Marcia Hafif: “From the Inventory”

at Laguna Art Museum

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“Pacific Ocean Painting: Caput Mortuum Light,” 2000, Marcia Hafif
Oil on canvas, 16″ x 16″
Collection of Mary Cardas

This recent exhibition of 26 monochrome and three dual color oil paintings, evoking the colorful spectrum of nature, was as much a celebration of the 86-year-old artist’s life, as it was an examination of color. Hafif grew up in Southern California, then lived in Italy for several years, where she reveled in the colors of country’s the many frescoes. Returning to the US, she enrolled in UCI’s first MFA program, and was mentored by Light and Space pioneer Robert Irwin, exploring color and how light bounces off it, according to Mike McGee, director of Cal State Fullerton’s Begovich Gallery and Exhibition Design/Museum Studies Program.

These early influences impacted the artist’s lifelong exploration of color and her creation of several richly painted series, including those in this show. By studying, “the colors of the sea, the sky and the sand, the seashells and seaweed, the dark clouds over the horizon in the evening,” Hafif says, she made these vibrant paintings using colors as Indian yellow, green earth, rose and ultramarine blue, and muted shades of indigo, silver and violet grey. Joan Waltemath explains in the catalogue, “The pure sensation of light that bounces off the surface of each of her canvases seems to indicate colors so precisely calibrated that each emits a single frequency of light.” As McGee observes, “We experience her colors on a tactile, physiological and even feeling level.” He adds that Hafif specified fluorescent lighting for this show to make the white walls become vibrant and the colors to become brighter.

This exhibition, comprised of paintings created in Laguna Beach since 1990, included Red Paintings, Pacific Ocean Paintings, Shade Paintings, Double Glaze Paintings, and the TGGT series. (It was arranged in neat rows of different colored paintings, along the walls, and displayed without labels.) The Pacific Ocean Paintings were inspired by her walks on the beach, by “the shining colors reflected in the sand as the waves fell back,” by the many colors of the ocean, and by the fleeting nature of light. For the subdued Shade Paintings, she added tiny amounts of black to colors, producing “a ‘shade’, the opposite of the ‘tint’ that results from the addition of white.” In her Double Glaze Series, she glazed one color over another, creating intense works, reflecting light. And in the dual colored TGGT series, she divided each square canvas vertically, to be, she explains, “close to the Golden Mean.”