Arts & Culture
| April 26, 2013 9:38 AM
Dave Hobrecht at his gallery in north Laguna
Photos by Jody Tiongco
“I wasn’t thinking about art as a career,” Dave Hobrecht says from behind a small reception desk at his gallery in north Laguna. Well into his 30s before he was making enough money to drop his day job, it’s clear Dave intends to make the most of his artistic calling. First impressions defy the artistic stereotype—he’s too affable, too clean-cut, too grounded. But does any accomplished creative fit convention? “It was a hobby,” he continues, “something I loved doing.”
The paintings on display look like giant, stylized black-and-white photographs. Norman Rockwell is an obvious source of inspiration. There’s a lot of activity, even in the backgrounds—as if each scene holds more than one story. For the observer, the imagery conveys a palpable sense of adventure and high drama.
Dave’s work exhibits a deft eye for detail. But rather than jumping to categorize his style as a late entry to the photorealist movement that was popular during the Cold War era—artists like Cynthia Poole, who painted the Mars chocolate bar and other food packaging—there’s an equal pull to acknowledge the influence of modern graphic novels.
After all, most of his subjects could have been lifted from the pages of Sports Illustrated. Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in the World Series, Tony Hawk skating a quiet neighborhood pool with the relaxed confidence of a contest final, Smokin’ Joe Frazier fending off a vicious Muhammad Ali blow at the “Thrilla in Manila”—all are captured at precisely the right moment in time.
“We feature about 35 pieces at both our locations,” restaurateur Jeremy Foti proudly announces. His sports bars, the Tap Shack in Newport and the Tap House in Huntington Beach, have entire walls showcasing Hobrecht art. “We have an 8.5-foot Kobe Bryant that one person offered a substantial amount to buy right off the wall.” On his own initiative, Jeremy added a Dave Hobrecht biography page to his menus to answer patrons’ frequent curiosity about the unique sports art.
“I have some Stephen Holland paintings,” he adds, referencing another highly regarded sports artist, “but they don’t compare.” For his home, Jeremy commissioned several original works from Dave, including one of baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan with his entire family strategically blended into the stadium crowd. “I really like what Dave does. It has a look I’ve never seen before.”
The artist earned his own bio page on the menu at the Tap Shack and Tap House restaurants, where his artwork adorns the walls.
Layers Upon Layers
“My method is a little different,” Dave says. “I can paint with oils and acrylics, but I’ve always loved charcoal.” He explains that, on its own, charcoal is too grainy. After sandpapering pastels into a fine dust, he mixes them with charcoal, and then uses a series of customized brushes to achieve the desired shade. For large paintings, Dave paints on canvas; for smaller ones, he uses durable hot-pressed watercolor paper glued to a flat wood backing.
He begins with a pencil sketch of shapes and outlines. “It looks like trash at the beginning,” he jokes. “[There are] tons of color base-coats and all these shapes. Then I do a whole layer of cutting things out with my erasers.” Although from a distance the paintings project a certain photographic quality, a closer examination reveals the extent to which creative license is taken with the lighting.
Original paintings can take up to 120 hours to complete. “The reason my originals take so long is that you have to build up layers,” he explains. “You can’t just take black paint to go over a black section.”
Dave creates layer by layer, taking up to 120 hours to complete one piece of artwork.
Artist by Accident
Dave’s technique and style are almost entirely self-taught. In grade school, like many boys growing up in the beach cities, all he wanted to do was play baseball and surf. On his first day of summer between grade and high school, however, Dave was hit by a car. His parents wondered if he would live through the night.
“It knocked a couple weeks out of me, so I don’t remember a lot about the accident,” he muses. “I was laid up for a long time.” With a body cast up to his waist and a dire prognosis of a permanent limp, Dave had a lot of time for board games and drawing. “My mom loaded me up with baseball cards and art supplies.”
Still, it would be years later before Dave would explore the possibility of making a living from his art. In college he was a business major. “I took one art class,” he recalls. “It was a horrible experience.”
He describes being at constant loggerheads with the instructor, who deemed his work too structured. Despite it being one of those courses in which merely turning in the assignments is usually enough to get an A, Dave managed to irritate the instructor into giving him a C. “It’s pretty funny,” he says. “I’d like to talk to him now, see what he thinks.”
After graduating from USC, he went to work for his father’s automotive accessories company, but as he says, “Selling auto parts just wasn’t for me.” In 2002, he called Surfer Magazine and said he wanted to be their new cartoonist. The editor agreed to run one of his cartoons, and if it received a positive response, he’d do another. “I did it for two years,” he remembers. “Didn’t make much money, but I loved it.”
Between cartoons for the magazine, Dave quietly began painting, developing the technique he now has down to a science. He submitted “Tree,” a 66-inch canvas of a pristine wave viewed from a tropical vantage point, to The Surfer’s Journal.
On the day the issue came out, a woman called from Hawaii and offered to buy the painting. “I loved that painting, and didn’t want to sell it,” Dave says. “I threw out a number that [was high enough that] I thought she’d say no.” She agreed without hesitation.
Around the time of his first major sale, commissioned works began pouring in. The USC football team asked Dave to do a painting. He captured UCLA basketball legend Bill Walton grabbing a fiercely contested rebound, who was so impressed that not only did he agree to sign the work, but he soon became Dave’s business partner. In 2011, Bill introduced Dave to Newport Beach investment bankers who went on to provide the capital to open his Laguna Beach gallery, Hobrecht Sports Art.
“What would take me to a new level was when I called Topps baseball cards,” Dave explains. It took some effort to get in contact with the decision makers, but he has since positioned himself as one of the select few artists who provide the famous trading card company with original art.
Topps mails 25 to 50 small, blank sketch cards at a time for Dave to paint portraits of athletes and entertainment personalities. They take his black-and-white drawings, colorize them digitally, and randomly insert them into retail packaging. On Ebay, Dave’s trading cards go for upwards of $500 each.
“He kind of gets it,” says Clay Luraschi, a Topps marketing executive. “He’s got one of those very distinctive styles. He understands what collectors like.”
Dave’s “Steve Smith” and corresponding TOPPS National Chicle card
Beyond the Canvas
Dave’s latest projects combine an element of the playing surface itself into his art. For a Derek Jeter painting, he ground earth from the new Yankee Stadium infield into the paint using a mortar and pestle. “This stuff is great to work with,” Dave says of the red dirt. “It’s got a clay-ish feel to it.”
For other paintings, Dave has incorporated turf from the Del Mar horse racing track, sand from Hawaii’s Pipeline beach, and bunker dirt from historic golf courses, all in the name of bringing some fun into his work. As compared to his trademark black and white, the result of this new technique is warmer, sepia tones.
Despite earning overwhelming popular acclaim, the contemporary art world has been slow to give Dave its seal of approval. “I sell my work to stadiums instead of museums,” Dave explains, clearly taking it all in his relaxed stride. “If you go outside that boundary, you’re more likely [to be called] a sellout. Go ahead and label me a sellout, just as long as I get to paint what I love.”
A rigorous schedule of 16-hour days, virtually seven days a week, doesn’t keep Dave, 41, from enjoying other, equally important aspects of his life. A single father of three—two daughters and a son—he drops his adolescent kids off at school every day and always gets home in time to prepare their dinner and help out with homework.
“That’s why I drink all that coffee,” he exclaims. “I’m backlogged a ton, so I can’t lighten up. But I make myself go to bed at midnight, so I can wake up the next day and do it again. I’m a fanatic, but I don’t get burned out.”
Now fully recovered from his life-changing car accident, Dave also finds the time to enjoy his new home in Laguna. “I grew up surfing, and there are some good spots around here. I love getting into the water.”
He mentions hiking in the canyons and exploring the tidepools, but it’s the community toward which he is particularly affectionate. “I love the art feel around here,” he says. “The people are so creative, so nice. Laguna has a great vibe—I don’t see myself ever leaving.”
We spent some time with Dave in his gallery, and he showed us part of his creative process. See the video below:
| March 22, 2013 2:50 PM
Bret Englander, Daniel Wacholder, Nick Sheridan
of Cerno Group, an industrial design and
manufacturing company/Photo by Jody Tiongco
A local designer and gallerist help navigate the waters between the gallery and the home:
When purchasing a work of art, how can you best integrate its aesthetic statement with your own?
Bret Englander, co-founder, director of sales and marketing, Cerno Group
A well-designed space responds and relates to the architecture, surrounding spaces and often outside environment, as well as objects within the space. Whether you’re starting with a blank canvas or not, it’s important to understand these relationships. That’s not to say you can’t juxtapose traditional, mid-century and contemporary in one space, but rather, all elements should relate and work well together.
When it’s done well, a properly designed space becomes a large piece of interactive functional art. Interior designers can miss the mark when they neglect to make their designs functional living spaces, and prioritize aesthetics over functionality. The objects selected for a space should add to the overall design experience, as well as be functional while working well aesthetically with the space and the other objects.
Our products are a marriage of form and function. Nick [Sheridan, director of design] and Daniel [Wacholder, director of operations and engineering] sit side by side, ensuring nothing is lost in translation during development. Nick designs knowing the intended function of the product, so in theory, you could say function dictates form, but the real goal is to combine both seamlessly.
Two-dimensional works of art that hang on a wall, three-dimensional sculptures, furniture and lighting are all absolutely functional, in that they function as part of the overall “designed experience.”
Bill Bradfield, marketing and sales director, Townley Gallery
When I’m working with clients regarding an art piece for a specific space, I keep a number of different factors in mind. The first and most important part is how the artwork makes my client feel. Is it a good fit for the space? How large is the space and what colors are in the room? What is the style of architecture and will the artwork complement the space? You don’t want a piece of art to totally dominate the room, but it is great to see when a piece complements the surroundings and blends well with the environment. You also want a piece to really touch you and make you feel good in the room that we are decorating. The great thing about working with my clients is that the variety and style of so many of the artists that I work with, between Laguna ART Group and the two galleries that we have in Laguna Beach [Townley Gallery and LGOCA], I’m sure to find the perfect art piece for the space in mind, and the client will enjoy it for years to come.
“Blue Wall” by John Mason, Laguna Art Museum
A New Leaf
Laguna Art Museum’s three new spring exhibitions move away from impressionistic beachscapes and towards Golden Age Hollywood portraiture, abstract expressionist sculpture, and contemporary claymation.
“John Mason: Blue Wall”
On loan from the artist, the museum plays host to John Mason’s seminal 21-foot-long sculpture “Blue Wall,” completed in 1959. Today considered a masterpiece of the abstract expressionism movement of the postwar era, “Blue Wall” is actually made up of hundreds of individual pieces of clay, sculpted by the artist on the floor of his studio. The pieces were then melded together. In doing so, he pushed the medium of clay beyond the realm of pottery and into the domain of sculpture. “It wasn’t until I started to work on the floor that I began to just cut and slam clay down on the floor and then take pieces or parts of slabs and add them to make a more linear organic form,” the artist explains. “I used the only big empty space in the studio. Otherwise, it would have been bigger.” Experience the game-changing piece, on view at the museum through Oct. 6.
“Ex-pose: Allison Schulnik”
LA-based Allison Schulnik steps in as the third artist to be featured in the museum’s new contemporary art series curated by Grace Kook-Anderson. Her paintings, sculptures and clay animations focus on characters often relegated to the outskirts of society—odd, wild, haunting creatures of the night and of the streets, rendered in bright colors that stand in stark contrast to the dull banality of their backdrops. Allison’s three stop-motion animations, “Hobo Clown,” “Forest” and “Mound,” share, as protagonists, the same type of ogre-like clay creatures with mournful eye sockets whose struggle is somehow beautiful. Colors and characters melt into each other, become each other, at once abstraction and representation. This marks the artist’s first museum exhibition, but her work has already garnered widespread attention: “Forest” was the official music video for the song “Ready, Able” from indie heavyweight Grizzly Bear. Catch these films and a selection of Allison’s other works on view on the museum’s lower level through April 28. (949-494-8971; lagunaartmuseum.org)
"Walt Disney” by George Hurrell, Laguna Art Museum
“George Hurrell: Laguna to Hollywood”
Laguna Art Museum has long been noted for its leading collection of California impressionism, a movement that peaked in the 1920s and 1930s—the museum’s origins trace back to the Laguna Beach Art Association, incorporated in 1920 with landscape painter Edgar Payne as its president. This spring, however, the museum turns its curatorial eye away from the plein air paintings that gave it its name and toward the artists who created them, as captured in George Hurrell’s stunning portraiture. During the 1920s, George lived alongside and captured the lives of Laguna’s most notable artist residents—Edgar Payne himself, Frank Cuprien and William Wendt, among others. But the end of the decade saw George swept up in the madness of Hollywood’s golden era. As the “grand seigneur” of Hollywood portraits, George photographed some of the biggest stars of the day—Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis. Those photographs, as well as those from the artist’s pre-Hollywood days, are on display in the museum’s upper gallery through April 28.
“Having It All” Opens at the Playhouse
The latest show to hit the Laguna Playhouse stage features five women who find themselves stuck in an airport terminal, together forming a motley crew of modern women: Each has taken a different path in life, each has struggled to find the precarious balance between career and family. For the playhouse, “Having It All” slides in as the second of three shows this spring that explore the roles of modern women in love, career and friendship. (Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” ran in January; “Steel Magnolias” opens at the end of April.)
A new musical by Wendy Perlman, David Goldsmith and John Kavanaugh, “Having It All” marks the playhouse debut for LA director Richard Israel. Loyal audiences will recognize Jennifer Warren, who appeared in “Lonesome Traveler” at the playhouse earlier this season. The show opens March 5 and runs through the end of the month. (949-497-2787; lagunaplayhouse.com)
JoAnne Artman Gallery
“This is America” continues through the end of March, featuring the bold, dynamic canvases of Colombian-American artist America Martin. Her exploration of the human form traverses disciplines, blending both classical and non-Western traditions within the artist’s confident vision. (949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)
Throughout March, Sandstone brings to the forefront abstract paintings from Lynn Welker and Mada Leach. Lynn’s abstracts are slightly more rooted in landscape and earth tones than Mada’s bright, geometric “mindscapes,” but the two artists share a mastery of color and composition. (949-497-6775; sandstonegallery.com)
Pacific Edge Gallery
“Peep Show,” featuring more than 25 new works from Sandra Jones Campbell, continues throughout March at Pacific Edge. The painter’s distinctive, stylized acrylics have been a major presence in Laguna since the early 1980s, including, notably, her mural that faces Main Beach in downtown. (949-494-0491; pacificedgegallery.com)
“Collapsible City” by Val Britton, CES Contempary
The term quadrivium, which CES Contemporary borrowed for its latest exhibition, refers to the Renaissance-era study of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy, united in their concern for numbers and their relation to time and space. The nine artists whose works make up “Quadrivium” share this interest in linear composition and geometric divisions. The show runs through March 24, followed by the gallery’s first all-photography exhibition, “Saturn Runs,” which opens March 30. (949-547-1716; cescontemporary.com)
In March, AR4T welcomes all-female international art collective Splendor Device, founded in 2012 by Anaheim gallerist Kelly Castillo. (415-690-6180; ar4t.com)
The George Gallery
Through the end of April, “Silk and Sequined Earth” features sensory abstracts from New York City–based Lindsay Walt and Marilla Palmer’s collages that merge the natural with the artificial—think sequins and pressed flowers. (949-715-4377; thegeorgegallery.com)
Mayra Barraza’s art has earned her world renown, from her native El Salvador to Spain, France, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Throughout March, her new show at Salt, “Mating Season,” features new works including “Lady G—Born This Way,” a classically inspired portrait of a reclining Lhasa apso painted on a plush red velvet canvas. (949-715-5554; saltfineart.com)
| March 19, 2013 12:11 PM
Photo by Ed Krieger
At one point not too long ago in history, a ring around the finger and a white picket fence around the house defined female success. Over the past few decades, however, the archetype for a “successful woman” has been more of a shape shifter for numerous reasons—women’s great accomplishments in global and political issues fuel the standard for what women are to expect for themselves and for fellow females.
In a raw yet humoristic look at the standards women are bound by, whether internal or external, the Laguna Playhouse’s “Having It All,” which debuted on March 9 and was conceived by actor-turned-mother Wendy Perelman (with music by Disney composer John Kavanaugh, lyrics by David Goldsmith and a book by Perelman and Goldsmith), covers it all, from love and family to career and age.
The simply staged musical takes place at none other than New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport—an ironic setting for New York City’s reputation of where “dreams come true” and dreamers “make it or break it.” Following the stories—or mellifluous soliloquies—of five female strangers, the musical takes the audience through each woman’s struggle and life decision she has literally come face to face with at the boarding area at gate B26—a sort of metaphor for the crossroads of life.
A cross between “Sex and the City” and 1990s-era sitcom humor, the five women—Carly, Julia, Sissy, Amy and Lizzie—are forced through a series of flight delays and power outages to expose to one another the real reasons they find themselves at gate B26.
Kim Huber (Lizzie), Michelle Duffy (Carly), Shannon Warne (Amy), Lindsey Alley (Sissy) and Jennifer Leigh Warren (Julia) are the cast of "Having It All." Photo by Ed Krieger
The first is Amy, a worn-down housewife of two young boys, who regrets leaving a career in acting for motherhood. The next is Carly, a free-spirited yoga instructor whose untroubled facade is soon broken down; the third is Sissy, the opposite of Carly, a flustered writer who’s past her deadline for a brand-new book deal and in need of a new storyline (ahem, can you see where this is headed?). The fourth is Lizzie, a Midwest perfectionist whose picture-perfect life with her husband lacks only one thing: children. Last but not least, there’s Julia, a high-powered public relations executive who’s in the middle of a big career “make it or break it” moment and in no mood for girl talk, much less flight delays.
But of course, a series of unforeseen events at the airport conspire to reveal the truths about their personal struggles through catchy, memorable songs—from Sissy’s “Story of My Life” to Lizzie’s “A Baby for Bobby and Me.” While these five modern-day dames weren’t expecting to meet one another that day at J.F.K., they’ll soon realize that, perhaps, they were exactly what one another needed.
“Having It All” runs through March 31 at the Laguna Playhouse. For tickets, visit lagunaplayhouse.com.
| March 15, 2013 10:35 AM
Contributed by Surfing Heritage & Culture Center
Nationally recognized architect Rob Quigley grew up in a bedroom in Pacific Palisades lined with murals painted by artist Rick Griffin. Those same murals have just been donated by an anonymous source to Surfing Heritage. Yesterday at an unveiling of the works of art, Rob talked about the influence of Rick Griffin on his architectural practice.
Rob's work has garnered more than 60 design awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 2005, the AIA California Council honored Rob with the Maybeck Award-California's equivalent of the Gold Medal-for three decades of architectural design excellence.
Rob earned his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Utah in 1969. Upon graduation he entered the Peace Corps, where he developed his skills designing and building affordable housing in underserved areas of Chile. After two years of service, Rob settled in San Diego and opened his own architecture and planning firm. Shaped by his early experiences, he became a pioneer in the design of architecturally significant yet affordable housing for the working poor. Rob was also an early leader in the sustainable design movement, designing solar-powered homes in the 1970s-long before "green" became an industry buzzword. His work is driven by a deep sense of responsibility to conserve natural resources.
Current projects in his diverse practice range from a single family home to the new Central Library in San Diego.
Rick Griffin (1944-1991) first reveled in the art and politics of the counterculture as a surfer. A teenager in Southern California during the late 1950s and early 1960s, he developed the seminal cartoon-strip character, Murphy, published in Surfer magazine. Griffin's rebellious and prankish cartoon character initiated the surf cartoon genre and helped define the look and voice of the incipient surf culture. Griffin's Quigley murals are among the earliest examples of his surf cartoon art and are the only known murals from this period, 1960-1961, that have been removed from their original supports and donated to a collecting institution.
Admission is $10 and the program starts at 7:00 p.m. at Surfing Heritage, 110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672.
| March 11, 2013 4:03 PM
Photos by Jody Tiongco
Orange County-grown band No Doubt took home three OC Music Awards Saturday, making them the top winners of the night. Drummer Adrian Young was on hand to receive the awards on behalf of the band for Best Album Push and Shove, and Best Music Video and Best Song for “Settle Down,” providing some colorful commentary during his acceptance speeches.
Despite being internationally known and no longer having any members residing in Orange County, No Doubt was included in awards categories with such bands as The Ultimate Bearhug and 80 Proof. Surprisingly, the band didn’t win the People’s Choice Award, which went to indie rockers The Devious Means. With many of the up-and-coming artists going up against established industry names, and many nominees easily falling into multiple genres, the 12th annual OC Music Awards reflected the current state of the Orange County music scene: an eclectic mosh pit of influences.
“Just as diverse music genres are being produced in OC ranging from indie to pop to rock to electronic to jazz … OC Music Awards aims to spotlight the diversity of music being created locally,” says Ashley Eckenweiler, executive producer of the OC Music Awards.
This diversity was highlighted in this year’s recipients for the Orange County Impact Award and Lifetime Achievement Award—rock band Lit and Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair, respectively.
Popular ska-rock band No Doubt left with three top honors: Best Music Video, Best Album and Best Song. Pictured here: drummer Adrian Young of No Doubt
Of the Orange County music scene, Lit Band member Kevin Baldes says, “[Orange County] is a big melting pot of different cultures. Both musically and ethnically, I just think you’ve got a lot of different stuff coming out of there. Look at the guys from No Doubt, what they were turned on to—ska music and what not. And then you’ve got the punk scene, and we had the metal scene here in the ’80s.”
Accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Carl St.Clair was the first classical music figure to be recognized in the awards show’s history. In his acceptance speech, Carl noted artists such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and even B.B. King were a part of his musical upbringing.
“There’s room for everyone,” Carl says. “I was 17 years old before I heard a symphony orchestra for the first time, and I grew up in high school in the ’60s and college in the ’70s where my idols were people like Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix … so I was actually more steeped at an early age in rock ’n’ roll at the time.”
The Originalites left with the Best Surf award.
Sabrina Lentini, 2013 OC Music Awards nominee for Best Youth Artist
Now at the helm of the Pacific Symphony, Carl explains that hearing he would be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at first gave him pause: “I was like, ‘Is my lifetime over? Is my career over?’ … You think of lifetime achievement awards going to people who are, you know, finished with their career. … Although [the Pacific Symphony] is in its 25th year and I’ve been in Orange County since 1990, I really feel active with a whole lot of things left to do. So I really felt honored being given this particular award at this time in my career.”
Highlights of the show included live performances from Nilu, the Orquesta Cortez, Moonsville Collective, members of the Pacific Symphony and the winners of the Best Live Band award, Robert Jon and the Wreck.
Further affirming the community’s diverse mix of musical genres and interests, Robert Jon and the Wreck lead singer Robert Jon Burrison explains that while Los Angeles is a musical hub just up the freeway, the OC community embraces all types of artists. “In LA you have the Hollywood realm, which is still a bunch of old rockers and a bunch of young bands that are paying to play at the Whisky [A Go-Go] and stuff like that,” he says. “Then you have Silver Lake, which has been labeled as kind of a hipster place. … When [we] come down to Orange County, we play shows with all those indie, hipster, rock-type of bands. We can play with everybody down in Orange County.”
The band Lit walked away with the best alternative award and the Orange County Impact Award.
Brother and sister pop duo Christine Olivier and Nico Adams
Young the Giant won Best Indie at the OC Music Awards.
OC Music Award winners:
Album: No Doubt, Push and Shove
Song: No Doubt, “Settle Down”
New Artist: The Field Trip
Blues: Parker Macy Blues
Club DJ: DJ Jeremiah Red
Country/Americana: Moonsville Collective
Folk: Micah Brown
Hip-Hop: Speech Impediments
Indie: Young the Giant
Jazz: Nancy Sanchez
Latin: Boogaloo Assassins
Metal: Railroad to Alaska
Punk: The Offspring
Rock: Jeramiah Red
Surf: The Originalites
World: The Dirty Heads
Tribute: Flashback Heart Attack
Music Producer: Dallas Kruse
Music Video: No Doubt, “Settle Down”
Youth Artist: Un D Vided
Orange County Impact Award: Lit
Lifetime Achievement Award: Carl St.Clair
Live Band: Robert Jon and the Wreck
People’s Choice Award: The Devious Means
| February 26, 2013 1:45 PM
“Continuous Rotation” by Scott and Naomi Schoenherr
By Karlee Prazak | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Public art is traditionally just that—art in a public place, free for all to view and enjoy—and it’s been around for centuries. The oldest public art is traced back to our earliest ancestors in the forms of cave paintings, but it wasn’t until the Greeks began creating ornate sculptures of religious and social art in the mid-400s B.C. that public art became culturally and economically important to communities.
While Laguna Beach isn’t home to any prehistoric cave paintings or ancient Greek gods and goddesses, the city does have a commitment to providing public art, and Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl says this is essential to its identity.
“If we didn’t have public art, we would be very similar to every other community up and down the coast, but we’re not similar to every other community: We’re an arts colony, we’re a home of artists, and those public art pieces express, really, the individuality of this city.”
"Boy and Dog" by Ruth Peabody
Part of the Art Community
Although Laguna doesn’t have the largest public art collection in the country—the Smithsonian Institution in Philadelphia has the largest, with more than 700 pieces—it boasts an eclectic one that includes anything from a poem in Heisler Park to a set of waves on Forest Avenue. Pieces such as these are proven to influence the pride residents have in their community, according to the 2010 “Soul of the Community” report, which states: “People consistently give higher ratings for elements that relate directly to their daily quality of life: an area’s physical beauty, opportunities for socializing and a community’s openness to all people.”
This is why Sian dedicates her time to making Laguna a public arts destination that boasts more than 76 pieces of public art—of which sculptures make up the majority.
“You have to ensure that if you’re going to be an arts destination, that public art is part of that equation,” Sian says. “You have to show how much art means to the community and to the overall experience.”
Art has been part of this community since it was discovered by artists around 1917, roughly 30 years after the town—originally called “Lagonas”—was founded, says Laguna Beach Arts Commissioner Mary Ferguson.
“Art is the reason Laguna Beach is the town that it is—it was founded by artists,” Mary explains. “That’s the beginning of Laguna Beach, and that’s really what makes Laguna special.”
"Eucalyptus Bench" by Julia Klemek
More Than Art
Most literally, an example of a multi-functional piece is Laguna’s oldest—the “Boy and Dog” sculpture by Ruth Peabody that doubles as a dog drinking fountain in Jarvis Park. And another, less obvious part of the city’s multifaceted public collection are the artist-designed benches that began popping up in 1998; the first of which was the eucalyptus tree-inspired bench located outside of Madison Square & Garden Cafe on North Coast Highway designed by Julia Klemek.
“If visitors don’t always know where they’re going, they can use the artist-designed benches,” Sian explains. “It makes public transportation easier [because] it gives direction. ... It enhances an experience for people, and for some people, they know a lot of those artists and they can sit on their bench and enjoy it.” They make for great photo opportunities, too.
Still, public art is much more than easy-to-spot sculptures and benches, explains Pat Kollenda, chair of the Arts Commission.
“Public art is life affirming, it’s joyous, it gives us huge feelings of joy—I love that,” says Pat, whose art background stems from theater. “I love our music in the park concerts, Sunset Serenades, Shakespeare, film series. ... We try and cover it all. That’s what art is.”
And Pat says the body commissioning these pieces has become more efficient at doing so since she first joined 19 years ago. In the past 12 years alone, 50 pieces were added to the now rapidly growing collection, of which Sian says there are three ways to become a part.
"Time Connected" by Scott and Naomi Schoenherr
Public Art, Public Affair
The first way to become part of Laguna’s public arts is through the Arts in Public Places Ordinance, passed in 1986. The municipal code requires that any commercial development worth more than $225,000, or residential units of four units or more, do one of the following: donate 1 percent of the building cost to the arts, put 1.25 percent into the city’s Art In-Lieu fund or pay a fee to the fund. Art In-Lieu funds, in turn, account for the second way to become part of the public art collection.
“There are some projects [commissioned through the Arts in Public Places Ordinance] that, with the scale of project, the dollar amount may not be enough for what would be required, so we use that [Art In-Lieu] fund to augment projects that we feel should have a more substantial piece of public art.”
The ordinance guarantees that public art is a priority and a result of all building renovations and commercial construction. Laguna is one of roughly 225 cities in the U.S. that enforces a percent-for-art program.
The final way is through the Business Improvement District (BID), a self-imposed “bed tax” passed in 2001. This fee comes strictly from the tourism industry in Laguna Beach and requires hotels to pay a 2 percent annual tax of which 1 percent goes to the visitor’s bureau and the other 1 percent goes toward the Laguna College of Art & Design, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Playhouse, grants to small arts organizations and, finally, the Laguna Beach Arts Commission.
Laguna Beach Arts Commission
And when commissioning a piece through the Arts Commission, Sian says there are never any closed-door meetings.
From the initial call for artists to the passing of a proposal for the City Council to decide upon, residents are encouraged to come to meetings and participate in the discussion about aesthetics, safety and general appropriateness for the specific area. Besides the heartache that comes when artists have to part with the finished pieces, this part of the process is often challenging for the artists.
“It’s not always easy for artists to have their work talked about in the public realm,” Sian says.
From the Artist’s Mind
Local artist Larry Gill has been actively creating in the area for 45 years, and he says it all comes down to fear.
“Fear associated with public art is greater because your exposure is greater,” says Larry, who created the wave forms on Forest Avenue and an artist-designed bench on Ocean Avenue, among other pieces. “Every artist I know has a lot of fear putting pieces together. At this point, I don’t experience [it] very much, but I remember it very well.”
Local artists Scott and Naomi Schoenherr, who most recently installed the series of statues in Heisler Park, agree that public art comes with a unique set of challenges. One of which was the “bureaucracy.”
“We weren’t sure if we’d even qualify because we’d never done it before,” Naomi says.
Scott, on the other hand, says the main challenges came once the design process began and they realized they had to “diversify” so the piece would remain relevant as the years went on—something he never worried about with private pieces.
“We wanted something that people ... bring to the piece, so every time they experience it, it would be different; therefore, it would last through time, and it wouldn’t get old,” Scott explains. “It’s really hard to do a public piece and not have it look stale down the road.”
Both agree, however, that a very positive experience grew from their decision to take a chance, Scott says.
“It was actually the economy [that made Naomi and I decide to get involved in public art]—we do wholesale trade shows and sell a year’s worth to galleries, and economically, it just crashed so we decided we better try something else; we better diversify.”
Larry Gill and "The Wave"
Art as a Local Economy
The economy is something that public art actually boosts locally. Sian says in 2010, the audiences and arts organizations in Laguna Beach brought in $49.1 million in direct and indirect spending.
“It has this ongoing, knock-on effect of how us giving a check to an artist to create work really enhances the economy as well,” Sian says of the local “artists [who] are their own economic machine.”
One such local artist, Jorg Dubin, feels this is one of the most important ways public arts help repay this historic arts community.
“[Artists] created the unique, inviting atmosphere,” Jorg says. “Artists often times come to an area and make it what it is, but then get kicked out when they can’t afford to live there anymore. Having art in public places is, in a small way, giving back to the artists who made Laguna Beach what it is today.”
To date, Sian says only one piece has been removed from the public art collection due to a faulty design.
The piece stood in the space now occupied by “The People’s Council” outside of City Hall. It was a fountain designed by Washington-native Tom Askman that began to rust and deteriorate from the inside out, which caused an overflow of water to compromise the safety of pedestrians in the area and an eventual deaccession of the piece.
As far as the current and future collection of Laguna Beach public art is concerned, it will continue to grow.
“There’s so many areas that can use a new piece of public art, that can use improvement, and art really picks up an area,” Mary says. “There’s nothing like putting a new piece of sculpture in a park. It just makes everything special.”
| January 31, 2013 3:03 PM
Carl E. Smith, CES Contemporary (Photo by Jody Tiongco)
Section by Hannah Ostrow
This time of year, resolutions are a dime a dozen. But we asked two Laguna gallery owners to get practical with their promises: What would you like to see change in our art scene in 2013, and how do you plan to get there?
Carl E. Smith, owner/director, CES Contemporary
The range of most Laguna Beach art available to public viewers as well as private collectors is oversaturated in certain categories, while other major movements are underrepresented. I find that a complete presentation is not available here locally, and that makes for a weak art scene. I am very grateful for my upbringing in an “artistic” community. However, my deep appreciation for art also stems from extensive research, and the access I have sought and received from major national and international galleries, institutions and collections. We simply need more variety here in Laguna so that our community can benefit from a more complete range of art.
I would like to see more international caliber contemporary fine art infiltrate the Laguna Beach art scene. I will spend my year exhibiting emerging artists who are relevant within the international contemporary art scene.
If local dealers can enrich our beloved city with high-caliber, internationally pertinent artwork that covers the entire last century and the beginning of this one, the local art scene will be dramatically more dynamic. I believe in this and am confident that our local situation will only improve with a consistent flow of high-quality work introduced by new dealers displaying new genres. We are witnessing the start of a new era for the arts in Orange County.
(Photo by Jody Tiongco)
Torrey Cook, owner, AR4T
In the past few years that I’ve been in Laguna, I have gotten to know more galleries and gallery owners. I have gained a better appreciation for the diversity and depth of the artwork throughout Laguna, as well as the passion of owners for the artists they are showing. I love being a part of this art community. I am excited for collectors and art lovers when they realize that Laguna offers phenomenal work all year round—not just in the summer months.
With AR4T Gallery, our plan is to continue showing exciting young artists that complement Laguna Beach’s growing contemporary art scene. We are proud to be part of the First Thursdays Art Walk, which recently updated its brochure and website to create more awareness for galleries in Laguna. The number of member galleries is growing each month. In the meantime, we will continue work on our own website, ocartistsrepublic.com, with the goal of supporting independent emerging art galleries all over Orange County.
Avran Art + Design Brings High-End Glass Art to Laguna
Marta Juhasz came to Orange County from Budapest more than 25 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2008 that she began focusing her attention on interior design and the area’s lackluster selection of high-end design pieces.
Inspired by sprawling ocean views in the houses she was working on, Marta immediately thought of the way glass would enhance these rooms, throwing the light around in extraordinary ways.
“It was so hard to find beautiful pieces for these beautiful homes,” says Marta, whose hometown has been known for its glass art for centuries, with many artists exhibiting primarily in London. “The West Coast doesn’t have anything like that.”
Enter Avran Art + Design, which opened this fall in the space previously occupied by Verdun Chocolates in the same unit as Pacific Edge Gallery, McKibben Studios and the Cove Gallery.
Avran boasts a stunning collection of black-and-white photography, which Marta believes is underrepresented in Laguna, as well as traditional, figurative paintings from local artist Robert Schaar—chosen, she says, because he represents what the community responds to and wants to take home. (At its grand opening in October, Avran sold four original pieces from Robert.) Marta admits, however, that in her view these other media play second fiddle at Avran to the blown glass works, which benefit from a dynamic backdrop.
Marta says she is “thrilled” with the way Laguna has embraced Avran, from former mayor Jane Egly, who cut the ceremonial ribbon at the grand opening, to the support of Laguna College of Art and Design, the Chamber of Commerce and fellow galleries and businesses along Coast Highway. (949-494-0900; avranart.com)
Local Donates Roy Ropp Painting to Festival of Arts
Laguna Beach real estate agent Michael Gosselin recently donated to the Festival of Arts an original painting by Roy Ropp, the Laguna artist often considered the father of the Pageant of the Masters.
The donation was prompted by another this past June, when Laguna Art Museum gifted four original photographs from 1950s-era festival exhibitor Paul Outerbridge. One of the four images depicted Roy Ropp in his studio, standing in front of the very painting that Michael owned.
The work, entitled “Newport Fish Harbor,” joins the permanent collection of the Festival of Arts, which celebrated its 80th anniversary this summer.
Pelican Hill Hosts Plein Air Invitational
In early November, The Resort at Pelican Hill teamed up with the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Association (LPAPA) for the inaugural Festa dell’Autunno Plein Air Invitational. Amidst the vibrant autumn street festival, back for its second year, five regional artists captured the convivial atmosphere, discussing their work with the 300-some festival attendees. Laguna artist Ebrahim Amin was selected as the winner, earning him a $500 donation to the charity of his choice as well as an overnight stay at Pelican Hill.
To explore the resort’s impressive collection of plein air paintings, as well as the magnificent resort grounds, head to Pelican Hill Wednesday evenings for a 45-minute art and wine walking tour. Take in the regal Palladian architecture, Renaissance tapestries and landscape with stunning ocean views, and then top off the evening with antipasti and wine. (949-467-6800; pelicanhill.com)
Bernie Taupin’s “Beyond Words”
From Feb. 7 – 10, Coast Gallery will present a collection of work by songwriter and lyricist Bernie Taupin in an exhibit aptly titled “Beyond Words.” Known for his long-term creative collaboration with Elton John, Bernie’s venture into the realm of painting has resulted in colorful and emotive canvases which will be on exhibition and available for acquisition at the gallery. Bernie has described his paintings as “the visual extension of what I have spent my life creating through words.” Exhibition previews on Feb. 9 (7 to 9 p.m.) and Feb. 10 (1 to 3 p.m.) will feature special appearances by the artist. (949-376-4185; coastgallery.com)
"Blue Eye Shadow" by Sandra Jones Campbell, at Pacific Edge Gallery
JoAnne Artman Gallery
Catch the tail end of the “Behind the Lens” photography show through the end of January, followed by “This is America,” featuring new works from LA-based Colombian American artist America Martin. America’s paintings, drawings and sculptures demonstrate a notable mastery of multiple disciplines united by a coherent, cubism-inspired aesthetic. (949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)
January highlights Sandstone artists Stephanie Paige and Sunny Kim. In February, look for “Figurae,” featuring stunning abstracts from contemporary painter Ann Kim, as well as “Beauty Under Pressure,” featuring Anne Moore’s enigmatic monotypes. Stop by to meet the artists during February’s First Thursday ARt Walk. (949-497-6775; sandstonegallery.com)
“The Crust,” a solo show highlighting hand-cut collages from Ashkan Honarvar, continues through Feb. 17. On Feb. 23, CES Contemporary unveils “Quadrivium,” a group show including works from Portugal-based artist Lola Dupré, whose frenetic, abstracted collage work has earned her exposure, most notably, in New York Magazine. (949-547-1716; cescontemporary.com)
Exclusive Collections Gallery
Christopher M.’s expressive and highly stylized portraits depict chefs in their natural habitats—in the kitchen, at the table, tasting wine, chopping vegetables—renditions that have earned him a reputation in both the fine art and culinary circles. Stop by Exclusive Collections on the weekend of Feb. 22 to meet the artist and see his work. (949-715-8747; ecgallery.com)
Pacific Edge Gallery
Laguna mainstay Sandra Jones Campbell presents a new set of works in an exhibition called “Peep Show.” The show opens on Feb. 23 and continues through March 15. (949-494-0491; pacificedgegallery.com)
Silver, Blue & Gold
Running through Feb. 28, “Silver in the Grass” features drawings and jewelry from Karin Worden and Suzanne Walsh. In this unique collaborative exhibit, Suzanne’s botanical-inspired illustrations serve as imaginative backdrops for Karin’s one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that find their place amidst the drawings themselves. (949-715-3000; silverblueandgold.com)
Beginning Feb. 7, Cuban-based artist Esterio Segura showcases his drawings and works on paper in a show entitled “How I Learned to Walk the Earth.” The series is made up of stunningly complex visual narratives that attempt to capture the sociopolitical realities of contemporary Cuba. (949-715-5554; saltfineart.com) LBM
LB Magazine Staff
| January 15, 2013 3:31 PM
Section by Hannah Ostrow
Karin Worden, owner of Silver Blue & Gold
When I first opened Silver Blue & Gold, I thought it would be nice to have all buyers who were familiar with studio jewelry. I pictured the fine-craft show regulars and art jewelry collectors being thrilled that there was now a place they could find handmade jewelry year-round.
While we do have collectors seek us out, and people do come in looking for specific jewelry artists that we represent, a more common scenario for us is this: A local woman will wander in during art walk, or a visitor may be drawn into the store by the window display; she’ll fall in love with a piece, buy it, and then she’ll begin a collection after learning about the jewelry artist’s unique vision and techniques. We have more than one regular client who has said, “I didn’t even know I liked jewelry before I saw your collection.”
It’s really gratifying to witness the beginnings of someone’s passion. I appreciate the prior knowledge that collectors come in with, their appreciation of the craft and understanding of jewelry as art, but there’s nothing like seeing someone’s eyes open when they discover a new love.
For years, I would help my clients build collections of my own work, with them either discovering new pieces that I exhibited at the Festival of Arts or asking me to fabricate custom pieces for them. At Silver Blue & Gold, I’ve been able to build on that by saying, “Hey, if you like my work, wait till you check out this jeweler.” When I traveled to American Craft Council shows, I would see so much inspiring jewelry, and I wanted to give my clients back home the chance to see it as well. So, with that in mind, Silver Blue & Gold has always been focused on the new collector.
Richard MacDonald, director of Dawson
Cole Fine Arts
We represent art that excites us and artists we truly believe are worthy of attention. We’re passionate about what we have to share, and that excitement is the same whether the prospective client is an absolute novice or a sophisticated collector with a wealth of experience. We respond to the level of interest, curiosity and the desire to learn and appreciate art that different people bring into the gallery.
Some of the most rewarding conversations may not even result in a sale—but a sale is the ultimate confirmation that we have communicated effectively the worth of our artists. If we do our job well, the artist is understood, appreciated and valued, and the collector learns to see in a new way—to experience life with more intensity and vividness. That dynamic is the same whether the collector is nervously and excitedly buying their very first work of art, or adding an impressive piece to a world-class collection.
The gallery brings us into contact with fascinating people, and we get to know them on a deeply personal level. Once we know a collector well and understand their tastes and preferences, we can seek out works that we think will spark their interest, or let them know when something extraordinary becomes available. It’s very satisfying to know that, through the trust that develops, we can expand a collector’s field of interest and bring greater depth to their collection.
A love of art is more universal than you might imagine—and an innate longing to experience it and understand it exists across a broad spectrum—and it is this quality that we respond to in the people who come into the gallery. This interaction makes art come to life.
New Release from AMMO Books Brings California Artists to Center Stage
In the long-waging battle for widespread recognition of California’s art scene, the latest project comes in the form of “Milk and Honey: Contemporary Art in California,” a stunning new book from Pasadena-based arts and design publishing house AMMO Books.
The book, which released in October, features more than 50 California artists, with exquisite reproductions of their works along with pocket-sized profiles from the publication’s creator and LA-based artist-designer-curator Justin Van Hoy.
“Milk and Honey” showcases up-and-coming and established artists alike, who work in a wide variety of media and target a variety of demographics, linked solely by their ties to the Golden State—calling into question what, exactly, it means to be an artist living and working in California. (ammobooks.com)
"Huy and Joe" by Quyen Dinh at Rothrick Art Haus
OC Artists Republic Fosters Awareness for Groundbreaking Independent Galleries
Do you ever get the feeling that all the cool kids are hanging out without you? Well, they are—under the umbrella of the newly launched OC Artists Republic (OCAR), an art collective and website that brings together Orange County’s most innovative independent galleries. But don’t be disheartened: They want you to hang out, too. In fact, it’s the primary goal of the organization.
OCAR is the brainchild of Torrey Cook, whose Laguna gallery, AR4T, has played a significant role in revitalizing the local art community over the last few years, bringing in exciting young artists with fresh ideas and aesthetics. The 10 galleries that make up OCAR are scattered, but the nature of OC’s sprawling layout means that fans of SaltFineArt might not know that there’s a gallery in another city that’s just as cool as the one down the street. Thus, the idea behind OCAR is twofold—to offer a network of support and publicity for the galleries, all of which are independently owned with limited staff. Secondly, OCAR publishes original web content that ranges from artist interviews to event listings to gallery news, which serves to help like-minded buyers and enthusiasts keep tabs on Orange County’s art scene. (ocartistsrepublic.com)
Inspiration Grant Up for Grabs
The $5,000 Seven-Degrees of Inspiration grant presented by the Laguna Beach Alliance of the Arts (LBaa) is back up for grabs for one homegrown talent. The grant aims to support and promote a local emerging or established artist as well as the city’s international profile as an arts community. The grant, funded by Seven-Degrees, is meant to provide an opportunity to expand the artist’s exposure to a wider public and encourage progression in the artist’s discipline. Qualified applicants are not limited to visual artists but can also include entries from dance, literature, music, theater, media arts or a combination of the disciplines. The deadline for applications is Feb. 8, 2013. Three finalists will be invited to the 7th Annual Art Star Awards on April 7, 2013, when a winner will be chosen. The recipient of the grant will then have 11 months to complete an innovative arts project, to be presented at the next Art Star Awards in 2014. (lagunabeacharts.org) —F.N.
“Celebrating 40 Years” commemorates the 40-year mark for Townley Gallery owner/founder, Shane Townley, whose most recent works include enamel-on-metal abstracts and large-scale oil landscapes. (949-715-1860; townleygallery.com)
JoAnne Artman Gallery
Look for Brooke Shaden’s haunting, mystical photography and J.T. Burke’s equally surreal, utopian visions in his mixed media works at JoAnne Artman through the end of January. Stop by for the opening reception for “Behind the Lens” on Dec. 6. (949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)
Kluver Artworks Studio
David Kluver is well established as a photographer of tropical paradises, but he has recently been working in mixed media as well, integrating bits of his travels (be it sand, scrap metal or rum) along with more traditional media to create a tactile and immersive piece. Stop by his new show, “Lost in the Pacific,” which runs from Dec. 3 through the end of January. (949-463-5954; theislandimage.com)
Opening Dec. 6, “Chameleon” juxtaposes the work of two esteemed contemporary artists—photographer Cecilia Paredes and painter Luis Cornejo. Cecilia’s works are part performance and only part photography, as she paints herself into her backdrops, creating surreal and independent worlds in each work. For his part, Luis blends oil and acrylic in order to create hyper-realistic portraits with highly stylized, ultra-modern add-ons. “Chameleon” runs through the end of January. (949-715-5554; saltfineart.com)
Beginning Jan. 18, catch hand-cut collages from Ashkan Honarvar, an up-and-coming artist who was born in Iran and now works out of Norway and the Netherlands. (cescontemporary.com)
| January 03, 2013 6:20 AM
“The Lookout” by Macha Suzuki
By Jennifer Pappas
Deep within the first-floor confines of the Laguna Art Museum, something is stirring—the shift as gradual and game-changing as it is necessary. The first invasion took place in June. Under the auspices of an exhibition program called Ex-pose, Laguna Beach filmmaker Peter Bo Rappmund arrived with three films—staticky, lush and sharp in quality. Created using animated stills, each film explored the nature of borders, both natural and arbitrary—a prodigious start to a program bent on blurring boundaries and dulling edges.
Conceived by curator of contemporary art, Grace Kook-Anderson, the Ex-pose program kicked off this summer and is providing a much-needed outlet for contemporary artists—and fans—in Orange County. Focusing on one artist at a time, the program intends to feature a diverse range of artists and mediums in a series of rotating exhibits. “The idea was to have a constant contemporary art presence because there’s this identity or group of people that favor the historical, and a group of people that favor the contemporary,” Grace says. “And really, when you think of California history it’s this whole narrative trajectory. So, to think of it in a more fluid sense, I wanted to have a constant contemporary art presence here. We’ll have about nine of these—the idea being to show emerging and overlooked midcareer artists and to give each artist the opportunity to really think about this space because this space is kind of a challenge.”
A Personal Journey
The next artist up to the challenge is Macha Suzuki, a Japanese-born sculptor known for his curious, Technicolor installations and tongue-in-cheek humor. After seeing an installation of his at Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles, where Macha is represented, Grace was struck not only by the artist’s playfulness but also by his unique brand of 3-D surrealism.
“A lot of surreal works are more painterly and internal,” Grace says. “But with [Macha’s], it was kind of environmental and I really appreciated that. There’s also this lightness, this humor, and balanced with it is this darkness—you don’t really know what’s going on.”
Friendly and quick to laugh, Macha is the first to admit that his work invites varying avenues of interpretation. Attempting to describe the new work he prepared for the Ex-pose show, which opened Nov. 4, Macha explains, “Right now, where I’m at in life, there are a lot of things that don’t seem to be going perfectly—so rather than getting down on myself, I’m trying to see the silver lining … sort of celebrating the growth that can result from tough times and allowing it to be an opportunity,” he says. “In my mind there’s this duality between celebration and mourning, presenting my own story in a way that somehow conveys—for lack of a better word—a sense of hope. It’s like, OK, I’m at the bottom; there’s nowhere to go but up. I try to convey some sense of defeat and some sort of victory or celebration through my sculptures. I don’t know that I’ve really figured out how to talk about it yet.”
An extension of his previous body of work, for Ex-pose, Macha continues to mine his personal history and experiences for ideas—using them to drive the underlying narrative and engage his viewers. Often substituting animals for people and cleverly planting the word “fail” within the interstices of budding branches, his work also features sheep impaled by a perimeter of neon arrows, botched target practices and children with geometric light-boxes for heads. Working with everything from wood and fiberglass to ground limestone, resin and spray foam, Macha is a master craftsman, with quirks. And though he’s always dabbled in bright neon palettes and abstract forms, Macha continues to experiment and conceptualize, constantly translating his two-dimensional thoughts into 3-D works of art.
Left to right: Macha Suzuki, Grace Kook-Anderson, Peter Bo Rappmund. Photo by Jody Tiongco.
“For the new work I’m doing, I use geometric shapes as a stand-in for the unknown, so it really hasn’t developed its form yet. I think about prototypes or blueprints. … Before something develops, you start with these basic forms. The geometric shapes are the building blocks from which the details are made. They’re in the process of becoming something,” Macha says.
Macha has come a long way since his undergraduate days at Azusa Pacific University, where he primarily trained in painting and photography. His transition into sculpture was somewhat accidental and involved a radio-controlled duck (he made the duck sculpture and tried to have it interact with the real ducks; it was the first time he realized the potential of alternative sculpture). But once the artist eschewed traditional sculpture methods in favor of using unconventional materials, he found his true passion, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Operating under the working title “This is the End,” even Macha is unsure how prophetic his mindset—and the work that results—will be in December, about halfway through the Ex-pose show’s run. “I love that idea of OK, this is the end of the world, but then there’s another tomorrow after that,” he says, laughing. “I see every end being a new beginning. I love the fact that at the end of the world, the last thing I did was to have this art show, and then there’s another day after that. To me it’s kind of funny but at the same time, if it does in fact end, I’ll die a happy man.”
"Just a Tree" by Macha Suzuki
Beneath the Surface
Exposure of this magnitude for contemporary artists in south Orange County—and Laguna Beach in particular—is long overdue. Yet it doesn’t make the selection process for the museum or for Grace any easier. To some extent, geography and aesthetic are always a factor, but still the question lingers: What is it that gives certain artists that gravitational pull—that innate ability to draw people in? In other words, what makes one artist more Ex-pose worthy than another? “There’s such a wide range of contemporary artists,” Grace says. “The thing that’s compelling for me is [the] artists that always have some sort of conceptual underpinning. Not just an artist that executes their craft well but who has something social or political, something underneath the surface. Those are the works that keep me thinking, that have me engaged. Also, just thinking where the artist has been and hoping where the artist will go—I’m trying to think about that as well.”
Given the intimate yet playful domains created by Macha Suzuki and the spellbinding effect of Allison Schulnik’s macabre oil paintings (coming in February), it’s clear that wherever these particular artists are headed, the revelations they bring to the Laguna Art Museum are a definitive step in the right direction—for them and for Orange County.
| December 03, 2012 2:35 PM
© 2012 Mark & Tracy Photography
What do you get when you blend circus acts, vaudeville revue and a five-course gourmet dinner with a side of kinky humor? The new-to-OC theatrical experience, “Love, Chaos and Dinner” put on by world-class traveling performers from Teatro ZinZanni.
With devoted audiences in its birthplace, Seattle, and San Francisco since 1998, this is the organization’s first visit to Southern California. Teatro ZinZanni opened on Oct. 24 in a circus tent next to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Called “the city’s hottest ticket” by The New York Times, this “part circus, part dinner theater” makes for a memorable evening with three hours of improvisational comedy, music, dance and acrobatics.
Kevin Kent as The Queen of Hearts © 2012 Mark & Tracy Photography
Set in an opulent, antique Spiegeltent (mirror tent) built in Belgium in the early 1900s, which was used more than a century ago to host dances, wine tastings and cabarets in Europe, Teatro ZinZanni isn’t, to say the least, your “typical” dinner theater with awkward transitions between the acting and the actual eating. The experience is seamless, and integrates the dining experience into the interactive elements of the show, which is loosely plotted around a fictional old-timey radio show, “Radio TZ.”
Take Manuela Horn, for instance, originally from Austria, who portrays 6-foot dominatrix and yodeler Brigitte Longstraumph. As she weaves through the dinner tables, she prods unsuspecting men with her whip—or she may even pull her male victim of choice up onto the small center stage and tie him up for the most comical lap dance you’ve ever seen.
Manuela Horn as Brigitte Longstraumph© 2012 Mark & Tracy Photography
There’s also comedian Kevin Kent, who plays several different quirky characters during the show, including a glitzy drag queen with a diva attitude that flirts with male audience members. (It’s safe to say that males seem to get the harsher treatment here.)
Then there’s Vita Radionova, a Ukrainian contortionist that plays a mysterious alien, who will have the eyes of both men and women popping out of their sockets Looney Tunes-style with her sensual yet elegant acts.
Vita Radionova hula hoops © 2012 Mark & Tracy Photography
Of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without some jaw-dropping acrobatics by three French men carried out in tight spaces, as well as a perfectly coordinated assembly line of flying desserts in the second half.
The five-course gourmet dinner includes an appropriately named menu that reflects the show experience, such as the “Intergalactic Surprise” (a beet and goat cheese terrine with Pop Rocks) for an appetizer that sets an exciting tone. The menu, created by chef Ross Pangilinan of celebrity chef Joachim Splichal's Patina Catering, was meant to be as enthralling as the acts.
The "Intergalactic Surprise," an appetizer of beet, goat cheese and Pop Rocks
The entree choices are equally as salivating, with an option of the “Radio Waves” (prime beef short rib with truffle potato fondue), “ZinZanni Catch” (salt-baked Scottish salmon with fingerling potatoes) or “Teatro Venezio” (butternut squash ravioli with a vanilla brown butter sauce).
The "Radio Waves," an entree of prime beef short rib with truffle potato fondue
The dessert, aptly called “On the Air,” however, literally makes an entrance with a choreographed act of servers who deliver the chocolate cake to one another via a man-powered machine that has the dessert flying through the air.
"On the Air," a dessert of chocolate cake and chocolate macaron
Teatro ZinZanni didn’t just stop with the food, though. The cocktails are also custom-made, with names like “Touch of Venus” made with vodka, blackberry puree, lemon juice, elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine.
If you’re looking for a fun-filled night of food and entertainment like no other, it’s safe to say that you wouldn’t be disappointed with Teatro ZinZanni. The show is only here through Dec. 31, so snag your reservations soon. Show times run Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at noon and 7 p.m. Tickets start at $122.85. Call 714-556-2787 or visit scfta.com to purchase.