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ART : Exhibit Reveals Myth Appropriation

June 17, 1993|MARY HELEN BERG | Mary Helen Berg is a free-lance writer who regularly covers art for The Times Orange County Edition.

Put Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Cain and Abel in a room together and you'd have the stuff of legend--or myth.

Put them together at John Wayne Airport and you have the stuff of "Focus III: Orange County Artists, New Expressions in Myth and Legend," an exhibit that incorporates a wooden Warhol doll, a larger-than-life-size Marilyn cutout and the two biblical brothers depicted in a turbulent oil painting.

This exhibition, on view through July 12, is the airport's third annual showcase of selected Orange County talent; it highlights works by five artists inspired by cultural myths or historical legends. Drawing on stories and characters from American Indian and Japanese folk tales, the Bible, the world of fine arts and Hollywood, the works explore universal themes such as existence, life and death, creation and divinity, writes curator Elaine Dines-Cox in her program notes on the show.

"After the recent spiritual recession of the 1980s, we are seeing in this last decade of the 20th Century another popular revival in interest for subjects more philosophic and religious," explains Dines-Cox, former curator of special exhibitions for the Laguna Art Museum.

"This small grouping of Orange County artists has created contemporaneous works reflective of current societal probing into meanings of life and death, religious truth, significance of nature and the relevance of our modern heroes."

Those heroes include Monroe, Shirley Temple, James Dean and other deities from filmdom as depicted in Marsha Turner-Pluhar's larger-than-life "paper dolls," which come complete with white cut-out tabs to ensure a comfortable fit.

The colorful structures represent "the way we are all molded and cut out to fit the various niches in our culture and how society manipulates us to fit into these acceptable roles," Turner-Pluhar writes.

Serpents, salmon and other creatures from American Indian mythology dominate the paintings of Frank E. Dixon. At times the animals seem to fuse with human figures symbolizing man's dependence on animals--real and mythic--for physical, spiritual and psychic survival.

Wayne Forte uses a Cubist approach to his bold oil paintings to break down and split apart the stories of some of Christianity's most sacred characters. Images of Cain and Abel, St. Peter and Christ, Moses and the Prodigal Son are all depicted in abstract works.

Gail Tomura's delicate rice paper, mixed-media collages interpret a single Japanese legend that holds lessons on perseverance and strength for contemporary life.

Art world icons such as Frida Kahlo, Warhol and Paul Klee and the Dada and Pop movements are embodied in the painted wooden doll sculptures of Ray Jacob. The dolls, when seen as fetish objects in some cultures, Jacob notes, become endowed with supernatural powers.

The airport's public arts program, founded with the opening of the Thomas F. Riley Terminal in September 1990, exhibits works that highlight the county's artistic community and history.

* What: "Focus III: Orange County Artists, New Expressions in Myth and Legend."

* When: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, through July 12.

* Where: John Wayne Airport, Thomas F. Riley Terminal (opposite departure gates 1-4 and 11-14), Costa Mesa.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the MacArthur Boulevard exit. Follow signs to the airport.

* Wherewithal: Admission is free.

* Where to call: (714) 252-5219.

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