“A Fantastic World” exhibition arrives at the Laguna Art Museum

LAGUNA BEACH, CA — An exhibition dedicated to Jessie Arms Botke’s life work will open during the Art & Nature Festival at the Laguna Art Museum. It’s a perfect fit. As “A Fanciful World: Jessie Arms Botke” rejoices in the artist’s daring portrayals of exotic birds and tropical flowers.

The main speaker of the festival will also focus on birds. Historian Daniel Lewis will retrace the flight of birds in art with his lecture at 7pm on November 5: “John James Audubon: Art, Nature and Science in the Nineteenth Century”.

The conference paves the way for “A Fanciful World”, as Arms Botke was born in Chicago in 1883 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from the penultimate year of the 19th century.

The retrospective examines the body of this prolific artist’s work, including her Californian paintings from the 1930s and 1940s, renowned for the innovative use of gold and silver leaf.

In a Google search of Botke’s works, the term “Art Deco Audubon” appears to describe his images. We’ll have to see if it’s an apt.

Botke’s works are bold and imaginative, inspired by Japanese design and influenced by tapestries.

In one, cockatoos observe flamingos munching on orchids in the foreground. Deep in the dark shades of the background is a wall made of repeating vertical bamboo. Energy and dynamism are barely contained in the frame.

Arms Botke has worked on murals throughout his life. She declared herself an artist after a trip to Europe in 1909. Then two years later, she worked as a muralist in New York, then in San Francisco.

A centerpiece of the Laguna Art Museum exhibit is a 29-foot-long mural created in 1954 that once adorned the Oaks Hotel in Ojai, California.

The murals she made in collaboration with her husband can be seen today in the Oxnard public library and in the auditorium of Santa Paula high school.

The couple had moved to California with their young son in 1919. First to Carmel-By-the-Sea, then in 1927 to a ranch outside of Santa Paula, where she died in 1971.

While Jessie Arms Botke has exhibited widely throughout her career, the Laguna Art Museum claims that “few exhibitions have focused solely on Botke’s work”.

“A Fanciful World: Jessie Arms Botke” will be on display from November 4 to January 16, 2022.

To find out more about the ninth annual Art & Nature festival, click here.


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Reggie S. Williams

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