Thursday, October 8, 2009

Art in the OC...It Does Exist!

The title of this post is strictly tongue-in-cheek. Much to my never-ending delight, there are a significant number of galleries in the OC, from the "that's-as-good-as-anything-I've-ever-seen-in-LA" Bowers Museum in Santa Ana to the "the-view-rivals-the-art-collection" of the beach-side Laguna Art Museum. Sprinkled throughout Orange County, from the Gallery On Glassell (a lovely little place in Downtown Orange which features Southwestern Art) to the Muckenthaler Cultural Center (in Fullerton; line drawings; paintings; pottery; with the occasional concert series thrown in for good measure), aesthetes will find places filled with art that makes the heart sigh and the mind soar with possibilities.

And the OC art environs don't end with the visual variety--we have theater that ranges from uber-smart (The Chance Theater in Anaheim has some productions that will take your breath away--currently playing "The Seagull" by Anton Chekov) to the family-flavored fair featured at The Curtain Call Dinner Theater (you won't want to miss "Singin' in the Rain"). Plus, I'm proud to say that OC theaters include the world-class Orange County Performing Arts Center (which has productions that rival Broadway's--Spamalot, anyone? Opened on the 6th). The Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is a beautiful piece of architecture (I've only been to two events there, though, and likely will not go again unless forcibly dragged. The seating situation--five stories of undulating levels with a low guardrail--gave me such a bad case of vertigo that I actually ended up hyperventilating. A very sweet but obviously wary seating host had to talk me through it. True story. That being said, if you're not afraid of heights, you should go...of course, I didn't know I was afraid of heights until I went...hmmmmm)

Plus, the Argyros Stage at the OC Performing Arts offers edgy, contemporary fair that will please those looking for something that propels them to the next level. And of course, who could forget our local college drama departments? Cal State Fullerton's drama department hosts amazing productions for the low, low price of just $9 a seat--and every seat is a good one.

So anyone who dares look down on those of us "behind the Orange Curtain" (a phrase I hate but in many cases--especially politics--is eerily apt) for not having any "culture," (I'm talkin' to you, LA) I beg to differ. As a aesthete (okay, okay, I'm showing off--an aesthete is just a fancy, aren't-I-brilliant word for 'art lover') I consider myself pretty well versed in all things artistic Orange Count has to offer. But this past Saturday night, I learned that "pretty well versed" really doesn't mean jack in the big scheme of things when it comes to the world of art. Because art is more than a once-a-month trip to Laguna to cruise the galleries or a once-a-season production of The Sound of Music with my girls. It's moving beyond the expected places, to those where you might not have even thought about.

My dear friend Larissa Marantz (she of OC Art Studios, Rug Rats, countless children's books, and, who can leave out, the wonderful portrait of President Obama for the Manifest Hope exhibit during the inaguration) was invited to show her Obama painting (she has two) and painting of Lilly Ledbetter (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act--signed into law after 10 years of struggling to close the pay gap between men/women doing the same job) at the Studio Del Sotano Gallery in Santa Ana. Now, unless you're not from around the OC or have been living under the proverbial rock, you know that over the last 8 years or so, downtown Santa Ana has been striving to redefine itself as an artist/art lover (aesthete--hee hee) haven where people can breathe in the magic of local artists.

So along with my other dear friend, Melissa, an aesthete like me (okay, I swear I will never use that word again!! Geesch!) I went to see Larissa's installation. It was the Santa Ana's Art Walk, a once-per-month celebration of the local artiste. The gallery owners are there, doors wide open, offering wine and assorted goodies for all. I'd never been to the Art Walk before and I must say, I was tremendously excited to go. Not only was it a bit of an adventure--I'm always, always, always up for trying something new--but it also provided me with the opportunity to check out this part of the SA I'd always heard of but hadn't had a chance to explore.

The Santa Ana Art Walk was all I hoped it would be. It was a phenomenal night, perfect weather. The rather smallish crowd in the street gave way to street vendors with interesting things to look at, although nothing quite caught my eye to buy (maybe next time).

I could give you a blow-by-blow description of which galleries we went in and what we saw. But what fun would that be? I'll tell you what made an impression on me, instead, in the order that I remember them (both good impressions and what-the-hell-is-that??-impressions):

1. Larissa's paintings (of course--I am so thrilled to see her in a gallery. She's worked so hard & derserves it so much)
2. "Tape." Yup. A blank white canvas with a smattering of torn blue painters tape in the upper left corner.
3. Naked girl live installation. This was a real girl. Best Boobs Ever! I was both impressed by her bravery and jealous because, unlike me, her boobs don't reach her belly button (give her another 22 years, though!!)
4. Military poet. This was a very moving scene. Melissa, whose husband Brian is retired Marine, struck up a conversation with a retired soldier dressed in full camo . A soldier/poet who, during active duty, was one of those poor souls whose job was to tell families that their loved one had died. She drew his story out of him, and I just listened, my heart breaking. Will never forget that encounter.
5. A painter from CSUF (her name I can't remember--arrgghhh!! She deserves recognition--even on my lowly blog. If I can remember it, I'll post it) who painted children's artwork with such a deft hand that the results looked like they came straight from a child's imagination. the ability to create such amazing work truly moves my soul. I could hardly tear myself away.

The rest of it all whirls together in a pleasant, fuzzy sort of fog. I really enjoyed myself. The Art Walk in Santa Ana is now on my list of must-do-agains. There will be art you love, art that perplexes you, and art that makes you think. The important thing is, the art is here. Right here in the OC.

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