Magu. When Magu died his many friends grieved his absence because he was so vital and so young and so alive. You can't miss him, though, because sabes que? Magu lives. There's Magu photo-bombing Eloy Torrez, resisting the urge to make rabbit ears. Always liked a good laugh, Magu did.
The legendary artist, Gilbert Magu Lujan, is all over the walls in Santa Paula's Art Museum where In Search of Magulandia, this year's 21st De Colores Art Show, opened last Saturday, October 18 and will run through February 22, 2015.
The Santa Paula Art Museum occupies a solidly built 1920's two-story building in the heart of a scenic valley where agriculture and oil helped form a town that is finding community through culture. The Limoneira Building was Union Oil Co's founding Hq.
Museum Executive Director Jennifer Heighton worked with Curators Xavier Montes and Vanessa Acosta to mount the dual shows. A companion exhibit opened at the city's Agricultural Museum, a restored railroad warehouse where Los Fabulocos performed and the Magu-painted Family Car was surrounded by superb exemplars of Magu's sculpture and paintings.
At the Art Museum, the 1950 Chevy coupe with the FAMCAR license, together with Mario Trillo’s delivery van, greeted visitors at the side entry, where shade added to the welcome on the open sky Spring-like afternoon. Danzantes opened the doors at two in the afternoon and the place soon rocked with gente taking in the tributes to el maestro.
Jennifer Heighton beamed as she passed among the throngs moving about the gallery, posing for fotos with artists and one another. Angel Guerrero and Sergio Hernandez showed portraiture while Paty Diaz (with daughter Leylany Rodriguez) and Manuel Unzueta created symbolic references to Magu's love for cars.
There are some precious gems among the work on display. All endeavor tributes to Magu’s iconography. Artists paint trokitas, pyramidal dogs, indigenous motifs, color, smiles. They attempt to capture Magu's attitude; he painted with disarming innocence that takes a big bite out of comfortable ideas and perspectives.
There's always something. I missed a knee-high wood sculpture set on the floor beside a support beam--a couple of times--and in the crowd couldn’t bend to study it when I noticed it.
Spirit-infused artists showed up to make the opening a distinguished gathering. This particular group knows how to have fun. Oscar Castillo and Mario Trillo captured images. Pola Lopez and Victoria Plata relaxed with the Family Car. David Botello shared fine points of the giclée Manuel Urrutia bought in the gift store. Urrutia did what visitors need to do more of when visiting museums, buy stuff. Mario Trillo photo bombs David and Manuel.
A museum visitor's friend captures a moment with J. Michael Walker, whose piece is obscured by the phone. Walker's stunning work merits such widespread acclaim that one day this visitor's relatives will want copies of the foto he's snapping. Be sure to click on the links to individual artist webpages, like this one for Michael's.
Pola Lopez tells a rich story of her first meeting Magu. They knew of one another by reputation and their work. Pola had constructed a work featuring the Family Car in a landscape populated by feminist symbology. Entitled Not a Hood Ornament. Magu was apprehensive she was calling him on the carpet.
Lopez'work is an appreciation. Magu learns this and Pola and he become lifelong friends. Pola's narrative of creating this tribute to her first Magu encounter will have visitors triply engaged with Pola's wonderful kiss, Magu's smile, and the artist's expressiveness. Peace Offering lettered down the left edge shares their history while also remembering her friend, qepd.
Pola Lopez and her work
Museum Executive Director Jennifer Heighton beams delightedly when spotted circulating through the lively crowd who pack the gallery. The turn-out for the show is historic. Gente galore wander in and about the red-brick walls, enjoying the ambience, the food and beverage, the plein aire style found in side galleries where gulp-prices on large paintings give one pause. It's discover day for many, their first visit to town.
The large crowd mills about the big room until they begin claiming chairs for the presentations. Magu's son, Otoño, will be playing later with el Conjunto Los Pochos. All the Magu kids, and their mom, have come to celebrate Magulandia with his friends.
Vanessa Acosta sparkles with excitement and indefatigable energy reserves. She and museum staff and Xavier Montes have worked months inviting, receiving, hanging, making arrangements. Here now, then gone in sixty microseconds, Acosta may have discovered teleportation. The museum publishes a beautiful full-color glossy commemorative pamphlet. Santa Paula Museum of Art does things first class for Magu and his friends.
Big X, as Montes is called, gives free music lessons to local kids--Jarocho to Beatles but mostly musica--through Strings of De Colores, a museum-sponsored non-profit. Details at the link on donations and mailing address for non-card donors.
Montes conducts the music with fervor and the musicians perform with puro ganas. Calling out the chord, he sings as well as coaches them through an able and extended performance. These kids are wonderful music makers. Performances like these will eventually coax out the dollars to help the museum wire the place for sound.
As X collapses in joy and exhaustion with the concluding notes, one of the Angels on Harps leaps from her instrument and claims victory of kids over loving music teacher. He challenged them to make all that practice pay off and it was Carnegie Hall day in their home town art museum. They all triumphed today.
Musicianship and heart
Museum Executive Director Jennifer Heighton, David Botello with Botello's Magulandia painting. Exquisite in detail and symbol, Botello's portrayal would be extra fabulous adorning one of those big walls downtown, or at the Smithsonian. Docents would spend hours pointing out the history and significance Botello places onto the canvas. It, along with Family Car, one day will be in the Smithsonian. Heighton can claim art world bragging rights on having launched the wall.
The Agricultural Museum waited after a pleasant stroll passing an old Moreton Bay fig, crossing the railroad tracks and a route step march along the tidy tracks to the pea gravel then the door.
Magu's own work hangs in a corner of the huge space. Collectors owning quintessential Magus shared freely with curators Montes and Acosta. Free-standing sculpture on display encourages 360 degree appreciation of Magu's clay and corrugated work. Seeing these seminal works together is seeing the beginnings of Chicana Chicano art.
Here In Search of Magulandia allows gente to get up close to Family Car unimpeded by barrier tape and stanchions. People were respectful of the finish and kept proper distance. It is a show of generosity and respect for this audience.
Paul Dunlap enjoys sharing the 1950 Chevy Coupe Magu painted. They were friends. Dunlap, back to camera, treats the car like the gem it is. He trucks Family Car to wherever he shows it. He drives it low and slow from the Art Museum to its place of honor in the museum. Sadly, La Bloga did not photograph the car wheeling on the street.
Santa Paula Art Museum hosts the main show through February. Travelers heading to El Lay from Fresno and parts north can detour from the 5 via Highway 126. Travelers to and from Santa Barbara will delight in the detour up the 126 from Ventura to Santa Paula, then the canyon road to Ojai, back to Ventura.
Leaving the Agricultural Museum and Magulandia, sharp-eyed witnesses watched a velocipede cruise past the Moreton Bay Fig tree, followed at a proper distance by a lass who didn't dare display any ankle as she pedaled along the dusky road.
Getting to Santa Paula is its own adventure. Go. See the show. Add value to the journey by joining the museum. You can renew that membership every year; this trip through Magulandia happens only this once. Through February 2015.
Veterans Job Hopes Gain 10,000 Possibilities
Magu was proud to be Veteran of the United States Air Force. Veterans everywhere welcome any effort with genuine possibilities for meaningful full time work.
Time runs short to apply for the October 28 deadline to get in on this Los Angeles program. Click this link for details.