An ancient art form renewed

Jo Ellen Byrnes first began working with mandalas as a psychologist through expressive art therapy. Noting their energetic and spiritual significance, the experience inspired the Laguna resident and artist to draw from her intimate communion with nature and begin designing her own works of art.

Mandala — Sanskrit for "circle" — is a form of art used cross-culturally in spiritual teachings, meditation and to create sacred space. The traditional form is a square with four gates encompassing a circle with a center point of focus.

Two years ago, Byrnes launched Laguna Beach Mandalas, a collection that she says captures the essence of Laguna within a spiritual geometric mandala that is psychedelic Impressionist metaphorical realism.

"My work is reminiscent of the 1960s and '70s, bringing people back to that old energy of Laguna, when they could relax and have fun and it was cool to be here," she said.

Her use of bright, vibrant colors, she said, induces aliveness and energy in people, creating a spirit of hopefulness, much like they did 40 years ago when there was so much turmoil in the world.

Her psychedelic spin off the traditional mandala is not only about a personal journey through art, but also a means of providing something "new and different" in the art market.

The former Sawdust exhibitor recently opened a gallery in town at 577 S. Coast Hwy., where more than 200 pieces, including the surf-inspired "Endless Waves of Possibility" and "Check it out," a geometric arrangement of shells, can be admired.

Her collection includes mixed-media originals, giclees, prints, platters and greeting cards, making her art available to everyone at various price points, which range from $4 to $2,500.

"I think it's really important, as an artist, to make your art affordable for people who like your work, so I try to create something in every format," she said.

Byrnes also offers enhanced giclees, which lend a more textural and sculptural element than ordinary giclees. She does this by painting over the original pieces, creating more dimension and depth, which transfers to the print and makes it look "almost" like an original.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week. For more information, visit

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