Given any sunny weekend, to say nothing of summer heat, throngs arrive in Laguna Beach, coming from far and wide, in all shapes and colors, ages and dispositions, armed with enough gear to lay siege to the town’s coastline. Streaming from the canyon to Main Beach, they also can see a stylized likeness of themselves in a new mural that will be installed by June 1 on Forest Lane, an alleyway opposite the favorite spot for tourists.
A recent visit to Laguna Beach artist Sandra Jones Campbell’s studio revealed the town’s newest public art work, a mural consisting of eight seamlessly joined panels nearly completed. Altogether, the work measures 7 ft. high and 32 ft. wide and replicates the crowd migrating from inland to the sea.
“This mural is my gift to the city,” said Campbell who designed the happy scenario with both visitors and the local community in mind.
The mural was commissioned by the Community Art Project, an organization that places public art onto private property, and funded by $2,000 grants each from the town’s business improvement district bed-tax and the Festival of Arts Foundation. It was approved by the Arts Commission and City Council last year.
“Sandra has a sense of community and when she presented her proposals, we were so enthusiastic,” said board president Faye Baglin. “This mural celebrates the diversity of a typical day at the beach. Sandra hit it right on several notes.”
Painted roughly in the style of German Expressionism (minus its sense of angst), it contains likenesses of typical beach goers including families, bikini-clad beauties, a skateboarder, shoppers and pets, a homeless person and, borrowing from the art history tradition, an allusion to herself. After all, she too joined the multitudes, arriving from Oregon in 1986. “It’s all of humanity heading toward the water,” she quipped.
Campbell began the work in March, assisted by Laguna College of Art and Design students David Barnett, Stephanie Snee and Robin Hextrum. “It’s a fabulous working experience. I would enjoy taking more mural opportunities after working with Sandra,” said Snee, an illustration major.
Once the concept and design of the mural was in place, painting was done by the entire group in the established style. “The piece is entirely collaborative; there are no egos involved. If needed we applied our individual strengths to sections,” said Campbell.
She began with single line drawings over a red washed background, slated to be largely covered with figures, scenery, and a swath of ocean. She tends to render figures with just enough detail to draw the audience into the action. While they reveal ranges of age and shape, faces are devoid of ethnicity. All are tanned in a uniformly orangey hue, which emphasizes the scene’s tongue in cheek spirit.
“Sandra has a very unique form of figurative painting. It’s informed by German Expressionism but more playful,” said Paul C. Jillson, owner of Pacific Edge Gallery, which exhibits her work. “She has a large fan base since she employs social criticism in a humorous way, but her work has also emotional depth which elevates it.”
Campbell exhibited at the Festival of Arts for two decades and more recently at the Sawdust Art Festival. “This is my first public art project,” she said.