Sawdust To Red Carpet Art

Nelson's Landing at Sawdust. Photo by Melissa Crismon.
Nelson’s Landing at Sawdust. Photo by Melissa Crismon.

I love Pageant of the Masters! This is my first time attending and I am going every year for now on. This is a fun way to learn about famous paintings. I thought we would see maybe ten paintings while standing for an hour. No. Every year there is a theme; this years’ is movies, called The Big Picture, celebrating their eightieth year. You sit in an amphitheatre for a two hour show with a generous twenty minute intermission. You can take food in too, BUT DON’T TAKE PICTURES or you will get kicked out for sure.

Which makes me ask the question. How can we control the photographing of art in the age of technology? Someday, someone will be able to come in with Google glasses or contact lenses and blink to take a photo. Ultimately, Pageant of the Masters is protecting their brand, in my opinion. I suppose someone could take a photo and put it on a sweatshirt to sell for their own profit. Aside from that, it is distracting when one’s phone glows in the darkness for a few seconds.

The first live sculpture, I thought wasn’t live. Michelangelo’s Tomb of Pope Julius II stands stage right of the stage. I figured the original art would be shown and then the live version would appear on the main stage. No. What I saw was live. Women playing Rachael and Leah were in replica to the left with Moses in the middle. The story behind this commissioned art is amazing. What kind of Pope threatens war over art for his tomb? Then there is jealousy that Michelangelo has to contend with and then the legend. Michelangelo struck Moses’ knee with a hammer saying, “Now Speak!” being his most lifelike work.

It’s all very unbelievable. A kind lady sitting next to me wanted to share her binoculars. It helps to see the people, but it is still unbelievable. I believe it is Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge (photograph from 1878 that inspired a director of a John Wayne movie) that is broken down for the audience to see how the props and actors are positioned. Once the eight cowboys are still and the lights go on it becomes seamless. The eyes still are amazed.

Lucas de Heere’s The Family of Henry VIII, oil on panel, circa 1572, is stunning with the color of the clothing. Henry VIII robe is a brilliant red. I’m not sure what the actors/models wear. Next year I will buy a program to get more information on how the process works.

Film stills are replicated of Buster Keaton in The General, Harold Lloyd in Safety Last and Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo film still, Psycho lobby card and North by Northwest poster are replicated. Again it’s difficult to understand how real it looks.

My favorite – Erté! – Queen of the Night, Serigraph, 1989 and Erté Statues, multimedia, various. I wish I could have met him. He is Russian, born in aristocracy. He’s not French. His name is Romain de Tirtoff. Paul Poiret, a designer, pronounced Romain de Tirtoff’s initials in French to come up with “Erté.”

In the middle of the show an actress playing a 1920s Hollywood Starlet is driven to the stage in a like-era car. She walks on the red carpet onto the stage pretending to accept an award.

Dan Duling beautifully scripts the show as Richard Doyle narrates with one of those deep sounding voice-over voices. A small orchestra is conducted by John Elg and there is a harp. Harpist Amy Wilkins begins the show with elegant arpeggios. Wilkins has lots of parts and she’s heard!

Before the 8:30pm show we went to the Sawdust Festival not knowing there is more art at the Pageant of the Masters site. I think it’s the juried art at the Masters from the looks of it.

We began the evening having dinner at the Sawdust nestled in hills of chaparral amongst the eucalyptus with music by a singer and guitarist. Our dinner was a disappointment so I’ll tell you what I ate last year. Tacos Durrell (cash only) has a good tofu taco with cumin and cayenne pepper. I make them at home because I enjoyed them so much.

"Synchronicity" , 2013, Ceramics, Hardware, Twine, 40"X72"X4", Sharon Hardy. Photo by Melissa Crismon.
“Synchronicity” , 2013, Ceramics, Hardware, Twine, 40″X72″X4″, Sharon Hardy. Photo by Melissa Crismon.

Sawdust is beautifully lit at night sauntering between the crooked aisles. Last year I went to the Sawdust Festival thinking the Pageant of the Masters was in the same building, not so. They coincide, but the Pageant of the Masters runs from July 7 – August 31, 2013 and Sawdust is from June 28 – September 1, 2013 about a block apart. I didn’t know what to expect other than great art by a community of local artists. The website says the Sawdust is where the rejects go. It runs the gamut from crafts to art. There is a lot of photography with an ocean theme, jewelry – handmade and not-so-handmade looking, sculpture, paintings of all kinds, gourd art, ceramics, woodturning, clothing and mixed media. One booth near the front showcases Sharon Hardy ceramics – A wall-hanging is loops of ceramic hung from twine on hardware – something for the entry way of a house. Other art is disproportioned balls with holes all over displayed on beach rock would be lovely in a boutique window.

One thing I did notice is that none of the art is controversial. It’s all aesthetically pleasing. Hey this is Laguna Beach. People are living the good life. I did notice more art with white backgrounds for that beach or art gallery look. Honestly, I liked it and it gave me some ideas.

There is so much to do on a few blocks. Park for $7 just east of Sawdust and take a trolley to see both events and more. People on the trolley including me were confused as to where we were going. The trolley goes in a circle until 11:30pm stopping at both events and at bus stops. Parking is next to Sawdust for $20 (cash only) and $15 a little bit further – really in between both venues. The beach is walking distance too on Main Street. I love the nights here, but one could make a whole day of it. There is no need to get dressed up. There is always that one person in high heels, but there is too much walking. This is a casual, cultural event that is appropriate for all ages – great for families, singles and retirees. It’s affordable too. The Sawdust is $7.75 for an adult and $3.25 for a child 6-12. Thursday night was free to Laguna Beach residents; so it was a little busier than usual. Pageant of the Masters had a discounted night for $15; so again, it was probably a little busier than usual on a week night, but not bad.

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Coming up: Shakespeare at the Old Globe, an Angel’s baseball game (I tried to find art there.) and in the distant future more art coming out of Laguna Beach. Hopefully, some books with beautiful covers and pretty prose.