When thinking of Malibu, one may think of the beach, the mountains or the land of “the rich and famous” rather than a city rich in art. In 2012, the Malibu City Council created the Malibu Arts Commission, dedicated to connecting people in Malibu with local and outside artists.
“Fireball” Tim Lawrence, Malibu Arts Commission member said many artists, both local and visiting, want to connect their work to the Malibu community. The Malibu Arts Commission invites artists who are not local so the Malibu art scene can showcase a variety of different perspectives, Lawrence said.
“The goal is to make Malibu an international gallery,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the Malibu Country Mart, Malibu’s outdoor shopping mall, showcases a variety of sculptures that seemingly don’t fit within a particular theme or style. Something the sculptures do have in common is they have an aspect of character and life to them.
An iconic piece located at Malibu Country Mart is “Big Red.” Towering over patrons of the Country Mart just steps away from John’s Garden, “Big Red” is a large red “hammer man,” according to Malibu Arts And Culture.
Ed Benavente sculpted “Big Red” in 1996. Lawrence said “Big Red” is unique because it has no identity associated with it, yet it does seem life-like. Benavente added a smaller bronze version of “Big Red” to Country Mart in 2005 called “Executive Action III.”
Another work one could see while grabbing a coffee at the Country Mart Starbucks is “All Together Now.” This work of artist Joseph Palumbo appears to be three dancing sheep. Lawrence said a piece like this sparks conversation — they are animals, yet they have humanistic characteristics.
Lawrence said locals and visitors alike know Malibu to be higher-end on a scale of wealth. Though the sculptures in Malibu Country Mart were not cheap, he said he wouldn’t consider any of the art in Malibu to be expensive relative to “Malibu standards.”
“The value of the art is reflected in the opinion of the artist themselves,” Lawrence said.
Humility goes a long way in most areas of life but especially in transactions of art. Lawrence said there is a fine line between ego and confidence.
Lawrence said perception is key in the art world. He said when considering artwork, the Malibu Arts Commission considers the perception people would have of the art. In the process of discovering the potential perception of the viewer, Lawrence said the commission asks, “What is this [the artwork] saying to me?”
There are many other places to see art in the city of Malibu besides the Malibu Country Mart. One can find art in Malibu Legacy Park, Malibu Bluffs Park and at pop-up galleries hosted by the Malibu Art Association, Lawrence said.
Malibu Legacy Park is tucked behind Malibu Country Mart in the southeast corner of Civic Center Way and Webb Way. One can find a variety of sculptures to honor Malibu’s cultural heritage.
Some of the works include mosaic animals, sculpted by Robin Indar in 2010, but there are also realistic, technical sculptures. Another is a bronze sculpture of a man with his surfboard titled “Unknown Surfer” sculpted by Jody Westheimer in 2011, which captures Malibu’s surfing community and culture.
The Malibu Arts Association hosts a gallery that pops up in Malibu Legacy Park on Sundays, coinciding with the Malibu Farmers Market six times a year. They showcase works by artists categorized in three groups: works by individual artists, works by a group of artists and works from students at Malibu High School.
“Every show is different and aims to have a balance of different sizes and types of works,” Lawrence said.
Curated by the Malibu Arts Commission, the Malibu City Gallery is showcasing Vistas. Vistas is a collection of realistic, colorful oil paintings by Wes Van Dyke, grandson of actor and comedian, Dick Van Dyke. When Lawrence and the Malibu Arts Commission reached out to Wes Van Dyke, he said he was honored.
“When Malibu contacted me, I knew I needed to do it,” Wes Van Dyke said. “This is home to me, growing up surfing here my whole life.”
Wes Van Dyke said he drew inspiration for his collection of 30 oil paintings from both ocean and mountain landscapes, and he said with every single one he gets a different feeling of what the piece means to him. Lawrence said he enjoys the collection because of the color palette Wes Van Dyke incorporated into the collection.
“These pieces are true to color, and that’s why I love it [the collection] so much,” Lawrence said. “It’s as if he snapped a moment in time.”
Wes Van Dyke said he tried to capture the times of day that people take photographs of and bring those moments to life. That is why each piece of the collection appears to be at dawn and dusk.
At the opening reception for the collection at Malibu City Gallery, Dick Van Dyke said he was very excited Wes decided to go into the arts. He said it’s a blessing that he and Wes both get to do what they love.
“When he [Wes] was 5, his teacher said, ‘Keep an eye on this guy,’” Dick Van Dyke said. “He’s got talent.”
At the opening reception, Lawrence said he asked Wes Van Dyke about his creative process.
“It all starts with the color palette of the sky,” Wes Van Dyke said. “The ocean and mountains of Malibu drive my work.”
Wes Van Dyke said he used memory and multiple photographs for reference.
Wes Van Dyke said he knows when a piece is finally done when a clock goes off in his head that tells him he is finished. He said his pieces often turn out drastically different from how they started, which is why he doesn’t enjoy working on commissions as much as he does his other works.
If he paints from commission and his client wants him to paint straight from a picture, there is more restriction and less creative freedom. Wes said he felt free painting the Malibu beaches in this collection.
“I grew up on these beaches,” Wes Van Dyke said. “Malibu became a second home to me because my grandfather lived here.”
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