Nestled between the Coronado Post Office and the Brigantine Restaurant, the Emerald C Gallery, owned by Penny Rothschild, is a great place to visit if you are a devotee of art. Starting July 3, 2020, Rothschild is curating a 50-piece art exhibit she has entitled, “Exhale,” which features the art of Jody Esquer, Heather Frank, and Jenna Raskin Moreines. The free-ranging interview included the exhibit’s principals and Jennifer Franks, Co-promoter of last year’s Coronado Music Festival with Rothschild. Franks is also a published author and Flamenco guitarist.
To characterize the 90-minute interview as ‘freewheeling’ might be an understatement, perhaps the term ‘performance art’ might be apropos. Attempting to describe the proceedings to my wife Sharon later that evening, I just started laughing. Apparently a contingent of sharp, gregarious people talking about art can be humorous.
“Exhale” originally was conceived by Rothschild to include a Grand Opening Gala July 3, but current health concerns prevented that from happening. Explaining the overall concept, Rothschild said, “What inspired me to put the show together was during COVID-19, things were stagnant, and nothing was happening. All three of our artists were here and we said, ‘We need to have a show during the Fourth of July Weekend.’ These are three ladies I admire, and we needed a breath of fresh air. They will all be here July 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. We can only have 10 guests in the Gallery at a time with masks. We’ll have masks available for sale if you forget yours.”
Locally the better known of the tree artists is Esquer, who is the owner of the Coronado landmark Night and Day Café, located at 847 Orange Avenue. She said of the eatery, “We have five stools inside and we can seat eight or 10 people outside. We have to go and online orders and a lot of people who don’t want to wear their mask inside.”
Esquer and her husband, Sharon and I were seated together at the Coronado Island Film Festival Awards Banquet last year. Before the interview kicked off, we reminisced about CIFF honoree Cloris Leachman’s interview with host Leonard Maltin, which was memorable to say the least.
Esquer has an art background which started as a T-shirt designer, and in turn morphed into a career in graphic design which lasted until 2011. Esquer added, “That included retail packaging for The Gap and design for Old Navy’s corporate headquarters, packaging for gifts and things like that.”
Esquer was born in Oakland but considers Coronado her hometown. “We first moved here in 1970 because Dad joined the Navy at the age of 42. We moved back and forth and then finally back to Coronado in 1986. I was married, had a baby, and bought the Night and Day Café. I first became interested in art while I was in 10th grade and living on Guam. I entered a little art contest and won. My parents were artists and my mother was my inspiration. I used to work at my parents’ art store in Carmel. I drew seashells and people bought them. I work mostly in watercolors and acrylics. Where I paint just depends. If I have a big painting, like one I did recently which was six feet by four feet, I paint in the backyard.”
When asked what it was like to be part of a three-woman art exhibit, Esquer said, “It means the world. I would say it’s wonderful.”
Heather Frank was born in Mineola, New York, became interested in art at a young age, and was an Art major at Sweet Briar College, in Sweet Briar, Virginia. “I was in the tech world, working for Microsoft, Oracle and SAIC for a long time. I was a salesperson with big corporate accounts. I always had art in me and always did it on the side. When I got married, we moved to Paris and I got into design and architecture. Then we moved to Belgium and I took a few more classes in design. We moved to Sacramento and I got into interior design and decorating homes through my company called Heather Frank Designs for 15 years.”
Frank sold her first artwork about 20 years ago in Sacramento. “I used to create art pieces with the walls to match. I would create those in homes and make the art to match.”
When Frank started to discuss her artistic media, I was pretty quickly out of my element. “My forte in college was print making on a Zinc plate called Intaglio. I have done everything from lime plasters to acrylics and now I am really into doing Encaustic Wax, which is a very old art form that goes back thousands of years. The art I will be showing at this show is Encaustic Wax, Mixed Media, Lime on Plaster, and some Oils. I bring chemistry into different types of Mixed Media, which I have enjoyed.”
Frank said of the exhibit, “It means a renaissance for me with my art. I really kind of shelved my art for a little bit and the whole COVID-19 thing actually propelled me to concentrate on my art and helped me understand what I really love, which is using different art forms.”
A nice moment passed during the interview between Frank and Jenna Raskin Moreines, when Frank realized she had purchased a piece of Moreines’ art for her home and found herself sitting next to the artist. In terms of displaying her work at the Emerald C Gallery, Moreines is the veteran of the group, as this is her fourth exhibit at Emerald C.
Moreines and her husband split their time between Coronado and Phoenix. “We moved to Coronado in the late 70’s when the Cays opened up. We were one of the original owners in Bahama Village and we’ve moved around the Cays. I have a background in art direction, television and broadcasting production and advertising.”
A professional artist since the age of six, Jenna sold her first piece which included hearts and peace signs at a gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona for $13. And she paid a $1 commission to the gallery. “I was born with a paint brush and crayons,” Jenna added. “Really for as long as I can remember I worked in mixed media. I bounced around with acrylics in college and I do works with alcohol inks, pastels, resin, charcoal, sculpture, and I have done philanthropy projects with mosaics and installations. I like to bound around because I get bored. That’s pretty common and I think all three of us are bounders. I had a philanthropy project installed at the Sojourner Center in Phoenix and I did some work at a domestic violence center to help beautify the campus. I did a collaboration mosaic that took a year and a half. I did that one with a bunch of wonderful women and it was super inspiring. I’ve found that anything looks good with grout on it.”
Being on display at Emerald C Gallery continues to be important to Moreines. “It means inspiration, creativity and community. To be with these wonderful ladies, and I love Penny, is so very inspiring in this environment, doing this together.”
Rothschild, Esquer, Frank and Moreines all agreed the Coronado art scene was growing and expanding. Rothschild said, “I’m finding the arts community much more supportive and inclusive. The monthly meeting of the Coronado Cultural Arts Commission are helpful.”
Esquer said, “I have been volunteering on the Commission since 2011 and I think the art community is growing. We’re getting more art in the town. We worked on the Arts Master Plan forever. (City of Coronado Senior Management Analyst) Kelly Purvis is great and new Arts Commissioner Brad Willis has been a nice addition.”
Frank added, “Penny has done a tremendous amount to help the arts.”
One of the benefits of doing this article was being able to see selections of the artwork that will be exhibited, in advance of the show. As you can tell from the discussion above, the art comes in a variety of media and is well worth stopping by the Emerald C Gallery to experience. The exhibit will run from July 3 throughout the season. The Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the address is 1331 Orange Avenue.