The art of 10

Young Chang

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

Mesa neighbors.

"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

that'll work."

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

37-year-old said.

"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

each other.

"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

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