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Landscapes from the Huntington Library

“You can get lost there,” said artist Dennis McGonagle of the gardens at the Huntington Library in San Marino. “Going there with nobody around is an amazing, transporting experience.” McGonagle is sharing that experience with his exhibit, “Landscapes from the Huntington Library” at Soka University in Aliso Viejo.

Landscapes from the Huntington Library;
Credit: Suzanne Chun

The brightly-colored scenes in McGonagle’s paintings transport the viewer as well. “Color is the most important aspect of my work,” McGonagle said at the exhibit’s opening reception on June 5.

Arie Galles, professor of painting and drawing at Soka, introduced McGonagle at the reception, and said, “Despite the strong colors, there’s a sensitivity to his work.” Galles described it as brightness, but softness.

Each of McGonagle’s 32 paintings evokes a unique feeling. “Zen Garden” portrays the serenity of the Japanese Garden. In “The Clearing,” the viewer peers into an open green meadow from a foreground of bright, red flowers. The gentle, delicate environment of the Desert Garden is depicted with shades of pink and green in “Acres of Ice Plant.”

Some of McGonagle’s works are impressionistic, some are realistic, and a few have an almost sculptural appearance that he creates by covering pieces of dried acrylic paint with wet paint. “The main thing is that I love to paint,” he said.

McGonagle started painting in 1974 when he took Jerry Romotsky’s Advanced Painting class at Rio Hondo College. He enjoyed it so much that he took the same class for 15 years.

McGonagle graduated from Whittier College in 1993 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art. In 2005, he graduated from California State University in Long Beach with a Master of Fine Art Degree in Studio Art.

Recently retired after teaching fifth grade for almost 30 years, McGonagle said he will be returning to the Huntington Library to paint. “I’ll probably go there more often now that I’m retired,” he said. “It’s a great getaway.”

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“Landscapes from the Huntington Library” will be exhibited in the Soka University Founders Hall Art Gallery through August 25, 2014. The gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free to the public.