Not even Mia Tavonatti knew just how artsy her neighborhood was.
As she was hanging her seven pieces at the Robert Mondavi Wine and
Food Center this week, she studied the names and works of other artists
participating in the show and realized that four of them were her Costa
"They're usually working in the garage, etc. . . . and a lot of the
neighbors aren't even aware that there's a lot of living and working
full-time artists in their backyards," Tavonatti said.
The show at the wine center, which opened this week and is titled
"Painters of Costa Mesa," aims to get the secret out.
Featuring the work of 10 local painters, about 66 pieces ranging in
genre from the realistic to the surreal color the walls of the center's
corridors and rooms. There are teachers in the group, California natives
and various specialists, ranging from plein-air painters to commissioned
Jerry Muller, a featured artist and one of the organizers for the
show, said he helped choose the wine center as an exhibition venue to
make a point.
"We want to show there because that's one of Costa Mesa's problems,"
he said. "We don't have a museum or city gallery or exhibition center. So
until we do, which is a long way off, we have to find other venues
Muller's contributions to the show, which will end in mid-March, are
abstract, semi-representational paintings without a concrete theme. One,
titled "Color Field No. 2," is a play of wide zigzags that are colored
blue, light green, dark green and orange. There's an eastward movement to
the lines and almost a hypnotic effect when looked at too long.
"Abstracts don't necessarily have a message," he said. "They're just a
pleasing arrangement of lines and color form. Sometimes, art doesn't have
to do more than that."
And sometimes, art does much more.
Tavonatti's collection, titled "The Outsider, Within," was inspired by
issues she came across during her travels.
"Whether they be family or cultural differences . . . feminist issues,
all kinds of stuff, I get something different from each piece," the
"Venezia," the cover piece for the collection, is a statement on
timelessness. The painting offers a surreal arrangement of elements from
the Italian festival called Carnivale and from the city of Venice. There
are no real edges, and all the subjects in the piece sort of float into
"That's how Venice inspires me," Tavonatti said. "You'll see a
gondolier with a cell phone. The history and the contemporary. One thing
becomes another, and it's all about trying to express a timelessness
through spatial relations and the physical in the painting."
The artist said the Mondavi show should help visitors not only get to
know her work, but also that of her nine cohorts.
"A show like this shows that I'm not the only one in my very small
community," she said. "This is just 10 of us. And there's more of us."
* WHAT: "Painters of Costa Mesa"
* WHEN: Through March 15. 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
* WHERE: Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Center, 1570 Scenic Ave., Costa
* COST: Free
* CALL: (714) 327-8300