A Feast for the Senses

Think crafts are just quaint little doodads made by loving hands at home?

Think again, say organizers of a knockout craft exhibit on view at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach through Friday.

“Here, you won’t find stuff by your aunt who tats, knits and quilts,” museum curator Bruce Guenther said during the high-energy Feast on Art benefit over the weekend that launched the show.

“Today, what’s new in crafts is new media, new materials-- everything from computer readouts . . . to plastic,” Guenther said. “It’s craft material used in a fine-art context.”


About 600 guests, dressed down in the invitation-prescribed “comfortable attire,” attended the $75-per-person event staged Saturday by the museum’s Exhibitionists Council. The party lived up to its name: No sooner had guests swept into the museum foyer than they were met with mini-feasts artfully displayed on tables bedecked with floral arrangements.

Balancing plates filled with chicken curry, stuffed mushrooms and jumbo shrimp, guests swept into the museum’s 6,000-square-foot gallery area, viewing crafts that were available for purchase.

Ogling everything from delicate pearl jewelry to stylized furniture pieces, Jackie Schroeder of Irvine talked about her love for artwork in the home: “I look at my [artworks] daily,” she said. “Sometimes I talk to them. I have a sculpture of a woman whose head I pat every morning as I come down the stairs.”

The strength of a high-concept craft show is that it makes art available to people who might not otherwise be exposed to it, noted museum director Naomi Vine.


“What you see here is not what you’d see at a street fair,” explained Vine, speaking above the lively sounds of a jazz combo. “The functional aspect of craft has evolved; there are new media working their way into the field--things like neon. A show like this allows people to take things home that can enliven and enrich their lives every day.”

Proceeds of about $60,000 from craft sales and the Feast on Art fund-raiser--co-chaired by Jane Heber and Pat Steinmann--will be used to stage the exhibit Gold Rush to Pop, opening at the museum Oct. 17.

Guest-curated by art historian Nancy D.W. Moure, the show will feature more than 60 paintings high- lighting the history of California art, from seaside and desert landscapes to scenes of immigration and com- mercial culture. Admission is free to the craft show, which is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.


Living With Hope: She came to California seven years ago to prepare for her death from breast cancer, said Robyn Wagner-Holtz, 42, during a kickoff party last week for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure on Sunday.

“Then I saw something in the paper about the Race for the Cure, the first one in Southern California, and I went to the race because it was on my birthday,” Wagner-Holtz said, speaking during a reception at Maggiano’s restaurant in Costa Mesa. “It was the first time I had ever seen anyone who had survived breast cancer. My family will tell you that’s the day I stopped dying and started living again.”

Seeing other women who had beat the disease made the difference, she said. “And seeing an organization that didn’t know me but was working so hard to save my life just sucked me in.”

Today, Wagner-Holtz, of Mission Viejo, with the support of her husband, Paul, and her children, John and Morgan, is a patient advocate for women with breast cancer.


“It’s the thing I do best,” she said. “I’ve had surgery, eight months of chemotherapy and a few scares through the years. But too many women take a ‘no, you can’t have this treatment’ from their insurance companies. They play lame duck and sit back and allow it to happen.

“My job with the Komen Foundation is to serve these women, read their insurance policies and help them know what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable when it comes to being denied treatment,” she said.

“For the insurance companies, it’s all about the bottom line,” she added. “They’re thinking: ‘How much are we spending on this patient? Is the outcome worth the expenditure?’ ”

Often, a letter sent to an insurance company on the Susan G. Komen Foundation letterhead asking it to reconsider works “just on its own merit,” Wagner-Holtz said.

During the reception for about 200 guests, Wagner-Holtz received the Maggiano Families Unite Against Breast Cancer Award.

Sunday’s Race for the Cure grossed more than $900,000. The money is divided between the foundation’s education, screening and community outreach programs in Orange County (75%) and Komen National for research (25%).


Bay Club’s Big Five-Oh: In a culinary tribute to its 50th anniversary year, the Balboa Bay Club has invited chef Robert Gamba, chef des cuisines of the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, to prepare a gourmet feast with club chef Jean-Pierre Eigenheer on Oct. 24.


On the menu: rustic prawn stew, creamy pumpkin veloute, red sea bass with black olive puree and rack of lamb with crystallized garlic.

During a recent visit to the French Riviera, club manager Henry Schielein came up with the idea to invite representatives of Monte Carlo to Newport Beach to help the club “create excitement” for its golden anniversary.

Guests at the dinner for 350 people will include Jacques Boisson, Monaco’s ambassador to the United Nations.