Friday, January 30, 2009

Seeing the World Through Water-colored Glasses

Last night, I attended the opening reception for "The Good Life," an exhibition of 1930s-era watercolors by California artists in The Irvine Museum, whose doyenne, Joan Irvine Smith, stood imposingly at the door to greet arriving guests in her red jacket and beret. I felt certain that the cane in her right hand was less for leaning upon than to complete her ensemble, especially since nobody would accuse Mrs. Smith of lacking the ability to whack down any obstacle in her way.

Lest the impression lingers that this museum is solely a gallery for her personal collection, "The Good Life" showcases works owned by Mark and Janet Hilbert. (Joan Irvine Smith may have cornered the market on California impressionist works, but there are still enough out there for others to collect.)

Joan touted the timeliness of this exhibit, suggesting that it was no coincidence that she chose to display Great Depression art during the current economic meltdown, and was obviously relishing compliments about the show and about her periodic e-mail letters broadcasting her outspoken political opinions on the last presidential administration and on local matters.

Jean Stern, the museum's Executive Director, stood by her side and helped welcome guests to the exhibition, which was packed with visitors. Among them: Jeffrey Frisch, curator of the John Wayne Airport Arts Program with his wife (I'll speak of my own connection to that program another day).

But I plan to return to the Irvine Museum on a calmer day when I don't have to fight the crowd to engage in a leisurely viewing experience.

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