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Travel, exposure — and cake

Exhibits opening at Laguna Art Museum spotlight three artists, including sweets chronicler Wayne Thiebaud.

February 19, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • A scene from Millard Sheet's "Kamani Trees of Ho'okena," 1951, from the collection of Diane and E. Gene Crain, is shown as part of Laguna Art Museum's Spring 2014 season show.
A scene from Millard Sheet's "Kamani Trees… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Dana Harel's creative process begins in silence.

On the precipice of new work, the artist sits in the calm of her Redwood City home, clutching a solitary sketch book.

Only after an idea begins to take form, followed by a rough sense of direction, does she turn on some music.

Production mode — when her task is clear and refined — is marked by Harel tuning in to podcasts.

"I tend to be most productive when I spend long days in my studio, when I can get into a zone where I am letting go and not judging every move I make," she said.

The 43-year-old, who admits that the unpredictability of her artistic practice yields "exciting and unexpected" outcomes, will display her work at the Laguna Art Museum starting Sunday. "ex·pose: dana harel," made up of 14 pieces of different sizes, will be exhibited along with "Wayne Thiebaud: American Memories" and "Travels with Millard Sheets, 1950–1986" until June 1.

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Harel, who has made a name for herself with elaborate graphite designs on large-scale paper, spent nine months holed up in her studio, constructing an entirely new body of work ahead of this show.

"Lately, I have been experimenting with different mediums that eventually all translate to work on paper," she wrote in an email. "My process involves creating rough sculptures prior to drawing. Then, through a series of hybrid techniques, which includes sculpture, drawing, photography and printmaking, I slowly construct my drawings."

Grace Kook-Anderson, the Laguna Art Museum's curator of contemporary art, received an exhibition catalog in 2009 depicting Harel's intricate sketches of hands contorted to look like snakes, crocodiles and more. She then visited a gallery showcasing the artist's pieces and was immediately taken by the inherent style and attention to detail.

"Between the striking execution of her work and the layered process in which she draws from different source materials, I wanted to have a chance to show Dana's work for one of our 'ex·pose' exhibitions," Kook-Anderson said.

Sunday marks the unveiling of a new group of shows at the Laguna Art Museum. This event, according to Executive Director Malcolm Warner, is one of the museum's most important because of the inclusion of Thiebaud.

Last October, the institution honored Thiebaud with a California Art Award to recognize his contribution to elevating the reputation of the state's art.

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