LAM’s Seventh Annual Art & Nature Festival celebrates nature-inspired art this weekend


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Executive Director of Laguna Art Museum (LAM) Malcolm Warner describes the Seventh Annual Art & Nature Festival as “a celebration of art inspired by nature,” and the four featured artists –Thomas Hunt, Laurie Brown, Mildred Bryant Brooks, and Yorgo Alexopoulos – each represent that theme in vastly different ways.

The festival is a multidisciplinary exploration of art’s many and various engagements with the natural world, and this journey continues all weekend through Sunday, Nov 10. For the first time in the event’s history, the commissioned work of art – this year by Yorgo Alexopoulos – will be inside the museum rather than outside and will be on view after Art & Nature weekend through January 5, 2020.

On Wednesday, members of the media had the unique opportunity to preview the artists’ works and view the multimedia installation by Alexopoulos –with the added treat of an explanation of the work provided by the artist himself.

LAM's Seventh Mildred

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Malcolm Warner explains “The Last Tree” etching by Mildred Bryant Brooks 

The works of Hunt, Brown, and Brooks have been on exhibit at LAM since October 13, and each artist has a unique approach to the issue of landscape and environment.

A preservationist, Mildred Bryant Brooks is known for her landscape etchings, many of which depict trees – such as her piece The Last Tree. 44 of her etchings from the 1930s and 1940s are on display.

Warner says, “She often portrayed nature under threat and the danger of it being undermined by development, as represented by the oil derricks in her work Black Mirror.”

Thomas Hunt is best known for his colorful coastal scenes. His exhibit Thomas Hunt: California Modernist features 50 paintings characterized by his distinctive style, which involves broad brushwork and the bold effect of light and reflection. Hunt was an active member of the LB Art Association. 

LAM's Seventh Thomas

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Thomas Hunt is known for his colorful coastal scenes

Displayed in the museum’s beautifully renovated basement, photographer Laurie Brown’s work depicts mankind’s relationship to the landscape in less comfortable ways, “dwelling in the zones that form a no-man’s land between the man-made and the natural.” Periphery #11, Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, 1995 shows the patterns left by bulldozers on the hillside during the development of Newport Coast. 

LAM's Seventh Laurie

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Photographer Laurie Brown depicts man-made impact on the natural world

As the riveting centerpiece of the event, Art & Nature presents 360° Azimuth, a specially commissioned work by Alexopoulos for the festival. The site-specific installation is on view inside the museum through January 5, 2020. 

A mesmerizing experience, Alexopoulos’s large-scale installation features a two channel video projection with sound and invites the viewer to be part of it. As described, “the landscape symbols become metaphoric ‘characters’ in an animistic meta-narrative where reality and constructs of our collective subconscious seem to co-exist. Using landscape symbolism as a point of departure, he combines Euclidean geometric shapes with a multiplicity of moving images, whether filmed, photographed, painted, or drawn, that unite representation and abstraction into a common aesthetic.”

An American-born artist of Greek descent, Alexopoulos graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. He creates paintings, time-based media artworks, and installations. He often synchronizes multiple monitors or projections in a dynamic ensemble to create an ever-changing immersive spectacle. 

LAM's Seventh Yorgo

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Yorgo Alexopoulos in front of “360° Azimuth”

Alexopoulos says, “Throughout history, nature has been constantly interwoven in religion and other cultural aspects, and I’m sensitive to how humans interact with landscape. Thirty thousand years ago, humans personified landscape/nature, and the sun and other elements became gods. They’re all different methods of landscape as symbol.” 

Inspired by various types of landscapes, he says, “It’s not the content or where it was filmed, but how landscape is being presented. Everything was shot at same angle using motorized dollies.” 

The photographs are from all over the world and drawn from his collection of 25 years of photography. He adds, “But there is CGI [computer-generated imagery] in the installation.”

Addressing the question of the various landscapes – deserts, oceans, mountains, and streams – in his installation, Alexopoulos says, “The body of work is like a narrative with the landscapes as different chapters. It has open-ended meaning. This is very liberating and experimental, something new and fresh, and I’m part of the pioneer process.”

His work is captivating and shouldn’t be missed. 

Activities throughout the weekend

 Throughout the weekend, there are many other activities for visitors to experience. There will be a keynote lecture by Professor Alan Braddock; a film screening; a panel discussion; and a free family festival exploring art and the natural world. 

Friday, Nov 8: 

6 - 9 p.m. – Keynote Lecture: On November 8, Alan Braddock, Ph.D. will give the keynote lecture, From Nature to Ecology: The Emergency of Ecocritical Art History

Saturday, Nov 9: 

11:30 a.m. – Film: LAM screens A Boy’s Dream, a documentary about the artist Theo Jansens, who creates large-scale “beach animals” that move independently, powered by the wind.

12:30 - 2:30 p.m. – Book Signing: Elizabeth Turk signs copies of the recently-published book documenting Shoreline Project, the 2018 Art & Nature commissioned work. 

2:30 - 4 p.m.Art in a Time of Climate Change: Professor Victoria Vesna leads a conversation with Linda Weintraub, the author of To Life!: Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet.

4 - 5 p.m. – Educators discuss how the idea of art inspired by environmental consciousness can be applied in the classroom.

6 p.m. Reception, 7 p.m. Lecture: In Person: Yorgo Alexopoulos: Yorgo Alexopoulos discusses his work, including this year’s Art & Nature commissioned piece.

Sunday, Nov 10 – Family Festival: LAM offers a day of free admission on November 10, plus family yoga with Bala Shala, hands-on art and science activities with partner organizations, and a family-friendly concert by Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders.

10 - 11 a.m. Family Yoga

11 a.m. - 2 p.m. – Hands-on Art & Nature: Art, nature, and science activities by Laguna Ocean Foundation, Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, LB Laureate Lojo Simon, Ocean Institute, Pacific Mammal Center, Newport Bay Conservancy, Center for Art Education and Sustainability, and the Art Division. 

2 - 3 p.m. – Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Dr, on the corner of Pacific Coast Hwy and Cliff Dr.

Admission: General admission: $7, Students (18+) and Seniors (60+): $5, visitors aged 17 and under: free, museum members: free.

For more information, click here.