Janet Blake (Dominik), Curator of Historical Art, will retire on December 31, 2020. Blake has been affiliated with the museum since 1983 in the field of scholarship on the history of California art from 1900 to 1950, with a focus on American impressionists in California and the regional or American Scene artists of the 1930s and 1940s.
She began her exploration in the field in 1981 as private curator for Diane and E. Gene Crain and went on to provide curatorial services to Peter and Gail Ochs of The Fieldstone Company as well as Bente and Gerald E. Buck. At Laguna Art Museum, she organized the 1986 exhibition Early Artists in Laguna Beach: The Impressionists and contributed to the publication for the 1990 exhibition California Light curated by Dr. Patricia Trenton and Dr. William H. Gerdts. The following year she co-edited American Scene Painting: California, 1930s and 1940s with Ruth Westphal.
Transitioning from independent curator and contributor to staff of Laguna Art Museum in 1998, Blake worked as the registrar before assuming the additional position as curator of collections from 1999 to 2012. In 2012 she became the curator of historical art. During her tenure, Blake has curated several exhibitions: California Holiday: The E. Gene Crain Collection, 2002 (with Susan M. Anderson); Laguna’s Hidden Treasures: Art from Private Collections, 2005 (with Tyler Stallings); Millard Sheets in Mexico, 1932 to 1943, 2006; E. Roscoe Shrader, 2010; Clarence Hinkle, 2012; Timothy J. Clark, 2012; George Hurrell: Laguna to Hollywood, 2013; Travels with Millard Sheets, 1950–1980, 2014; Rex Brandt: In Praise of Sunshine, 2014; Phil Dike: The Wave Series and Malibu Set Series, 1968 to 1981, 2015; City Life, Los Angeles: 1930s to 1950s, 2016; Miss Hills of Laguna Beach: Anna Althea Hills, Art, Education, Community, 2016 (with Keith Colestock); Phil Dike: At the Edge of the Sea, 2017; Art Colony: The Laguna Beach Art Association, 1918 to 1935, 2018 (with Deborah Epstein Solon); and Thomas Hunt: California Modernist, 2020 (with Keith Colestock).
Blake fondly remembers her childhood in the small town of Penfield outside Rochester, New York. After moving to Southern California in 1976, she was charmed by the community of Laguna Beach. She visited often with her husband and two young children—Katie and Michael. They enjoyed visiting the shops on Forest Avenue and stopping at the Renaissance Bakery for lemonade and treats. Blake had begun her art history studies in the northeast and completed those studies at California State University Long Beach.
She recalls the advice of one of her professors—study what is in your own back yard. At the time, she had no idea that her area of study would involve the idyllic community that she first visited in 1976.
Ten years later she was curating her first major exhibition, focusing on artists who came to Laguna Beach in the early 1900s. Research material was scant, and available paintings were not widely known; however, the exhibition was well-received and it spurred further research into the subject.
Blake could not imagine that thirty years later, she would organize a major exhibition on one of those early artists and community leaders Anna Althea Hills, followed two years later by the celebratory exhibition Art Colony. Advancements in technology enabled original, in-depth research through the internet and an ability to locate paintings more easily. The result was a very thorough examination of that early period in Laguna Beach and the significant contributions of the Laguna Beach Art Association in the shaping of a community.
Blake says that over the years she was fortunate to work with dynamic directors at the museum, especially Bolton Colburn, who offered her first position, and Malcolm Warner, who encouraged her in ongoing research, curating, and writing. Under their tutelage, she expanded her knowledge to encompass the post-war, modern, and contemporary periods. Both Colburn and Warner shared with Blake a passion for the museum, the community, and for California art.
The board and staff of Laguna Art Museum celebrate the achievements and contributions of Janet Blake through the course of her 38 years of affiliation and service.
Please join us in celebrating the tenure of Janet Blake, who will retire on December 31, 2020. Gifts to the museum may be made “in honor of Janet Blake.” According to Janet’s wishes, gifts will provide unrestricted support; with gifts of $5,000 or more to the endowment, and gifts under $5,000 to the annual fund. To make an honorary gift by credit card, click below – or mail a check to the address below:
For gifts by mail, please write “in honor of Malcolm Warner” in memo:
Attn: Bernadette Clemens
Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Questions? Please email Bernadette Clemens, Director of Advancement.