The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University will showcase the work of a contemporary Orange County plein-air painter in the new exhibition “Monica Edwards: Slices of Life,” opening Tuesday, Jan. 14 and running through May 2. There will be an opening reception, free and open to the public, on Saturday, Jan. 18, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the museum.
The exhibition will include a series of oil paintings by Edwards, all portraying the beauty of Orange County, including its beaches, canyons, cities and images of everyday life. The exhibition also includes her tribute to Chapman University: a painting of the university’s main entrance, Schmid Gate.
“I was commissioned to do a painting of Chapman’s Schmid Gate, and it turned out to be a splendid experience of painting while students walked past and chatted me up,” Edwards reflects. “I left this day filled with the most fabulous sense of hope for our next generation. The students were joyful, inquisitive, polite, intelligent and the most pleasant group of young adults I ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I was commissioned to do a painting of Chapman’s Schmid Gate, and it turned out to be a splendid experience of painting while students walked past and chatted me up.
About the Artist
Edwards was born in Argentina in 1962 and moved to the U.S. in 1965 with her family. Since both her parents were doctors, she planned to follow in their footsteps, “but I fell in love with illustration during my biology classes and never looked back,” she says.
Over the years, the Silverado Canyon resident has created illustrations for the Cabrillo Marine Museum, for children’s books, medical filmstrips and litigation graphics, and worked for 14 years in the newsroom of the Orange County Register illustrating for the daily newspaper.
After leaving the Register, she decided to live some dream jobs and became, variously, an animal wrangler at Disneyland, a park attendant at the Orange County Zoo, a flight attendant, a park ranger and an Alaskan tour guide. But she ultimately found her way back to her true calling: art.
“My life truly hit its course in 2000 when a friend bought me a French easel and I began plein air painting,” she says. “The landscapes, ecosystems and cultures of Orange County are my muses.”
Plein-air painting is the practice of painting outdoors in natural light, from the French term “en plein air,” meaning “in the open air” or “outdoors.”
The landscapes, ecosystems and cultures of Orange County are my muses.
A Commitment to Celebrate California Art
“Part of the vision of the Hilbert Museum is to identify and champion the works of living California artists who continue to work in the style of the renowned regionalist and figurative genre painters that our museum celebrates,” says Mary Platt, the museum’s director. “We’re delighted to showcase and bring added attention to the works of Monica Edwards, who so well captures the beauty and diversity of our own Orange County landscapes and cityscapes.”
For her part, Edwards is thrilled to have her first museum exhibition. “From the moment I stepped into the Hilbert Museum I felt I had stepped into an institution that values the work of my heroes, the great painters of California. Now, a couple of years later, I find it a dream and an incredible honor to be showing a slice of my works within the walls of this gem of a museum,” says Edwards. “I give my sincere thanks to museum founders Mark and Janet Hilbert for celebrating the work of illustrators and painters in the world of narrative painting. And a sincere thank you to Mary Platt for allowing me the honor to be part of its history.”
Today, from her home studio, Edwards devotes herself full time to painting, including exhibiting at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach and leading plein air painting activities for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and OC Parks. For more information about her work, visit her website.
The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University is located at 167 N. Atchison Street in Orange, across from the train station and Ruby’s Diner. The museum is open Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 am to 5 pm, and admission is free. For more information, call 714-516-5880 or visit www.hilbertmuseum.org.
Display Image at Top/“Morning on Main Beach, Laguna,” oil on canvas, 2017. Collection of Laurence Paul Nokes. Artist’s statement: “I love visiting tourist locations during off season. The stillness of the few locals enjoying the birds and morning sun was inviting. I tried to capture the peace, warmth and intriguing interactions of the moment.”