Where Each Work Summons a Friendship

Art collectors Cheryl and Rick Lang share 40-years worth of treasures with the public. Photo by Ted Reckas

Rick and Cheryl Lang acquired their first work of art, a pastel drawing by Dixie Hall titled “Spring,” in 1973, igniting a passion that has led them to now own between 60 and 70 pieces of art in diverse mediums, all by current or former Festival of Art exhibitors.

Now, 32 pieces from the Laguna Beach collectors’ stockpile, ranging from the now iconic “Spring” to “Rhea Reposes,” a small bronze relief sculpture by Robert Krantz, are currently displayed for public viewing on the second floor gallery of the Wells Fargo Bank downtown.

Curated by Festival of Arts’ art collections specialist and exhibitor Pat Sparkuhl, the exhibition reflects the couple’s eclectic tastes: a small oil painting of a Tuscan landscape hangs near a fused glass piece by Sherry Salito-Forsen, and a dramatic abstract paper collage by Sherry Andrens captured immediate attention. “I could never part with that piece,” said Cheryl Lang of the latter.

Sparkuhl regards this exhibition as another opportunity to illuminate little known aspects of Laguna’s art history. “My purpose for putting together this show was two-fold: I wanted to show the intimate connection between artists and photographers in this town by focusing on the relationships that Rick Lang made with artists,” he said.

“We have always collected what we liked; about 97 percent of our collection comes from trading photography for art,” said Rick Lang, 61. “Each piece reflects a personal relationship; it is a friend by a friend.”

The couple met in Washington, D.C., while Rick served in the Air Force, and moved to together in 1972 to his home town in Laguna. Cheryl, 59, grew up in West Virginia.

They joined Lang Photography, established by his father L.D. Lang in 1958. The elder Lang was also the official photographer for the Festival of Arts, a post that Rick assumed in 1973.

Cheryl had transitioned from trained computer operator to photographer, saying that while their children were young she was a one-woman support system as wife, mother of two sons, and photographer. The profession now spans four generations of Langs with son Josh wielding cameras and Rain, a15-year-old granddaughter, showing considerable photographic talent.

“I loved the connections I made; I am an artist myself and I love art,” Lang said.

While he has retired from the festival, he still photographs the pageant and Lang Photography has been scaled back to a small gallery on South Coast Highway. www.langlaguna.com “As an artist you never really retire,” he said.

Selections from the Lang art collection, spanning 40 years of original art work by local artists, are exhibited in the Community Art Project gallery through April 5.

Wells Fargo is located at 260 Ocean Avenue. The gallery is open during business hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.


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