Art Busts Out and Nature Rushes In During Laguna Art Museum’s Art & Nature Fest

Seeing Phillip K. Smith III’s site-specific sculpture 1/4 Mile Arc on Main Beach is reason enough to make the trip to Laguna the weekend before Election Day. Laguna Art Museum (LAM) has commissioned Smith for its fourth annual Art & Nature festival, November 4-6, which will take place inside and outside the museum walls, spilling into the community’s many galleries and out into nature with the reveal of Smith’s installation. If you’d like to work side-by-side with Smith on constructing this large-scale sculpture (it may well be 1/4 mile long, we’ll see), you should volunteer to help November 1-3.

Smith’s outdoor pieces are known to morph with day-to-night light changes—so check out 1/4 Mile Arc as soon as you hit town and again before you leave—and have been featured at Coachella this year (Portals) and in 2014 (Reflection Field). But Smith is best known for Lucid Stead, a decaying homestead structure out near Joshua Tree that he conjured into a house of reflection that seemed to capture the entire Mojave Desert. What will this master of desert light and sand do on the beach adjacent to the reflecting powerhouse that is the Pacific Ocean?

Meanwhile, an ocean storm of sound will be brewing inside the museum on Saturday November 5 from 3-5 p.m. in the form of “I,” lighthouse waiting for storms. Plan to participate or stand back and listen to another extraordinary concoction devised by Xiu Xiu founder Jamie Stewart and artist David Horvitz, whose work ranges from the virtual to actually employing pickpockets to secret tiny sculptures into people’s pockets. Prior interactive sound works by Stewart and Horvitz include a piece in Robert Irwin’s Iconic Central Garden, where visitors were given hundreds of possible tasks, such as “Play a chime and imagine this place a thousand years ago.” For the approaching storm in Laguna, expect more raucous instructions for the ice cream bells, glass bottles, and coconuts available to augment modular synthesizers for the pair’s fourth collaboration of 2016. You can experience the installation for the price of LAM admission, but it may sell out so advanced purchase is recommended.

While 1/4 Mile Arc and “I,” lighthouse waiting for storms are ephemeral in nature, for more than a century, art-making and the contours of the natural world have intermingled in Laguna Beach’s identity. LAM wants to keep that momentum going, despite the entrenchment of hummer-driving residents in Laguna and scant affordable studio space. In homage to that longevity, one of the museum’s fall exhibits is “Miss Hills of Laguna, Anna Althea Hills: Art, Education, Community.” Hills moved to Laguna in 1914 to live and paint, and her work both on and off the canvas helped establish Laguna as an art colony. Smith’s Bent Parallel and Kristin Leachman’s Xylem Rays, paintings inspired by the patterns of a tree’s circulatory system, both offer contemporary takes on nature. All three exhibits are on view inside the museum through January 15, 2017.

Laguna Art Museum has curated this festival for four straight years so that art, ideas, nature, the environment, and inspiring youngsters to make and appreciate art take precedence. In cahoots on their mission with the greater community this year, from edgier galleries such as Artists Republic to Laguna Plein-Air Painters Association to the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna, it’s fitting that the Art & Nature festival kicks off with First Thursdays Art Walk on November 4. Check out the full schedule of lectures, artist appearances, and family-friendly events that are free or come with the price of admission. See you under  1/4 Mile Arc.

Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8971;

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