Life has been a passionate journey of discovery for sculptor Jorge Fernandez. First juried into the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show in 2008, Fernandez originally left his home in Santiago, Chile, to travel through South and Central America, then Mexico, and finally to the United States, before ultimately settling in South Laguna Beach. Initially developing a facility working in clay, Fernandez has since added bronze and resin castings to his repertoire. But, what remains immediately apparent about his work is his fascination with culture and mythology, as he continues to explore the ways in which humanity and history converge.
A perfect case in point is his public artwork, “From the Beginning,” which was installed in South Laguna near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Seacove Drive. Inspired by stories about the discovery of “Laguna Woman” – fragments of fossilized human bones uncovered in 1933 at a construction site in Laguna Beach and carbon dated back to 12,000-17,000 years ago – Fernandez submitted a proposal to Laguna’s Arts Commission for a public sculpture.
His figures, suggesting the first man and woman to venture into this area so many millennia ago, provided the artist with an opportunity to make an artistic statement about a sense of place and its effect on the human spirit. The artwork was installed at its present location in 2010. Since then, Fernandez, who lives nearby, still delights in his public sculpture. “I see it almost every day,” he said. To him, the sculpture has become part of the community and affirms his belief that, like his original couple, people have always been drawn to this area’s scenic and supportive setting.
As she was conceiving this summer’s Pageant of the Masters, “Under the Sun,” director Diane Challis Davy was also contemplating this area’s local history, how its artistic community developed, and how the area’s environmental diversity inspired generations of artists. Equally important, she hoped this summer’s Pageant – the 85-year-old theatrical celebration of art in tableaux vivants, “living pictures” —might encourage her audiences to share her reverence for nature’s many wondrous gifts and simple pleasures. It’s a connection Challis Davy believes must never be taken for granted.
When her research led her to Fernandez’s eloquent public sculpture, she realized she’d found the opening artwork for this summer’s Pageant, which is itself a love letter to Laguna life, “From the Beginning.”
Since his first inclusion in the Festival of Arts in 2008, the annual summer showcase has allowed Fernandez, as one of the 140 artists working in a wide variety of mediums, to introduce his work to future patrons. He considers his involvement with the Festival to be invaluable to his continued growth as an artist. While preparing a series of new works created primarily in bronze to exhibit in this summer’s Festival, Fernandez was delighted when Challis Davy asked if she might include his public sculpture in this year’s Pageant. In addition to transforming it into a “living picture” as part of the opening of the show, she also saw it as a wonderful addition to the production’s meditation on nature, finding a place in the world, and the power of art to inspire us all.
For Fernandez, having his deeply personal art included in “Under the Sun” is an honor he’s happy to share with everyone visiting Laguna Beach and the Pageant this summer.