Don't Worry, Be Arty

Step outside, slap on the sun block and soak up some culture

You're just not a summer person. You're an art geek, and you hate the heat, you hate the beach and you hate, hate, hate that freaking song about Sum-sum-summertime. You're already pining for the sweet release of autumn . . . or better yet, winter, the Season of the Mind. Oh, for those long, frigid nights when you can on put a big, thick, black sweater and a happenin' leather coat (and maybe even a scarf if you're a really pretentious twit) and stand around mingling in the courtyard at various art openings, soaking up all the culture and the warmth of those sweet, sweet heat lamps.

Well, we can relate. But this year, you're not going to waste another summer cooped up in your downtown loft apartment with the air conditioner cranked up so high you can't hear the phone ringing. No, this year you're going to get out there and live. There's plenty of interesting art to be seen over the next few months, if you know where to look. And lucky for you, we know where to look!

Later this month, the Orange County Museum of Art kicks off "Cao Fei: Whose Utopia" (June 30-Sept. 2, 949-759-1122; www.ocma.net), a show that is the very antithesis of summer frivolity. Fei spent half a year at a factory in China's Pearl River Delta, documenting the lives of the workers there through photos and video.

If you can get over your aversion to all things surf-y (a challenge, we know), a pair of upcoming shows promise to be worth braving the drive in your sweltering car. The always-interesting Huntington Beach Art Center will launch "On Board" (June 23-Sept. 9, 714-374-1650; www.surfcity-hb.org/Residents/recreation_culture/Art_Center.cfm), an international exhibition of installations related to the ocean featuring artists from all over this great big world. The Laguna Art Museum, meanwhile, will present "Heart and Torch: Rick Griffin's Transcendence" (June 24-Sept. 30, 949-494-8971; www.lagunaartmuseum.org), showcasing the pioneering cartoonist and graphic artist whose surf-inspired, indescribably trippy work in the pages of the classic '60s underground comic book Zap blew the minds of several generations of potheads.

People have been saying that the Sawdust Art Festival(June 29-Sept. 2, 949-494-3030; www.sawdustartfestival.org) ain't what it used to be since about five minutes after the first one started, but with all this bellyaching about the good old days and how you used to be able to buy all kinds of wonderful crafts and knickknacks and crap for whatever spare change you happened to find under the cushions of your couch, people lose sight of what the festival is now: a big, noisy, fun thing at which you can stroll around and look at lots of wonderful but egregiously overpriced crafts and knickknacks and crap, and then go back to your nice, uncluttered home without having bought anything. Come on, we all secretly know the looking is really the fun part, anyway. Do you really want to try to lug some 45-pound, crumbly clay head to your car? With 200 exhibiting artists, all-ages art classes, artist demonstrations, live entertainment and outdoor dining, this thing is like a Lollapalooza for art geeks.

You'll also want to take in at least one of the Laguna Art Walks (first Thursday of every month, 949-683-6871; www.firstthursdaysartwalk.com), in which the Laguna College of Art & Design and more than 40 galleries throw open their doors. It's a chance to appreciate the rich diversity of local art and burn off some of the carbs you were pounding down all winter at those art openings. You didn't really think those big, thick, black sweaters were hiding your canapé gut, did you?

And like it or not, this is the year when you're actually going to go see the Pageant of the Masters (July 7-Aug. 31, 800-487-3378; www.foapom.com). Yes, this thing's whole gimmick of having actors dress up and strike poses to re-enact the masterworks of Michelangelo and Picasso is hopelessly kitschy . . . but admit it, deep down, you've always really wanted to see it, haven't you? How the heck do they re-enact a Picasso, anyhow? Do they hire a bunch of models with both eyes on one side of their heads? Well, this is the year you're going to find out. You're also going to have to check out "Strings of Paradise: The Ukulele and Steel Guitar" at the Fullerton Museum Center. (Through Sept. 9, 714-738-6545; www.cityoffullerton.com/depts/museum). The ukulele is an instrument that is as lovely as it is innately ridiculous, and this is the perfect time to appreciate it. After all, why should the summer people have all the fun?

 
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