Athenaeum’s ‘Beyond Blue’ art exhibit in La Jolla can chase your blues away

Iristay Beliz with ‘The Call,’ a Turkish miniature painted on Mexican brick that gives her version of a story from the Koran about Mohammed making his way to Mecca.
(Maurice Hewitt)


If you follow the news too closely, there’s plenty you might feel blue about these days. But the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s latest exhibition, “Beyond Blue,” featuring two gifted ceramic artists who include blue glaze and a sense of playfulness in their work, may well chase your blues away.

Turkish-born Beliz Iristay, who currently lives on both sides of the San Diego/Mexico border, combines influences from the three countries she has called home. She makes molds out of Mexican clay and often covers them with the kinds of designs found in Turkish miniatures. Her work can be satiric and political, as shown last fall in her large-scale installation of minarets and Koran stands at San Diego Art Institute’s “Beyond The Age of Reason.”

Here, she displays traditional patterns from her homeland on adobe bricks from Ensenada’s Valle de Guadalupe, where she has her studio, TurkMex. Like her, they are transplants, adapted to their new setting.

Irene de Watteville is une vraie française who has spent half her life in San Diego, painting tile murals using 17th century techniques. Most recently engaged in creating distinctively detailed porcelain objects, she infuses her work with her impish spirit, saying: “I love to absorb the absurd!”

Their countries of origin and personal styles may be different, but they both have in common the love of blue glaze — a tradition in both their countries. The show’s subtitle “Mavi — Ma Vie” is a little wordplay: Mavi means “blue” in Turkish, and Ma Vie is “my life” in French. But their joint exhibition is more than just blue-ish, and the piece de resistance is their collaboration — a surrealist dinner table, laden with whimsical, multicolored dishes too good-looking (and hard-glazed) to eat! These are pieces you’ll want to examine closely; the intricate details are sure to make you smile.

And there’s more to see when you leave the main gallery — an exhibit honoring “Genie Shenk: Master of Book Arts,” a long-time resident of Solana Beach who died in 2018. Some of her artist’s books are displayed in the Rotunda Gallery, and books by local artists she influenced can be seen in the North Reading Room.

IF YOU GO:Beyond Blue” and “Genie Shenk: Master of Book Arts” are on view through March 9, 2019 at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla. Free. (858) 454-5872.

Irene de Watteville with ‘Travels of Celeste,’ dedicated to her daughter
( Maurice Hewitt )


Athenaeum executive director Erika Torri with some of the artist’s books on display in ‘Genie Shenk, Master of Book Arts.’
( Maurice Hewitt )


Beliz Iristay and Irene de Watteville in front of their collaborative dinner table, ‘Ludicrous Festum’ (Ludicrous Feast).
( Maurice Hewitt )