It’s not all that easy to wish a 135-year-old artist ‘happy birthday’ face to face.
But Tuesday evening, at the City of White Rock’s Pop Uptown Gallery, Pablo Picasso was there – as large as life, or perhaps a little larger.
The Oct. 25 occasion was the anniversary of the birth, in Malaga, Andalusia, of the revolutionary 20th-century artist, father of cubism and possibly the man who did the most to focus public attention on the role of the artist in modern society.
It was also White Rock’s third annual International Artist Day Gala – local celebration of the annual event created by city artist Chris MacClure – and Picasso attended courtesy of the talents of one of the most popular local participants, pop-culture portrait specialist Dave Benning.
The U.K.-born painter, who offers classes in Crescent Beach, created a typically arresting acrylic of the venerable Pablo as one of the focal points of the gala – and an opportunity opportunity for participants to have their photo taken toasting the legendary artist on his birthday.
“It was a lot of fun, painting that,” Benning told The Peace Arch News of the portrait, which captures the personality of Picasso – and his weathered physiognomy – in his later years.
“I knew it would be hung against a white wall, so I gave it a white background and I measured him against my head so it would be the right scale and proportions.”
The gala, well-attended, if on a smaller scale than previous events at White Rock Community Centre, was a chance to sample wine, appies, birthday cake and animated conversation, punctuated by the creative guitar music of James Devon.
It also offered a last opportunity for art lovers to snap up the remaining 12-inch-by-12-inch original works of art created by well-known local artists, but exhibited anonymously – a complete steal at $150 per canvas.
Also on exhibit were paintings by Benning, David Patterson and Marilyn Hurst, as well as one of the most recent works by MacClure – Silver Sea, an evocative coastal landscape.
MacClure, happily recovered from a recent bout of ill health due to a post-operative leg infection, welcomed participants with a few brief words to the celebration which he originally sparked in 2004 and which has since taken on a life of its own around the world.
IAD publicist Maurice Cardinal told attendees that International Artist Day, established to celebrate “the heart and soul” of artists around the world, has been picked up in some 24 countries including the US (where it has received recognition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Russia, Puerto Rico and such Middle Eastern nations as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
But the intention of the White Rock-born event is not simply to celebrate art and artists elsewhere, Cardinal pointed out.
“We want to introduce this part of the world to the rest of the world,” he said. “We want to know what you think and why you buy art – and we want to exchange that information with other people around the world.”
This year’s month-long IAD festival in the city has provided an opportunity to video interviews with and presentations by participating artists, he noted, which will be distributed online in coming months.
“I hope you continue to support the IAD festival,” he said. “One of our focuses will on the use of social media so that (local art) becomes part of the community – that’s what we really want here.”
There are still more IAD events at the Pop-Uptown Gallery before the 2016 festival winds down this weekend – including an appearance Oct. 29 at noon by White Rock author Rod Lamirand, reading from a new novel he wrote on the festival’s site over the last month.