Capturing Malibu from the beach to the mountains

An outstanding display of paintings by 51 artists from the California Art Club in the exhibit “On Location in Malibu 2006” at Pepperdine shows the colorful diversity of the area.

By Ward Lauren / Special to The Malibu Times

A must-see for anyone who has lived in and loves Malibu, the “On Location in Malibu 2006: Paintings by the California Art Club” exhibit at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art featuring 60 paintings by 51 artists is a colorful and exciting tribute to the area. The works of art chosen for display were selected from approximately 200 photos of paintings submitted in response to Museum Director Michael Zakian’s invitation to the prestigious art club for members to paint contemporary scenes of Malibu for possible inclusion in the exhibition.

Some of the works selected depict familiar locales in vintage California impressionist style. Others offer new and unexpected views of the region. All present fresh looks not only at the picturesque beaches, coastline, canyons and mountains for which this area is renowned, but also aspects of the daily life of the Malibu community.

“Since the late 1980s there has been a revival of interest in contemporary realism,” Zakian said. “In California, the resurgence of interest in realist art has been manifested in the form of plein-air, the French term for painting outdoors or ‘in the open air,’ as more artists take their easels with them to record scenes at the sites of their favorite landscapes. The California Art Club has played a major role in this trend by offering artists support and exhibition opportunities.”

This is the third such exhibition of Malibu paintings by California Art Club members to be held at Pepperdine, the first in 1999 and the second in 2003.


Interviews conducted with some of the artists featured in the “On Location” exhibition revealed several interesting individual approaches to the assignment of painting a Malibu scene, and differing factors attracting each painter. All, however, admitted to a love and fascination for the unique colors and physical attributes of the area.

Lisa Bloomingdale Bell, who has had paintings in all three Pepperdine exhibits, said she loves “the constant changes of Malibu, the changing seascape, the changing colors at sunset and in the morning.”

One might consider her favorite view of Malibu, however, to be a static, and prosaic, one: Pacific Coast Highway as it drops down to the Civic Center from Bluffs Park. One look at her 15-inch by 30-inch oil painting of the scene reveals it to be anything but mundane; instead, colorful, charming and nostalgic.

“I just love that view,” Bell said. “I see it several times a week after taking my daughter riding in Agoura.”

She has painted many other Malibu scenes, however, “10 or 12 in all. Some have horses in them, and there are all sorts of beachy ones, with kids, with birds, even one of Malibu Seafood.”

Sharon Kaiser, who paints under the name S. Burkett Kaiser, is a 30-year Malibu resident who is in love with a rock. Her oil painting of “The Sentinel” is a strong, colorful depiction of a “glorious and serene” rock at Leo Carrillo State Beach.

“I just happen to really love that rock,” Kaiser said. “I’ve painted it many, many times. This time, I painted it entirely at the site, which I usually don’t do. In this particular picture, I really loved that reflected light on the side of the rock, and then that clear blue sea beyond it was just heaven.

“Most people paint a broader painting, more a complete picture of something. I tend to aim toward a bit more of an intimate theme. For this show, I think each artist looked for something that would be unique to him or her and would be a different picture than everyone else’s.”

Kaiser’s three favorite places to paint in Malibu are Westward Beach, Leo Carrillo and the Adamson House, plus Tapia and Malibu Creek State parks.

“Each place we go to has a different quality of light and colors,” she said. “It’s important for an artist to understand each area’s light and color, and it’s really different in each place.”

Texas-born Joel Philips moved to California as a boy when his father Ron became dean of the Pepperdine School of Law. Although he now lives in Thousand Oaks, his roots are still in Malibu: his father, brother and wife all work at Pepperdine where his son is now a junior. He himself graduated from the university with a degree in fine art in 1982.

This is the second “On Location” exhibition to show one of his paintings. Both have been of the Adamson House.

“I chose this location because I have some history there,” Philips said. “In the seventies, our close friends lived in that house and we’d get to spend Christmas or summer vacations with them. So I have a lot of familiarity with the house and I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture around here.”

Philips doesn’t consider himself a strict plein-air painter, doing most of his work in his studio. For this show he made sketches and took photos of several different areas around the house before zeroing in on the fountain, which became the subject of his painting chosen for the exhibition.

“I love to be invited to shows that have a specific theme like this one,” he said, “because it stretches me out of my comfort zone, forces me to look at something in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.”

Joseph Yuhasz has lived on Busch Drive since 1978 and estimates he has done more than 100 paintings of Malibu scenes. This is his third appearance in an “On Location” exhibition.

“Malibu is really a rich field for painters; it has everything, lots of trees, mountains, canyons and, of course, the beach,” he said, leaving no doubt which element appealed to him the most and, indeed, providing him with the subject of his exhibition painting, “Winter Surf,” which he painted entirely on location.

“I love the beach, the power of the sea, the smell, the mist, the power of the ocean as it spills over the rocks. I like action, but to capture the action of a wave as it crashes against an immovable rock is difficult; most artists tend to shy away from it. The sight you’re trying to paint only takes a split second, then it’s gone.”

A special invitational “Family Art Day” has been scheduled for June 10, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sponsored by Crest Associates, the university’s community outreach organization, the event will feature guided tours of the exhibit by Zakian, and a complimentary reception with hors d’oeuvres and musical entertainment. A special Children’s Art Corner will provide an art experience for youngsters who attend with their families, Zakian said.

The “On Location in Malibu” exhibit will be open through Sept. 3, Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibition is open to the public at no charge. Address: 24255 Pacific Coast Highway. More information can be obtained by calling 310.506.7257.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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