Aster Hazelton has won a chance to go down in history. At least a couple of feet down.
As top winner of the Costa Mesa Arts League’s Orange County Centennial Fine Arts Show, Hazelton’s “Oranges,” a large oil painting of a bough heavy with jumbo-size blossoms and fruit, will vie with the winners of four other county art shows for a place in the official Orange County Centennial time capsule.
The capsule, which will also contain a collection of official documents and local memorabilia, will be buried Aug. 1 during a special ceremony on the grounds of the Old Orange County Centennial Committee. The other four art shows in the competition will be announced.
The Costa Mesa show drew 342 entries from U.S. amateurs and professionals. Ninety-four pieces were picked for an exhibit at South Coast Plaza’s Crystal Court, which opened Thursday and will run through Monday.
Richard Challis, who owned and operated the Challis Gallery in Laguna Beach for 35 years, was guest juror. Awards were given based on the work’s application of the show theme, “Orange County Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” and for general excellence in five mediums: oil, aqua, drawing, photography and the three-dimensional. Cash prizes ranged from $100 to $300.
Local landmarks abound at the show like so many picture postcards, from the Balboa amusement park seen in Janet Shepardson’s oil, “Fun Zone, the Way It Was” (a nostalgic look at the park in its heyday, it won the “Yesterday” theme award) to the Newport Beach Cannery and the Old Irvine Granary, in watercolors by Barbara Lawson and Marlene Rogers, respectively.
The Duke himself even puts in an appearance in “Gritty Newport Resident,” Richard DeSpain’s oversize, highly detailed pencil drawing of John Wayne. The “Today” theme award went to Mary Monge for her watercolor “On the Boardwalk.” The “Tomorrow” award went to Sotiris for a mixed-medium piece called “Chorus.”
Like Hazelton, Cynthia Joy Wygren paid tribute to the county’s namesake with an austere ink-and-pencil rendering entitled “Oranges,” the top prize winner in the drawing category. Some prize winners departed from the theme: Jim Velasquez’s “Kissing Indians,” first-place winner in the aqua category, shows a pair of rhinoceroses in a tender encounter; “Sentinel,” Patrick Lee’s contemporary wood sculpture, is a cluster of stark, shepherd’s crook-like shapes, airbrushed with bright acrylics.
The first-place prize for oils went to “Venice Ladies” by Ron Elstad. The top photography prize went to “Eucalyptus” by Maurice B. Cook.
Erica Elliott’s pastoral “Laguna Canyon” earned a special nod, the Richard Challis Award for Excellence. The tranquil, contemporary watercolor/collage shows a handful of sleepy-eyed cows grazing against a gentle blue sky.
According to Darrell Metzger, president of the Orange County Centennial Committee, the competitions were started to “heighten the awareness of the centennial celebration among the community. With this contest format, we’re able to get a lot more people involved.
“By working with local arts organizations, we are offering (the community) something a little unusual. Not everybody has the chance to put a piece in a time capsule that will be opened 100 years from now. It’s a rare opportunity.”
The Orange County Centennial Fine Arts Exhibit continues daily through Monday on the ground floor of South Coast Plaza’s Crystal Court, 3333 Bear St ., Costa Mesa. Most of the pieces are available for purchase, with prices ranging from $100 to $4,500. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.