Sunday, December 18, 2022

Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, California

Walking past the picturesque lake and surrounded by lush green trees, I set my sights on the distant buildings. Having traveled to Cosa Mesa, California to see my daughter perform in The Nutcracker Ballet, I was gratified to see the performing arts campus was also home to the Orange County Museum of Art. This was my focus as I ventured out into the cool morning. Approaching the sweeping glass fa├žade, automatic doors swooshed open. A generous entryway gave way to tall ceilings bright with sunlight. Gracious staff members gestured toward the desk, where I was given a map and instructions on how to best enjoy the museum. 
 When thirteen visionary women came together in 1962 to open the museum, as indicated on the website they shared a powerful conviction that Orange County needed a venue where important art could be enjoyed. From the seed of this idea, a small
art gallery became the Newport Harbor Art Museum in 1968 and the Orange County Museum of Art in 1997.  Recently, the museum moved to its new permanent home on the Segerstrom Performing Arts campus. Free to the public, the museum features a rotating collection of art. Currently, works by Sharon Ellis, Fred Eversley, Peter Walker and the 13 women who founded the museum, among others are on display.  

Walking into the first gallery, I was drawn in by the work of the original founding artists. Directly ahead, a square painting graced the wall. Hands holding a stopwatch in multiple panes danced across the canvas. Under each was a word – Happy, Sad, Awake – a plethora of adjectives to describe life. Artist Barbara Kruger offers this piece to reflect the range of emotions we experience throughout life. Additional works scrolled out ahead of me, including sculptures and paintings arranged to visually embrace and ponder. 

Circling around the end of an open wall, I was confronted by paintings which, I daresay, are my absolute favorite of the entire collection. Vivid landscapes captured my mind; bright colors and crisp lines brought trees and meadows to life in a surreal manner. Artist Sharon Ellis layers Alkyd paint to create an electric view of landscapes, sometimes taking months to create the final piece. Staring mesmerized by the works, “In the beginning, God created....” drifted through my mind. What a beautiful way to see the world. 

Climbing the open cement stairs to the second floor, another gallery opened up to feature pedestals filled with round sculptures created from resin. Artist Fred Eversley, a pioneer in creating optical illusions in light and space was featured throughout the gallery. A large concave cylinder, brightly polished and enhanced with translucent rosy color captured my attention. Gazing at the piece, I was amazed to see through it to other sculptures in the distance. I continued through the gallery, slowly down the stairs and out the door after a wonderful experience. 

There is much to experience and admire at the museum, and spending a few hours that day was well worth the visit. For those living near or traveling to Costa Mesa, be sure to take time to go! For more information, check out the website: Orange County Museum of Art (ocma.art). 

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