legitimate self-confidence, youthful soul, and the non-stop vitality of a star for the rock and roll ages. He was like a human tornado, spinning back and forth across the stage belting out that great bluesy voice that has always distinguished him from other white singers. But Jagger had big help from the magic and the music of the great Rock and Roll band with him, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and newcomer Mick Taylor. They took rock music to another level the same way Ali did wonders for boxing, excuse me, they were The Rolling Stones. They were not just an appendage to Jagger’s lead singer deal; the four dudes with him were all immensely talented.
Ladies and Gentleman, The Rolling Stones, turned the joint out!
They owned The Garden. They opened the noses of a multitude of women in the audience. Some dudes too.
Their sound system was more sophisticated and the lighting was cooler and the set list was a combo of terrific songs from the Beggars Banquet album and new ones from the soon to be released Let It Bleed album including the opera-like “Midnight Rambler” with two fabulous Chuck Berry songs (“Carol” and “Little Queenie”) and their own classic, “Satisfaction”, thrown into the superb mix. But they still had that unpolished raw energy from the Academy of Music that will be forever young and fun and bad ass. Some critics have said that the political turmoil that went down during the decade motivated the new darker, Let It Bleed, lyrics. They were certainly more provocative and edgy. Whatever the inspiration, the evolving Jagger/Richards writing team displayed more creative, complex, and profound songs. That night in the Garden the Stones reached a pinnacle in Rock and Roll history with this thrilling, mind-blowing concert.
They OUTWOWED all previous live performances by anyone I had ever seen before or since. They turned my head!
As a matter of fact it was a gas.
Art Colony Grows into Art Metropolis in Just 100 Years
Stepping into a Wonderland of Art.
Opening to the public on July 5, the Festival of Arts entered its 86th year. As the throngs attending pre-opening events attested, last year’s $10.5 million facelift has turned the octogenarian into a youthful beauty. To celebrate, the show themed “A Wonderland of Art” and, as befits it, some artists and visitors dressed as characters from “Alice in Wonderland.” A shoutout to Todd McLain and Britnee Garza who crisscrossed the grounds dressed as Madhatters on stilts and the whimsical balloon sculptures by Top Hat Balloon Werks.
Booths are light and airy, allowing visitors to ease between displays, and there’s enough room for artists to commune with collectors, many of whom keep returning year after year.
“it’’s a great show for everybody,” remarked gallerist Carla Arzente.
Given the current infernal heat wave and, presumably more to come, shading of the entire display area with tensile roofing and LED lights are a huge improvement.
What is also apparent that the quality of art is holding steady. Newcomers include, among others, glass artist Jorge Burtin whose intricate mosaics evidence technical acumen and, presumably, infinite patience.
Corinne Miller Schaff’s lovely hand-painted silk scarves might tempt accessory-averse millenials to consider taking a fashion page from their moms or grandmothers. Not to be missed are Gil Dellinger’s exquisite pastel landscapes. Here for his first season, he is at the top of the heap of local landscape painters. LPAPA member Michael Obermeyer deserves similar praise. As an added bonus, he throws in a few naked ladies.
Collectors of fine art photography are not short-changed either this year. Works are numerous as well as technically and aesthetically diverse.
Festival veteran Tom Lamb’s aerial photographs of a disappearing Southern California topography keep attracting new collectors. This year he has tried something new, photographs turned into woven works of art, that is to say, small rugs. \
Jacques Garnier’s dramatical architectural photography still intrigues as well, after being bestsellers last year. Jeffrey Rovner has made a name for himself with his “Petit Cirque,” images of kids performing feats a la Cirque du Soleil. This season he’s brought back the circus, that’s to say, the darker side of it. Still in black and white, the images are more compelling than ever.
Mitch Ridder, a photo journalist, continues to capture the neon ghosts of Route 66. Andrew C. Ko weighs in with tranquil yet dramatic black and white images.
FoA regulars will rejoice in re-connecting with Lesli Bonnani who landed a booth in the eleventh hour or old friends like Michael Situ, an exemplary plain-air painter and FoA, as well as the Sawdust Festival exhibitor, David Milton who is still capturing everyday America as it becomes more iconic over the years.
April Raber is back with her captivating urbanscapes, and Elizabeth McGhee, an ingenue when she first appeared at FoA, is still transforming local women into mythological beings and bringing us her own version of magical toys. Among urbanscapes, Pil Ho Lee’s paintings, introduced last year, continue to be a standout.
To my great joy, Jordan Dimitrov’s ships are back. For those who might be too stretched to afford one of those one of a kind wonders, he has added prints this year.
Speaking about: Print making appears to be making a renaissance as evidenced by the stunning work of Vinita Voogd. Altogether there are eight printmakers present, and printmaking workshops are being offered as well.
Last but by no means least, it’s the kids who steal the show as they have every year. From pre-kindergarten to high school, there is some serious talent developing right here in Orange County. A great number of pieces by, say, eleventh-graders are already way superior than some of the stuff seen in some galleries. The show is a must-see for anyone who enchanted by children’s imagination and creativity and ! the grinches who discount the importance of arts in school curricula.
Throughout the summer, Arts&Minds will continue to keep you posted on Festival artists and their work and also visit the Sawdust and Art-A-Fair.
—Daniella B. Walsh
Festival of Arts: Through Sept. 1, 2018
Hours: Weekdays, noon to 11:30 p.m. Weekends: 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (early closing Aug. 25, 1:30 p.m.)
Admission: Weekdays $10, Weekends $15. Students, seniors $7 and $11. Children 6-12 $5.
Military, Laguna Beach residents and under 5, free.
See www.FoA.com for special events and workshops Phone: 949-494-1145