Pursuit of Happiness

Ilya Serov performs at Festival of Arts 2015.
Ilya Serov performs at Festival of Arts 2015.

Sawdust Art Festival

Before the annual show of Pageant of the Masters, I have to stop at the Sawdust Art and Craft Festival. Sawdust to me feels like home not far from where I grew up. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset when the soft lighting of the art in the teeny booths shines on the enveloping eucalyptus trees. The smell of bleached out wood chips and trees growing out of some of the booths make me feel like a hobbit.

There are crafters to artists, who sell affordable art, from practical to whimsical. If you need a head shot for your social media, why not get it done by Mary Hurlbut who uses lightening to enhance the natural beauty of you. Or perhaps, you’ll like Annette Doreng-Stearns jewelry with a steampunk flair using metals and gems. After meandering around the windy rows listen to live coffee shop style music while eating at Evan’s Bistro. The teriyaki salmon, chicken or tofu over brown rice with jalapeños tastes homemade and is organic for $13.

Festival of Arts

After a belly full, cruise to Festival of Arts toward the ocean and cross the street. Wander through fine art while you wait for the Pageant of the Masters show. Even the local county schools’ student art is impressive. In the professionals area, I find myself starring at Rob Gage’s photographs of a dancer surrounded by mannequins splashed with paint. Inspiration came from a behind the scenes tour last year of Pageant of the Masters. A completely different medium caught my eye—Mia Moore’s mix media of ancient Asian papers in a contemporary format. Her wall hangings of collage pieces of paper have an origami feel. Many of the ancient papers are layered on small squares of canvas creating texture. If peace can be captured, it’s in Mia Moore’s art.

Pageant of the Masters

This year’s Pageant of the Masters theme The Pursuit of Happiness intrigued me. And, it did not disappoint. Because of the American history, kids and horse I would highly suggest taking school age children. Oh yeah and there’s confetti and an air dancer on top of the stage. You know, those orange, flopping, inflatable, dancing characters to get a store attention. It’s not art, but it will keep the kids attention. Also many hidden levels where used. Just like the Festival of Arts there is a multi-cultural theme in the POM show this year. Because we all should be given the freedom to pursue happiness.

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer, Oil, 1872
Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer, Oil, 1872

The production begins with oil on canvas paintings by Winslow Homer inspired by school children. Children run in front of the stage and play ball, making their way into Snap The Whip, which is a game.

Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin, Bronze, 1909
Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin, Bronze, 1909

One of my favorite segments, Great Spirits, is the Native American art that had a surprise. Stage right, above the small stage, Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus Dallin, stands in the shrubs of a hill. Then even higher a spotlight shines on two more Native Americans on faux horses which is not in the program. There may be a hidden building stage right. All this time I thought that was foliage covering a steep hill.

George Washington by Thomas Ball, Bronze, 1864
George Washington by Thomas Ball, Bronze, 1864

The Life, Liberty and … segment includes two paintings with George Washington then Thomas Ball’s George Washington Statue in bronze off the stage. The statue stands stage left on a dais, close enough to see the volunteer (cast member) make the slightest move, which he didn’t. With the narration this is a moving moment, exemplifying our freedom and those who helped mold America. A George Washington impersonator rides on a real white horse, galloping in front of the stage. This is the closest I’ll ever get to George Washington. The narrator says, “You have the right to pursue happiness–” Washington with his hat in the air gallops off as the narrator continued, “–but it’s up to you to catch it.” Red, white and blue confetti shoots out from the top of the stage.

The Moon at the Vacation House by Chikanobu, Woodblock print, 1891
The Moon at the Vacation House by Chikanobu, Woodblock print, 1891

In the Setsugetsuka segment, a trio of woodblock prints on paper by Japanese Master Yoshu Chikanobu come to life with a moon lantern high in the sky, a dance as performed in Kabuki theatre and haiku poetry. The Moon at a Vacation House celebrates “moon viewing,” one of the most admired seasonal events in Japan.

Every year, I am amazed at how art is brought to life in Pageant of the Masters. Real people are painted and stand still for one minute or longer, through live music by a small orchestra and beautifully written narration. All the elements come together forming a bigger than life-size piece of art, you would normally have to travel all over the world to see.

Buy a ticket to The Pursuit of Happiness for a trip around the world!

There is a $7 pay lot on Laguna Canyon Road where you can take the trolley for free.

Sawdust Art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651.

Pageant of the Masters, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna, CA 92651. Phone #1.800.487.3378.

Festival of Arts is $4-$10, but free with a POM ticket. POM starts at $15. The best deal is Mother’s Day weekend if you sign up to be on the POM email list. I don’t recall how I signed up for the email.

Passport to the Arts season pass. For $23 you can have unlimited admission to Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair all walking distance from each other plus one-time Free parking other discounts.

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? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_of_Pope_Julius_II. 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.” http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Erte.aspx.

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 –  http://sharonhardyceramics.com. 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.

For more information go to http://www.sawdustartfestival.org/ and http://www.foapom.com/.

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.