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After spending time with ecological researchers, Marissa Quinn found artistic passion surrounding marine growth.


The Art of Living

By Angela Ashman, Keri Bridgwater and Ann Wycoff

Marissa Quinn photo by Renata Amazonas | Bil Zelman photo by Becca Teal Batista | Anne Kauffman photo by Andrew Werner


San Diego’s vibrant art scene runs the gamut from film to fine art, photography and music—meet some of the compelling artists who are propelling it forward.

Marissa Quinn
Delicately composed pen and ink illustrations by the Encinitas-based artist are rich in metaphor and ancient symbolism.
Totem animals—wolves, whales (keepers of Earth’s collective memories), and bees (symbols of the divine feminine)—frequently feature in the captivating drawings by Marissa Quinn, narrating stories of endangered species, extinction, environmental degradation and growth. “I’m interested in a bigger conversation,” Quinn says. “My life as an artist is about creating work that engages people, and that helps animals and the planet heal from within.” A passionate environmental advocate deeply connected to the ocean, Quinn frequently collaborates with the Changing Tides Foundation and co-runs a surf and watercolor workshop alongside Be+Well, an exclusive co-working space for women in Encinitas. In addition to teaching art history and drawing at Point Loma Nazarene University, she floats on all three North County 101 Main Street Associations; a recent partnership with Bing Surfboards raised a sizable amount for the Leucadia arts fund. Her first book, The Re-Wild(her)’s Journey, which documents a solo road trip from the border of Mexico to Canada and back exploring land use, native species and conservation, is slated to be released early next year.

Rafael Payare
The San Diego Symphony’s new conductor is bringing impressive credentials and a touch of magic to the 108-year-old institution.

One of the shining stars of his generation, Rafael Payare, 37, has conducted some of the world’s finest orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic,Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. After a two-year global hunt, the San Diego Symphony search committee unanimously chose the highly charismatic Venezuelan to lead the city’s orchestra, beginning in January 2019. A graduate of the celebrated El Sistema in Venezuela and an acclaimed French horn player, Payare carved a new path after winning first prize at the Malko Competition for Young Conductors in 2012. Bursting with technical brilliance and artistic genius, Payare often conducts from memory rather than a score. “It gives you more freedom and connection, which is important with artists on the stage. I learned this from my mentor, maestro José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema. He liked to say that the score should be in your head and not your head in the score.” So what excites Payare about being the next music director in the San Diego Symphony’s 108-year history? “Everything! There was an instant chemistry—a magic—when I had my first concert with the San Diego orchestra in January 2018. This chemistry was even shared with the audience. It’s a fantastic feeling. I feel blessed to be a part of it.” 

Celebrated director Anne Kauffman was recently named artistic director of NYC’s Encores! Off-Center for the 2019 season.

Anne Kauffman
The acclaimed director and UCSD alum makes a triumphant return to her old stomping ground.

The multiple Obie Award-winning director Anne Kauffman, who has staged works on and off Broadway, laughs when she thinks about the last time she put on a show at the La Jolla Playhouse. It was nearly two decades ago, when she was a graduate student in the UCSD MFA program for aspiring directors. “I failed miserably,” says Kauffman, who is returning to the Playhouse this fall with back-to-back shows. “Hopefully, this is my triumphant comeback. Although I don’t want to say that too loudly for fear of being struck down by the theater gods.” There’s little chance of that. Hundred Days, a rocking musical memoir performed by real-life married couple Abigail and Shaun Bengson, received a glowing review from The San Diego Union-Tribune when it came to town this fall. This month, Kauffman directs the world premiere of Lindsey Ferrentino’s The Year to Come (Dec. 4 to 30), which tracks a family’s political leanings through the years in reverse order. Happy to be back at the Playhouse, Kauffman, who went on to start the influential NYC-based theater company The Civilians (with fellow UCSD graduate Steve Cosson), says the school had a big impact on her future success: “It really, really did change the course of my work and life.”  

Eleanor Antin
With a forthcoming show at LACMA, the multifaceted artist shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

“I don’t make work that looks good behind your couch,” says internationally acclaimed artist Eleanor Antin, who, at 83 years young, is as fiery—and busy—as ever in her Carmel Valley studio. Antin, a self-described “New York brat” who was a professor of visual arts at UCSD for nearly 30 years, is highly regarded for her powerful works that defy categorization. “I was known as a conceptual artist because that was what they called all the interesting, freaky stuff,” she says about the early days of her career, which began in the ’60s. Also an actor and performance artist, she often took on different alter egos to explore issues of race, gender and class. One piece from the 1970s, “The King of Solana Beach,” involved Antin walking around her “kingdom” in a beard and flowing cape, chatting with the citizens and kissing the ladies on the hand. However, Antin is probably best known for Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, a 1972 series of photos of her naked body being slimmed down (or chiseled away) by a 37-day crash diet. Last year, she repeated that groundbreaking work. The results will be shown alongside the original 1972 piece in an exhibition titled Eleanor Antin: Time’s Arrow at LACMA in May.

Bil Zelman has been designated one of the 200 best advertising photographers worldwide by Lüerzer’s Archive numerous times.

Bil Zelman
The renowned photographer has shot the world’s biggest celebrities and brands, but his passion lies in chronicling the planet’s rapidly changing landscape.

At 20, Bil Zelman found himself shooting David Bowie as a first assignment. Since then, he’s been on stage with the Rolling Stones, climbed glaciers of Patagonia and shot eye to eye with alligators in the Everglades. He’s also directed television spots and ad campaigns for the likes of Apple and Coca-Cola, and celebs like Taylor Swift and Judd Apatow, capturing their unique beauty in the frame of his lens. Closer to home, Zelman’s work features in San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Art permanent collection. Recently, it was his self-financed project, And Here We Are – A Nature Story, that ignited people’s passion. He’s spent the last two years documenting North America’s rapidly changing landscape and collapsing ecosystems. “There are about 50,000 non-native and invasive species in North America alone. I’m documenting the fragile spaces where man and nature collide,” explains Zelman. His work tells a cautionary tale, whether it’s about the flying Asian carp that have decimated the Mississippi Delta or a 3am shoot at the edge of the border wall whose presence interrupts the migratory path and mating of some 100 species. “I’m hoping some guilt-laden corporation will fund a show to educate and create empathy in people, as I have a newly learned and deep appreciation for what we have left.”

Max Robert Daily
The artist, who counts flea-circus ringmaster as one of his many talents, went under the sea to create his most intriguing art installation yet.

When Max Robert Daily won a San Diego Art Prize this year, his first thought wasn’t to use his winnings on canvases or paints. “A lot of it went into importing different sardines,” he says. While the CalArts alumnus does include painting among his many talents (he is also a mime, puppeteer and, yes, flea-circus ringmaster), one of his most delightful works to date is his Oslo Sardine Bar. A unique art installation that opened at Bread and Salt in 2016, Oslo now packs its customers (like sardines) into a transportable 10-by-8-foot crate for a meal of fish and beer. Oslo’s whimsical details, which are on par with a Wes Anderson movie set, include a porthole with a video of fish swimming by and boats floating in a tank above a transparent ceiling. The work has attracted everyone from local art legends (“I have a picture of Bob Matheny, Tom Driscoll and Richard Allen Morris all sitting in there with paper hats on, grinning from ear to ear,” he says) to the La Jolla Playhouse, which included Oslo in last year’s Without Walls Festival. “It’s funny,” Daily says, “I’ve been doing art for a long time, and now I’m getting all this recognition for a sardine bar!”