Rolston deploys magic in “Art People: The Pageant Portraits”

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Over the decades, people have flocked to Laguna Beach to witness the alluring Pageant of the Masters for themselves.

The Living Images Exhibition, which has been around since 1933, captivated many, serving as an introduction to the art for some, including a famous photographer who was so engrossed in the exhibition that he sought to integrate it. in his own work.

Matthew Rolston, famous celebrity and fine art photographer who has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, said he first attended the Pageant of the Masters when he was just 8 years old. He has now seen the spectacle almost a dozen times.

A passion for art had been awakened in Rolston during family visits to the Pageant of the Masters and the Huntington Library as a child. In 2014, he returned to Laguna Beach to watch the show with friends.

He was looking for a subject for a passion project because he hoped to produce images that represented why people are forced to make art. In the performing arts, he found what he was looking for.

“Almost everything in the human experience is imagined,” Rolston said. “We have this amazing thing called imagination that we can then make it real. We can imagine something and then make it happen. It is rather incredible.

Photographer Matthew Rolston speaks during a media tour of his exhibition, “Art People: The Pageant Portraits”, at the Laguna Art Museum.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Rolston strived to gain access to the Pageant of the Masters volunteers, and he got his chance in 2015 when he accepted an assignment with The Wall Street Journal. He was then given permission to continue his own project in 2016, and the culmination of that work is now on display at the Laguna Art Museum in a new exhibition titled “Matthew Rolston, Art People: The Pageant Portraits”.

A large crowd gathered in an exhibition hall at the Laguna Art Museum on Saturday, June 26 for the public’s first opportunity to view the exhibit, a series of larger-than-life portraits of volunteers posing as works of art. classic art.

Julie Perlin Lee, CEO of the museum, greeted the audience at the reception and introduced them to Rolston. Former museum director Dr Malcolm Warner, who curated the exhibit, was also in attendance.

The portraits focus on the people in the tableau vivant who represent art, and only them, removing the actors from the context of their performance.

Warner was intrigued by the humanity of Rolston’s photographs.

“While I can recognize complete mastery when I see it, I’m definitely not an expert in the technical details of photography,” Warner said. “But it seems to me that the power of Matthew’s work is not in the technique; it’s in humanity, and everyone can relate to that.

Peter Blake, a member of Laguna Beach City Council who owns an art gallery in town focused on minimalism, said he was surprised to find himself obsessed with portraits days after seeing Rolston’s work for the first time. time.

A member of the media, right, watches photographer Matthew Rolston's exhibit,

A member of the media, right, watches photographer Matthew Rolston’s exhibit, “Art People: The Pageant Portraits.”

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Blake added that the quality of fine art depends on the artist’s will and commitment to the intent of his work. He found Rolston’s portraits to be powerful for this reason.

“The only difference between commercial art, graphic art, fine art is that the handsome artist goes into a studio in the morning, and he does exactly what he wants,” said Blake. “He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about critics, curators, collectors or anyone else.

“He literally expresses herself, or she expresses herself, the only way they know how, and there is no other option.”

Rolston’s account corroborated these beliefs. Once he got permission from the Pageant of the Masters organizers to take portraits, he freed himself from expectations of idealized visions and was able to capture his subjects as he wished to portray them.

“I realized that the commercial work that I have done over the years for magazines and advertising and the like, I respect the work that has been done. It’s not entirely personal, ”Rolston said. “There is a lot of personality to me, a personal choice in this job, but I’m here to serve someone else, the person who commissioned the job.

“With the art projects, I commission the work for myself. I don’t have anyone else to answer or please, so I don’t have to be bound that way. I have the freedom.

A videographer, right, captures images from photographer Matthew Rolston's exhibition,

A videographer, right, captures images from photographer Matthew Rolston’s exhibition, “Art People: The Pageant Portraits,” at the Laguna Art Museum.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The masters competition will open on Wednesday July 7, so the timing of the exhibition couldn’t be better.

“The Laguna Art Museum and the Pageant of the Masters both date back to the Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918 by artists with the aim” to advance knowledge and interest in art, and to create a spirit cooperation and camaraderie between the painter and the public. ‘ Lee said. “We are so proud to continue their spirit of cooperation and camaraderie today, as Matthew Rolston’s photographs of the Pageant performers, now on display at the museum, link our two organizations this summer.”

Rolston believed in producing the artwork that he would come full circle, returning to the birthplace of his love for art. What he ultimately considers the correct symbol, however, is that of infinity, given the Laguna Beach community’s undying energy for the arts.

“It’s a backstage feast of love, and I think the feast of love comes from the mission, which is very meaningful to me personally because the mission is to educate in art, in especially for young people, ”Rolston said of the Pageant of the Masters. “It really is family entertainment so this is the mission that worked on me.”

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