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Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 62  |  August 5, 2022

Susi Q program offers a fresh perspective: Local artist presents video on seeing the unusual right in our backyard


This story is a part of our Arts section. Visit for more arts stories as well as our arts calendars.

Wanda Matjas is so proud of her unique way of looking at the world that she’s sharing it with others in an upcoming program at the Susi Q. 

“I like to show people that there is another perspective,” said Matjas. “I love capturing the unusual.” 

Her show, Shared Adventures: Always Looking for the Unusual, will offer viewers a new perspective of what is found locally and in the region. She combines her pictures, many taken from her home above Bluebird Park, with music to present a video experience appealing to all ages. While she has done a dozen similar programs of her travels and passions, including presentations on Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, the perspectives of moments close to home are just as exciting. 

 “You’re seeing these beautiful things flowing before your eyes,” she said of her program. “I just want people to relax and enjoy it.”

Susi Q bat light

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Courtesy of Wanda Matjas

Wanda Matjas created a ceramic bat sculpture as part of a light for her yard’s viewing stone, or Tokonoma, area 

While Laguna Beach’s natural beauty is captured by many a photographer, Matjas looks at the beauty from a different perspective – finding the hidden images within traditional scenes, including clouds and water and especially objects in her backyard. 

“I always look for the unusual. Reflections are one of my favorites. Textures and shadows also change things. Many (of the images in the show) are in my yard and in my house.” 

Susi Q stone art

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Courtesy of Wanda Matjas

Matjas is active with the Aiseki Kai stone viewing group. She made the suiban, or container of sand, for this stone she found in the Yuha Desert in California. 

With unabashed enthusiasm, she explained her yard is a project she and her husband, Blake, have been lovingly working on for 20 years. There’s a Zen garden, a tai chi area set off by a moon gate, an artist’s garden that features many of her ceramics, a spot to display beautiful rocks (her Aiseki Kai stone viewing group has an annual show at Huntington Library), different levels to stop and rest and 700 steps that lead from her house down toward the stream, although the bottom level of the steep canyon prevents actually connecting with the stream. 

All of it offers an opportunity to look at things differently and with her Olympus camera in tow, Matjas captures the moments. 

Susi Q prayer wheels

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Courtesy of Wanda Matjas

Matjas spins the 16” tall ceramic prayer wheels she created twice a day in the same rotation as the earth 

Her photographic endeavors started about 30 years ago, when she was attending and photographing car shows (an unabashed auto enthusiast, Matjas was the first female to take the auto shop class sat Monrovia High School in the 1960s). Engines initially made interesting photos for a car buff, but after a while, the similarity became monotonous. 

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“I started looking into the reflection of grilles and the colors and I thought ‘This is way better,’” said Matjas. There were distorted reflections of trees atop gorgeous cars, sun glistening off bumpers. To her, the hidden pictures were everywhere in plain sight. “From that I developed this sense of seeing things that aren’t obvious to everyone.”

Susi Q matjas with sculpture

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Courtesy of Wanda Matjas

Matjas is seen with her favorite sculpture – a ceramic globe she created and, with help of husband Blake, figured out how to display in her garden 

She has captured the magic of animal reflections seen floating underwater, making it appear as if there are twice as many animals than there really are and her captured clouds reflect myriad of objects. From areas near and far, her different way of looking at objects amaze those who see her work.

“I want to inspire and share a new world that is always there surrounding us,” said Matjas. “You just have to have a new perspective to see it!”

In addition to her photos, Matjas is also a highly accomplished ceramist and a thread artist. She worked as a designer at the Pottery Shack in Laguna Beach for eight years and when traveling internationally, she paints and stitches her clothes in the motifs of the destinations. 

When she has an idea, often with Blake’s assistance, it usually comes to fruition

Susi Q threads

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Courtesy of Wanda Matjas

When visiting South America, Matjas decorated her vest with the colors and motifs of the continent 

Matjas created intricate ceramic prayer wheels, but still hadn’t figured out a way to make them spin. Blake devised a solution using Lazy Susans. (And they were amazingly ready in time to receive blessings of the Tibetan Buddhists when they visited Laguna Beach.)

Her perspective may be otherworldly to some, but for her, the world itself is amazing. When she wanted to create a ceramic globe, the challenges were met with ingenuity, resourcefulness and an assist from Blake. She cut out the continents from clay, then dried them on the curve of a barbecue grill. After firing, the pieces needed to somehow be attached to a round metal frame. Blake cut the barbecue’s metal-curved base into shapes just a bit smaller than the ceramics, drilled holes into them and attached them to the curved base. After trial and error, they figured out how to glue the ceramics onto the globe, where it remains in her backyard – a treasured piece. 

“This is a one-of-a-kind art piece and my favorite in my yard,” she said, and then admitting the obvious to anyone who sees her enthusiasm in action: “I like a challenge.” 

Shared Adventures, Always Looking for the Unusual will be offered at the Susi Q Center, 380 3rd St. on Tuesday, Aug. 16 from 1:30-3 p.m. The program can be viewed online as well. To register visit the center site here and then click under classes and registration. 

This story is a part of our Arts section. Visit for more arts stories as well as our arts calendars.

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