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The Muse meets her match

The Muse — in all her many aspects — will take center stage this summer at the Irvine Bowl.

The Pageant of the Masters tableaux vivants — “living pictures” — will be devoted to the personification of the source of an artist’s inspiration, with a twist.

“In The Muse, we’re trying to dig deeper into the psyche to discover who or what motivates artists to create,” said Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy during a media preview Monday evening.

While women are generally cast in the role of muse to a male artist, this pageant is also a showcase for female artists.


The first half of the show will feature those — mostly women — who have inspired the world’s greatest artists, such as Vermeer and Da Vinci. The second part is devoted to women artists themselves.

Probably the most famous muse of all time is Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, an image of woman as “inspirational mystery,” Challis Davy said.

She said the show represents “a progression starting with the nine Muses from Greek mythology.”

Sometimes women are portrayed as objets d’art, as in one stunning tableaux depicting a gold and mother-of-pearl Lalic dragonfly pin in full glory — more than 10 feet tall — atop which stands a bare-breasted woman.


Other depictions include movie posters from some famous old-time horror films — and what Challis Davy promises will be “a whimsical ending.”

Scriptwriter Dan Duling said the 2009 pageant moves from “treating women as artistic subjects to artists in their own right.”

“We pay tribute to women artists, but with a light touch. This isn’t a feminist tract,” Duling said.

The male muse is not ignored. Works by both Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo — a married couple who inspired each other — will be displayed.

The 40 works will include favorites by Maxfield Parrish, Salvador Dali and Gauguin.

Women artists whose works will be portrayed include Camille Claudel and Malvina Hoffman.

A huge painting, “The Horse Fair,” by Rosa Bonheur, for whom a street is named in Laguna Beach, is part of Act Two.

During the preview, the press was able to observe as performers were made up and costumed, and then watch them get into sometimes awkward positions.


The pageant features dozens of volunteers holding a pose for about 90 seconds or more. Lighting makes the life-sized works appear to be two-dimensional, an eye-popping effect.

The show ends with the traditional portrayal of “The Last Supper.”

Festival of Arts

The ancillary Festival of Arts — with more than 145 participating artists — is also hoping to inspire art from attendees, with printmaking and postcard-making programs for children and adults.

Special events include:

 Thursday morning Coffee and Conversation with Artists from 10 to 11 a.m.;

 Art, Jazz, Wine & Chocolate every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m.;


 Blues Fest on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by Beatles Classics from 6 to 8 p.m.; and

 Jazz Concert Series on four Sundays.

A festival season pass is $7, and for $19, art lovers can get season-long access to the Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair, all located within walking distance of each on Laguna Canyon Road

For a complete listing of events, visit


WHAT: Pageant of the Masters

WHEN: 8:30 nightly July 8 through Aug. 31 (except Aug. 29 gala)

WHERE: Irvine Bowl, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

COST: $20 to $90 ($350 for gala)

INFORMATION: Call (800) 487-3378 or visit