Local gallery owner and artist Vanessa Rothe prepares for the newest iteration of her travel-centric Americans in Paris project, which will show both in New York City and Laguna Beach.
By Ashley Ryan
Throughout history, Paris has held a certain allure that has captivated painters. Artists like Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne and even Pablo Picasso lived and worked in the city, capturing some of the romantic rooftops and scenic streets on canvas for art lovers to enjoy for generations to come.
Laguna Beach gallery owner Vanessa Rothe, of the eponymous Vanessa Rothe Fine Art, is striving for a resurgence of the magic captured in the Paris of the past with an innovative project.
“Paris is the City of Light, love, food, architecture and art,” Rothe notes. “Artists … want to capture [it], because of all those reasons and the … artistry of the buildings and the layout of the city itself.”
The idea for Rothe’s project was dreamed up in 2016, with a fundraising exhibition taking place in New York City that year to raise the money needed to travel. “The way it works is that we travel one year and we have an exhibition the next year,” she explains.
Rothe and a group of artists ventured to Paris in 2017, renting space at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, where they were able to paint alongside one another. The trip was followed up by a 2018 exhibition that took place in both Los Angeles and Paris.
“We are making art history,” Rothe says. “… It has been 100 years since top fine artists got together like this and traveled together, painted together and shared ideas, … and then had an exhibition after their travels together. … Think about when this was done with the impressionists back in France—how successful impressionism was because of them all bonding together to create exhibitions and share ideas and present them to the public.”
This year, things are a little different. A European workshop was scheduled for 2020 with a New York show this November, but COVID-19 had other plans. Instead of visiting a Provence castle in the south of France—a trip that has been rescheduled for April of next year—the artists are painting from memory and photographs this time around.
The resulting exhibit, titled “Americans in Paris, Art Nouveau,” will first hang here in town before making its way, next spring, to New York’s Salmagundi Club, a Manhattan arts center that has been around since the 1870s. Rothe is a member of the club, and helps with marketing as well as curating exhibits at the East Coast venue.
“One of our first ones was the Americans in Paris [project],” she says. “With the long history of the Salmagundi Club—over 100 years as a club—it made sense that, since we were re-creating history with these special shows, I would host them there.”
This year’s show will run from Nov. 12 to Dec. 30 at her downtown gallery. All of the paintings were created specifically for the exhibit. “They will all be in representational style[s] of realism or impressionism, save [for] one artist, Dan McCaw, who is doing realism and abstraction combined,” Rothe notes. Some of the other artists that will be featured include Adrienne Stein, Derek Penix, Charles Warren Mundy, Nicolas Martin and Suchitra Bhosle—as well as Rothe herself.
Prominent art nouveau artists Alphonse Mucha and Gustav Klimt inspired many of the pieces. “The style of art nouveau … was not only in Paris, but was in Germany, [too]. … It was a time of going back to nature—rounded edges and feminine—after the industrial and metalworking that had appeared all over in Paris,” she says, adding that the style inspired a craftsman era that was prominent when Laguna Beach was founded in the early 1900s and, in fact, inspired some of the architecture here in town.
“I am creating new works myself for the exhibition,” Rothe says. “Two of them are in the style of Alphonse Mucha, but created with realism I learned at Laguna College of Art & Design and a bit of modernism that I learned while looking at the live paintings by Gustav Klimt in Vienna on my travels.”
The iteration in New York in the spring will play host to some additional experiences, such as lectures from the artists and live demonstrations. Furthermore, the travel portion of the next iteration, which will take place April 26 through May 5, 2022, ahead of a 2023 exhibition, will be open to the public. Enjoy workshops alongside participating artists, led by Casey Childs, Michelle Dunaway, David Gray, Olga Krimon and Rothe. They will demonstrate figure, portrait and landscape painting in addition to sessions on art history and literature at the Provence castle.
Vanessa Rothe Fine Art
418 Ocean Ave.
Carolyn Johnson, an artist who lives in Laguna Niguel and crafts stunning paintings atop recycled surfboards, was recently honored during the return of the Balboa Island Artwalk. Johnson, a resident creator at Laguna Beach’s Artist Eye Gallery, was awarded the Mayor’s Choice Award for Best in Show from Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery for her line of contemporary, upcycled surfboards. The eco-friendly surfboards are all one-of-a-kind mixed media pieces crafted using blue hues to resemble waves and neutrals for the sand. She also incorporates metallics, resin, ink blends and more for a special touch. Johnson is also passionate about the environment, using her work to raise awareness for climate change, ocean health, biodiversity and sustainability. (carolynjohnsongallery.com) —Ashley Ryan
Elephants on Parade
As a supporter of numerous different charities dedicated to saving and raising awareness for endangered animals, Steve Adam, who owns the eponymous Steve Adam Gallery in Laguna Beach, couldn’t say no when he was approached to take part in Dana Point’s Elephant Parade. The project—which is the second iteration in Orange County, following Dana Point’s 2013 installment, but has also ventured through countries like Spain and England as well as Brazil, India, China and more—encourages local artists and other figures to design or decorate a large-scale elephant statue. Through Nov. 26, find 25 elephants throughout Dana Point, including Cali 33.4672° N 117.6981° W, Adam’s joyful contribution, which features the letters “SOS” (Save Our Souls) on the hind legs to represent his desire to protect wildlife. Find Cali near the Timeless Teak furniture store on Del Prado Avenue. (Elephant Parade: elephantparade.com) (Steve Adam Gallery:
Avran Fine Art
In September, the gallery added new glass sculptures from Péter Borkovics, including two one-of-a-kind pieces titled Vasarely and Zen. In crafting his works, the Hungarian artist uses hot sculpted as well as cut and polished glass, which all contain an element of movement with fluid, flowing lines and shapes. (949-494-0900; avranart.com)
The CAP Gallery
Stop by the second-floor rotunda of the Wells Fargo building downtown before Jan. 14, 2022, to experience “Reframing Nature,” the gallery’s first show this year. The show celebrates nature through the eyes of artists Sheryl Smith Seltzer, Patricia Prescott Sueme, Laura Stickney and Vilma Mendillo. (949-533-7507; caplaguna.org)
Festival of Arts exhibitor Kate Cohen is the centerpoint of this one-woman show. “Kate Cohen: Explanation of the Doodle” features a series of colorful, layered drawings created by the artist while she was undergoing treatment for stage IV head and neck cancer. The show will be on display into the new year. (949-497-6582; foapom.com)
Inspired by the Art & Nature festival taking place at Laguna Art Museum in early November, “Celebrating Our Natural World” features creative pieces influenced by the beauty of nature. This exquisite artwork depicting the world around us will be on display through Dec. 15. (949-715-8106; thesusiq.org)
JoAnne Artman Gallery
This November, celebrate a special milestone as the gallery presents “Lucky #13: Celebrating 13 Years in Laguna Beach.” Running through Dec. 31, the exhibit honors the time and dedication both the eponymous owner and resident artists have put in over the years. Enjoy works from some of the most notable creators, including Greg Miller and America Martin. (949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)
Laguna Beach City Hall
Artwork by children between the ages of 5 and 17 who live or attend a school or art program in Laguna will be showcased in the “Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition.” An online catalog will showcase entries from both this year and last year, while some of the best will be mounted on wooden palettes that will adorn The Promenade on Forest through the month of December. Some young artists will also receive a special certificate at the City Council meeting on Dec. 14. (949-497-0722; lagunabeachcity.net)
Laguna Plein Air Painters Association Art Gallery
From Nov. 1-29, visit the new Laguna Plein Air Painters Association gallery in north Laguna to view “Art & Nature,” part of the communitywide festival of the same name led by Laguna Art Museum. The best of the natural world is highlighted in this show, which includes an online art auction as well as a physical exhibit and a reception slated for Nov. 4. (949-376-3635; lpapa.org)
Las Laguna Art Gallery
Available to view both online and in the gallery, “Digital Art & Collage” will be displayed from Nov. 6-27. The unique show will incorporate paintings or drawings made using computer software or cell phone applications. The other element encompassed in this show is collage, using found objects and 3D pieces to create art. (949-505-0950; laslagunaartgallery.com)
Pacific Edge Gallery
In the unique “Four Seasons in Provence,” view new paintings created on location in France by María Bertrán over the last year. These pieces capture the colors and light from all four seasons, showcasing changes in the landscape throughout the year. It will hang in the gallery from Nov. 13 through the end of December. (949-494-0491; pacificedgegallery.com)
Sue Greenwood Fine Art
A group exhibition will hang in the gallery through Nov. 14, showcasing works by allegorical artist Deborah Davidson, surrealist painter Tyson Grumm, and Susan Silvester, who crafts everything from paintings and drawings to sculptures and mixed media, all with an air of fairy tale-inspired fun. (949-494-0669; suegreenwoodfineart.com)