All things beautiful

A young artist debuts her photography at Diesel, A Bookstore in Malibu.

By Susan Bunn / Special to The Malibu Times

The lens of Kaleena Holthaus finds the “extra” in the ordinary. Even less than ordinary. She sees the essential beauty in junk as she travels the Southern California coastline. Often on trains between stops, something unusual about something usual will catch her eye.

“I would have to say that one of my favorite photos is of these garbage bins that I happened to stumble upon while visiting Catalina Island,” said the nineteen-year old photographer. “I was walking down this alley and was astounded to find these bins perfectly aligned with such a pleasing linear perspective. And to top it off, they were screaming with bright colors.”

A collection of Holthaus’ work is hanging on the walls above the shelves of Diesel, A Bookstore in Malibu through Sept. 6, a first peek for the public to peruse.

“As every artist knows, having your first show is a compilation of many different feelings such as excitement, nervousness, validation and a sense of dignity,” Holthaus said. “It’s gratifying to have my first experience at Diesel in Malibu.”


“Kaleena Holthaus’ show has had a good response from a wide range of people,” Diesel, A Bookstore owner John Evans said. “We sold one piece very early on to a musician in town for Songfest at Pepperdine. They bought it on the spot.”

Everything from a rusty fender or signpost, to an out-of-focus movement of a musician’s hand sweeping across guitar strings reminiscent of the famous painting “Firenze” has caught Holthaus’ eye.

“Growing up in a small town with relatively scarce subject matter contributed to my attraction to cityscapes and urban scenes,” said Holthaus, who was born and raised in Iowa, a state where the mythological field of dreams grows. Her love for photography also grew there, in and out of high school all the way to the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara where she entered a program to turn professional. However, the aesthetics of her skill quickly captured the attention of others and for now school is out.

“Her work combines a passionate commitment to color, a playful approach to form, and an inquisitive, exploratory engagement with the world,” Evans said. “We are pleased to bring her vision, her craft and her art to our store, our booksellers and our book loving readers.”

The photos are enlarged to mural size, causing a brilliant impression to the eye of the beholder. “I look for the simple things in life to find my inspiration. I see beauty in everything from old rusted cars to graffiti plastered on a city wall,” Holthaus said. “Everything is beautiful in its own way and that is what I strive to capture in my photos.”

“Hidden But Scene,” “Low Point” and “All Things Beautiful” are among the titles Holthaus gives to further indicate paradox in her subject matter.

What’s next for this young photographer?

Upcoming shows in Montecito, Santa Barbara and Clermont, Iowa. As for the subject matter of her next series, Malibu exteriors are her latest inspiration. Holthaus is intrigued by the diversity of homes and driveway entrances along Pacific Coast Highway.

“The first thing I noticed when driving into Malibu was that opposed to seeing the fronts of numerous gorgeous homes, you could only see the back sides,” Holthaus said with a smile. “I find that the backsides are quite compelling if you look closely.”

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

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