Art as Activism, Lasers Light Up Museum Fest

Images from The Tell are the centerpiece of a new museum exhibit.
Images from The Tell are the centerpiece of a new museum exhibit.

Some of the photographs are faded now, bleached by the elements and time. Others are sepia images of young faces belonging to a generation now collecting Social Security. There are photos of children and pets, scenes of nature and signatures of visitors.

All are mounted on different shapes of plywood, testimonials to a commitment to preserve the wilderness of Laguna Canyon from development.

“The different stages of photographic fading were calculated to reflect the appearances of the canyon during different seasons,” according to local resident and gallerist Mark Chamberlain, who with his friend and colleague Jerry Burchfield in 1989 mounted countless photographs onto a 636-feet long mural erected in the canyon that became the focus of a huge protest march.

1.2 museum Walk Aerial View“The photographs also tell myriad stories of people who donated them, which reflected our overarching theme of collective humanity’s connection to the land.”

Called The Tell, surviving sections are now part of a new exhibit, “The Canyon Project: Artivism,” included in the Laguna Art Museum’s third annual Art & Nature festival and symposium Nov. 5- 8. It also features a retrospective of paintings by David Ligare, whose classically inspired paintings feature his takes on California’s unique topography and light. The symposium will culminate in a commissioned outdoor work of art by light and space artists Laddie John Dill. Titled “Electric Light Blanket,” the light installation will take up the cove below the museum on Main Beach. The show is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7, between 6 and 10 p.m.

“The goal is to project onto the beach and the shoreline a series of patterns I have worked out in laser technology. The light will interact with the surf and the beach in a diffused pattern,” said Dill. The effect will be of light rushing toward viewers much like the incoming tide.

Artists Jack Barnhill and John Robertson helped coordinate technical aspects. Dill remarked that the project was choreographed outside of Los Angeles and fine-tuned in Laguna Beach. The installation is site-specific and unique.

“I did not want this to be just a light show, but have a language that would appeal to people in contemporary art,” he said.

Festival coordinators, museum Executive Director Malcolm Warner and education curator Marinta Skupin aim to combine a familiar format with new material. Sand figured in performances in 2013 and 2014, while light and space will serve as this year’s medium.

“We are sticking to the same format of the last two years. The keynote speech on Friday and the commissioned art piece on Main Beach on Saturday,” said Warner. “Even though the event is still in its infancy, a certain amount of repetition is good from year to year.”

For example, as last year, festivities will begin on Thursday with Outstanding in the Field, a dinner set up by Jim Denevan for 150 guests on Main Beach. The featured artist at the first Art & Nature, he is also known for staging alfresco food feasts where the placement of tables is a work of art, food can be described as artisanal and the overall outcome as performance art. “Tickets are still available,” said Warner.

Thursday evening during the Nov. 5 Art Walk, local galleries including Peter Blake, Artists Republic, DeRu’s Fine Art, Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, Salt Fine Art and Raw Salt and the Redfern Gallery will feature nature-related art shows. The Boys & Girls Club and the Susi Q Community Center will also feature art inspired by nature.

Last year’s highlight was “An Elongated Now,” a piece of performance art by Lita Albuquerque attracting a small army of volunteers who walked silently, clad in all white and carrying blue lights along the shore along Main Beach. This year, the artist will return to lecture and show a movie made about the project to accompany a museum exhibition, “Particle Horizon.”

The event will also include a panel discussion moderated by Warner with artists David Familian, Peter Matthews, Kristin Leachman and Ligare.

As before, the keynote speaker will address the interaction between art and nature or, in this year’s case, art and science. Space scientist and astronomer Roger Malina specializes in ultraviolet astronomy, space instrumentation and optics, but is also active in the research field connecting art, design and the humanities to engineering and science. He is the executive editor of Leonardo Publications at MIT Press. “Roger is a brilliant speaker, both informative and entertaining and a regular on TED talks,” said Warner. “We want to remind people that this is an ongoing series where we move forward and look back.”





Art & Nature Events


Thursday, Nov 5

2 p.m. to sunset. Outstanding in the Field dinner. Tickets: $350

6–9 p.m. First Thursday coordinated gallery openings. Free museum admission.

Friday, Nov 6

6 p.m. Pre-keynote Reception

7 p.m. Keynote address by Roger Malina,


Saturday, Nov 7

10 a.m. An Elongated Now: Lita Albuquerque Talk and Film Screening

1:30 p.m. Panel discussion with artists. Free with museum admission.

6–10 p.m. Outdoor art performance, Main Beach. Free.

Sunday, Nov 8

2–5 p.m. Family Festival. Free all day.

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