Art mixes with nature at Transformation

When Stephanie Paige was growing up, her most common nightly entertainment was bigger than an iPhone, bigger than an iPad — for that matter, bigger even than an IMAX screen.

Her father, an avid outdoorsman, raised his family in the woods, and Paige, who went on to become a professional artist, got used to studying the grandest canvas of all.

"We would stargaze every night," said Paige, the featured artist this month at Transformation at Gallery 1951 in Laguna Beach. "He would get all the kids, all five kids, and we would lay there for hours and look for satellites. Growing up, I thought everyone did that, and I'm realizing, no one does that."

As an artist, Paige often favors meditative themes — landscapes, horizons, oceans and abstracts with cool color schemes. The slogan on her website reads, "All art is but imitation of nature." And nature, in more ways than one, will be on her mind when she gives the gallery's first lecture in the TAG 1951 Transformation Talks series next week.

The gallery's owners, inspired by the online video series TED Talks, plan to have an artist speak every month during the First Thursdays Art Walk about different forms of transformation: spiritual awakening, inner peace, philanthropy. While Paige speaks, her work will hang on the walls around her — and part of the proceeds from any sales will go to the nonprofit Wisdom Spring, which funds drinking water and other resources in Third World countries.

Transformation at Gallery 1951, which opened in January at 1951 S. Coast Hwy., has plenty of competition in Orange County's artiest city. But promoting art is only part of its mission. The small venue also serves as a home base for co-owner Susan Hough's life-coaching business, Inspire to Action, and the staff plans to host discussion groups for girls, healing seminars, and other events.

"We really envision this as a community space as well as a gallery, so as far as the competition, that's sort of how we are marketing ourselves," said events coordinator Jen Hutchinson.

On its website, the gallery has anointed a guru of sorts: Huffington Post blogger Yvahn Martin, who recently wrote, "Utilizing art as a tool to get people to connect with each other in real life could be the key to solving our communication problems — in politics, in business, and in life in general." Hutchinson said her writing, quoted at length on the site, helped to shape the gallery's mission.

Through the Transformation Talks series, Hutchinson and her colleagues will see how well that mission catches on. The main exhibition room can hold up to 50 people, and with the talks — like the TED series that inspired them — held to 20 minutes or less, the audience will have plenty of time to ask questions. There's also a free prize for one lucky visitor; the gallery will raffled off one piece by the featured artist at every talk.

By coincidence, Paige already had a mixed-media abstract called "Transformation"; the piece, which features a core of fiery red and orange surrounded by a calm aqua border, proved a natural choice for the raffle. (Entrants for the raffle can sign up at the door or on the gallery's website, http://www.tag1951.com, but must be present to win.)

The artist, who credits the Buddhist theory of metta, or universal love, for fueling much of her work, said part of her talk will cover her personal journey. As a child, she struggled with shyness and a learning disability, and art and spirituality helped her to find confidence.

"I started doing a lot of meditation and a lot of healing, and through that, I found that my life needed to become simple, and I needed to become simple," Paige said. "And my needs became less, and basically, what I found was such an amazing peace — it's almost like finding a holy grail of happiness."

michael.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

If You Go

What: TAG 1951 Transformation Talks with Stephanie Paige

Where: Transformation at Gallery 1951, 1951 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach

When: 7:30 p.m. March 7

Cost: Free

Information: http://www.tag1951.com

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