Things You Should Know About

Happy 100th Birthday CAC!

One Hundred Years! It's an amazing feat for any group, let alone an art club where the demands of the career as well as individual temperaments generally keep members working in isolation. Today marks the Centennial of the California Art Club. The founding of the club was first reported by Antony E. Anderson in the Los Angeles Times on December 12, 1909, one hundred years ago to the day. The early meetings took place along the banks of the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena and throughout greater Los Angeles, and included artists like Franz Bischoff, Aaron Kilpatrick, and William and Julia Wendt. The CAC's predecessor, The Painters' Club of Los Angeles (1906-1909), had limited its members to male painters in the L.A. area. With the founding of the new club, the rules were widened to allow women, sculptors, and others living as far away as New York City to join. Throughout the CAC's storied history it has embraced time-honored techniques found in the grand traditions of painting and sculpture, molding them into contemporary relevance; at the same time it helped to present such progressive events as the first black American art exhibition in Los Angeles (1929) and the first G.I. Arts & Crafts exhibit (1946, also in L.A.), and maintained a venue to present exhibits of diverse themes and backgrounds.

Over the past century, the club has counted among its members Sir Winston Churchill, architect Richard Neutra, illustrator Dean Cornwell, artists Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Sergei Bongart, Nicolai Fechin and Theodore N. Lukits, as well as many distinguished guests and speakers: the Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, conductor Leopold Stokowski, violinist Xavier Cugat, architects Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (And of course, most of the well-known Southern California artists throughout the years, too numerous to mention in this post but listed online here).

In recognition of this milestone, I thought I'd link to my article on the Birth of the California Art Club, originally published this past spring. Here's to the next hundred years!

The California Art Club will be publishing a large coffee table art book (due out in early 2011) with Rizzoli Publishers to commemorate the Centennial, and will be full of paintings by historic and contemporary members of the CAC. Purchase your copy here.

The new logo above was designed for the Centennial by CAC Associate Artist Member Stan Prokopenko.

Rex Lewis

At the latest manifestation of Alexey Steele's Classical Underground series on November 9, the audience was treated to a special performance by Rex Lewis. Rex was born blind and with severe brain damage, but despite his inability to perform simple tasks like tying a shoelace, when playing, he's completely focused. Music is his world, and saying that he plays the piano beautifully is only a small part of the story - he only needs to hear a piece once to be able to play it back verbatim from memory. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm_EGcprAzg&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

Along with Brahms' Waltz Medly Opus 39 and Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu, he even played an improvisation off of a Chopin Nocturne. His mother Cathleen Lewis has written a book about their life of music and struggles together, titled "Rex." Proceeds from the book help pay for Rex's piano and voice lessons (yes, he apparently also sings well too!) [Buy "Rex" on Amazon] Rex is easily able to do what we all struggle to do as artists (and, I would imagine, musicians) - focus. As soon as he sits down on the bench, other distractions are tuned out.

Here is the story and video of Rex featured on 60 Minutes in 2006.

Alexey Steele and Classical Underground featured in the Los Angeles Times, August 2009.

A New National Monument in the California Desert

JTNP_s Support a New National Monument in California

Plans for a new National Monument that would connect Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve in the California Desert.

Solar Energy Firm Drops Plan for Project in Mojave Desert (Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2009)

Brightsource Energy Inc. drops plans to build a renewable energy facility in the eastern Mojave Desert wilderness, the area that is being considered for the new National Monument.

(Thanks Kerri for the tips)

Evelyn Payne Hatcher (1914-2009)

evelynpaynehatcher_s I've just learned that Evelyn Payne Hatcher, born January 12, 1914 in Chicago, passed away on February 16, 2009 at Rosewood Estates in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was 95. Evelyn was the only daughter of Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947) and Elsie Palmer Payne (1884-1971), both well known California artists. I had the great fortune to meet this wonderful lady at her home in Minneapolis, MN; three times, actually. The first time, at her invitation, I flew to Minnesota in January 2001 and interviewed her for the California Art Club (this interview became the cover article of the June 2001 issue of the California Art Club Newsletter). This was extremely convenient as I could stay with my grandparents, who lived only 10 minutes away. Evelyn had many records and scrapbooks from the lives of both of her parents, some of their artwork, and generously answered my many questions. She had lots of great stories of early life in Laguna, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara and the colorful characters that inhabited the artist colonies. Evelyn always had a quick wit, something in the vein of Mark Twain; once, after I introduced my family who were in town to her, she later remarked "I was happy to meet your parents. You chose nice ones." I took her out to dinner one cold winter night for her birthday, which my trip coincided with. I remember she lamented the cold Minnesota winter; compared to California, the growing season for her flowers was much inhibited. We became friends, corresponding through email and letters, and on a cross-country painting trip in January 2002 I met her at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a favorite spot of hers, where we spent some time looking through the collection.

Though an accomplished artist herself (she had some of her own paintings up at her house, and even gave me a critique or two of my own work), she told me that after growing up with such famous parents she tended to look for something a little different. 

payne_s

So she became interested in Anthropology and Art History, in particular American Indian art (Navajo), a good fit for someone of her background and knowledge (Evelyn earned a doctoral degree in anthropology from U of MN in 1953). Among her accomplishments as an author are two books, Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art, and The Drawings of Edgar Payne 1883-1947,; she also edited, updated and re-released her father's famous book Composition of Outdoor Painting for multiple printings (currently 7th edition). One of her good friends was Rena Neumann Coen, mother of the Coen Brothers of film fame. Both women taught at St. Cloud University (Evelyn was a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at St. Cloud and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota), and Mrs. Coen wrote a book titled The Paynes - Edgar and Elsie, American Artists.

A final book is due this spring, titled Made for Trade.

Evelyn donated several paintings by her parents to the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts ("Canyon Portal," by Edgar Payne, which used to hang over Evelyn's fireplace), ensuring the work for future generations.

Coincidentally, a few weeks ago I was reminded of the fact that I had tape-recorded my 2001 interview with Evelyn and decided to see if I could find the tape. I did, and have started to transcribe it. I haven't gotten very far into it yet, but I can picture myself sitting again at her kitchen table drinking tea, snow piled high outside, her stories making that long-gone era seem like just yesterday.