‘Malibu Metallica’ takes cell phone shots to new levels

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Wave forms in Haldeman’s “Personal Space” crystallize from grey to pink to a metallic blue, lending the exhibit, “Malibu Metallica” its elemental name.

Malibu resident Maureen Haldeman’s newest cell phone photography exhibit is on display in Marina del Rey.

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

Maureen Haldeman’s newest fine art exhibit might never have happened if the Malibu photographer didn’t forget her trusty camera one day.

A visit to the Venice Art Walk nearly went unphotographed by the longtime resident and teacher, before Haldeman, sans Canon and lens, came up with what some may have called an artistically questionable alternative, and began taking snapshots with her cell phone.

It started a months-long experiment resulting in a guest artist honor for Haldeman, whose newest collection of 20 cell phone photos is currently on display at The Happenings Gallery in Marina del Rey.

Titled “Malibu Metallica,” the pictures, a vibrant series of crisp, colorful and vivid local beach scenes and dreamy seascapes, are part of the gallery’s March Masters series, which runs until April 3.

Haldeman, who created the exhibit with a 5-megapixel Verizon Droid, offers up a kaleidoscopic, if not surreal, glimpse of the familiar in Malibu. In “Latigo Solitude,” her clouds are green. Wave forms in “Pier One” crystallize from grey to pink to a metallic blue, lending the exhibit its elemental name. And “Tangerine Sky” is self-explanatory.

What might surprise some is that the photos were not color corrected or Photoshopped at all; the infrared transposition of hues came about naturally from sunlight reflection off the source subject, using her phone’s “solarizer” function. It was all quite accidental, Haldeman said.

“I loved the effect and I played around with it,” she said.

What came as no surprise at the gallery artists’ reception last Sunday afternoon were the marvels put upon Haldeman as a revolutionary of new photo technology.

“It’s a testament to how sharp her eye is,” gallery owner Natalie Gray said. “It’s a sign of the times when you’re making art with a cell phone.”

Haldeman’s ultra-saturated color schemes also drew comparisons of the Malibu artist to Andy Warhol. By coincidence, Haldeman nearly pulled a Warhol when considering a four-panel series of her own, opting instead for a triptych of the same palm tree, backed by different colors. In the end, it worked for the clever unity of titles: “Menage a Trois en Rouge,” “Menage a Trois en Bleu,” “Menage a Trois en Orange.”

Torrential rains and treacherous driving conditions didn’t deter the gallery from welcoming a standing-room only crowd on Sunday, including actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who purchased a Haldeman piece, “Opal Tide.”

Other artists featured at the March Masters show are Ivan Searcy with his Parisian photographs, the textural wood and mixed-media carvings of Curtis Brooks, and gallery founder Gray, whose centerpiece is a 21st century-styled Jackson Pollock in 3-D.

Haldeman, a 30-year Malibu resident, was involved recently with the formation of a city arts task force, appointed by Mayor John Sibert as one of 10 people charged with bringing a public arts program to Malibu. Because no such program exists, the task force’s responsibility, Haldeman noted, is to explore resources; its first meeting convened earlier this year.

“We have an awful lot of talent in the city,” she said. “It’s filled with people who might be willing to share and do something with it all.”

Will cell phone photography come about from the task force’s talent search?

Haldeman thinks so.

“I think a lot of people are doing it,” she said. “Just the fact that these little pieces of art can come out of the cell camera, you don’t need to use a thousand-dollar lens to do it. You still have to have the eye, differentiating between someone who can take a photo with good equipment and someone who can just have fun.”

The Happenings Gallery is located at 4047 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey. More information on the March Masters series can be obtained by calling 310.305.ARTS or online at www.TheHappeningsGallery.com