After researching all the art mentioned I feel like The Art Detective—the theme for 2014s Pageant of the Masters. All the masterpieces seem thinly threaded together under the guise of mystery, but I don’t care. It’s another fabulous show. Each piece has either been lost, stolen, misunderstood or rediscovered according to the program. Some of the pieces, like Sherlock Holmes by Gerald O. Laing, seem to be chosen more for the subject matter.
The show is divided into two acts. I don’t normally post more than one or two photos, but it will help to see the art. Photos are of the art not the staged piece. In the Official Souvenir Program there are eight photographs of the staged art.
No matter how long you stare at this live piece, Calvary from the Parthenon, it is difficult to believe there are two men sitting on still horses. The men are covered in what looks like plaster of Paris to look like marble. Nobody blinked or twitched making it more remarkable.
Out of the Fog
Out of dry ice came Sherlock Holmes by Gerald O. Laing. Sculptor Laing was born February 11, 1936 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and died in Scotland in his renovated castle on November 23, 2011. Not only renowned as a sculptor, but he is a Pop Art painter compared to friend Andy Warhol. He painted the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Amy Winehouse. Laing’s Dreamer sculpture was stolen from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2012.
Since I sat three rows back and facing stage right I saw much of the action and a bit behind the scenes. A man dressed in plastic like material came out from a side door to walk quietly as possible up to a platform that read In Memory of Sir Author Conan Doyle. Once settled and spotlighted he never twitches. He is one who has to stay still longer than others. I kept turning away from the next piece on stage to see if he screwed up, but he didn’t. Then I watched him carefully walk down with a cane and a chaperone with a flashlight.
ASI: Art Scene Investigation
Every year—I’ve only been twice—they show behind the scenes of one of the paintings. This year a video is shown of a volunteer cast member walking into the office to sign in then get prepped for the stage for Washington Crossing the Delaware. He is fitted for his suit by a costume designer then he goes to the makeup department for shadows painted on his face. A headpiece manager fits his wig. No longer on video, he walks on stage to step into the boat with the other cast members. The backdrop is painted, but the people are real. “George” takes his position with his right leg forward and bent with his left hand over his torso. You know the position. (I remember my Renaissance Man and our mutual friend reenacting this famous painting with a shopping cart when we were on the cusp of the end of our teen years many moons ago.) Then the poser looks at the print of the painting in his hand to make sure the cast member is in the right position. Well, that is just for this reenactment. They do that part in rehearsals. During the show it’s probably too dark for a poser to have a picture in hand. Then, the best part happens. The curtain opens and the stage lighting comes on. Some lights are used to take away shadows while some lights create shadows—most impressive. The cast members must stand there for 90 seconds sometimes longer. I have never noticed the women in this painting before—interesting.
In 1990, the largest art heist took place at Boston’s Gardner Museum. The FBI knows who the suspects are, but they are waiting for them to make their next move to solve the case. Unfortunately, the art is still missing. One of the paintings is The Concert by Johannes Vermeer. In the staging of this painting the girl to the right did an excellent job of standing there without blinking. The other two people in the painting don’t look real, but they are. The Official Souvenir Program shows behind the scenes photos of this painting which identifies the cast members as Gracie, David and Faith transported to 17th century Holland. There is also a photo of the girl, I assume posing as a singer in the painting, getting her makeup done. The facial makeup is pasty white with sienna brown outlining her eyebrows with a line down the side of her nose to the grooves between her nose and lips. Another line is made above the curve of her eyelids. This is how she is made to look like the painting.
Death of Cleopatra
Many good mystery book plots encompass Egypt or involve an Egyptian artifact which makes it fitting to include these pieces in the show. Edmonia Lewis’ The Death of Cleopatra is one of four art pieces with an Egyptian theme. The cast member appears to be covered in plaster of Paris as she sits there for 90 seconds without a detection of breathing.
I particularly fell in love with the artist Edmonia Lewis. Both her parents are of African descent with her father being Haitian and her mother Mississauga Ojibwe Native American making her captivatingly beautiful. So much so I had to include a photo. Her life is so interesting with a rebellious streak that someone needs to make a movie about her life. Her parents died when she was nine leaving her and her brother with their mother’s sisters. Her brother later paid for her college tuition to New York Central College, but she was rebellious. Her brother suggested she transfer to Oberlin College, where she was accused of poisoning two college mates.
Sun Temple of Ramses II and Temple of Queen Nefertari are shown together because as you can see in the photo they are near each other. Temple of Queen Nefertari is the one that sat twelve feet away from my left. They use two females on both ends and two men in the middle. They are all supposed to have their eyes shut. The women both opened their eyes. The one on my right kept opening both eyes. I swear she stared at me. It is very distracting. Then the other one tried peeking with one eye.
Sarcophagus of Tutankhamun is the most majestic in the show. It doesn’t look like a person laying down as the sarcophagus because the gold and turquoise colors are brilliant. It gives a glimpse of what it would be like if you were archeologist Howard Carter in 1922 seeing the tomb of Tutankhamun for the first time.
To my left a gate opens then a 1940s yellow car drives in too close for comfort. An actor posing as a private eye gets out of the car and walks to his desk on stage where The Dark Corner and Double Indemnity reenacted lithographic posters stand. The Dark Corner is a movie with Lucile Ball. A cast member, as Lucille Ball, stands in the poster. When the impersonating private eye says something about “… the trouble with dames,” the Lucille Ball look-a-like turns to glare at him getting a laugh from the audience.
Cellini’s Saltcellar is one of the most decadent pieces because it looks like nude people dipped in gold. The woman represents the earth and the man represents the sea. I believe it to be a fancy salt and pepper shaker. A vessel of salt sits in front of the male and the temple in front of the woman holds pepper, in the original piece, of course. In 2003, it was stolen and buried in a forest in Austria, but the man who stole it turned himself in three years later because he was caught on surveillance. Again I am only twelve feet from this display as I watch it slowly turn marveling at the cast members sitting back in their well camouflaged seats.
This is a grouping of five of Edouard Manet’s oil on canvas paintings. The reason the program uses Victorine as the theme is because Victorine Meurent is in every painting. She was a young model who inspired Manet. She was also an artist with an interesting story in a man’s world. Luncheon on the Grass is the last one staged in this section. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to see nude women at a picnic with two men in suits. It was to challenge the propriety of the time.
The Third Man
This section is called “The Third Man” since Edmund Hellmer’s Strauss Memorial is seen in the beginning of Carol Reed’s classic film. There are at least nine cast members in this staging of bronze and marble. The interesting part is the almost flying positions the cast members have to pose in.
Art Under Siege, Part 2
In this section Botticelli’s Primavera is staged. This one really comes alive with the white gauze material on the women against the dark background. This is one of the pieces that fell into the hands of the Nazi’s.
I’m not certain how every piece of art represented fits in with The Art Detective theme. The last painting is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which also ended last year’s show. Maybe this is tradition to end with this piece.
Your ticket to the Pageant of the Masters is also an unlimited pass to the Festival of Arts for the summer. Meandering through the art for sale before the show there are a couple of artists I found to stand out from the rest.
Junghwa Hong’s exhibit has three large oil and acrylic on canvas with women in burkas. The colors used are vivid. She paints women who have been victims of prejudice, discrimination and violence.
Mariana Nelson’s whimsical exhibit reminds me of a Chinese abacus. (My mom used to have one until one day my dad used it as a back scratcher and broke it. Makes me smile thinking about it.) Nelson is inspired by Temari, a thousand year old art form, which takes discarded silk from kimonos wrapping threads into tiny balls.
Park in the ACT V canyon parking lot to take the free trolley which isn’t far from the festivities and downtown Laguna Beach and not far from the beach. It helps if you come in from the 133 (Laguna Canyon Road). This year I paid $15 for parking a block away so I didn’t have to walk back on the busy road at night. This year I noticed the trolley still operates late at night. There are parking issues that the artists have gone to the city about. Although getting the word out via the local Laguna Beach Independent doesn’t help the rest of us who don’t live in Laguna.
From the Pageant to the festivals to the parking it’s all worth the price. Subscribe to FOAPOM email to get discounts on Pageant tickets. I paid $56 a seat with a discount they offered on Mother’s Day week. Or go this year and sit in back. It’s a great experience with or without binoculars.
Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. Ticket office 1-800-487-3378. Performances nightly: July 9-August 30, 2014.
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