Former trial lawyers open art gallery in Oceanside

After decades of work as trial lawyers, mother-daughter attorneys Barbara McDonald and Christine Alford decided to pursue their artistic passions full time and open an art gallery in downtown Oceanside.

The duo’s Luna Grace Photography Studio and Art Gallery opened in late April at Ocean Place Cinema complex, 409 Mission Ave., at the former site of the Oceanside Police Community Resource Center.

When Alford saw the space at Ocean Place, she saw a chance to combine her photography studio with a gallery to exhibit her mother’s art. McDonald has exhibited in galleries in Southern California for more than 10 years, including in the Carlsbad Art Gallery, and Cove Gallery and Art-A-Fair, both in Laguna Beach. Her pieces are in private collections locally and around the world. Five years ago, McDonald, 82, retired from exhibiting, but kept producing art. Alford coaxed her mother out of second retirement and her art is now the principal collection at Luna Grace.

The gallery is run by Alford and her mother, who is the gallery’s artist in residence.

McDonald created a genre of steel wall sculpture using a plasma cutting torch like a brush, thereby combining sculpting and painting.

“With her steel-on-board wall sculptures, Barbara has carved a niche in the world of art. Wielding a plasma cutter as fluidly as a paintbrush, she is able to coax images from the steel that marry the strength of steel with the organic beauty of the universe,” said Patrick Alford, McDonald’s son-in-law.

McDonald’s themes touch a broad range of subjects. Some are from mythology; others are abstract and most have a cosmic motif. She crafts one-of-a-kind pieces, but there are some recurrent themes. For example, she has a series of pieces that are simply “Meditations.”

Alford is a photographer who retired from the practice of law after 25 years as a deputy public defender in Orange County. She and her husband relocated to downtown Oceanside in 2019. Alford was looking for something she could do “for the pure joy of it.” She was inspired by the birth of her granddaughter last year to focus on newborn and maternity photography along with young children photography.

“We want our photos to be a creative expression of each family’s uniqueness, creating images that reflect their dreams and aspirations for their children,” Alford said.

When McDonald talks about what folks take away from her art, she compares it to “sympathetic vibrations” in music.

“When I was a small child, a really special teacher arranged a demo for our class of a tuning fork. The man who did the demo struck the fork and a beautiful clear tone rang out. To my astonishment, the same tone echoed back from a wooden molding in the classroom. The man explained that the phenomenon was a ‘sympathetic vibration.’ The molding and the tuning fork were on the same wavelength and striking one of them evoked a response in the other,” McDonald said. “I realized over the years that this probably explained how different forms of music struck a response in people who were similarly tuned to that wavelength.”

“I believe that the same phenomenon occurs in visual art and, if I can achieve that pure visual tone that touches someone on the same wavelength, then my work successfully communicates something that is not just pleasant, but therapeutic. Not everyone will be on the same wavelength, but those who are similarly tuned will have a special experience,” McDonald said.

The art gallery is free and open to the public 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday and until 8:30 p.m. for the First Friday Art Walks. The photography studio is open by appointment, with photography sessions taking place when the gallery is closed.

Visit lunagracephotoandart.com.

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