Advertisement

A state history in paintings

Checking In With ... Jean Stern

February 07, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Jean Stern, the executive director of the Irvine Museum.
Jean Stern, the executive director of the Irvine Museum. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Think of those restaurant chains that deliberately keep their menus simple — Chipotle, say, or In-N-Out Burger. Then apply that approach to the world of art, and you might have something akin to the Irvine Museum. The small venue, which takes up part of an office building at 18881 Von Karman Ave., restricts itself to a single field: California paintings from approximately 1875 to 1950 that capture the sprawling landscape of a state that developers had only begun to touch.

To preserve that part of California's art history, the museum draws on its own stock, as well as on the private collections of Irvine family matriarch Joan Irvine Smith and her son, museum President James Irvine Swinden. Last month, Executive Director Jean Stern and his team celebrated their two-decade mark with "Lasting Impressions: Twenty Years of the Irvine Museum," which features 44 works and will run through June 6. As the show prepared to open, Stern spoke with the Daily Pilot about his group's mission, its low prices and its (possibly) most beloved painting. The following are excerpts from the conversation:

Advertisement

When you look at the images in those old paintings, do you think California has changed a lot since then?

Well, the land is the same. What's happened to it — in some parts, of course, there's been development. We all agree that we need houses, we need freeways and we need shopping centers, but there's also a desire to try to preserve what we can still preserve. These paintings show us what we've lost, but they also show us what we can still save, and I think a reasonable approach [is] this type of development where the people are — their needs are met, but also, the land is kept as much as possible for future generations. I think that's what makes Irvine and Orange County such a wonderful place to live.

Are there any paintings in particular where you look and think, "Boy, I wish that still existed?"

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|