Rolston rolls up magic in Art People: The Pageant Portraits
Over the decades, people flocked to Laguna Beach to experience the seductive tableaux vivants of the Pageant of the Masters.
The live picture show, which has been around since 1933, has captivated many and served as an introduction to the art of some, including a celebrated photographer who loved the exhibition so much that he wanted to incorporate it into his own work .
Matthew Rolston, a well-known celebrity and fine art photographer who has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, said he first attended the Pageant of the Masters when he was just 8 years old. He’s now seen the show almost a dozen times.
A passion for the arts had been aroused in Rolston as a child by family visits to the Pageant of the Masters and the Huntington Library. In 2014, he returned to Laguna Beach to watch the show with friends.
He was looking for a subject for a passion project as he hoped to produce images that depict why people are forced to make art. He found what he was looking for in the Living Picture Show.
“Almost everything in human experience is imagined,” said Rolston. âWe have this amazing thing called imagination that we can then do. We can imagine something and then realize it. That’s pretty amazing. “
Rolston made an effort to gain access to the Pageant of the Masters volunteers, and he got his chance in 2015 when he accepted an assignment with the Wall Street Journal. In 2016 he was given permission to do his own project, and the culmination of this work is now on display at the Laguna Art Museum in a new exhibition entitled âMatthew Rolston, Art People: The Pageant Portraitsâ.
A large crowd crowded into an exhibition space at the Laguna Art Museum on Saturday June 26th to give the public the first opportunity to see the exhibition, a series of larger-than-life portraits of the volunteers masquerading as classic works of art.
Julie Perlin Lee, the museum’s executive director, welcomed the audience to the reception and introduced them to Rolston. The former museum director Dr. Malcolm Warner, who curated the exhibition, was present.
The portraits focus on the people in the Tableaux vivant show, who represent the art, and only them, and detach the actors from the context of their performance.
Warner was fascinated by the humanity of Rolston’s photographs.
“While I can tell total mastery when I see it, I’m certainly not an expert on the technical details of photography,” said Warner. âBut it seems to me that the power of Matthew’s work isn’t in technology; it lies in humanity and everyone can do something with it. “
Peter Blake, a member of Laguna Beach City Council who owns an art gallery in town that focuses on minimalism, said he was surprised to feel fixated on the portraits days after first seeing Rolston’s work .
Blake added that the quality of fine art depends on the artist’s will and commitment to the intent of his work. He found that Rolston’s portraits were strong for this reason.
“The only difference between commercial art, graphics, and visual arts is that the visual artist goes into the studio in the morning and does exactly what he wants,” Blake said. âHe doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about the critics, the curators, the collectors or anyone.
“He literally expresses itself or she expresses itself the only way you know and there is no other way.”
Rolston’s report confirmed these beliefs. After obtaining permission to take photos from the organizers of the Pageant of the Masters, he freed himself from the expectations of idealized visions and was able to capture his subjects as he wanted to depict them.
âI realized that I respect the commercial work I’ve done for magazines and advertising over the years. It’s not entirely personal, âsaid Rolston. âThere’s a lot of my personality, personal choices in this work, but I’m there to serve someone else, the person who commissioned the work.
âFor the art projects, I commission the work for myself. I have no one else to answer or ask, so I don’t have to be bound that way. I have freedom. “
The Pageant of the Masters opens on Wednesday July 7th, so the timing of the exhibition couldn’t be better.
âThe Laguna Art Museum and the Pageant of the Masters both trace their origins back to the Laguna Beach Art Association, which was founded by artists in 1918 with the aim ofâ promoting knowledge and interest in art and a spirit of collaboration and community between ‘creating the painter and the public.’ “said Lee. “We are so proud to continue their spirit of collaboration and fellowship today as Matthew Rolston’s photographs of the Pageant artists now on display at the museum connect our two organizations this summer.”
Rolston thought in producing the work that it would come full circle and return to the birthplace of his love for art. However, what he ultimately thinks is the right symbol is one of infinity, given the Laguna Beach community’s everlasting energy for art.
“It’s a love festival backstage, and I think the love festival comes from the mission, which is very meaningful to me personally because the mission is to educate young people in particular about art,” Rolston said of the Pageant of the Masters. “This is really family entertainment so it worked for me.”
Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.