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ARTS & CULTURE
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The genius of William Wendt

Through Feb. 8, the Laguna Art Museum is displaying the work of a painter who, more than anyone, created California Impressionism.

By John GordonPublished: December 01, 2008

It’s December, and finding something artsy and cultural that isn’t Holiday-themed is about as difficult as finding a “Made in America” sticker in a Wal-Mart – unless you’re in Laguna Beach and experiencing “In Nature’s Temple: The Life and Art of William Wendt,” the first major retrospective of this seminal figure in California painting.
   
Though you’ll walk away from the exhibit learning a great deal about Wendt’s life and career, you also might gain a deeper appreciation for how California painting affected the development of American painting and how the Golden State itself evolved.
   
The German-born Wendt settled in Southern California in the early 20th century. He built a studio home in Laguna Beach in 1912 and died there in 1946. Wendt was a landscape painter and is considered a California Impressionist, the name for early 20th-century artists known for California landscapes that blend various painting styles, including the Romantic adoration of nature and the swirling color patterns of French impressionism.
   
Though nudged to the periphery of serious art scholarship due to the explosion of styles such as abstract expressionism and pop art, the loose-knit school is regaining lost attention. It makes sense: These men and women were painting this American Eden at a time when it was developing into the world’s fifth-largest economy.
   
And no one played a bigger role in that than Wendt.


THE DETAILS
“In Nature’s Temple: The Life and Art of William Wendt”
Through Feb. 8
Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, 949.494.8971; lagunaartmuseum.org


MORE EVENTS

Compañia Flamenco José Porcel
Orange County Performing Arts Center,  Dec. 11-14
Nothing captures the holiday spirit like flamenco dancing. This company, helmed by a former principal dancer in Spain’s national ballet company, skillfully captures the spirit of this emotionally exuberant art form by blending traditional and contemporary elements.
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714.556.2787; ocpac.org

“The Science Of Gingerbread”
Discovery Center, Nov. 24-Jan. 4
Gingerbread has clout this time of year, but this exhibit could alter the way you look at the blend of ginger spice, flour and shortening. You’ll see incredible gingerbread creations as part of the center’s annual competition. Last year’s hits included a miniature gingerbread Zamboni and a model of Mission San Juan Capistrano.
2500 N. Main St., Santa Ana, 714.542.2823; discoverycube.org

“A Christmas Carol”
South Coast Repertory, Nov. 29-Dec. 27.
At least two reasons to see Orange County’s longest-running stage institution are the spot-on Victorian-era set and costumes, and the anti-materialistic heart of Charles Dickens’ story. Here’s a third: Hal Landon Jr.’s brilliant rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge, which he’s performed every year since 1980.
655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714.708.5555; scr.org

John Gordon is an O.C.-based freelance writer specializing in arts and culture.