Local Artists Under Colorful Umbrellas at Balboa Island Museum

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By Pete Weitzner | Special to the NB Indy

At any given time, the Balboa Island Museum features about 15 exhibits. Its newest might be its biggest attention grabber – ever.

“Never had engagement like this before,” the Museum’s Executive Director Tiffany Pepys Hoey said. “People are enthralled. They stand there. They’re amazed.”

Credit goes to the new artwork by local artists in the Museum’s gallery, and to the art installation that hovers above—an installation of colorful umbrellas.

Umbrellas at Balboa Island Museum / Photo by Alexis Triepke

“Ceiling exhibits have become very popular,” Pepys Hoey said, adding that March 13 was National Open an Umbrella Indoors Day.

The exhibit signage tells visitors “umbrellas (are a) universal symbol for protections from the storms of life…In ancient cultures of the Far East, Africa, and Europe the umbrella represented royalty and power.”

As for the artists, they had a tough act to follow. This winter the museum’s gallery featured the works of renowned marine-life artist, Wyland.

About a year ago, Pepys Hoey came up with the idea of featuring local artists. And word got out. Up went the umbrellas in mid-March, and below, “Celebrating Our Local Artists,” showcasing five locals.

“We’ve had other artists individually, never together like this,” Pepys Hoey said. “It’s the color and style that came together to make it cohesive—mainly the colors. Bright. Cheerful.”

Mixed-media specialist Marie Lavallee was one of those featured in the past in her own museum exhibit. She helped Pepys Hoey get the ball rolling for the locals’ gallery.

“The museum is such a fun environment to be in,” Lavallee said. “I hang around with a lot of other women artists. Two of my friends, I thought their work would be a good fit with the museum. I introduced them to Tiffany.”

Those artists were fellow mixed-media specialist, Lara Ralston, and the unique glass weaving artist, Lynleigh Love.

Glass sculpture on wall

“Absolutely thrilled, I love the other artists, they’re colorful, lively,” Love said.

The artists are indeed all local and colorful, but diverse in their art and backgrounds.

Take Love, who signs her work Lynleigh. She transitioned from a 25-year career as a geologist to work at her hobby fulltime.

“I hung up my hard hat,” Love said.

As a geologist, she’d spend her time drilling and sampling, looking for soil and groundwater contamination.

“There’s a high degree of science in working with woven glass. You have to be fairly precise,” Love said as she fused her two careers.

She’s been perfecting her glass-weaving over the last decade, and is quite possibly the only detailed, glass-weaver of her kind in the world.

“Might be one or two others who do detailed glass weaving,” Love said. “Takes time. It’s difficult. I’ve never met anyone who does it quite the way I do…the transitional colors.”

Today, Love says about half of her North Tustin home is “my glass stuff. But I love it, it feels like every day is a vacation.”

Love has five pieces on the wall and some dishes which she says are “smaller versions of the wall weave.”

Woven Glass dish

The complete locals lineup at the Balboa Island Museum includes Marie Lavallee of Costa Mesa, mixed media; Jan Steele of Little Balboa Island, oil painting; Lynleigh “Lyn” Love of North Tustin, glass weaving; Lara Ralston of Irvine, mixed media; and Fred Zolan of Pacific Palisades, photography.

Steele met Pepys Hoey as a volunteer at the museum’s cottage location just over the bridge. She had moved down to her Little Island beach cottage in 1998 and loves to paint scenes around the bay.

“Paint something you love, that other people love,” Steele said. “Here it’s Balboa images.”

The Balboa Pavilion, the famous couple on the bench on South Bay Front – Herman and Lois Dorkin, sculpted by another local artist, Miriam Baker – and the sea lions on the pier at the end of Crystal are just some of her favorites.

“A good friend would go around taking photos on the Island, best in morning or evening,” Steele said. “I painted from those for a long time, sold most of them in the art walks.”

Besides being the ultimate local, her art fit perfectly into the gallery theme of “boats birds and water.”

Lavallee transitioned from a career in jewelry design.

“Late bloomer,” the native of Quebec City said. Her hometown, birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, is famous for its devotion to art of all forms.

“My problem is choosing which idea to work on,” said Lavallee. She started with scrabble letters, then coins.

“Now I’m working with stamps. The trick is to distill it in language that is relatable…like working with birds. It’s nature. It’s pleasant for the viewer and brings the sense of wonder, and evokes the word ‘wow.’”

Lavallee paints “with a lot of gusto and a quirky sense of humor.” She just finished “Mr. Positive,” a blue heron sitting on a sign that reads “WRONG WAY.”

All the artists credit Pepys Hoey’s vision, her design and curating expertise, for making the exhibit work as a whole.

“It’s a fabulous exhibit,” Steele said. “And Tiffany’s done a great job of connecting them, of playing up that theme. Plus, it’s near the front of the museum. It’s a privilege to be part of it.”

This gallery will be around through the spring. All the artists have several pieces, and no small thing, they’re all selling. Come summer, Pepys Hoey wants to continue the new tradition with new local artists.

“People, artists, want to be in here,” she said.

“It’s an honor,” Love agreed.

Also new and greeting visitors before they reach the “umbrella exhibit” are the Bathing Beauties, which back in the 20s attracted lot buyers to the island. These pieces of art are on display in the museum window.

May brings another new exhibit, “Boats on the Bay,” courtesy of Duffy-boat inventor and current Newport Beach councilmember, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield.

Balboa Island Museum is located at 210 Marine Ave., Balboa Island. Museum hours are Monday—Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach, please visit https://balboaislandmuseum.org.

Author Pete Weitzner is the producer of the documentary “Golden Age of Newport Harbor”



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