New Art Galleries Test the Waters

From left, Nick Hernandez, Mia Tovanatti, Tony Cox, Victoria Moore and Stan Isaacs in the newly opened Main Beach Fine Art.

Music, water, mermaids and myriad permutations of the female form as perceived by new and established artists fill two new Laguna Beach galleries.

While new to operating galleries, the principals are well-known locals rolling the dice, trying their hands at another artistic medium and providing visibility to fellow artists along the way.

Local music promoter Tony Cox partnered with sculptor Nick Hernandez and businessman Stan Isaacs last November to provide a forum for emerging or not yet represented artists in the Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 S. Coast Highway.

Established as a cooperative, not for profit gallery, its proceeds are slated to support artists as well as musicians who need a leg up financially or career-wise, explained Cox. He turned to freelance curator Jinx Law to select the 23 current artists, some of whom could double as “performance artists,” Cox said.

“Art comes in different forms. I am looking for art that heals, that brings peace,” said Law, who looks for talented artists unfamiliar with how to market their work. “Connecting the right artists with the right venue is what preoccupies me full-time,” she said.

This week, the partners expect to officially open a second location, Main Beach Fine Art, which currently features sculpture by Nick Hernandez and Casey Parlette and paintings by Mia Tavonatti, Fitz Maurice and Victoria Moore.

Mia Tavonatti, whose mosaics embellish Mozambique restaurant and Laguna Drug in town, displays paintings for the first time at a newly opened gallery, Main Beach Fine Art.
Mia Tavonatti, whose mosaics embellish Mozambique restaurant and Laguna Drug in town, displays paintings for the first time at a newly opened gallery, Main Beach Fine Art.

Hernandez, a professor and honorary doctorate recipient at Chapman University as well as a former city Arts Commission member, serves as curator of the Main Beach gallery. “I think I’ve finally found my calling,” said Hernandez, who intends to bring in more artists depending on the success of the showing at 206 N. Coast Highway.

The hanging sculpture “The Last Fish” by Parlette, a Laguna Beach lifeguard and an anthropologist, shows a humorous take on the rank and file of sea life.

Tavonatti, displaying work in a Laguna Beach gallery for the first time, shows her painted visions of floating and shrouded female forms. The former Laguna College of Art & Design teacher created the community art project Power of Words that resulted in “Wonder,” a Laguna Canyon mural executed by students. She is also the winner of the 2011 Art Prize for her stained glass mosaic “Crucifixion.”

Moore, in keeping with both galleries’ water world theme, has painted a series of mermaids. Fresh on the West Coast of Florida, Moore plans to establish herself in Laguna.

Maurice is exhibiting at both galleries simultaneously, showing her latest paintings from a sojourn through the nation’s national parks at Woods Cove and examples of her Illuminism series at Main Beach.

Isaacs, a post-construction cleaning contractor acts as the gallery angel, having helped with early finances such as rent deposits. “Some finance people don’t want to deal with start-ups, but I love to bring people together and joy through art,” he said.

Cox explained the Woods Cove business model as a combination co-op, where artists pay for display space but also have an option to work for the gallery. The gallery will give artists 70 percent of the sales commission, with 30 percent slated for the Laguna Foundation for the Arts, the support organization for both galleries.

The foundation is registered as a non-profit 501c3 dedicated to helping artists and musicians in financial straits through grants.



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