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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 64  |  August 11, 2020


“A rose is a rose is a rose” and more: Stephen Bryer’s roses offer divine serenity and healing 

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Once you see one of artist Stephen Bryer’s rose murals or paintings, you will never look at a rose again in the same way. It is suggested that the author Gertrude Stein, in the famous line, “a rose is a rose is a rose,” expresses the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it. Of course, roses evoke beauty and love, however, Bryer’s roses elicit something more – divine serenity and healing.

If you’ve been to Laguna Coffee Company, it’s impossible not to notice the lovely blush rose painting on the entrance wall and the large mural next to it. But now there is something more. The patio wall is awash with Bryer’s beguiling roses whose petals subtly change colors and depth as the light changes during the day. 

Birth of an idea

About two years ago, Bryer approached Rene and Tomi Miller – the mother/daughter team who have owned Laguna Coffee Company since October of 2018 – with a proposal to paint a mural on the patio wall. They loved the idea.

So they applied to the city for approval, and Bryer started on the project by taking out a few trees, cleaning the wall, and applying a base coat. 

“I made a conscious decision to go ahead with it. It’s completely self-funded, using my time and my money. I decided to go forward because it would help me gain a bigger platform and purpose, and a bigger vision. Eventually, I want to do this all over the world,” says Bryer.

A rose blush

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Stephen Bryer in the entry of Laguna Coffee Company

Bryer felt Laguna Coffee Company was the perfect place to birth this idea. “I decided to launch it in this well-known iconic space in Laguna. Lots of people get to see it, both visitors and residents. All those who have seen it have responded well. It’s all about heart, mind, and spirit.”

The way this project came to realization also involved a desire to paint larger. Three years ago, Bryer’s prints were part of Art Walk and exhibited at Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art (LGOCA). He also painted the 12 roses of Laguna at the South Laguna Community Garden. Encouraged by Bridgette Shaw of LGOCA, he painted a six-foot blue rose in front of LGOCA, which he worked on for four to five hours a day for six weeks. To no one’s surprise, it attracted a lot of attention.

However, before painting roses, Bryer was photographing them. “I started promoting my work on social media and working larger and larger. I got responses from women all over the world about how the petals and the beauty of the roses was impacting them in a positive emotional and psychological way and helping with depression and insomnia. The feedback was intense and overwhelming.

New healing modality 

“That’s when I realized that my art calling would be a new healing modality, and they were more than pieces of art to be experienced.”

So Bryer started to research roses – beyond their sight and sensation – on a scientific level. “I found that from the beginning of time, roses were considered divine by theologians and poets. There was a lot of mystery behind them, with a lot of testimonials. I started to change my approach as an artist to think in terms of a rose being a healing modality. That’s also when I started thinking about using it as a platform to raise funds. It evolved, and I combined Petals & Love – Heart of the Healing Rose as a platform for the future. The launch and campaign is to paint rose murals in strategic public venues throughout the world with the intent of touching people with the healing, energy, and beauty of the Divine Rose.”

A rose patio

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Roses grace the patio wall of Laguna Coffee Company

To raise funds for his worldwide platform, Bryer is selling individual petals on the mural. The buyer will receive name recognition and a corresponding archival print of the original photographic art. For details, pick up one of his project and artist statement cards at Laguna Coffee Co.

After seeing his work, a longtime resident of Laguna Beach Vicki Greenfield Micha fell in love with it and contacted him directly. 

Vicki says, “My husband, Dr. John Micha, was opening a comprehensive medical practice for women when I first eyeballed one of Stephen’s gorgeous, artistic, healing rose paintings at Laguna Coffee Co. As a woman, I was mesmerized and immediately knew John’s Newport office and Stephen’s rose were the perfect pairing. Any woman would feel better just viewing one of Stephens creations, particularly knowing studies show optimistic patients have better cure rates.”

As a result, it’s had a profound result on women in the waiting room. Bryer says, “They are impacted by the beauty and sense of tranquility. They’re going to heal more gently and quickly if they are surrounded by beauty.”

The roots of the rose

Bryer’s fascination with roses began at a young age. 

He was raised in Fresno and in barren yards of only dirt, he would spot roses flourishing. He started doing still-life paintings at age eight, “Bouquets of flowers my mother had on the table.” He’s been doing art and design since he was 17. 

“I always intended to be 100 percent an artist. It was so much a part of me, I couldn’t have done anything else.”

Bryer became a designer – delving into graphics, interiors, gardens, and even furniture. As a master craftsman, he spent many years in Steamboat Springs, Colo., designing, building, and landscaping homes, and working on historic projects.

 Once he started doing graphic design with roses and studying them down to the petal level, he says, “I knew I had found something immensely profound, and I had found the sweet spot.”

A rose close up

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Bryer launched his campaign “Petals & Love – Heart of the Healing Rose”

“I started sending them out and decided this is what I wanted to do, not only the photos but painting them, not simply documenting, but something uniquely special. A friend encouraged me.” 

The divine rose was the catalyst. Bryer says, “I have a strong connection to women and their plight in history. I’ve been affected by that.

“I feel I was put in this position for a greater purpose than just being an artist. It’s been hard, and I’ve sacrificed a lot, but it’s starting to come to fruition. I still have much to do. My mission is to have an impact on the planet and to be a healer. I have a calling to create art that touches women, heals, and impacts them.

“I don’t know what the end will be, but I’m supposed to walk in faith. It’s a challenge to manifest it, but I continue to step out. I stopped overthinking. My mission is to paint, be positive, be available, be a man of love and a man of faith.”

Bryer sees his evolution as an artist as symbolic of the rose: unfolding, 

blossoming, and thriving. He wants to continue to flower and bring beauty to the work and the world. 

A rose healing rose mural

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Bryer will finish the mural around Valentine’s Day

“For two years, I’ve been thinking about intersecting these murals and their power to soothe by painting them in hospitals, airports, and prisons – any place where there is high stress.”

An even larger vision is to have a combination of people and corporations with resources to fund the murals and bring them to places where they can’t afford them. 

However, right now, his immediate goal is to finish the rose mural at Laguna Coffee Company, where he’ll work two to three hours a night after everyone has left. Then, starting on February 7, he’ll be painting all week up until Valentine’s Day weekend to complete it.

Bryer says, “This project wouldn’t have gone the way it did without Rene and Tomi. With them as the new owners, Laguna Coffee Company became the love center of Laguna. The mural is a manifestation of that. They have created a family with the patrons, and they made me a part of that family. It’s really ultimately above love, and it’s a ministry of love. It’s all symbiotic and perfectly aligned.”

Laguna Coffee Company is located at 1050 So Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to @stephenbryercollection on Instagram.

 

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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