Our Laguna: Artistic violin auction prelude to festival

Local artists don't fiddle around when handed an unvarnished violin by the Laguna Beach Music Festival.

They create "Artful Violins," meant to be displayed rather than played. The violins are auctioned annually to raise funds to support the festival's outreach and educational programs.

Violins created by artists Sandra Jones Campbell, Cheryl Ekstrom, Michael Obermeyer, Shannon Richardson, Lucas Rise and Kirsten Whalen were unveiled at a private reception before last week's First Thursday Art Walk at S Cube Gallery on North Coast Highway.

The Music Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, a collaboration of Laguna Beach Live! and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. The weeklong event features concerts and special attractions that include open rehearsals, informal chats and salons with violinist Joshua Bell, Edgar Meyer, the Calder Quartet and Calidore Quartet.

Hotel Laguna is headquarters for the festival, which this year honors the legacy of philanthropists and music lover Ed Halvajian. The festival is from Feb. 6 to 12.

"Artful Violins" will be on display at local galleries throughout this month. Bids may be submitted online to http://www.BiddingforGood.com/lbmf.

Campbell's work is titled "Gauguin's Dream Meditation," an homage to the French artist's passion for painting primitives. The piece includes a wooden art deco-style statue holding the violin aloft, which Campbell described as "a tribute to the female figurative in music and art."

Her works combine the influence of 1930s German expressionists and her lively wit and optimism, painted in acrylics on paper or canvas. She is also an established exhibitor at the Festival of Arts.

The estimated value of her violin is $3,000. It can be seen at Pacific Edge Gallery, 50 S. Coast Hwy.

Ekstrom's "Weeping Violin" was completed Oct. 15, two days after her husband's death.

"The violin was my husband's favorite instrument," said Ekstrom, whose art heals her wounds.

"Sometimes there is a reason for an artist to do something when the muse comes," Ekstrom said. "Each time, in retrospect, I find that there is a reason. It cannot be forced. You can't push the river. I created this sculpture when the time was perfect.

"It is a marriage of material and soul."

The materials in this case were plaster, acrylic and resin coating the violin.

Examples of her work include a sculpture selected by the Laguna Arts Commission to fulfill the art-in-public-places requirement for the Montage Resort & Spa, and five, 8-foot stainless steel and bronze sculptures at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

The estimated value of "Weeping Violin" is $6,500. It is exhibited at S Cube, 346 N. Coast Hwy.

Obermeyer painted and titled his violin "Twilight," the time of day he most loves.

"This is when I can really begin to relax, listen to music and reflect a little on the day," Obermeyer said.

Obermeyer recently won the "Collector's Choice Award" at the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational.

Many of his paintings are in the U.S. Air Force Historical Art Collection in the Smithsonian Institute and the Pentagon. He is also a regular exhibitor at the Festival of Arts.

The estimated value of "Twilight" is $3,000. It can be seen at Sotheby's/Visitor's Bureau, 361 Forest Ave.

"Muses," painted in oil, reflects Richardson's view of music as a storyteller conjured up by the violin's ability to invoke sadness or joy.

"The characters have danced for the music of the violin and have come together for a festive audition," Richardson said.

She has been noted in magazines as one of the emerging artists to watch and collect.

"Muses" is valued at $2,800 and comes with a painted metal stand. It is displayed at JoAnne Artman Gallery, 326 N. Coast Hwy.

Robin Fuld of Laguna College of Art & Design reportedly suggested considering Rise as one of the artists for "Artful Violins," according to Sandy Robertson, Laguna Beach Live! managing director.

Rise, a young Argentinian artist who exhibits at Salt Fine Art, will have his "Playful" violin shown at DeBilzan Gallery, 224 Forest Ave.

"I felt that painting on the front of the violin would not reveal its true spirit, its real meaning, so I decided to take the front part off," Rise said.

"I made the inside of the violin colorful, abstract and geometric," he said. "Depending on how you look at it, you may see a face. Not a 'happy face' but someone who is doing fine. If you turn it around, you'll see a sad face. What you see depends on your perspective."

"Playful" is valued at $2,800.

Whalen added paint, paper and paper clay to her violin to create "The Muse," a three-dimensional piece.

"In all of the arts, the artist's chosen medium is the language the artist speaks with," Whalen wrote in her prepared statement. "For this piece I wanted to explore the beautiful and magical language of music."

Whalen holds a bachelor of fine arts in drawing and painting from LCAD. She exhibits at the Festival of Arts. Her work can also be seen the Esther Wells Collection, Gallery821 and Morgan Stanley.

"The Muse" is valued at $3,000 and is displayed at Miranda Galleries in the Hotel Laguna, 417 S. Coast Hwy.

All six artists were among the guests at the opening exhibition. They were joined by Laguna Beach Live! board members Joe Hanauer, Judith Jelinek, Betsy Jenkins and founder Lucinda Prewitt; music festival board members Ron Harris and Carol Reynolds; and exhibiting gallery directors JoAnne Artman, Deborah DeBilzen, Joseph Gordon of Miranda Galleries, Paul Jillson of Pacific Edge Gallery and Sanja Simidzija of S Cube.

Also on the guest list: Mayor Jane Egly, Councilwoman Toni Iseman, Chris Quilter, Jane Hanauer, Dr. Gary Jenkins, Ellen Harris, Deborah and Robert Schlesinger and Bob Whalen.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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