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SEA-ING IS BELIEVING : Cathy Cangro Likes to Get Up Close and Personal With Her Watercolor Subjects

August 27, 1992|FRANK MESSINA | Frank Messina is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

Cathy Cangro's art form requires a bit more commitment than setting up an easel on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

That's why Cangro, 45, found herself in a boat off the Alaskan shore last month, surrounded by feeding humpback whales.

The Long Beach Expressionist who paints sea life in water colors has traveled up and down the West Coast to get closer to her subjects.

She has rubbed elbows with sea turtles and pelicans, but nothing compared to the July morning when a pod of humpbacks circled her boat and began feeding on krill, a tiny shrimp-like creature. "These huge creatures just came up in one swoop and caught the krill," Cangro said, adding that some of the behemoths were surfacing just 50 feet from the boat. "The size of them when they open their mouths; it's amazing."

Although she won't be translating her whale experience to canvas until later, 20 of Cangro's works are on display at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point through Sunday.

For these paintings, as with her excursion in Alaska, Cangro visited the natural habitat of her subjects: sea lions, pelicans and sea turtles. The exhibit tries to reflect the movements and feel of these ocean-going creatures.

"You take in everything about them with your senses and then you try to recapture that in the painting," Cangro said.

"The sounds, the smells and experience that came in, you try to let it come out of you into the painting.

"It's not a real agonizing experience like some people feel the creative process is about. If you just leave the channel open, it will all just flow out."

Her watercolors have been shown at the San Pedro Marine Institute, the Cabrillo Marine Museum and other locations in Pacific Grove and Morro Bay.

Cangro said her connection to the ocean is in her blood. Her father was a Norwegian and loved fishing.

As a child growing up in Monterrey, she often accompanied her family on deep sea fishing excursions.

"We were always very connected to the sea," Cangro said. "Growing up and living on the coast all my life helped nurture an appreciation for the sea."

And as time goes on, that appreciation has only deepened.

"The older you get, the more you want to connect back to nature," Cangro said. "I see so many artists who want to do that. I guess I'm one of them."

What: An exhibit of paintings by Cathy Cangro.

When: Daily through Sunday, Aug. 30, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Orange County Marine Institute, 24200 Dana Harbor Drive, Dana Point.

Whereabouts: San Diego (405) Freeway to the Beach Cities exit, go north on Pacific Coast Highway to Dana Point Harbor Drive, turn left. The institute is on the northern tip of the harbor. Look for the Pilgrim, a twin-masted sailing frigate docked next to the institute.

Wherewithal:Admission is free.

Where to call: (714) 496-2274.

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