Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow devotes holiday exhibit to works based on Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas tale.

Bret Brown is one of the artists who will be featured in Artists Republic For Tomorrow’s Grinch-themed exhibit, “Straight Outta Whoville : The Night Before Grinchmas,” from Dec. 14 to 31.


With feet embedded in snow, the curmudgeonly Grinch wondered, “How could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

Come Saturday, the holiday will dawn at Laguna Beach gallery Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow (AR4T) without packages, boxes or bags. Instead, there will be paint, ink and even palm fronds.

Happy to let the bitter cave-dweller steal the show, founder Torrey Cook is slated to host “Straight Outta Whoville: The Night Before Grinchmas” through Dec. 31. Thirty local and foreign artists will be showcasing as many pieces. A reception will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on opening day.

“Our normal art programming for the gallery is emerging, new-contemporary with a nod toward skate and street culture, so during the holidays when most of us are looking for a little fun, having holiday programming that takes us back to being a kid just seems natural,” he wrote in an email.

A fan of organizing a yearly family-friendly holiday show, Cook collaborated with co-owner Mark Weiner and Trace Mendoza, an artist and gallery assistant, to pick the participants. They represent a cross-section of artists, some of whom have previously exhibited at AR4T. Each contributor to the group show was provided with the title and theme and then handed the reins, Cook said.

Bret Brown, a mixed-media artist from San Luis Obispo, credits his 4-year-old daughter, Aspen May, for his submission.

She is fascinated with Sally Who and Dr. Seuss’ green-furred creation, whom she finds “mean but nice,” Brown said. He was working on his piece for the show, when, after watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Aspen May demanded similarly themed bedtime stories for two consecutive weeks.

And so, “Picking the Right Size,” priced at $275, was born.

“It speaks to the immediacy of impermanence and that at any moment this life can be taken,” the artist said. “The Grinch is choosing a bigger heart, but that choosing is juxtaposed with a scowling/angry expression even while a car is barreling down on him. So, has he really chosen? Or has the negativity bias created too strong of a feedback loop to really have a choice?”

Brown said the challenging yet immensely satisfying role of being a father has led to significant personal growth. Not only has his creativity been reignited, he reflected, but so has his desire to tell stories, live adventurously and be true to his passions. His work now features animals and friendly monsters, which he and Aspen May color together and spin tales about while listening to music.

Jon Mann, 27, of Laguna Beach recalls that as a child, his mother would often return home carting a new acquisition by Dr. Seuss. Although too young to realize his proclivity for art, he remembers admiring the artist’s characteristic sketches.

He decided to return to the iconic book in the weeks leading up to AR4T’s show, and also watched the movie and a documentary, before constructing a 16-by-20-inch acrylic-and-ink piece titled “Max Got Fleas,” valued at $170. It portrays the Grinch’s pet dog.

Mann figured that plenty of artists would create renditions of the sourpuss, and so he hunted for slightly more obscure details, including Who Hash, roast beef and shoes that are too small.

“It’s a Dr. Seuss tribute show,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that I knew what I was paying tribute to and do so in a respectful way.”

Thinking back to his days as a middle-schooler, Brown said two teachers in particular nurtured his talent and opened his eyes to the magic inherent in a pencil. As a result, Brown, who grew up in a home where his father struggled with alcohol and his brother with addiction, was able to channel his angst into art.

While the Grinch realized that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more,” Brown, too, learned that art was not a means to an end. It was his “little bit more.”

And, today, at 41, he remains grounded through it.

“Part of the reason I continue to paint and create is to give some of that inspiration back,” he said. “To send the message that the arts are so vitally important to our experience as humans.”

If You Go

What: “Straight Outta Whoville: The Night Before Grinchmas”

Where: 1175 S Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach

When: Saturday to Dec. 31; opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday

Cost: Free

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