Artscapes: Butterfly Sculpture Alights at Nature Center

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By Lila Crespin, Ph.D. │ Newport Beach Arts Foundation

Bravo for Mayor Curry’s proposal for a special fund that will help with the installation of public art no cost to taxpayers!  Many citizens already work toward this goal and here’s the proof from a few years ago.

Back in 2005, our city bought a large steel butterfly sculpture; so did many other cities in OC (think Chicago’s painted cows).  he purchase is made to help Arts Orange County fund art education in schools throughout our county. Our Council likes the idea of joining this push for more arts in our world. Good for them.

Enter our Newport Beach Arts Commission.  These dedicated citizens are appointed to act in an advisory capacity to our Council regarding matters that deal with all of the arts our city sponsors. With the purchase of the butterfly sculpture the Commission was charged with finding an artist who would not only paint the butterfly, but spring for all of the paint and supplies.

butterfly 1They didn’t have to look far. Two artists, Arlene Cartozian and Kathy Harrison, were Arts Commissioners in 2005 and they volunteered to take on the job. What luck! Between them, Kathy and Arlene had great backgrounds in various painting media and – better than that – they didn’t know what was waiting for them as they planned the painted surfaces of the sculpture. They found out really fast.

They wanted to paint a design on the butterfly from the natural environment found in our Back Bay. Think of a Monarch butterfly whose design is made up of birds and sea and landforms, and you’ll get the design that our artists wanted for our butterfly sculpture.  They used the great resources at the Muth Science Center, a fascinating place to learn about the Back Bay and to do pertinent research.

You’re painting something that will be outdoors for a long, long time so you use outdoor enamel, right? Right! Just one problem: neither had used enamel as a medium in their art careers. Kathy is a watercolorist and Arlene is a sculptor who also paints in oils. The delicate color variations they sought were arduous to blend so they ended up buying 34 separate colors. It was worth it. It’s beautiful in its conception and in the application of the theme. The butterfly surface represents dawn at the Back Bay with its blue variations; the underside represents dusk with blue and violet variations.

The sculpture gets finished and is well admired. Only one more problem left: no one could lift it to transport it to its permanent home at our Environmental Nature Center.

Enter another Newport citizen who believes in the arts. Alex Palanjian of Grand Prix Auto had his staff protect the painted sculpture by spraying the entire butterfly with permanent acrylic spray. After that he saw that it was transported to its present site and installed at the Environmental Nature Center at 16th and Dover Streets.

Visit “The Butterfly” at the ENC. It’s placement is very appropriate: It’s right next to the live butterfly cage. You’ll admire it and its creators as much as I do. Have your picture taken next to Newport’s own “commissioned” sculpture. One always looks better standing next to good art, don’t you think?

The mission of the Newport Beach Arts Foundation is to promote and broaden cultural activities in the community as the fund-raising organization of the Newport Beach Arts Commission.  We welcome new members.  If you are interested in joining, please contact Lila Crespin at [email protected]

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