The clocks in Laguna Beach move more slowly.
It’s why newcomers are still considered newcomers even after 10 years. It’s what causes the water to appear more vivid. With a seemingly longer arc, the sun somehow enriches colors in new ways, more saturated and chromatic.
This glow, this contrast, this time warp, is what helped shape artist Elizabeth Bridy into the newcomer that she is at this year’s Festival of Arts, running July 5 to Sept. 1.
New slots at the FOA do not come freely, which is why Bridy is both grateful and hungry to prove herself.
The seven-year Laguna resident and mixed-media artist still feels like an outsider. But she admitted that it has taken this long for the right pieces of her life to come together.
“Laguna has brought me a tremendous amount of peace and grounded me,” she said. “The ocean really helped me after my father passed. It helped me with my work.”
A French Canadian, busy wife and mother to three adults, she never had the luxury of being a full-time artist, even though that was in her heart.
“Being a full-time mother, but always wanting to do my art was a pretty hard struggle,” she said. “But it helped me being disciplined — using my time wisely.”
English is not Bridy’s first language, which accentuates her flair and ability to see things from different perspectives.
She often sprinkles French words or expressions into her paintings. One current series that will be at the festival is based on the concept of “reviens à la source” (come back to the source).
“It’s relatable. We can all go back to the source,” she said.
It’s been a somewhat circular but necessary journey for Bridy since her arrival in Laguna. She quickly set up her studio in the Laguna Canyon Artists compound and applied for a spot at the FOA.
“I got rejected, and I was a bit frustrated,” she said. “In retrospect, I wasn’t ready. Sometimes, it’s a time thing and it’s the journey. We all have a journey.”
The most impactful moment came with the death of her father, but perhaps not for obvious reasons.
“This is when my real identity as a female, and I guess the young girl inside me, came out,” she said. “That’s when I started using a lot of colors but mostly pink. I’m not afraid of colors anymore. The pink or red, or their variations, is passion. And after my father passed, it just came out of me, the passion. I finally found myself as an artist.”
Self-taught, she focused her passion by trying to stay authentic. She knew she idolized the late artist Robert Rauschenberg, famous for his innovative combinations of non-traditional materials. She also compared notes with trusted friends, including local artists Dave Cooke and Bruce Burr.
“My work consists basically of colors, texture and emotion,” she said. “I’m trying to make the viewer feel something when they look at my work. It can be very colorful, and they can say it’s very pretty, but it’s deeper than pretty. It has layers.”
In addition to the FOA exhibit, some of Bridy’s work is in the boutique store, Huit, 1492 S. Coast Highway. You can also see her portfolio at www.elizabethbourgeoisart.com.
The difference between a contemporary mixed-media piece of art and, for example, a plein air landscape – besides the obvious – is the inherent connection between the subject and the artist. A plein air painting can be brilliant and naturalistic but the viewer may feel nothing about the artist, per se. There’s an anonymity to it.
By contrast, a compelling contemporary mixed-media painting can reflect everything about the artist. In fact, it’s sometimes embarrassingly personal, which is why some people empathize deeply with the work.
With the use of words, images and virtually any object, it can be much more topical and timely.
For the FOA show, Bridy will stay within the 8-foot confines of her booth, but she is hopeful people will connect to her work.
“I’m different, but I’m not apologizing for what I do,” she said. “Authenticity is a good thing. Believe in yourself and be patient. Art is a patient game. Rejection is good because it puts things in perspective and you dig a little deeper.”
For now, Bridy is happy where she is, grounded in the Laguna life but eager to embrace whatever comes next.
“I’m going full-throttle,” she said. “I’m 52 and I’m going until God takes me.”
For more information on the festival, visit www.foapom.com.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at email@example.com.