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The Orchestra

A MEMORY My story, which took place in June 2004, was published in the July 2004 issue of Plein Air Magazine. Below is the unedited version.

The dramatic views of the Sierra Nevadas reprised at Caesars Tahoe in an exhibition and sale of over 200 exquisite plein air paintings set in early twentieth century style frames. While the string quartet lent a decidedly classical air, the paintings were the orchestra, strategically encircling the red carpeted ballroom. Each artist’s display of varying discipline and style seamlessly segued into one another. And as classical music evokes certain moods, these paintings captured some of the High Sierra’s most spectacular moods: exquisite predawn moments along the rocky coastline of Lake Tahoe and lavender mists of purple blossoms scattered in the valleys. Some paintings emulated the dizzying eddies of blue and wavelets of teal from the many waterfalls pooling into the pristine lakes, much like translucent fluorite stones reflecting every fluid indigo vein, every tint of blue and yellow and strata of deep rich color. This was an exhibit of drama and depth.

At Lake Tahoe Nevada, on June 18, 2004, the air was warm and yet the mountains looming beyond the cityscape still had patches of snow catching every flirty wink of light. Singer and avid watercolorist, Tony Bennett, arrived at the hotel shortly before the air began to cool and the setting sun shimmered to a velvety red. As Mr. Bennett was escorted past the plein air painter’s hospitality suite, his escort began to explain about the visiting artists, but Bennett stopped her because he knew exactly who they were.

It was a performance by Mr. Bennett that kicked off the 19th Annual Plein Air Painters of America Exhibition & Sale, hosted by Caesers Tahoe. "In the room tonight are the top painters in America,” Bennett said while pausing in the middle of his concert, “Unlike those who paint from photographs, these painters are the most honest painters in America ... because they paint outdoors on location, thus capturing the subtle colors and light that you cannot see in a photograph. I painted with them and have made many new friends. "Among those he painted with, was Kevin Macpherson of Taos New Mexico. Bennett and Macpherson exchanged portraits they painted of one another.

Mr. Bennett also visited many of the artists’ suites to view their paintings. “It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” explained John Cosby, a guest artist with the Plein Air Painters of America, who sold a painting to Bennett.

Unlike Catalina Island, where the PAPA Exhibition & Sale had taken place over the previous 18 years, the Lake Tahoe region, where the plein air painters converged to paint for two weeks prior to the show, is an expansive 22 miles long and 12 miles wide of dramatic snow-capped mountain views, waterfalls and of course, the beautiful and pristine lake. Denise Burns, founder of the Plein Air Painters of America, with Roy Rose, art collector and grand nephew of California Impressionist, Guy Rose, brought together twenty artists to participate in the first Annual Plein Air Painters Festival on Catalina Island in 1986. With a similar vision and passion, Mark Rittorno, president of Caesars Tahoe and an avid plein air painter, had a mission: to bring the Plein Air Painters of America to the Sierra Nevada. “One day I'd love to see our community become a center of fine art and a destination for art lovers,” said Mark Rittorno, “This is the first step in that direction. Maybe this will also help our local residents and others understand that Caesars Tahoe is something more than a casino and has the greater good of the community at heart.”

Joining the PAPA Signature members this year were guest artists: John Cosby, Glenna Hartmann, Peggi Kroll Roberts, Chris Blossom, Lorenzo Chavez, Gerald Fritzler, and Don Demers. New signature members are Ray Roberts and Skip Whitcomb. The morning of June 19, 2004, a paint-out with all 35 painters, took place at Zephyr Cove. It was here that the public was able to witness them painting the fathomless cobalt blue and shimmering turquoise green waters, the dramatic mountain rising beyond the lake, sun drenched models on the beach and nearby cabins in the woods. It was the second scheduled event after Tony Bennett’s Live Concert. The elegant Gala Dinner & Sale was the third event.

Later that day, from 6 to 10 pm, collectors and guests enjoyed an elegant sit-down dinner and complimentary wine with the artists in the ballroom of Caesars Tahoe. At 9 pm the doors opened to the public. Paintings were sold off the easels with ease.

The final event was the Champagne Sale from 10:30 am to 1 pm the following morning, where a new show opened in the ballroom. Some easels were nearly bare, while others displayed a few new pieces to cover the empty spaces. The champagne flowed freely, gourmet coffee and pastries were served and there were smiles and laughter all around. This event emphatically proved the point: music and art co-exist beautifully.


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