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Hermosa Beach mural no. 7 is ode to lifeguards

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Around three years ago, Joanna Garel was searching for Andy Warhol-inspired pop art depicting lifeguard towers for her Redondo Beach home, but she came up empty, finding only traditional art.

“I thought, ‘Let me paint one myself,’” Garel said.

So Garel did. Her friend’s son saw her art and told his father, artist Ken Klade, that he should see the burgeoning artist’s work.

“Ken said, ‘I think you can sell this, and I said, ‘Ken, don’t pull my leg,’” Garel recalled.

But Garel only had two pieces. Klade told her if she could paint 10 to 15 more that she could be part of the Hermosa Beach Fine Arts Festival.

“Hermosa has a special place in my heart because that was my first show through Ken because of his son,” Garel said. “I sold two big pieces the first weekend.”

Garel's work has since been chosen for the Hermosa Beach Murals Project's seventh mural, “Lifeguards in Hermosa,” which will have its unveiling Wednesday, Nov. 1. The unveiling coincides with a fundraiser from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Laurel Tavern, located at 1220 Hermosa Ave. The mural is located on 13th Court in the Citibank parking lot across the street from the Laurel Tavern.

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The map shows the locations for seven of the city's murals. 

Garel said she was contacted by Mural Project boardmember George Schmeltzer in January to be their next artist. As with previous murals, which depicted everything from the rise of West Coast jazz to volleyball, Garel's work harkens to an earlier time, before 1930.

Garel said the mural is an “ode to (lifeguards') strength and bravery.”

“The lifeguards look like they could be bored in their nonchalance as they hang out on their lifeguard tower, belying casual watchfulness and readiness to spring into action to face danger at any given moment,” said Garel about photos that inspired her. “So the mural itself has that juxtaposition and tension between stillness and action, bravery and danger. I put a vintage feel to it so it's a modern take with a vintage feel of an older subject.”

Garel's first exterior mural is about 20 by 30 feet. She said perspective was the biggest challenge.

“Looking at it up close and on paper is different than looking at it far away,” she said. “So I had to really be conscious of perspective of all angles.”

She said the three weeks she worked on the mural has been “one big positive experience.”

“People have been saying I've been living here for 60 years and they would share stories about their lifeguard friends ... engaging with the community, that was touching.”

Founded by Chuck Sheldon in 2009, the Hermosa Beach Murals Project's goal is to fund 10 murals in 10 years. The Nov. 1 fundraiser, which is $100 a ticket, funds that goal. The event features the artist's unveiling, a gift bag, food, lifeguard themed cocktails, an auction and live music.

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