The yearly siren call from Laguna Beach is impossible to ignore, with three separate art festivals taking place within a short walk of one another and a nighttime pageant in which people dress up as figures in famous works of art.
Whether you're going for the Festival of Arts, Sawdust Festival, Art-A-Fair, Pageant of the Masters, or a combination of them all, it's possible to hit all the highlights in a single day. To help narrow it down, we've put together a round up of each event including can't misses, extras and where to eat while you're there.
This open-air art show has been taking place yearly since 1932. It has evolved from an informal art show along the beach to a tented gathering of fine art.
It is a juried show with certain artist residency requirements. There are 142 artists featured with displays ranging in media like paintings; sculptures in clay, wire and metal; blown glass; and exquisite jewelry.
Among the most interesting artists are: Randy Bader and his elegantly-fashioned wooden furniture; David Milton's photography, including his Las Vegas photos, especially the views of the neon sign Boneyard; Scott Moore's whimsical story-telling paintings, with large-size cultural objects from drive-in diners to surfboards; Scott and Naomi Schoenherr's series of small cartoonish classic cars in ceramic with whimsical characters in the driver seats; and John Taylor's series of incredibly detailed battleships sculptured from sheets of metal.
Extras: Festival admission includes Art Talks at noon Thursdays; Jazz concerts on Saturday afternoons; Cooking demonstrations on Sunday afternoons; Sunday Afternoon Concert Series; and guided tours. Wine and chocolate tastings and other events are available at an additional charge; see daily schedule.
Food: The Tivoli Terrace restaurant is set in a two-level hacienda with a French-style garden on a hillside next to a magnificent ancient tree. Serves lunch and early dinners and walk-around cocktails.
The story is Sawdust started because many artists who wanted to participate in the Festival of Arts could never make the cut with the jury, so in 1966, a group of them started an alternative, less formal event just up the road from the Festival grounds.
The Sawdust Festival has 209 artists displaying this summer, and the setting — on a hillside — is informal and relaxed. The art tends to be less expensive than at the Festival of Arts, but no less imaginative.
Some of the artists featured at the Festival have booths here, too, including woodworker Randy Bader and Vegas photographer David Milton. Others of interest: Debra Covern for Hawaiian shirts; Patches Cunningham for toe rings; Julita Jones' African wildlife photos and prints of a flying owl; Laurel Meister's quirky jewelry and collages; Cindy Stalnaker's lovely fused-art glass; and Hillel Rzepka's glass hearts. Mark and Sue Winner share a booth for his color-rich ceramic bowls and vases and her paintings of cats and geishas on canvas and clothing.
Patti Klingenmeier is here every year with her small and uniquely fanciful people plaques made out of polymer clay. Lupe Blanton offers elegant ear charms that attach to the ear like earrings but without clips. Barbara J. Bennett is also a regular with her “Hooker” earrings — ear art that hooks over the ear. Karen Gray offers soft, luxurious dog beds including a tube for little dogs that like to burrow.
Food: Lots of snacking opportunities are here with Deb's Deli, Tacos Durrell and Thasos Greek Island Grille offering lunch fare. There are also vendors for popcorn, espresso, sweets and cocktails.
Extras: Workshops, glass-blowing and ceramic demonstrations; check the daily schedules. Live music nearly all day every day, on an elevated loft next to a small waterfall and stream, and in an alcove near the bar. The variety of music is alone worth the admission price.
Because the 125 artists come here from all over the globe, there is an interesting variety and some unusual work.
This is, like the other two, an open-air gallery, surrounded by walls but without a roof or vendor booths. The spaces are divided by white canvas sheets that also are used as a fabric ceiling. Muggy days are muggier in this space, although there are windows in the walls that allow the cool beach breeze to flow in.
The artists of note here include: Laura Curtin and her pink elephant series — these are real elephant photos, featuring baby elephants tinted pink; The Linds assembled a trio of old-fashioned lanterns with four layered panes of etched glass, which suggest 3-D images; Johwey Redington has turned phone-book pages and newspapers into fun folded paper sculptures; Margaret Resnick has an array of oil paintings of pet dogs.
And to demonstrate how artists are continually looking for new ways to express themselves, photographer Donald Earhart has a display of “alumages” — digital photos printed on sheets of aluminum in both black and white, and color. As the light changes on the metal prints, different colors and tones are revealed in the images of the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, the Venice Grand Canal and Cayucos, the quiet beach town in central California.
Food: There is an indoor restaurant called the Tivoli Too, which is associated with the one at the Festival of the Arts. Extras: Music, workshops; check daily schedules.
PAGEANT OF THE MASTERS
The doors open at 8 p.m. Programs are $10; seat cushions, blankets and binoculars are available for rent. Everyone is asked to take their seats by 8:30 p.m., but the flow of guests continues even when the show starts at 8:40 p.m.
The theme for this summer's Pageant of the Masters is “The Art Detective,” a loose assemblage of art that was confiscated, stolen or hidden during World War II.
It starts out fine with homage paid to “Monuments Men,” the recent film about the special military unit that explored Europe behind enemy lines to find and rescue art treasures before Hitler's troops could destroy them. Some of the hundreds of volunteers re-enact these paintings and sculptures to impressive effect, including Rembrandt's 1642 “The Nightwatch;” Vermeer's 1664 “The Concert,” (which is still missing); the 16th century “Saliera,” a gold saltcellar fashioned by Benvenuto Cellini; and a flashy “Rape of the Sabine Women,” a late 16th century work in marble by Giambologna. A mention of Orson Welles' “The Third Man” film was connected to efforts to protect 1923's “Strauss Memorial” in Vienna.
But the show meanders into tangential stories, including tales of two women who worked as artist models. One, Audrey Munson, posed for many early 20th century New York City sculptures. The other, Victorine Meurent, posed for several nude paintings by Edouard Manet. Both are fascinating time capsules from the world of art, but hardly connected to the main theme. Then the detective theme swoops in to capture a statue of Sherlock Holmes and movie posters for “Double Indemnity” and “The Dark Corner,” an obscure 1946 crime film starring a pre-”I Love Lucy” Lucille Ball. Puzzling, but interesting.
The 90-minute shows traditionally end with a re-enactment of Leonardo da Vinci's “Last Supper” mural. The original was painted on the wall of a church in Milan, which was next door to a building destroyed by enemy bombs. This work, like many of the paintings and sculptures re-enacted here, survived the war's assault on art and culture.