Honoring HERstory, Festival of Arts spotlights female artists in celebration of Women’s History Month

Throughout its illustrious 92-year history, the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach has served as a prominent platform for countless female artists to showcase their talent and creativity. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Festival proudly honors a selection of extraordinary women artists who will be exhibiting at this summer’s Fine Art Show. These artists are recognized for their significant impact on the art world and their exploration of themes central to womanhood.

Among the featured artists are Jayne Dion, Elizabeth McGhee, Pegah Samaie and Hailley Howard. Each of these artists brings a unique perspective to their work, with some drawing inspiration from art history or addressing pressing issues of oppression and equality, while others delve into personal experiences as mothers, explore their heritage, or reflect on contemporary societal norms. Their diverse approaches promise to enrich the cultural landscape of this year’s Festival of Arts.

Photos courtesy of FOA

“Nested” is part of Jayne Dion’s upcoming 2024 exhibition

Jayne Dion, a third-year exhibitor, celebrates nature and motherhood in her mixed media sculptures, reflecting on themes of love and renewal. In her piece Nested, layered paper illustrations depict a troop of mushrooms amidst grass and leaves, symbolizing growth and vitality. A blue bird watches over her nest of eggs, embodying the tender care of motherhood amidst the branches adorned with Lucite leaves, evoking revitalization and life. These eggs represent Dion’s children, and the mother bird is her watching over and protecting them. Dion explained, “This piece holds many symbols of who I am as a woman artist: a painter and sculptor and a mother. It

is a celebration of the strength of women.”

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Elizabeth McGhee, “Medea”

Long-time Festival of Arts exhibitor Elizabeth McGhee is working on a series of 80 paintings titled Mythica that focus on women in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, but placed in a contemporary setting. Rather than being illustrative recreations of myths, each portrait is a psychological character study of an often overlooked or historically incidental individual. Ancient and modern are interwoven in her work as McGhee explained, “As a visual storyteller I chose to represent my subjects through a contemporary lens. A mythological woman who may have only one literary mention or epitaph in ancient literature is ripe for reinterpretation. I want to adjust the focus on these classical myths so that the familiar heroes of antiquity serve only as a backdrop to spotlight my modern heroines.”

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“The Heart of Gravity” by Pegah Samaie

Showcasing her work at the Festival of Arts since 2019, oil painter Pegah Samaie uses her art to advocate for women’s voices. Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Samaie draws upon her past experiences in her art, confronting the challenges faced by women in patriarchal societies both politically and domestically. Her painting The Heart of Gravity, purchased by the Festival for its Permanent Art Collection in 2019, features symbolic imagery representing the struggles and resilience of women in the face of societal constraints. The artwork features a woman with hair decorations comprised of cups and holding a flower. “The cups symbolize women as beautiful strong vessels,” shared Samaie. “All are orbiting in the same order, no cup is closer or farther, no cup is shinier or dimmer than others. They don’t touch, hit, or break each other. They follow the right format in order to respect each other. They give each other power to stand straight; their companionship helps them to grow and show us the beauty of life.”

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Hailley Howard, “Rebirth”

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Returning to the Festival for her second summer, artist Hailley Howard is looking forward to the 2024 season and debuting the second iteration of her Women series. Howard’s photographs delve deep into the complexities of femininity, identity and societal norms, while exploring connections between women and nature. Howard shared, “My imagery in the Festival to date, and the space I hold for women to express themselves in other areas of my work, is entirely built around empowerment and freedom. My clients and subjects work with me in a certain collaboration of the soul. I create an environment to uphold, uplift and support her voice.” She continued, “These works are shared with an audience to invite them to question their own construct of reality and that which confines us, seeking to liberate both men and women from societal pressures, fear and self-inflicted judgment.”

Howard concluded, “When a cluster of artists come together, much like at the Festival, not only do we inspire one another to new heights but we challenge one another to go deeper and create to a more impactful degree. We are living in an incredibly pivotal period of time, and I am so grateful to be a woman and have a platform to empower others and spread this message of strength.”

Experience the captivating works of these talented artists and many others at the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show, running from July 3 through August 30 (closed July 4). Stay updated on all things Pageant of the Masters and Festival of Arts by visiting their website at www.foapom.com.

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