First Art & Nature a Success


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Laguna Art Museum presented the first annual Art & Nature, a multidisciplinary exploration of art’s many and various engagements with the natural world, November 7-10, 2013.
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The centerpiece of the event was Land Artist Jim Denevan’s monumental sand drawings on Main Beach in Laguna. Beginning at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 9, Denevan worked with sticks and rakes to create a large geometric pattern of circles on the northern point of Main Beach. In the mid-afternoon, Denevan began working in the sand by the Main Beach boardwalk, creating an intricate pattern of spirals. Throughout the day, 40 volunteers (many of whom were from Laguna Beach High School) traced Denevan’s designs with approximately 2,500 solar lanterns that lit up as darkness came at 5:15 p.m. To the surprise of many, the first drawing lit up in a pattern that resembled a lotus flower, while the second was a pattern of circles of various sizes. Several hundred onlookers, who were gathered at that moment on the boardwalk and the steps leading to the Inn at Laguna Beach, broke into applause when Denevan stepped into the middle of his drawing and waved to the crowd.
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Santa Cruz-based Jim Denevan is a surfer, chef, and celebrated land artist. He is known particularly for his monumental, temporary drawings on beaches throughout the world. Using sticks and rakes, he waits for low tide and then covers an entire beach in graceful circles, spirals, and other geometric designs. Denevan has appeared in television features on CBS, PBS, Bloomberg television, the National Geographic channel, and ARD German Television. Films about his work include Thread and Jim’s Lines, two films by Patrick Trefz, and Sandman, a documentary by Chesley Chen. Exhibitions in which Denevan has participated include National and International Projects at PS1/MOMA in New York and the Vancouver Biennale. His work has been the subject of articles in Art LTD, Wired UK, GQ magazine, and the New York Times, among others. In March 2010 Denevan was commissioned by the Anthropologist to create an enormous sand drawing on Lake Baikal, the world’s biggest single artwork. In addition to his artistic endeavors, Denevan is the founder of Outstanding in the Field, a traveling outdoor dinner series.
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Art & Nature was filmed by Patrick Trefz, who is making a full-length documentary about Jim Denevan, and also by MacGillivray Freeman videographers Matt Amick and Toby Wallwork. Their footage, including aerial views of the beach drawing shot from a drone, will be combined into a short film recording the event.
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In addition to Jim Denevan’s sand drawings, Art & Nature included nature-themed exhibitions and selections from the museum’s collection; a keynote lecture; panel discussions with artists, environmentalists, and scientists; events and exhibitions around town; a music concert; and a free Family Festival. This year’s keynote speaker was Kevin Starr, the renowned historian of California, who presented a lecture at Laguna Art Museum on Saturday, November 9, about how ideas of nature have helped shape California’s history and identity. Hundreds of people visited the exhibitions and attended the concert and panel discussions during the weekend, while over 200 attended Kevin Starr’s lecture, and nearly 500 attended the Family Festival on Sunday, November 10.
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Sunday’s Family Festival drew a steady crowd of visitors of all ages. Children and adults participated in an array of hands-on activities, including making clay pots inspired by Adam Silverman’s exhibition, learning to make coral featured in Tanya Aguiniga’s Sea Change exhibition from the artist herself, and learning how to compose haikus with author Eve Luckring. More than a dozen organizations were on hand with nature and science activities and information booths, including the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Discovery Science Center, the Laguna Ocean Foundation, and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Contributing to the festive atmosphere was live surf music by Matt Quilter and his Wave Machine, face painting, and a scavenger hunt with prizes by the Eco-Adventure Center at the Ritz Carlton.
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Laguna Art Museum’s Art & Nature festival is slated to be an annual event, and will serve a number of purposes: to provide a festival of art and ideas for the community; to inspire artists; to offer scientists a sense of what their work means in the wider culture; to find and develop connections between art and science; to raise awareness of environmental issues; and to celebrate Laguna Beach as a center for the appreciation of art and nature.
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The theme of Art & Nature speaks particularly to the identity of Laguna Beach, which for over a hundred years has been a center for art, the appreciation of nature, and environmental awareness. In 1929, when the Laguna Beach Art Association built an art gallery to show and sell their work, they chose a commanding location on the coastline close to the natural wonders they loved to paint. The present museum occupies the same site. There could be no more appropriate venue in which to explore the art-nature connection.
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The 2013 event was funded by the Orange County Community Foundation, the Massen Greene Foundation, the Laguna Beach Community Foundation, the Draper Family Foundation Fund, the McBeth Foundation, the Ueberroth Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, and anonymous donors.
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Photos by Eric Stoner, Patrick Trefz, Jennifer Gardiner, Lindy Narver, Aliah Cadena, and Barbara Hillman.