Sunday, June 27, 2021

It’s Sum-Sum-Summertime! Time to Experience Real Live Art Again

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt. Photos by Maurice Hewitt 

As a toast to museum and gallery re-openings, here’s Liqueur, one of the amazing colored-pencil drawings by Madrid-based artist Ana de Alvear at San Diego Museum of Art.

If you're zoomed out-and who isn't after 16 months of home-screening the arts?-now is the time to start getting out and about to see art the way it was meant to be seen: in person, at your favorite re-opened art-filled venues.

Here are some exhibitions you can enjoy this summer. In all cases, keep a sensitive distance from others and prepare to wear masks as required.


SDMA has a trio of new exhibits on view. The first, small but mighty, is Paintings from the Confinement, featuring pandemic-time artworks and musings by Marianela de la Hoz. Born and raised in Mexico City, Marianela began making art in early childhood and moved to San Diego with her husband, two children, five cats and two dogs in 2002. Somewhere along the way, she fell in love with 15th-century Italian paintings and adopted the labor-intensive medium of egg tempera as her own, lacing her brilliantly-detailed, story-telling pieces with her distinctive brand of dark humor.

Global Coup d’Etat.

Of this striking painting, Marianela de la Hoz says: “I had to represent the Coronavirus as a character. In my mental archives, she appeared as a crowned skeleton, reminding me of the Carmelite nuns who were crowned with flowers when they took vows to renounce the world, and again when they died. Is this a man or a woman? Dead or alive?  The virus isn’t stable; it changes. And we all renounced the world.” 

There’s a profusion of tiny but significant details: the crowned skeleton is wearing men’s shoes, unlike Carmelite nuns, who go barefoot. There are weeping tears on the tablecloth, but with a skeletal hand, the virus has drawn a protective circle around the child—the artist’s son at age 3—since children are not generally affected by coronavirus. And although there’s a death’s head beside the globe, there’s a corona of blooms and butterflies around it. “Our children are inheriting a wounded world,” says the artist, but maybe nature was grateful for human seclusion.”

In “Natural” Selection, We Lost One Dimension.

“Even before the pandemic, I was thinking about how we’ve changed our way of life,” Marianela says. “We’ve become these cookie-cutter people, so much less individuality, all our images coming from screens.” 

In the next gallery, there were more surprises: we were blown away by Everything you see may be a lie, still-lifes that look like oil paintings but were actually drawn with colored pencils. We were lucky enough to run into the Madrid-based artist, Ana de Alvear, who had come to town for the June 19th opening of her exhibit and was about to return to Spain.

“Since I was 12, I’ve been fighting to change the idea people have of colored pencils,” she told us. “This is not a minor technique!”

She’s found ways to facilitate that change, by making the drawings in such a way that viewers experience them as paintings or photographs, or sometimes making them very large-scale. Her two galaxy pieces here are each 3 meters by 7 meters—that’s almost 10 by 22 feet! It would be hard not to take them seriously.

Size Matters: Ana de Alvear with In the Forced Vortex (Black), her “black hole” piece.

“I invented these galaxies!” she said. “They’re mine! And they’re valid, until some scientist can prove that they’re not!”

Fifty colored-pencil drawings went into her black hole piece, which took a year to complete, not counting the years of creative thinking that preceded it. Each individual drawing is tacked onto the wall with a magnet and a push pin; the things that look like tiny stars are shiny magnets, and this black piece, like all her others, was done on white paper.

“I cook my own colors,” she explained. “Sometimes I have eight colors on top of each other.” It’s impossible to get a real feel for her artworks in photos. You’ll have to go see for yourself.

The next exhibition, by far the largest, brings you back in time to Western Europe from 1500-1800—the Renaissance to the Rococo. Cranach to Canaletto: Masterpieces from the Bemberg Foundation is part of an impressive collection assembled by Georges Bemberg (1915-2011), an Argentine/French writer who bought his first painting as a student at Harvard. Currently housed in Toulouse, France, this is their first public showing in the United States. It’s also a lovely opportunity to recognize the influence of their techniques on the artists in the two previous galleries.

Portrait of a Young Woman, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, dated 1525-1530.

After viewing these new exhibitions, be sure not to miss the permanent collections, which now look better than ever. And perhaps consider lunch at the museum’s plein-air restaurant, Panama 66, and a stroll through the Sculpture Garden.  

San Diego Museum of Art
1450 El Prado, Balboa Park
San Diego, CA 92112
(619) 232-7931/
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm. 
Closed Wednesday. 
Admission: Free-$15    


From SDMA, it’s just a short stroll down El Prado to the Museum of Photographic Arts, where there’s an eclectic showing of works made by famous and not-so-famous photographers when they were still under 35 years old. This Beginnings, Forever exhibition, from the Kiyosato Museum in Japan, has just been joined by the works of photographers half that age and younger in MOPA’s 15th Annual Juried Youth Exhibition: Darkest Nights, Brightest Stars.

These yearly exhibitions featuring K-12 students from San Diego and Tijuana are always delightful, and the talents of some of these 5- to 18-year-olds are staggering. This time around, due to pandemic closures, there are two years on display—138 chosen from almost 1,000 submissions. And there are two different themes—Growing Up (2020) and Space (2021)—which the young photographers were free to interpret in whatever way they liked.

Here are two of our favorite pieces from Beginnings, Forever, both revealing the expressive powers of artists at age 27. They’re followed by two from the Youth Exhibition, both revealing a level of artistry beyond their years. 

Man and Woman #20, a 1960 gelatin silver print by Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe.

Interpreter, a 2001 gelatin silver print by Czech photographer Vojtech V. Slama.

Growing Up in the Middle of Pandemic, by Katelyn Li, age 9, Ocean Air School.

The Space Between Us, by Cali Liu, age 18, La Jolla High School. Cali writes: “This photograph of my mother’s and grandmother’s intertwined hands after receiving the vaccine gives me hope that the spaces between us will soon disappear.” 

There’s much to admire at MOPA these days, and admission is free, so now is a great time to drop in.

 Museum of Photographic Arts
1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego
(619) 238-7759/ INFO@MOPA.ORG
Summer Hours: Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free Admission/ Pay what you wish


Marking Time: What Athenaeum Artists Create in Quarantine

This is what’s happening in La Jolla: an exhibition of 49 artists who have had solo shows at the Athenaeum or designed program covers for one of their concert series. Each artist is showing one or more pieces created in Covid-time, all are for sale, the exhibit runs through July 31, and there will be a special reception July 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Les Petites Bee Tiles, by Irene de Watteville. Porcelain bees with majolica glaze. 

Collage (1-6), by Ellen Salk.

Loft, by Lael Corbin. A series of 35 wooden pieces made from basswood scraps left over from a show he did here in 2018. See one of his wooden airplanes on display in the adjoining Reading Room.

Perspectives 2020, by Marcos Ramirez ERRE. Automotive paint and rust on aluminum; wooden chair. Photo by Lidia Rossner.

Detail: Perspectives 2020, by Marcos Ramirez ERRE. 
Automotive paint and rust on aluminum. 

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library
1008 Wall Street
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-5872/
Hours: 10 am-5:30pm, Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday & Monday.
Free admission.


OMA currently has six exhibitions on view—all well worth seeing. Particularly notable is the second-floor Color of Sound, which includes paintings, drawings, weaving and sculpture by 14 artists on the autism spectrum. It’s curated by The Art of Autism, a nonprofit organization, and the title refers to synesthesia—a condition in which senses combine and cross over, so music, letters or numbers may be perceived as different colors. 

Gorgon Mozart, by Austin John Jones.

Randomosity, by Syance Wilson.

Here’s the link to a fascinating hour-long video featuring four of the artists in the exhibition—all on the autism spectrum, two only able to communicate with the aid of speech-enabled equipment. All four express themselves with enlightening words about their lives and artworks, so you might want to watch this before your visit.

In the small galleries framing Color of Sound are works by Taylor Chapin and Kevin Vincent. We really enjoyed Chapin’s room-sized grocery store installation Consumption Capital, and Vincent’s two wood-and-rope assemblages are interesting too. Then there’s Botanical Hybridity, a series of bright-colored oil paintings by Amanda Kachadoorian representing San Diego’s multicultural flora. 

Consumption Capital, by Taylor Chapin.

Back down on OMA’s main floor are 39 eye-catching and thought-provoking paintings by Mark Bryce, all on the theme of Love & War

War, by Mark Bryce.

Portrait of the Artist by Mark Bryce

After contemplating Love & War, you can move on to Twenty Women Artists: NOW, a “collective reflection on the challenging conditions women face today” by a San Diego-based artists collective. You’re sure to find your own favorites here; here’s one of ours.  

Missy, bronze sculpture with granite base by Manuelita Brown.

Oceanside Museum of Art
704 Pier View Way, Oceanside CA 92054
(760) 435-3721/
Hours: Thurs-Sat, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 11-4. 
Hours are subject to change, and some exhibits end  soon; confirm hours and end-dates before going.
Admission: Free-$10.

Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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