• REVIEW

      Entrance Art by exhibition visitors (Photo - Melanie Hooks).

      Entrance Art by exhibition visitors (Photo – Melanie Hooks).

      Did you miss the recent Pasadena Chalk Festival? No problem. Its founders, Tom Coston and Patricia Hurley, curated the Pasadena Museum of History’s current exhibit “Art in the Street: 25 Years of the Pasadena Chalk Festival.”

      By Melanie Hooks

      Ribbons of vibrant color, usually meant to last only a few hours, grace the walls until Sunday, August 13th. Bonus: you can enjoy them all in chilly air conditioning vs the 90+ degree temps at the outdoor event.

      Dating back at least to 16th century Italy, chalk rendering has swept the world in recent decades, blending into performance art at events worldwide. PMH’s exhibit greets visitors with the chance to draw their own art, which fills the archway to the gallery. Just like it would be outdoors, this art is swept away every few days, leaving room for newcomers to leave their marks too.

      Mayan replica. Mural by Cesar Gonzalez & Partner (Photo - Brian Biery).

      Mayan replica. Mural by Cesar Gonzalez & Partner (Photo – Brian Biery).

      Artists sometimes have chosen to recreate masterpieces, e.g. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Mayan god sculptures, medieval religious art, and Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial.

      Others pay respects to lost family members and friends with memorial drawings of more recent figures. Some pay homage to their favorite film stars or posters, from Popeye and Olive Oyl to Princess Amidala of “Star Wars.”

      Artist Sandy Erickson poses beside centerpiece chalk mural she created with fellow artist Weni Wilson specifically for the "Art in the Street" exhibit (Photo - Jim Staub).

      Artist Sandy Erickson poses beside centerpiece chalk mural she created with fellow artist Weni Wilson specifically for the “Art in the Street” exhibit (Photo – Jim Staub).

      Original art abounds as well, with a particularly fantastic dreamscape by Sandy Erickson & Weni Wilson featured in the central space – a flying ship from the age of sail.

      Companion gallery

      The companion gallery stares back at the ephemeral illustrations through the eyes of solid, sturdy locomotives. “The Art of Getting There: Railroad Inspired Artistry” guides visitors through a century’s worth of trains, passengers, and all things rail-related. Long a passion project of co-curators Michael Patris and Steve Crise, the exhibit features objects like train car collectables, crewel embroidery, vintage travel posters and Japanese woodblock prints, as well as a large variety of oil and watercolor paintings.

      Three Porters, Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977); Poster, tempera on board.Loan courtesy of Charles N. Mauch & Maurine St. Gaudens (Photo - Steve Crise Photography).

      Three Porters, Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977); Poster, tempera on board.Loan courtesy of Charles N. Mauch & Maurine St. Gaudens (Photo – Steve Crise Photography).

      One of the most eye-catching displays feature travel posters from the early 20th century by Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977). The series features a line of African-American porters striding purposefully up and across the frame, sweeping us along to a more exciting, far-off location. But as hung, they now chillingly march right into a World War II, locomotive-borne cannon print. It’s a thought-provoking touch amongst the memorabilia.

      Main Line to the Pacific War – Southern Pacific, Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977); Poster, tempera on board. Loan courtesy of Charles N. Mauch & Maurine St. Gaudens (Photo - Steve Crise Photography).

      Main Line to the Pacific War – Southern Pacific, Sam Hyde Harris (1889-1977); Poster, tempera on board. Loan courtesy of Charles N. Mauch & Maurine St. Gaudens (Photo – Steve Crise Photography).

      Hyde himself emigrated from Middlesex, England, to Los Angeles, at the age of 15 in 1904 and became both a commercial and gallery success. His prints are now collector items, and he designed local bakery VanDeKamp’s windmill logo. He taught at Pasadena’s Chouinard Art Institute (now absorbed into CalArts) and made room at his Alhambra home/art studio for such regular guests as Southwest painter Frank Tenney Johnson and Americana icon Norman Rockwell.

      Other area connections include contemporary oil paintings of train crews by local artist Yoko Mazza, a dazzling watercolor of South Pasadena’s train depot by Erma Jacobsen (1894-1982), and silver spoons from the Mount Lowe Preservation Society. Mount Lowe’s steeply inclined railway once led to the now-burned Alpine Tavern, high above Altadena.

      Wild Ride!, Moira Hahn, 2017, watercolor (Photo - Steve Crise Photography).

      Wild Ride!, Moira Hahn, 2017, watercolor (Photo – Steve Crise Photography).

      Perhaps the most riveting connection is between mid-1930s Japan wood block color prints and contemporary artist Moira Hahn’s Wild Ride! from 2017. Bright reds, yellows and oranges fill Hahn’s wooden engine and its Chinese lantern-style fires. Kittens dressed as people see the passengers off on their journey – a playful, modern piece to be sure.

      While the older Japanese prints carry far more subdued hues, the elegant, curved lines, steam engines and canvas space dedicated to the landscape all carry through to the modern artist’s vision. Both the prints and the painting could easily appear in a children’s book, inspiring a sense of wonder and imagination. Indeed the historic view of a train appears to have scaled skin, more like a snake than a machine.

      Both “The Art of Getting There: Railroad Inspired Artistry” and “Art in the Street: 25 Years of the Pasadena Chalk Festival” run at Pasadena Museum of History through August 13, 2017.

      Pasadena Museum of History
      470 W. Walnut St.
      Pasadena, CA 91103
      (626) 577-1660
      Exhibition Gallery Hours
      Wed-Sun, Noon-5 p.m.
      $7/person
      Members and Children under 12, free.

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