Natural Progression

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the collected works of the Portuguese Bend Artist Colony speak volumes about the sublime majesty of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the collected works of the Portuguese Bend Artist Colony speak volumes about the sublime majesty of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Each of the paintings produced by this group of plein air artists calls to mind the purity of an earth untouched by human exploitation, and yet, amazingly, their subject matter is the very real beauty of the peninsula as it exists today. At a juncture in history where much is said about the need to preserve the environment, perhaps we all should pay close attention to the grassroots, conservational powerhouse that is this group of artists and The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. Throw the world-class hospitality of local luxury resort Terranea into this mix and you have the 2009 Fine Art Exhibition and Sale, the South Bay’s very own model for how a community working together can save the planet for future generations.

Zihuatanejo Skiff by Thomas H. Redfield

When local scientist William Ailor founded the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy in 1988, plans for high-density development had hovered over the area for many years and threatened to consume its natural beauty. Proving that the relationship between conservationists and landowners need not be contentious, the Land Conservancy has managed to acquire 1,400 acres of land over the course of the past 20 years by working cooperatively with cities, property owners and environmental groups to locate funds for purchasing land, provide tax benefits for land donation, restore habitat, and promote the conservation of natural open space. The Land Conservancy’s education program provides monthly nature walks, volunteer opportunities, and programs for third graders in 19 schools in Palos Verdes, San Pedro, Lomita, and Carson, and is a vital lifeline to many children who might otherwise not venture into the natural environs that are merely a few miles from their homes. Arguably, it is by instilling in these children an experience-based love of the land that the Conservancy is guaranteeing the future success of its mission.

Early Spring Morning Portuguese Bend by Amy Sidrane

It was while leading some 300 people on a nature walk in the early 1990s that Ailor first met Richard Humphrey, a member of the Portuguese Bend Artist Colony, who on that day happened to be painting near a trail. As both men worked for Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, they had an opportunity to discuss their mutual love of the land at work the following week. Shortly thereafter, the idea for the Fine Art Exhibition and Sale was born. It is now the Conservancy’s largest fundraiser, one where visitors have a unique opportunity to view and purchase art produced by members of the Portuguese Bend Artist Colony in a community setting. This group of seven artists and friends possess a deep and abiding connection to the Peninsula, having grown up there and painted it season after season in each other’s company.

Jean Stern asserts that one of the greatest gifts that plein air painters offer us is a way to make a great moment, like the sunset one might encounter on a hike, forever a part of our lives in the form of a painting that captures our recollection of it. During his lecture, he will aim to make the prospect of purchasing art less intimidating to both regular and novice art collectors alike. According to Stern, plein air art depicts nature as we see it with our own eyes. Therefore, we only have to reference our own experiences when we assess a work. Skilled artists know how to use their tools, and will avoid inconsistencies like lighting the background differently than the foreground, or failing to accurately convey depth by lending as much detail to a tree that is far away from the viewer’s vantage point as one that is close to it. Paintings with such flaws will look wrong to us if we allow ourselves time to take them in, and it is always better to realize a painting is inferior before it finds its way into our home. “These paintings are view-friendly,” he states, “and also reflect the natural symbiosis that (should) exist between the landscape painter and the land.”

Exuberant Spring by Kevin Prince

The newly opened Terranea Resort is a recent addition to the Exhibition equation, as this is the first year they will be hosting the event. Terranea’s Vice President of Marketing, Kathy Van Vechten, feels that the collaboration makes sense, given both their location and the Conservancy’s own contributions to Terranea’s development. In addition to purchasing plants from the Conservancy, Terranea has strategically placed three coin-operated telescopes around the perimeter of the property. Funds from these telescopes are donated to the Conservancy, the Marine Mammal Care Center and the Algalita Marine Foundation, with the idea being that guests can walk along the paths leading to these telescopes with their children and discuss their experience of the environment and concerns related to it. The Resort also maintains 50-year-old trees that were abandoned on the site after Marineland was torn down as part of its efforts to preserve the heritage of the site.

Richard Humphrey sums up the synergistic relationship that exists between the Conservancy, the Colony and the community this way, “I can share that it has been very special to my family to be able to hike and explore the same hillsides and fields as I did when I was a kid. And because of the great work done by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, my children’s children will also be able to share that experience. There is just something really wonderful about being able to return to a place 50 years later and still find it to be as beautiful and pristine as you remembered it as a young child. And hopefully, our paintings will influence them to make choices that will preserve and protect the classical beauty and cultural heritage that is in their midst.”

The Exhibition will be on display daily at the Terranea Resort from Saturday, September 19 through Friday, October 2 in the Lunada Bay Room. It will open with a Sale Preview Reception and Dinner in Terranea’s Catalina Room on Friday, September 18. The sold-out evening will provide attendees with an exclusive opportunity for “first dib” purchases of original artwork inspired by the breathtaking splendor of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Public Opening will take place the next day on September 19 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and will feature a lecture by Jean Stern, the Executive Director of the Irvine Museum, entitled “Looking at Paintings: Developing a Critical Eye for Collecting the Best” at 2:00 p.m. Reservations are required for this event. Notably, for the duration of the Exhibition, at least one member of the Portuguese Bend Artist Colony will be on hand every day in the Lunada Bay Room to answer questions, as the artists have graciously agreed to rotate their schedules to make this added feature possible.