Laguna Observed


Surrounding The Art

By Ruth Yunker

I’m a lucky woman.  I have artists in my life who are also my friends. The kind of friends to whom I can whine about my life, and look ratty, and say the wrong thing, and they still meet up with me at Zinc. They come to my house at Thanksgiving.  They know my secrets and I know theirs. That kind of friend. Of course, this is Laguna Beach, artists’ colony supreme, so most of us can say this, right?  Aren’t they the greatest for adding such beauty to our lives?A friend with a huge love of art was visiting from back East.  She is the ex-wife of an ex-boyfriend, and so life goes! I took her to the studios of three of my favorite friend-artists.  Just to see. Okay, more than just see; to bathe in the creative energy suffusing their spaces, to revel in the color and the stories behind the work, and to learn from the discipline of each to create such a body of work.

First stop was sculptor Cheryl Ekstrom’s studio. It’s a warehouse divided into studios for Cheryl and her husband, and cozy little nooks into which they can retreat when needed!  It looks, how can I say?  It looks Parisian cum urban edgy. Chandeliers and 17th century molding and mirrors. Her creations hanging from the ceiling, the Warriors lined up along the wall.  Huge, old display cases filled with found objects.  Her silver furniture hanging out, the epitome of Cheryl’s technical prowess needed to bring forth her creative visions!  The doll-size versions of her latest triumph, five, eight-feet-tall goddess-warriors, now standing in the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.  Cheryl herself is a doll-sized beauty, so it is amazing, indeed awe-inspiring, to see videos of her working in a foundry, always wearing fabulous bracelets!

Next came Sandra Jones Campbell’s new studio. Walking into her space, one’s breath is taken away by the sheer size of the place, with her paintings, like so many jewels, hanging on the walls, leaning on the walls. New projects set up in several spots. I’d never seen her work before, and was blown away by the delight in each one. The color work was amazing. Each painting told a story. I wanted to know the people in her paintings. The serious little girl staring sternly at the viewer. The man in the bowler, sitting with the chair turned around backwards, obviously the sort who brings joy wherever he goes. Sandra is having a show at the end of March, in her studio.  Then you can see this remarkable space for yourself.

Finally we moseyed over to Gina Mead’s new studio. Gina just finished her master’s in fine arts at Laguna College of Art and Design.  This is after years of painting, of raising a daughter. She went back to school and saw it through when she could have been surfing!  Hers is a light filled studio, freshly painted, and still being set up.  Gina has been focusing on skies and space for the duration of school, and her paintings are luminous and quietly energetic. They bring vast landscapes into sight with a beautiful gentleness.  She says she’s looking forward to the next phase of her work, and her new studio reflects the place she’s in right now. It has a window. Sun was streaming in, looking just like the doorway to what happens next!

So, I’m sitting in my workspace right now. I’d rather be sitting in theirs!

Ruth Yunker’s “Me, Myself and Paris” is available at Laguna Beach Books and on

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