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Vanessa Rothe

In her artwork, Vanessa Rothe, seen here at her Laguna Beach home, blends traditional realism with impressionist strokes.


State of the Arts

By Tina Borgatta and Kristen Schott

Vanessa Rothe Photo by Cameron Gardner


With colonies like Laguna Beach and Santa Ana’s downtown district, O.C.’s fine art scene is abundant with established and emerging talents. Here’s a look at who—and what—is catching our eyes now.

For this painter, writer and curator, art is life.
Her childhood memories are as vivid as the colors in her paintings—the hours spent in her father’s Laguna Beach boutique, the lustrous silks he handpainted, the antique rugs and Japanese kimonos adorning the space, and the A-list clientele (Barbra Streisand among them). As the daughter of designer Detlev Rothe and model Jacqueline Ricaud, Vanessa Rothe was exposed to all forms of art. It’s no wonder she dances effortlessly between creative realms—as writer (she’s Fine Art Connoisseur’s West Coast editor), realist painter, gallerist and curator. Her latest show, The Jet Set Collection, debuts with a reception at her eponymous fine art gallery Dec. 15. It showcases several of her new works and some 40 pieces by international talents. Getting here hasn’t been easy—she’s studied hard, worked harder and lived throughout Europe: “I retraced van Gogh’s footsteps in Provence. I came face to face with the ‘Mona Lisa’ in Paris. I noted thick white paint on the nose of Rembrandt in Amsterdam and admired Bernini’s statues in Rome.” So, one might ask, what’s next? A trip back to “la Ville Lumière” in May (her 14th visit) with Laguna College of Art + Design’s Paris Seminar, an artist immersion program she helped organize: “Every time I go to Paris, I’m filled with inspiration.” 

Dodie Sy

BRUSH STROKES Artist Dodie Sy creates dreamlike oil paintings in his Ad Idem studio in Santa Ana.

Whatever this event designer and painter touches simply blooms.
Ask Dodie Sy which side of his family most influenced him, and he’ll say it was his mother’s, where creativity touched all the senses. He’d watch his aunt decoupage. He’d smell and taste his grandma’s Filipino dishes (he grew up in Manila). And he’d laugh as his uncle “decorated for Christmas like it was the last one on Earth,” he quips. Naturally, Sy is an artist: the senior event designer and design studio director at White Lilac, and an emerging oil painter. The Irvine-based talent is envisioning the cast party for The Nutcracker at Segerstrom and working on a new series for his second solo show at his Ad Idem studio in March. (He also does commissioned work for collectors from here to London.) His inspirations include his childhood and the changing shades of flowers. “Colors make me feel different [things] when I see them.” The result: ethereal pieces rich with hues—such as a recurring dark navy—that bleed into one another, like memories hovering on the horizon. After all, he says, “I want viewers to react to my paintings.” 

Dodie Sy Photo by Kyle Monk 

Carla Tesak Arzente

SALT OF THE EARTH Carla Tesak Arzente, pictured in her Laguna Beach home, opened saltfineart in 2009, added RAWsalt in 2015 and expanded to a larger venue last month.

The gallerist gives Latin American art a home in Laguna Beach.
It’s like a sitcom: A father comes home with another painting; the mother yells “Pablo!”; the daughter proclaims that she’ll help hang it. Yet it’s what saltfineart and RAWsalt’s Carla Tesak Arzente recalls of her youth. “Where, how and by whom I was raised [are] responsible for me becoming a gallerist,” says Arzente, who was born in El Salvador (her father relocated after surviving the Holocaust). And her venue, which last month moved into larger digs near Laguna Art Museum, focuses on Latin American contemporary art: It’s an homage to the place that welcomed her father. That makes saltfineart’s upcoming exhibit, Radical Home—Arzente’s first collab with stylist and curator Luisa Fernanda Espinosa—so poignant. On view Jan. 5 to Feb. 28, the show draws a parallel between art and the home, and blends them with fashion to show art’s dimensions. An example: Gang survivor Jorge de Leon’s wire mesh and glass depiction of bullet holes will be made into a dining table. Provoking? Yes. But, notes Arzente, it’s emblematic of the “objects in our houses that make them home.” 

Carla Tesak Arzente Photo by Cameron Gardner 

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