HomeCharities & FundraisersThe California Coast Culture Is the Focus of Upcoming PMCA Exhibit

The California Coast Culture Is the Focus of Upcoming PMCA Exhibit

Pasadena Museum of California Art’s exhibition, “In the Land of Sunshine: Imaging the California Coast Culture,” examines the social history of the California Coast portrayed through the eyes of some of the state’s most famous artists.

The exhibition, which opens on Sept. 25, features approximately 60 paintings, prints, photographs, posters, magazines and other art pieces.

“The show is primarily paintings—paintings that go all the way back to just before California officially became a state up to now,” said Gordon T. McClelland, curator and California art historian. “It focuses on connecting the art with the social history of the coastline and the cultures that developed, like the surf culture.”

McClelland spoke about the inspiration to name the exhibition after the magazine, “The Land of Sunshine,” which published from 1894 through 1923. He said it was a tribute to the publication and one of its editors and chief writers, Charles Lummis—a man who once documented his trek by foot from Cincinnati to Los Angeles in a Los Angeles newspaper to become its first city editor.

“This guy was a real pioneer,” McClelland said. “He was one of the real promoters of California through his magazine.”

McClelland interviewed the majority of the artists whose work will be displayed at the exhibition—and even surfed with many of them.

Artist John Severson, who was born and grew up in Pasadena before moving to San Clemente when he was a teen, is famous for starting Surfer magazine in 1960.

“When he was attending Long Beach State College for his master of fine arts, he created the first series of paintings relating to the California surf culture (1956),” McClelland said. “Two of the paintings that were in that show will be in this show. He started Surfer magazine, which is the biggest surfer magazine that there is.”

He also made many surfing movies, such as “Surf,” “Surf Safari” and “Surf Fever.”

Another “In the Land of Sunshine” artist is a young man who Severson hired to create artwork for Surfer magazine, Rick Griffin, who McClelland describes as “my best friend during the 70s.”

“He is probably considered the most famous of the San Francisco psychedelic artists,” McClelland said.

He said he is very happy to have Griffin’s “Pacific Vibrations” piece in the exhibition, noting, “The painting is so intense in person.” It was artwork created for the movie of the same name produced by Severson. McClelland said the woman in the painting is Griffin’s wife, Ida, who was pregnant and living with Griffin “as hippies” in San Pedro. When it came time to have her baby, the couple was handed a sheet of instructions on how to deliver a baby and turned away at a local hospital because they didn’t have any money. McClelland said he painted what he saw from the delivery of the baby on the kitchen floor, before which he had dropped acid. His baby daughter can be seen in the painting as well as a round mask figure as the sun.

“That was a Hopi mask that he saw when he and Eric Clapton flew out to Monument Valley and he saw it on a trading sign,” McClelland said.

The porpoise jumping, he explained, is supposed to be a sign of good luck for surfers, sailors and fisherman.

Artist Dennis Hare is another example of linking social history with paintings, according to McClelland.

“Before he became a professional artist, he was a world-renowned beach volleyball player,” he said. “He wrote the first book on professional beach volleyball. He was involved in its development in the 1970s as a serious competitive sport, particularly in Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica, before it grew all over the world. Dennis was one of the real early professionals and one-time world champ. He left the sport to become a professional artist.”

McClelland said two particular artists—Duncan Gleason and Phil Dike—both of whom will be displayed in “In the Land of Sunshine,” focused mainly on the California coastal culture, as other artists’ body of work included a wide array of California landscapes.

“In the Land of Sunshine: Imaging the California Coast Culture” runs from Sept. 25 to Feb. 19 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, 490 E. Union Street. Hours of operation are from Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. with extended hours of noon to 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62 and older), $5 for students and educators, free for PMCA members and children (12 and younger). For more information, call 626-568-3665 or visit pmcaonline.org.

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