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Art for an unusual canvas

Two of the city’s summer art festivals embarked this year on a historic collaboration that won’t end with the festivals’ closing weekends.

In Project Skimboard 3: Collaboration/A New Beginning, the Sawdust Art Festival joined with the Festival of Arts to have artists at each festival create works of art from blank boards donated by Laguna-based Victoria Skimboards.

The one-of-a-kind works have been exhibited in the artists’ booths all summer, where patrons have been able to place silent bids for them.

The two festivals’ collaboration will culminate with a live auction of the boards Sept. 23 at [seven-degrees] gallery, where the proceeds will be shared between the two summer festivals’ art education departments.

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“I’m really looking forward to seeing all the boards together "” it’s the first time that I know of where the Sawdust Art Festival and Festival of Arts have been together in one venue," said Rebecca Meekma, Sawdust community and media relations manager.

The skimboards will be on view at the Festival of Arts through the end of today; the Sawdust boards will be up until Sept. 2.

All of the boards will be moved afterward to [seven-degrees], 891 Laguna Canyon Road, and an opening reception will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 5.

Bids on boards at the Festival of Arts totaled more than $13,000 by midweek.

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“We at the Festival of Arts are excited about this historic collaboration benefiting both festivals’ arts education programs," said Sharbie Higuchi, the festival’s marketing and public relations director.

“It seems fitting to be focusing on collaboration and arts education within the community as we continue to celebrate our 75th anniversary."

The idea for the collaboration came after two extremely rewarding auctions for the Sawdust.

“The first two years of Project Skimboard were really successful, and I was really pleased with them," Meekma said; more than $25,000 was raised for the Sawdust’s education department.

“But you hear about what a great community we live in, and I wanted to put that into action."

The use of skimboards as canvases resulted in many of the works having a tropical or beach flavor.

Jane Slowsky collaborated with her daughter and business partner Patti Slowsky-Enfield and Patti’s husband John Enfield in creating “Hakama Knights," Hakama being local surfers’ vernacular for Thalia Street Beach.

“To me it’s like dawn on the beach, with all the surfers heading out," Slowsky said of the three-dimensional piece; abstract surfboards seem to move toward the top of the skimboard, where a pale orange sun looms.

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Three of the surfboards are constructed of wood by Enfield, as a nod to the longboards of the past; Enfield used to be a lifeguard. The remainder is composed of different types of glass, and the skimboard is framed with carved wood. Enfield used walnut, mahogany, ebony and balsa woods in the piece.

The trio’s works have taken the highest bid at both previous auctions; each of their boards takes a substantial number of hours to create.

“I’ve been gifted by the Sawdust," said Slowsky, a 38-year exhibitor at the show.

Michael Hallinan’s skimboard, “A Letter from Moorea," is reminiscent of an envelope sent from the French Polynesian island.

“It’s such a dying form," Hallinan said of letter writing. “I can’t remember the last time I got a letter from a friend."

The focal point of the piece is a painted stamp, flanked by a postmark and air mail label.

“It came about when my friend Victor Ireland found an old postmark from Moorea," Hallinan said; the postmark, dated 1947, ended up on the board.

As he didn’t like the image that was on the French Polynesian stamp he used as a model, Hallinan created his own Gauguin-inspired painting instead.

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“I’ve always wanted to copy a Gauguin," Hallinan said. “He was my hero in art school."

His wife added shells to the skimboard’s “border."

Hallinan said he was happy to put in the effort to support the Sawdust.

“If I was going to do a skimboard, it had to be something special," he said.

Artist Christie Repasy’s skimboard, featuring surfboards, bamboo, palm trees and hibiscus flowers, is a marked departure from her customary shabby chic cabbage roses.

The highest bid for her skimboard was up to $1,400 as of press time; she said she only personally knew about half of the bidders, which surprised her.

This is the first year Repasy has made a skimboard.

“Now that I’ve done it, I’ve realized the benefit of doing something in your own community, and giving back," Repasy said.

She said creating a skimboard allowed her to paint outside her own lines; time restraints generally require Repasy to paint what she’s best at, but the skimboard became a new kind of blank canvas for a new kind of creativity to flow.

“It’s a challenge beyond what I can do with my eyes closed," Repasy said. “Now that I have my niche, I can branch out."

Being around other Sawdust artists all summer has also inspired Repasy to create her own plein air coastal piece using a palette knife; the piece is displayed in her booth.

“There are opportunities to stretch and grow here that I’m starting to enjoy," she said.

The tropical feel continues with Sherry Bullard’s “Bird of Paradise," in which a hand-formed ceramic bird perches with, naturally, a bird of paradise plant.

The piece, which also contains glass mosaic pieces, additionally serves as a functional vase.

Perhaps this year’s most three-dimensional skimboard is that of sculptor Dion Wright, whose piece is alternately known as “Surf Rat" or “Rattus Surphensis," depending on Dion or his wife Ruth’s mood.

Wright described the rodent-like creature, which stands upon the skimboard, as a “serendipitous combination by intention."

“I had the head all made, and the skimboard was just sitting there," Wright said. So he went through his collection of found objects and amassed enough brass pieces "” including a coffeepot, faucet, handles and a gravy boat "” to create the entire animal.

Contributing his work to the auction seemed natural to Wright. “It’s civic-minded and public-spirited," he said.

“Everybody was right on board," Meekma said.

Participating Sawdust Art Festival artists are Brian Allan, Patty Barnett, Bob Bonn, Sherry Bullard, Colleen Corbett, John Eagle, Michael Hallinan, Mike Kelly, Mike Kershnar, Bruce Linder, Donita Lloyd, Scott Moore, Karen Petty, Becky Prelitz, Christie Repasy, Skip Roma, Marsh Scott, Jane Slowsky, Jim Stanaland, Sean Tiner and Dion Wright.

Participating artists from the Festival of Arts include Randy Bader, Gerard Basil, Sandra Jones Campbell, Ray Caruso, Monica Dunham, Anne England, Mark Jacobucci, Mada Leach, Scott Methvin, Michael Obermeyer, Troy Poeschl, Marsh Scott, Pat Sparkuhl, Gregg Stone, Tom Swimm, Jude Taylor-Darlin and Cliff Wassmann.

For more information or to receive an invitation to the Sept. 23 auction, e-mail Questions@ SawdustArtFestival.org or call (949) 494-3030.


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