Back to some shacks

Coastline Pilot

Shack: a rough cabin; shanty. Laguna Art Museum is going low-brow this summer for its new show, “Art Shack,” from June 13 to Oct. 3.

For the show, 31 California artists are creating some kind of structure that calls to mind the laid-back beach life or a starving artist’s studio. Think beach cottage, surf shack, hangout place, lean-to, fishing shanty or hermit’s hut.

The shacks range from a 2-inch mini-structure to a full-sized walk-in shack that viewers will be able to experience from outside and in, co-curator Grace Kook-Anderson said.

About half of the shacks will be built especially for the show, but many of the artists have incorporated some kind of “shack” motif into their work over the years, she said. One artist is bringing a small construction that has sat on his window ledge for years, giving it an appropriately weathered patina.


One of the major new works to be installed will be from senior assemblage artist George Herms, who will use reclaimed wood and found objects.

Not all the shacks will be downscale. Shag, who specializes in 1950s-themed art, will build a sleek mid-century modern construction. Another of the pieces is a shrine to the humble shoeshine stand.

One artist couple is creating a series of peepholes to tease the voyeuristic viewer with unseen interiors.

Few if any of these works are for sale, Kook-Anderson said.


“They can’t be sold,” she said. “They are environmental experiences.”

The idea for a shack show arose from the realization that many of the museum’s pop artists had created some kind of architectural structure at one time or another, according to museum Director Bolton Colburn.

“We’ve worked with Greg Escalante on many of the museum’s pop culture exhibitions over the years and he brought forward the idea of gathering these art shacks together into a central exhibition that explicates the phenomenon,” Colburn said.

Escalante is guest co-curator.

Kook-Anderson said the show explores the assemblage movement, which has been an important part of the California art scene. One of its earliest and most controversial practitioners, Ed Keinholz, created “Back Seat Dodge ’38" — a 1964 installation of a couple having sex in a car — that nearly shut down the LA County Art Museum when the Board of Supervisors tried to have it banned.

The idea of an art shack is also important in the history of Laguna Beach, founded by artists who often lived and worked in tiny cottages or huts — and sometimes still do. The famed Pottery Shack — now redeveloped as the Old Pottery Place — was a ramshackle collection of rough-hewn structures that housed a ceramics studio for decades.

In Crystal Cove’s Historic District, some 30 “vernacular cottages” are being lovingly restored to resemble their original incarnation as a built-from-nothing beach community.

“A shack is the lowest form of construction, meant to serve the most basic or immediate needs,” according to the museum. “By definition, a shack is a place of disrepair made of the most humble scrap materials like plywood, corrugated metal and plastic. According to the United Nations, more than 1 billion people (one-sixth of the world’s population) live in slums—a settlement made of shacks.”


Among the shacks to be shown are a Tat Cat Shack (aka Tattoo Hut) with a working tattoo machine; an Indian slum shack; and a small shack to be placed on the roof of the museum and visible only through security camera monitors.

In keeping with the “shack” theme, during the June 12 opening reception an RV trailer shack will be parked outside the museum, along with a taco truck — or “roach coach.”

Hurley is a major sponsor of the exhibit, and Hurley designer Jason Maloney will have a “shack” piece in the show, and also lead a July 18 “Build Your Own Art Shack” workshop for kids. Hurley is also sponsoring a preview party June 12 at its 225 Forest Ave. location.

The show will close Oct. 3 with an open house where the artists will invite viewers to a “shantytown” of art shacks, Kook-Anderson said.

If You Go What: “Art Shack” opening night receptionWhen: 7 to 10 p.m. June 12Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff DriveWhat’s There: Live deejay, cash bar, photo booth, food truck and a chance to meet participating artists. Tickets: $25 pre-sale, $30 at the door, free for Museum members. Information: or (949) 494- 8971, ext. 203.