Artists, both past and present, evoke emotion and make political statements with their true-to-life paintings.
By Richard Chang
Sue Greenwood Fine Art
Realist oil painter Mary-Austin Klein depicts the open spaces of the Mojave Desert, Kern County and the Pacific Coast with pinpoint accuracy, yet she also imbues her canvases with emotion—the anonymity and desolation of the desert, the harshness of man’s impact on the land and the fragility of ecosystems. Traffic cones tipped over in “Cones at Redwood Rest #1, Descanso Gardens” convey the carelessness in developing the land and taking it for granted.
Mary-Austin found inspiration in California landscapes at an early age. She was born in San Bernardino, and now lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA, with frequent trips to Twentynine Palms and Santa Barbara.
“There are certain colors that the Mojave Desert has that don’t seem to be anywhere else,” Mary-Austin says. “It’s the light, the lack of visual clutter. There’s a certain blue in the sky and the shadows. And yet, there’s also the blight that kind of comes in and inserts itself in those pristine landscapes.”
“The whole thing that I think is interesting [is] she’s documenting the changing landscape of California,” says Sue Greenwood, who has several of Mary-Austin’s paintings in her North Coast Highway gallery year-round. “The environmental issues are interesting. Southern California is becoming more of a desert because of the changing of our environment, and she’s really capturing that.”
Previously a board member and board president of the California Wilderness Coalition, a preservationist ethic informs Mary-Austin’s work. “I definitely think realism is making a comeback,” she says. “We kind of call ourselves the California realist school. There’s a lot of energy and response to the work, which is nice.”
Mary-Austin Klein has shown her work at Sue Greenwood Fine Art for the past six years.
Laguna Art Museum
Robert Henri was a seminal figure in American realism. He’s known as the leader of the New York-based Ashcan School, which sought to portray the city in all its gritty glory. Robert made his way out to the Southern California in 1914, and returned on subsequent visits through 1925. During his trips out West, he made a special effort to paint portraits of subjects with diverse backgrounds—African, Chinese, European, Mexican and Native American. He infused a poignant humanity in his sitters, many of whom were still discriminated against by the broader American populace.
About a dozen of his oil paintings grace “Robert Henri’s California: Realism, Race, and Region, 1914-1925,” a current exhibition at Laguna Art Museum that focuses on people of color and children. In his portrait of a Chinese girl, “Tam Gan,” the bright, citrusy colors of California fill the background, and are also reflected in the young subject’s face.
“The number of Chinese immigrants coming to California had been curtailed since the Chinese Exclusion Act,” explains Derrick Cartwright, curator of the exhibition. “He had sympathy and appreciation for these women and children, and wanted to show that they are just like you and me. He had very progressive politics to pick these subjects—more progressive than other people might think.”
Not only were Robert’s views ahead of his time, his approach to the medium has influenced other artists such as Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, George Bellows and Arnold Franz Brasz.
“He’s not just representing a subject, but he does it in these physical terms,” Derrick says. “He moved the image around with flashing brushwork and real economy of gesture. … Henri was a really good teacher—he taught a whole generation of students to attack the canvas in some sort of way.”
By Ashley Ryan
International artists come together in a JoAnne Artman Gallery exhibition (“Lost in Translation Too”) that showcases contemporary pieces influenced by their respective cultures. With a variety of artistic styles and art that transcends language barriers, the pieces inspire and engage those from all walks of life.
The artists include Anja Van Herle, a native of Belgium who creates iconic representations of women’s faces inspired by fashion; Alberto Murillo, a Spanish artist evoking Latin American moods in his colorful textured sea and cityscapes; Anthony Hunter, a British painter with an unexpected palette crafting abstract expressionist pieces; and Pedro Bonnin, an oil painter hailing from Mexico who conjures up humorously fantastical characters in his work. All of the artists have found international success, revealing that art is a universal language. The exhibit runs through the end of June 2015, with an artist reception June 4 from 6-8 p.m. (949-510-5481)
A Showcase of High School Art
By Ashley Ryan
Laguna Beach High School’s AP ceramics class, led by Somer Selway, is displaying art pieces at coastal eddy, a gallery until May 9, 2015. The exhibition, “LB – AP – Clay,” gives students an opportunity to experience organizing and setting up their displays and appearing in a gallery, something they would not have been able to do without the partnership.
After the students crafted their pieces in class, they presented their work to Somer and were then juried into the show for friends, family and other visitors to view what they created.
For amateur artists, this unique opportunity allows them to see what it’s like to be a professional artist in Laguna Beach. (949-715-4113)