Return of Art-A-Fair brings out smiles

The months leading up to the summer festival season last year were frustrating and worrisome for art festival organizers in Laguna Beach.

Michael Cahill, the president of the board of directors for Art-A-Fair, could attest to that. Cahill has served in that role for more than a decade.

No year challenged him like the last one, when three variations — each successively more scaled down — were created in the hopes that the show could go on.

The coronavirus pandemic only got worse as the festival season drew nearer, ultimately preventing Art-A-Fair from happening in its entirety.

“This is my 11th year as president now, which is insane, especially after last year,” Cahill said. “It almost makes it worth it right now just to see this thing come together this year the way it has after the fiasco that was last year.”

Sculptor Ken Jones stands next to his signature pieces, musician men made of old clarinets, at the Laguna Art-A-Fair.

Sculptor Ken Jones stands next to his signature pieces, musician men made of old clarinets, at the Laguna Art-A-Fair show on Friday.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Beginning Fourth of July weekend, Art-A-Fair reopened to the public to take in and shop for the work of its roughly 110 fine artists.

Eren Alptekin’s booth was near the front entrance. Displayed on her wall were an array of abstract paintings, some of which included colorful representations of iconic downtown Los Angeles buildings such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Broad Museum.

“I feel very fortunate about coming again this year,” said Alptekin, a Newport Beach artist. “This is my sixth year in this show, and every year, I feel very fortunate to be a part of this show. So far, I think this is the best year for everybody.

“The quality of art became so well since the year 2019, and all the variety of different mediums and different artists with different subject matter is excellent this year.”

Art-A-Fair has no residency requirements, but it is a juried show. Cahill said the jury looks for excellence in conception, execution and presentation, with an expectation of a high level of performance in creativity and technical competence.

Oil painter Aurelia Thompson works on a painting at Laguna's Art-A-Fair festival.

Oil painter Aurelia Thompson works on a painting at Laguna’s Art-A-Fair festival.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Lynleigh Love was juried into the show for the first time. Her creations were made from sheet glass. She said she burst into tears when she was told that she got into the show.

“It’s an honor,” Love said. “I mean, I grew up in Irvine, so I was coming down here every year to the Festival of Arts, to this show, to the Sawdust, and this is where the artists were, so when I got into this, it was magical.”

At Marie Lavallee’s station, she used mixed media like Scrabble letters, coinage and stamps. The coins were incorporated into the creation of artwork featuring birds.

“I go to the bank to get my coins, and they see me coming because I come with a … bag, and I’ll say, ‘I want 30 rolls of pennies and 30 rolls of dimes,’ and they go, ‘Her again,’” Lavallee said.

“Actually, I was asked once, ‘What do you do with all these pennies,’ and I said, ‘If you really want to know, you can’t snitch because I want to be able to come back,’ and I said, ‘I make art with them,’ and they went, ‘What?’”

Longtime exhibitor Scott Sutton stands with his popular children's books about whimsical dragons at Laguna's Art-A-Fair.

Longtime exhibitor and pen and ink illustrator Scott Sutton stands with his popular children‘s books about whimsical dragons.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Jeff Nadler, a wildlife photographer from Oceanside, brought a number of images that largely gave the viewer the opportunity to peer into the eyes of animals. He said he has traveled to several continents to capture his shots.

“I really try to … show the personalities, really the souls of the animals,” Nadler said. “My whole purpose of my photography is to try to create a connection for people, so that with wildlife, they see that animal, they connect with it, and they feel that it’s worth preserving. My whole purpose really is conservation.”

One image that did not incorporate the eyes of the creature saw a spirit bear dive into a river in British Columbia in an attempt to catch itself a meal. Nadler gave the shot a humorous title.

“I called it, ‘Swan Dive,’ even though it was really a belly flop,” he recalled.

Wildlife artist Laura Curtin stands with her trademark pink elephants.

Wildlife artist Laura Curtin stands with her trademark pink elephants.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Across the aisle, Saeid Gholibeik also included animals in his acrylic paintings, often pairing them with children. He said he aimed to show the special connection that a child could make with animals through the power of imagination.

Some of his work also paid homage to various cultures, and he stressed the importance of respecting each other.

“The cultures in this world that we share, every culture is just like a little, beautiful flower in a garden, and we should never, ever ignore or neglect one of those,” Gholibeik said.

“We don’t want everything to be roses. We don’t want everything to be orchids. We love all the combinations of the cultures.”

Art instructor and water colorist Emilee Reed helps a participant during a "pour paint" workshop at the Laguna Art-A-Fair.

Art instructor and water colorist Emilee Reed helps a participant during a “pour paint” workshop.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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