The Plein Air Scene

by Sarah Beserra

Scott Burdick, Sarah in Catalina, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches


Bartering for Paintings


How do you build a great art collection without actually spending any money -- simple -- barter. The ancient art of bartering is alive and well in California but it has reached a fine art in Catalina where several fine collections have been created in exchange for services to artists. Take Iva Whitaker for example. She has a collection of plein air paintings that any collector would envy - over 300 - hanging in her two residences and a small storefront in Avalon. Among the names that appear in her collection are George Strickland, Joseph Mendez, Betty Billips. Lynn Gertenbach, John Budicin, Matt Smith and Ken Backhaus, to name a few. Golf carts are the major form of transportation on the island and Whitaker owns Island Rentals.

Twelve years ago, painter Mary DeLoydt-Arendt of Arizona arrived on the island short on transportation -- cars aren't allowed and the only way to get around is by golf cart. The barter was consummated, and today you see painters buzzing around with their carts packed with gear. If you happen to walk by a small storefront right off Front St. in Avalon, you'll see a room filled from floor to ceiling with plein air paintings. If Iva is there, she will invite you in to view the paintings and regale you with stories about the artists. There are scenes of almost any picturesque view you can conceive on the Island as well an excellent painting of a horse she once owned. The paintings aren't for sale, but Whitaker is proud to show them off.

The funky Atwater Hotel in Avalon, now owned by the Santa Catalina Island Company, has become one of the favorite lodgings for the PAPA painters during the event because they can trade a painting for a room. A quick walk down the airy corridors of this historic abode revealed a hot bed of painterly activities and a strong whiff` of turpentine. The day before the show, painter Jean LeGassick of Carson City had her still wet works laid out drying on one bed and a simple still life set up on the other. Standing by an open window she was painting the unusual vignette -- a bright red lobster shell, a glass of water and a photo of a painting by Peggi Kroll Roberts. Nervous laughter and a plaintive "did you steal my screwdriver" filled the halls as painters finished up their framing before the Saturday night opening.

Oley Olsen, a Vice President at the Santa Catalina Island Company, told us that the Atwater paintings will hang together as a collection for the first time when remodeling is completed on the hotel.

The Old Turner Inn is owned by watercolorist, former professional ice skater and Catalina Art Association Board Member, Jeanne Hill. She became friends with many of the painters when she traveled with them to Europe in 1986. Sometime later, PAPA painter Denise Burns asked her if she would host painter Gregory Hull at the inn in return for a painting. She said, "I'll host Gregory Hull without the painting." She got the painting -- of San Marcos Square in Venice -- which she saw him paint on the trip. Since then, she has hosted many of the painters in her New England style bed and breakfast which houses her entire collection. Paintings by Louise DeMore, Marion La Rue and Frank La Lumia grace the public rooms of the inn.

Transportation and sleeping accommodations accounted for, all that is left is food. Perhaps some enterprising restaurant will put out the feed bag for hungry painters next year and acquire a collection in the deal.

© Sarah Beserra, 2000

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Sarah Beserra is Editor and Publisher of The Plein Air Scene - a monthly newsletter on plein air painting in Northern California. You may contact Sarah at or (707) 645-7361

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