Soon after Laguna Beach’s summerlong Festival of Arts (FOA) invited people from around Orange County to enter its fine art show more than a dozen years ago, several artists from Irvine eagerly applied for admission.
This year, six Irvine residents are pleased to show their artwork in the festival, which opened on Friday, July 5. Three of these artists, working in printmaking, photography and oil painting, respectively, help to demonstrate the variety of work shown at the FOA.
Noriho Uriu is one of the longest running Irvine residents exhibiting at the festival. She moved to the United States from Japan in 1987 and to O.C. in 1998. Originally trained in realistic figurative drawing and painting, she studied printmaking in 2000, and soon began experimenting with intaglio, etching, dry point, aquatint, relief print, woodcut, linocut, monoprint and monotype — often combining several print methods in one work.
An exhibitor at the FOA since 2005, she is excited to show her work to visitors from around the country and the world. She describes her work in this year’s show as “transience and reemergence,” explaining, “I have long been interested in the cycles of life and in the border between life and death.”
About her silk aquatint, intaglio and mixed media print, “Reemergence,” Urio says, “One can look down on a tree stump from above and imagine the teeming activity of an urban layout, as life reemerges from the life force of the tree.” About her etching, aquatint and intaglio piece, “Loop Line: Life’s Cyclicity,” she explains. “Fading flowers are the symbol of the transience of life, and their return to bloom the next season represents the cyclicity of life.” Her mixed-media drawing “Yuragi” is based on a Buddha image, and includes elements expressing the transition of human emotional stages and states of consciousness. Her print titled “Mapping” contains several layers of balloons, symbolically depicting an image of clouds.
Photographer Breck Rothage, displaying his work at the Festival of Arts for more than a decade, conveys his love of the seashore, with, “all of it’s variations of colors, textures and compositions.” He adds, “The sights sounds and smells among the craggy rocks, sand and sea are unique, beautiful and ever-changing.” With this vision, he shoots majestic waves from the shorelines of local surfing spots, including Laguna Beach and The Wedge Newport Beach, featured in the 1964 film, The Endless Summer.
The working title for Rothage’s photos at the festival this summer is “Slow Fast.” He explains that his photos from previous years have had remarkable sharpness and clarity, especially for such large images, and that people who saw them often remarked that they felt as though they were “there,” that they could walk right into the ocean and the waves.
This year, Rothage decided to slow down his camera’s shutter speed to create images with a softer appearance. With this new approach to conveying, “the character or personality of the ocean at the coastline,” as he says, viewers are delighted to see this new work. He explains, “I do not care to document a specific place or location, but rather the ever changing compositions of colors, textures and motion — up close and personal.”
His largest piece from this new series is the 72 x 48 inch “Painter’s Stroke,” with the characteristics of expressionist paintings. His 45 x 30 inch “Smooth Peak” features waves coming to a peak, as they often do at The Wedge. The contrasting 60 x 30 inch “Smooth Roll” depicts wildly rolling waves. And his 48 x 24 inch “Powder II” and 20 x 30 inch “Extract” have abstract characteristics, as they are part of a category of work that he calls “Abstract Extractions.”
Portrait painter Dennis Carrie, exhibiting at the FOA since 2017, describes his experience there: “The most important highlight for me is meeting people from all over the world who visit the Festival. I want people to see my paintings and to hopefully learn and be moved in some way.”
Carrie’s subjects for his oil paintings are often portraits of historical figures. About his “Frederick Douglass Seated,” in this year’s show, he explains, “Douglass was a man of extraordinary courage and eloquence who did much to begin the movement in the United States toward a nation of freedom to be enjoyed by all regardless of race. He possessed striking physical features that displayed his great strength of mind, courage, and character.”
He describes Abraham Lincoln, the subject his “Lincoln Seated” portrait: “Lincoln is universally recognized as a man of great character, courage, and honesty. He was responsible for making this country one of liberty to be possessed by all of its citizens.” About “Winston Churchill,” the title and subject of another oil painting, Carrie says, “I believe that Churchill was the one person most responsible for saving Western Civilization in the 20th century. This painting may inspire some curiosity in viewers to simply ask ‘who was that man?’ ”
About “Protective Custody,” portraying mug shots of eight prisoners from various nationalities, Carrie says, “I was inspired to do this painting after reading Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer. It is about World War II and about how people can be convinced to perpetrate unbelievably inhuman acts on other completely innocent human beings. Given that the desire to be good ought to be the ideal state of mind, we should never forget the evil of the past.”
This year, the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts hosts 140 artists, exhibiting more than 1,000 pieces of fine art, including paintings, sculpture, photography, printmaking, ceramics, glass, furniture and jewelry. The outdoor festival at 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach is open daily July 5 to August 31, weekdays from noon to 11:30 p.m. and weekends, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (949) 494-1145, LagunaFestivalofArts.org.