Time stands still at Festival of Arts foaSOUTH satellite gallery


Ephemeral Monuments: A Stillman Sawyer Retrospective

Open now through March 31 

The Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach has revealed its newest off-site exhibit, “Ephemeral Monuments: A Stillman Sawyer Retrospective,” located at foaSOUTH, the Festival’s satellite gallery. Open now through March 31, the exhibit delves into the intricate relationship between Stillman Sawyer (1927 – 2007), a longtime Festival of Arts exhibitor, and his distinctive photography, nature and the passage of time.

“Braided River” photographed by Stillman Sawyer is on display at foaSOUTH through March 31. Image courtesy of FOA

Featuring framed black and white prints from Sawyer’s long career photographing landscapes, this retrospective showcase explores the delicate interplay between nature, time, and the ephemeral beauty of fleeting moments. The exhibit is a poignant journey through Sawyer’s lens, offering viewers an intimate experience with the ageless beauty of nature, which he so passionately preserved. 

“Stillman Sawyer’s masterful photography invites the viewer to ponder the evanescent wonders and enduring landscapes that define our world,” Festival of Arts Collection Specialist Morgan Matthews said. “His contribution to both the Festival of Arts and the artistic community is immeasurable, making this exhibit a celebration of his legacy and an invaluable experience for art enthusiasts.”

As a meticulous craftsman, Sawyer engaged in every aspect of the photographic process, using archival materials and procedures. He would be involved in film development, printing, toning, and everything from matting to framing. 

Sawyer was born and raised in Southern California, living in Whittier, San Pedro and Laguna Beach. He received his bachelor’s degree from Pomona College, spent time in the Armed Forces, and then completed his graduate studies at Stanford University. He worked for Union Oil as an engineer, but his real passion was nature and photography.

His artistic legacy extends beyond his work, as evidenced by his generous contribution of $1 million as seed money for a year-round gallery for Festival artists and the donation of his complete photographic archives. Sawyer’s estate donated the prints, as well as pieces of equipment and hundreds of negatives, to the Festival’s Permanent Art Collection in 2009. Sawyer was a longtime member of the Festival and a beloved artist in Laguna Beach.

“‘Ephemeral Monuments’ is not merely an exhibition; it is an invitation to explore the profound beauty of nature through the lens of a remarkable artist,” Matthew said. 

“Ephemeral Monuments: A Stillman Sawyer Retrospective” is free of cost to the public and runs through March 31. The foaSOUTH gallery is inside Active Culture, located at 1006 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. The building is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

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