Gayle Garner Roski (1941-2020) believed that the greatest gift of all was to live and paint in Los Angeles, a city whose vastly different neighborhoods were unified by the sense of wonder she experienced when exploring them. She blended the pure joy the city inspired into her watercolors and they, in turn, have delighted and comforted viewers for three decades.
Her journey as an artist began in the 1990s after her children had grown up and left home. New to being an empty nester, Gayle felt that she was disappearing into obsolescence. To renew her lease on life she returned to the pursuit that had once led her to enroll as a fine art student at the University of Southern California—that program has since been renamed the USC Gayle Garner Roski School of Art and Design in her honor. She converted one of her children’s rooms into a studio and began painting. When she first picked up her brush again, she was inspired by ribbons, symbols of gifts and gift-giving, and the city that she had loved since birth. Over the next two decades Gayle painted forty-four large watercolor vignettes of her experiences growing up and living in the City of Angels. She titled the series “Los Angeles Millennium 2000 – 2020.” Peopled by friends, family, and fellow Angelenos, the jubilant scenes tell intimate and relatable stories of the places that Gayle cherished most deeply.
As Gayle was completing her series, she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the rare neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her death in October of 2020 is an immeasurable loss to those who knew and loved her but is softened by the wonderful legacy that she leaves behind in her paintings. We are fortunate that we can learn about her process and read the stories behind these artworks in Gayle’s own words. Retrace her travels through Los Angeles and enjoy her final and greatest gift: the enchanting city she loved so much, seen through her eyes.
The Gift of Los Angeles: Memories in Watercolor by Gayle Garner Roski is organized by the Bowers Museum and curated by Jean Stern. Artworks are on loan from the Roski Family. A very special thank you to Beverly Chang, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible.
I am a happy painter. All of my work, from the very beginning, has always been about celebration. Celebration of life. Celebration of a person. Celebration of a moment.
Each of my paintings tells a story, creating a narrative that enables me to reach out and connect with others. I firmly believe that through the sharing of stories – whether via visual forms or the written word – we see the parallels in each other’s lives and recognize that our similarities outweigh our differences.
Before I start a new work, I consider the story I want to tell. I give myself a few days to dream about the story – and I literally dream about it. During hours of restful slumber, I experience a myriad of ideas flowing into my mind.
With these inspiring thoughts, I develop the framework for a painting. Because I don’t want my creativity to be limited by the sizes of stock watercolor paper (which I personally find to be too small), I order my favorite hot-press paper on rolls, allowing me to customize the size – and sometimes the shape – to best suit my vision for my next artistic endeavor.
I begin each new painting by developing my center of interest in the foreground. Then I work my way to the background, continually adding to the composition to provide vignettes and other intriguing elements that I hope will make the viewer smile.
My works that celebrate life and its special moments are also a celebration of color. I never grey my colors, instead opting to embrace the captivating intensity of pure hues. In fact, I stopped mixing my colors long ago. While often working “wet on wet,” I allow colors to merge and blend on paper, letting the painting reveal itself to me. This is part of the magic of watercolor – and why it has been my medium of choice for decades.
Gayle’s studio was always the first stop when friends or family visited her home. For most artists, the desk at which they create is the sole focal point of their workspace. However, this polka-dotted couch emphasizes that the room was not just a workshop, but the hearth of her Toluca Lake home.
Her studio was lined with her favorite artifacts from around the world and her paintings of the same. This re-creation evidences her interest in Chinese calligraphy brushes, the basketry and textiles of the Indigenous cultures of the Americas, and the hand-painted pendants of India’s Rajasthan state.
Gayle held that travel not only broadened the mind but also created a fresh eye for a painter. Travels to just about every continent in the world allowed her to paint the faces, foods, landscapes, buildings, and even the artifacts of cultures around the world. During these trips Gayle and her husband, Edward Roski Jr., collected many cultural artworks that are now on display at the Bowers Museum.
I had the pleasure of knowing Gayle Garner Roski for many years. I joined the California Art Club in 1992 and not long after that, I met Gayle at their Annual Gold Medal Exhibition. I was fascinated by her. I knew she traveled all over the world and experienced both magnificent elegance and simple subsistence. She climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and dived off New Guinea. A few years ago, I asked her: “What did you do this summer?” She responded, “I went to the Titanic.”
From the first, Gayle’s paintings have entranced me. They immediately drew my attention because they were so well done and so unlike any other work in the show. I feel comfortable and happy viewing her paintings. They present a gentle, child-like image of people in a genuinely affectionate manner. The world she created is peaceful, inviting, and uncomplicated.
The medium she used is watercolor which Gayle called “a medium of magic.” Seeing watercolors took me back to my childhood and my earliest memories of using that medium. Because it is a wet process, it will not stay precisely where you put it. You never know exactly how it will come out. Moreover, it cannot be reworked. If you do, it will mar the image and the whole world will know you blundered.
I invite you to tour this enchanting exhibition and experience the delightful images that will take you to the great places and events that are the social fabric of Los Angeles. As I viewed these paintings, I too was taken back to my childhood in Los Angeles and being in these places for the first time.
The Irvine Museum
This series, created for a 2016 exhibition marking the 80th anniversary of the historic racetrack, captures the pageantry of thoroughbred racing. Nestled near the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Anita Park is considered by many to be the most beautiful racetrack in the world and host to some of the most prominent racing events.
To complement works of her native Los Angeles, Gayle often painted along the California coastline, capturing quintessential images of the lifestyle and natural beauty of Southern California. These images of Santa Monica and Malibu represent a special series—The Healing Journey of Pacific Coast Highway—which addresses the healing forces of nature.
Hot Fudge Sundae Angel
Acrylic on Fiberglass
80 x 51 x 32 inches
Created for the Community of Angels Sculptural Project in Los Angeles.
Gayle’s angel was sponsored by Ernst & Young
Swipe image for more
Engagement Announced – Los Angeles Marathon, 2020
The Los Angeles Marathon is symbolic of Los Angeles in so many ways. First held in 1986 following the success of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, it celebrates the enduring spirit of Angelenos to dream big, persevere and embrace our multi-cultural heritage. I also love how the 26.2-mile route has changed over the years and now weaves its way past many of our most beloved landmarks.
Ed and I have both participated in the marathon. Ed ran the course in 1991, and I ran one year later with my friend Shirley Bottger, after I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 50. For our family, however, the most memorable LA Marathon was the one held in 2008. That was the year that my son-in-law, Marc Pearl, almost got down on one knee at the finish line to ask my daughter Katrina to marry him. They both had just completed this test of endurance in slightly more than eight hours, and Marc was afraid that, if he actually knelt, he would not be able to get up!
To commemorate this special day, all of our children are pictured in this painting that showcases the annual event at a favorite segment of a former route: the iconic Sixth Street Bridge that crosses the Los Angeles River. Katrina’s sister, Reon, is holding up the sign, and her brother, “Trey,” is pointing at his younger sister in surprise and delight. Trey is wearing a shirt for BattleBots, the popular television show about a robot competition that he created with his cousin Greg Munson, the son of my sister Cheri.
Heroes – Staples Center, 2000
While many consider it the “Sports and Entertainment Center of the World,” I consider Staples Center to be the greatest gift that my family has given to my native city. And I have my talented husband, Ed, to thank for that.
Ed shares my love for Los Angeles and has always encouraged others to follow their dreams. In the 1990s, when he began dreaming of creating a new sports facility as a showcase for our teams and our community, he quickly put together a plan. He purchased the Los Angeles Kings hockey team in 1995 and recruited Phillip Anschutz to join him in acquiring an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers. He then set out to develop a new home arena for both teams, identifying a site south of the Downtown Financial District.
When Staples Center opened in October 1999, it became a catalyst for dramatic changes to the downtown skyline. LA Live, a sports and entertainment complex with restaurants, luxury hotels and other amenities, was built around the arena and completed in 2009. Billions more were invested into the area, transforming the once sleepy office district into one of Los Angeles’ most vibrant neighborhoods.
When I painted Heroes shortly after Staples Center opened, I chose to depict four Angelenos proudly making their way to a game to cheer on their sports heroes, wearing the jerseys of the teams that initially called the arena their home. This painting currently hangs in our suite at Staples Center.
Rescuing – Los Angeles Mission, c. 2003
Helping to address the growing homeless problem in Los Angeles is the Los Angeles Mission. Founded in 1936 and now located on East Fifth Street, the faith-based organization serves individuals and families suffering from not only homelessness, but also addiction, by providing hope and helping them become physically and spiritually healthy.
I chose to include the Los Angeles Mission in my series of Los Angeles, because I wanted this snapshot of life in my beloved city at the beginning of the 21st century to be an accurate reflection – not one through rose-colored glasses. I had to create this work in my studio, using photographs as reference, because when I tried to set up my easel across from the Mission, my presence was not welcomed by the homeless in the area. I am grateful for the Mission, its dedicated staff and all that it does to combat this challenging situation as one of the nation’s largest service providers to the homeless.
The Blessing of the Animals – Los Angeles Plaza, 2010
With our diverse community in the City of Angels, we have the opportunity to experience the rich traditions of different cultures. One of my favorites to watch is the Blessings of the Animals, an annual event that takes place at Los Angeles Plaza on Olvera Street before Easter Sunday.
One of the most anticipated events of the city’s oldest district, the Blessing has taken place since 1930. The practice, however, actually began in the fourth century when San Antonio De Abad was named the patron saint of the animal kingdom and he began to bless the livestock of farmers to promote their good health and, in turn, the health of the community.
Today the Blessing includes all animals, and, in particular, family pets. In this painting, set against the backdrop of City Hall, I wanted to capture the festive atmosphere of the day, as families converge on the plaza and enjoy the music and spring flowers that surround them as they wait in line to receive blessings for their cherished animals from the Cardinal of Los Angeles.
Everyday Fiesta – Olvera Street, 2000
One of the city’s cultural gems, Olvera Street is considered the birthplace of Los Angeles. Founded in 1781 near the Los Angeles River, its name was changed in 1877 in honor of Agustin Olvera, a resident on the street who served as the county’s first judge. The decades that followed the renaming, however, saw the once bustling cultural center evolve into a dilapidated neighborhood filled with crime.
The state of disrepair of the city’s origin shocked Christine Sterling, who, in 1926, made it her personal crusade to save the area. She garnered support from the Los Angeles Times and its then-publisher, Harry Chandler, and on Easter Sunday in the year 1930, Olvera Street was unveiled as a colorful Mexican marketplace, open only to pedestrian traffic.
In the late 1940s, I would regularly accompany my dad on Saturday outings to Olvera Street, where we would enjoy taquitos with avocado sauce, as we wandered through the shops, admired handcrafted folk art and listened to the music of strolling Mariachi bands. I fell in love with the vibrant colors and celebratory ambiance that surrounded me – particularly the papel picado (which means “cut paper”) draped overhead between the trees and the buildings. Our visits to Olvera Street felt like we were traveling to a new country and likely laid the foundation for my life-long love of travel and the exploration of other cultures.
When I created Everyday Fiesta in 2000, I merged my favorite childhood recollections of this historic landmark with more recent memories. Central to this painting is the famed El Paseo Inn Restaurant, which was established in the 1930s and features one of the city’s oldest bars. Since 1984, our dear friend Andy Camacho has owned El Paseo Inn, as one of a number of restaurants he operates in the Los Angeles area. El Paseo Inn is one of my favorite places to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine while reminiscing with friends about what we love about Los Angeles.
Gateway to the East – Chinatown, 2000
Another cultural gem of the City of Angels, Los Angeles Chinatown officially opened on June 25, 1938, with a grand ceremony attended by elected officials and dignitaries from throughout the state. The first modern American Chinatown, it was developed as a plaza with stores, restaurants, a temple and gardens, all created with a Chinese architectural style. This “Central Plaza” became the heart of Chinatown, as well as one of the country’s first pedestrian malls, and fostered the expansion of the area as a cultural center for the growing Chinese American community in Los Angeles.
When I was a child, my family would often venture into Chinatown, because my dad loved to eat Chinese food for dinner. During those family dinners I was introduced to Mandarin Press Duck, which remains a favorite of mine today. I continue to search high and low for that dish and have even ordered it several times during my travels to China; however, I have yet to find one that comes close to my memory of the duck that I enjoyed as a child.
In the early 2000s, I began to frequent Chinatown, once again, and met Roger Hong, an architect and fellow Trojan, whose father, Y.C. Hong, was instrumental in the development of Chinatown. Roger was part of a group of business owners interested in revitalizing the area. Together we invited nearly a hundred artists with the California Art Club to Chinatown to document the sights in paintings for a special exhibition in one of Roger’s buildings. It was a tremendously successful event, and one that introduced me to Icy Smith, the future publisher of my children’s book illustrations, and Beverly Chang, who has helped me with my career for nearly 20 years.
My painting Gateway to the East prominently features the Gate of Maternal Virtue, which stands near the eastern boundary of Central Plaza at North Broadway Street. The gate was built by Y.C. Hong as a tribute to all mothers, and, in particular, his mother.
Cultural Crossroads – Little Tokyo, 2000
Little Tokyo, founded adjacent to Downtown Los Angeles in 1905, represents the largest and most populous of the three official “Japantowns” in the United States – all of which are located in California
The story of Japanese immigration to the United States began in 1885, when plantation owners in Hawaii began hiring Japanese people to replace the Chinese workers that they could no longer employ due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Many of these Japanese immigrants eventually found their way to California where they contributed to the state’s bountiful agriculture sector.
With them, they brought the Japanese aesthetic, which embodies qualities such as tranquility, asymmetry and beauty in the understated. I was introduced to these principles by Kazuhiko Kubo, who artfully transformed the gardens that surrounded our home. Kazuhiko became part of our extended family and our special bond with him was strengthened in 1949, when he married Ruth, our housekeeper and the babysitter for our children.
This painting titled Cultural Crossroads was created from the vantage point at the intersection of Central Avenue and First Street, where the Japanese American National Museum is located.
Where Dinosaurs Play – Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 2018
As a freshman at USC in 1960, my art class would venture across the street from campus to the museum in Exposition Park, where we would refine our skills by copying the works of Old Masters. Shortly thereafter, the museum, then known as the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, was divided into two entities: one focused on science and history and the other dedicated to art. And in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art vacated the location and moved to its current location on Wilshire Boulevard, designed by William Pereira, an architect who lived in our neighborhood.
The institution that remained in Exposition Park was renamed the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. In the years that followed, I would return to the grand structure in which I used to sketch as a student to explore the fascinating dinosaurs and other pre-historic creatures with my children and later my grandchildren. I even participated in a sleepover inside the museum!
I was fortunate to learn even more about paleontology when Jane Pisano became president of the Natural History Museum. She asked me to illustrate a children’s book about the discovery of Thomas the T-Rex, one of the most complete T-Rex skeletons in the world, which was going to become part of the new Dinosaur Hall in the museum. As part of the research for the book, I flew to Southeastern Montana to see the excavation site as well as the preparations for Thomas’ trip to his new home in Los Angeles.
Swipe image for more
Celebration of the Year 2000 – Los Angeles City Hall, 2000
Life is a celebration and I celebrate on a daily basis that I have had the opportunity to live my life in Los Angeles.
When I embarked on developing the Los Angeles Millennium series, Celebration of the Year 2000 was the first painting I created. It reveals our city as we welcomed in the year 2000. Central to the image is City Hall, surrounded by tall buildings and facades of other significant structures, against a night sky illuminated with an array of festive fireworks.
This painting was the first work in the series to be sold. It was purchased by John House and for many years it was on display at the House Hearing Clinic.
Under the Freeways – Downtown Los Angeles, c. 2005
As Ed was working on the development of Staples Center in the mid-1990s I would often accompany him to Downtown Los Angeles. During these trips I would explore the distinctive architecture of the business district, as I witnessed the awe-inspiring transformation of the skyline.
In creating this painting of “DTLA,” I juxtaposed imagery of my favorite buildings surrounded by colorful balloons floating up to the heavens. In the foreground is a family visiting Los Angeles, stopped in front of a street sign and consulting a travel guide to determine which path they should take for their next adventure in the City of Angels. I was compelled to depict our ever-present freeways in this work – with bumper-to-bumper traffic – because, after all, everyone wants to live in Los Angeles!
Time to Travel – Union Station, 2000
Union Station is considered by many to be “the last of the great train stations.” Designed by the father-son team of John and Donald Parkinson, who were also responsible for City Hall and other landmarks, the structure was specifically created to reflect the Los Angeles lifestyle and enduring promise of the California Dream.
As a child, I loved traveling by train. During most summers in the 1940s, my mother would take my three siblings and me on the Rock Island Line to visit her family in Little Rock, Arkansas. When we boarded at Union Station for the four-day journey, I would rush to claim the bottom bunk, which provided the best vantage point for watching the magical transformations in the scenery as we advanced toward our destination.
Train travel during that era was so luxurious. I vividly remember the porters who would traverse the corridor to inform us when our next meal was being served in the dining car. It was also fun, because my father equipped us with some of the earliest models of walkie-talkies, so we could speak with each other, no matter which compartment we were in.
In Time to Travel, I asked my handsome husband, Ed, to be the model for the businessman who is about to embark on a trip, and I depicted him using a cell phone – a nod to not only the walkie-talkies we loved using during our cross-country travels, but also how much change I have witnessed in my lifetime.
Rebuilt from the Ashes – Los Angeles Central Library, 2000
The Los Angeles Public Library serves the largest and most diverse population of any public library in the country, and the generosity of this enduring gift has not gone unnoticed. In 1986, when two separate arson fires devastated the Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles – the crown jewel of the 72 libraries in the system – Angelenos joined forces to save it. Seven years later, in 1993, it reopened to much fanfare, as we celebrated not only its rebuilding, but also its expansion – a new wing with a dramatic eight-story atrium.
Central Library, which I view as part-library and part-museum, has always held many gifts for me. Before the Internet, I would conduct research in its expansive book collection on major trips we were planning to take around the world. Interesting facts I learned at the library would often find their way into the watercolor paintings I created when I documented each day of our adventures in travel sketchbooks.
When I began my quest to illustrate children’s books in the early 2000s, I, once again, found myself roaming around the bookshelves at the Central Library. I wanted to revisit the works of my favorite author and illustrator, Leo Politi, who created about 20 children’s books, many of which were inspired by the sights and cultures of his adopted hometown of Los Angeles. I loved the way he captured the charm of different neighborhoods and was delighted when the Central Library presented a special exhibition of Politi’s paintings in the Library’s permanent collection to celebrate his Centennial in 2008.
Past and Present – Angels Flight, 2000
My parents took me to ride on Angels Flight in the 1950s, when the funicular railway that began operations in 1901 was located at its original site, connecting Hill Street and Olive Street. I distinctly remember the experience, during which I saw the beautiful Victorian homes that graced Bunker Hill at that time.
Those were the same homes that my favorite author and illustrator, Leo Politi, captured for his book Bunker Hill, Los Angeles: Reminiscences of Bygone Days. While Politi generally wrote children’s story tales, he created this book in the 60s as a tribute to the neighborhood he had called home for nearly three decades – a neighborhood that was about to be razed for an urban renewal project.
Related to this redevelopment project that changed the face of Bunker Hill, Angels Flight was closed and disassembled in 1969. In 1996, the components that had been stored away were reassembled at a new site, about one-half block south of the original location, now connecting Hill Street and California Plaza.
I became involved with Angels Flight during my eight years of service as a commissioner for the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Focused on increasing public art installations around the city, I was approached by John Wellborne, then president of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation, and we collaborated on a project that resulted in reproducing Politi’s paintings onto ceramic tiles placed in California Plaza.
While Angels Flight has had many setbacks at its new location, it is operational today and the landmark is one of the very special gifts of our city.
Fountains with Music – The Music Center, 2000
For more than a half-century, The Music Center has been an important cultural focal point for our city, providing exceptional performing arts programming that engages our diverse community and provides families with memories that will last a lifetime. Some of my fondest memories at The Music Center include taking my children, and later my grandchildren, to see “The Nutcracker” during the holidays, as well as Broadway-bound musicals and plays.
I also enjoy spending time in the Music Center Plaza and its 35,000 square feet of outdoor space that surrounds the three theatres in the complex. I am particularly fond of “The Dance Door,” a bronze sculpture by Robert Graham, a talented artist from whom I have learned so much. His monumental sculpture, which is permanently installed on the Plaza, features a life-sized door, hinged on a bronze frame in an open position.
Robert loved depicting the human body in motion and casted images of dancers on and along the top of the door, which in its open state offers an exquisitely framed view of nearby City Hall. As I was creating this painting, Robert and I were working together on the development of the Bronze Doors for the Los Angeles Cathedral. That was a collaboration that I will always treasure.
Future Dreams – Walt Disney Concert Hall, c. 2005
With Walt Disney Concert Hall, unveiled in 2003, Angelenos have an internationally recognized architectural landmark that conveys the unique energy and creative spirit of Los Angeles. There are so many people to thank for this incredible gift to our city – from Frank Gehry, who designed the iconic structure, to people like my dear friend Andrea Van De Kamp, who helped raise the money to make Frank’s vision for a concert hall that features an organically shaped stainless steel shell with exceptional acoustics a reality.
The prolific Los Angeles-based architect whose projects grace so many different countries is a fellow Trojan, graduating from the USC School of Architecture. Because hockey is his favorite sport, I have been able to watch him playing on the ice at both the Forum and Staples Center!
With more than 20 projects in Los Angeles, Frank has been a source of inspiration to many and in many different forms – and I wanted to capture that in this painting. Since the Colburn School of Performing Arts, the world-class educational institution focused on music and dance, is located across the street from the Disney Concert Hall, I depicted the impressive building from the unique vantage point of the students who aspire to perform there one day.
Waiting for the Angels – Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 2001
After spending the summer of 1997 traveling through Italy and visiting many cathedrals along the way, Ed and I were invited to the home of Cheryl and Bob Baker to meet the Cardinal of Los Angeles.
As we visited with the Cardinal, I recounted for him details about our trip, including my fascination with the beautiful alabaster windows that adorn many of the churches. He responded by asking me if I would serve on the Arts and Furnishings Committee for the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which was under construction to replace the Cathedral of San Vibiana, damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
And so began my 20-year journey as part of this special group, during which I worked with some of the most talented artisans in Los Angeles. They included Walter Judson, the great-grandson of William Lees Judson, the first dean of the USC School of Art who also founded the acclaimed stained-glass studio that bears the family name. I also had the opportunity to work and learn from Father Richard S. Vosko, who has written books on building churches; architect Rafael Moneo; and Monseigneur Kevin Kostelnik, who was pastor of the cathedral at the time of its opening in 2002.
Pictured in this painting of the construction of the new cathedral are Walter Judson, the Cardinal, Monseigneur Kostelnik and Father Vosko. I included the building of this monumental structure in my series, because, in part, I loved the bold colors and imagery of the temporary artwork on the construction fences surrounding the project.
A New Home for Angels – Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, c. 2003
The painting Waiting for the Angels was created in 2001 as the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was nearing completion and about five years into my 20-year involvement with the mother church for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Because contributing to the creation of this 11-story structure was such a rewarding experience for me, I wanted to include a painting of the completed cathedral in this series.
As a member of the Arts and Furnishings Committee, I was involved with the difficult task of selecting the artists who would be commissioned to create original works for this place of worship. Then I had the honor of working with the distinguished group, which included the late Robert Graham, who designed the Great Bronze Doors; Lalo Garcia, who was responsible for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe; John Nava, who created the magnificent tapestries; and Christopher Slatoff, who sculpted the Adoption bronze of Jesus and John. Lalo incorporated the likeness of my grandson Austin Roski in the Shrine and Christopher used my youngest grandson, Edward “Q” Roski IV, as the model for baby Jesus.
After the new cathedral opened, I was named the chairperson of the committee and began developing a series of art exhibitions for display in the chapels. While the initial exhibitions focused on artists involved with the cathedral’s construction-related projects, the program evolved to include other artists. In 2012, I developed the concept for and curated the Robert Graham Memorial Student Art Exhibition, an event to honor the sculptor and provide students at Los Angeles Catholic schools with the opportunity to display their works in a prestigious venue. Since that display, the exhibit has been presented annually for nine years.
In this painting, I present my favorite view of the cathedral, which is from an overpass for the 101 Freeway. In the imagery, I included a group of children walking along the overpass, as little human beings bring so much joy into our lives and represent our hopes for the future.
My Angels in a City of Angeles – Grand Park, 2019
In Los Angeles, we literally have been surrounded by angels – with three different public art exhibitions featuring angelic statues. It was an honor to participate in all three of them and celebrate being part of the City of Angels.
In 2000, Marlborough School, which I attended for two years, asked me to decorate its statue for A Community of Angels 2001, presented by Volunteers of America. As a tribute to the middle and high school for girls, I draped the six-foot-tall plexiglass angel with a scholar’s robe and named it “American Women Do It All”!
For the 2002 presentation of the display, Cal Winslow, a Vice President with Volunteers of America, asked me if I was interested in becoming more involved with the initiative. I assumed the chairperson role for the steering committee and designed a new angel with more surface area on which artists could more fully render their visions. We had another successful year, giving flight to more than 200 angels scattered throughout the Southland.
In 2016, angels returned to the city as part of the “We Are Los Angeles” public art display to mark the centennial of the California Community Foundation. Once again, I designed the angel form, drawing inspiration from the paper dolls that I loved as a child. This new angel used two intersecting cutouts of the front and profile silhouettes of an angel, and 32 of them were decorated by local artists and placed at Grand Park.
In this work, I painted my angel on view at Grand Park, flanked by my two angels from A Community of Angels, and three of my granddaughter angels – Charlotte, Madeline and Abigayle Pearl.
Swipe image for more
Homecoming Traditions – University of Southern California, 2013
There is nothing like a USC Homecoming. Every fall, tens of thousands of USC students, alumni, parents, friends and supporters converge upon the campus for the ultimate “Trojan Family” get-together, before heading across the street to the Coliseum to cheer the Men of Troy football team to “Fight On” to victory.
The entire campus is so festive – just about every inch of the 226 acres of University Park is decorated in cardinal and gold. And our beloved “Tommy Trojan” statue is probably the most visited and most photographed site on Homecoming Day.
One of the highlights of the annual celebration captured in my painting is the Spirit of Troy Marching Band, delighting all in attendance as they make their way down Trousdale Parkway followed by one of the most famous mascots in college football ¬– Traveler. The Andalusian horse has been raised and donated by Nadine and Bill Tilley, who graciously allowed me to paint the horses that they care for on their ranch in Thousand Oaks.
When I was working on this painting, I was approached by Mary Richardson, a dear USC and Los Floristas friend, who asked me to illustrate the USC cookbook LUSCious. The paintings I created for the book are now on display in the cafeteria at Keck Hospital and I am thankful to Mary for asking me to work on such a fun project.
Artistic Aspirations – Gayle Garner Roski School of Art & Design at USC, 2020
Because Ed and I have been long-time patrons of the arts in Los Angeles, in 2006, then-USC President Steven Sample posed a question to us: would we support the university’s School of Fine Arts with a naming gift to expand the faculty, increase graduate program fellowships and invest in innovative technologies to enhance the undergraduate experience? While we both value the important role of art in today’s society, Ed did not want his name on Southern California’s oldest art school despite his long tenure as a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. He responded to President Sample that we would be delighted to make the gift, but with only my name on the school.
Since making that gift, three incredibly visionary women have led the USC Roski School to new heights, recently achieving recognition as one of the nation’s premier schools for design. Appreciative of their dedication to the school and its student body, I have pictured myself with these dynamic individuals – former deans Ruth Weisberg and Erica Muhl and current dean Haven Lin-Kirk.
We stand in front of images of both the undergraduate and graduate schools – an intriguing composition that can only be viewed in this painting, as the graduate school was recently constructed off-campus in the burgeoning Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. Both of these buildings provide vastly improved educational settings compared to the World War II bungalows in which I studied during the early 1960s! Today, I am very proud to be a Trojan.
‘Fight On!’ – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 2000
Considered “the Greatest Stadium in the World,” the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built in 1923 and became the centerpiece for the city’s presentation of the 1932 Olympiad. Designed by the same father-son team responsible for Los Angeles City Hall, the grand structure was conceived as a living memorial to those who served our country during World War I.
A catalyst for the migration of professional sports teams to the West Coast, the Coliseum has been home to my USC Trojans since the very beginning. Over the years, it has also been home to USC’s rival, the UCLA Bruins, as well as four of Los Angeles’ professional teams: the Rams, the Raiders, the Chargers and the Dodgers (for the two years before the team moved to Dodger Stadium).
My connection to the Coliseum dates back to its early days. My father was involved with the planning for the first Olympic Games in Los Angeles – an experience he would often refer to as a highlight in his life. My earliest memories of the Coliseum were the Rams and USC games to which my father would take the family. After I followed in his footsteps to study at his alma mater, USC, I enjoyed taking in games from the student section – which was much more fun when we won!
In this painting, named after USC’s well known fight song, I sought to capture the festive atmosphere at the Coliseum on game days. The young boy in the painting is looking forward to someday being a Trojan, just like me, Ed, our oldest daughter and all of her four children.
Lighting of the Christmas Tree – Our Savior Catholic Center at USC, 2020
In the weeks before Christmas in 2012, USC unveiled a significant new place of worship – Our Savior Parish and its accompanying student center, which shared an expansive outdoor gathering space. Both Ed and I were actively involved with this project, which took nearly a decade to develop and construct, as he was serving as Chairman of the USC Board of Trustees and I was on the art committee.
After being asked to create the rose window that would sit high above the grand entrance to the chapel, I developed the design while on a trip to Bolivia, which Ed and I took with then-USC President Max Nikias. The artwork featured eight petals, each presented with a unique arrangement of colorful California native flowers, which are also represented on the eight monumental stained-glass windows in the chapel. When I provided the artwork to David Judson of the acclaimed Judson Studios, it inspired him to create an innovative technique to replicate the fluidity of my watercolor painting. When I first saw how Judson Studios had interpreted the painting, it took my breath away.
In this work, I captured my favorite tradition at Our Savior Catholic Center – the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. I depicted many of the people who have been involved with the Catholic Center over the years, including President Emeritus Steven Sample and his wife, Kathryn Sample; former President Max Nikias and his wife, Nikki Nikias; Archbishop Jose Gomez; Father Lawrence Seyer; Father Richard Sunwoo; Sister Jenny; Sister Val; Anthony Heim; Willy and Katie Marsh; Brian Russell; Abigail Brucelo; Tricia Trembuell; Yvette Cardona; Roger and Michell Engemann; Clare Faulkner; Rose Ramirez; Kathleen McCarthy; Frank Kostlan; Joseph Boskovich Sr.; Xochitl Nesbit; Jamie Cappetta; Rudy Lowe; and Rosie Shawver. Ed and I have also been included in this work, as well as our grandchildren.
Swipe image for more
Alfresco – Hollywood & Highland Center, 2004
As the entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood continually shines the spotlight on Los Angeles. And central to the iconic and historic landmarks associated with “Tinseltown” is the entertainment complex of Hollywood & Highland.
Since 2001, Hollywood & Highland has become a destination for experiencing Hollywood – with the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame at its doorstep, superb views of the Hollywood Sign from its viewing platforms, and the home for the Academy Awards and red-carpet premieres – the Dolby Theatre – within the complex.
As I sketched this painting, I sat in the middle of the impressive, four-story courtyard, inspired by the Babylon Court scene in the D.W. Griffith movie Intolerance. I loved the way the archway, which was constructed in the same massive scale as the original set, so perfectly framed the view of the Hollywood Sign in the distance.
The Stars Come Out – Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, 2018
I have always been enamored with Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but not for its star-studded movie premieres or the handprints and footprints around its grand entrance. As a child, I had the opportunity to get to know Sid Grauman, the famed showman who moved the theater business to Hollywood from Downtown Los Angeles when he built two magnificent movie palaces on Hollywood Boulevard – first the Egyptian Theatre in 1922 and then the Chinese Theatre in 1926.
Sid was a business partner of my father, Russell Garner. Together they owned the Hollywood Roller Bowl, located at the corner of Bronson and Sunset (which is now occupied by KTLA and Netflix). In the 1940s, whenever Sid visited our family home in Hancock Park, he would be bearing gifts – the most beautiful dolls for my sisters and me. He was a generous man, and one afternoon Sid and my father closed the roller rink to the public, so I could celebrate my birthday there with my friends.
Seeing a movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was an extra-special event for me in the 50s, because the rolling of a film’s end credits would be followed by a short walk to C.C. Brown’s for the best hot fudge sundae in the world! Because the theater has a long history of hosting some of the most anticipated movie premieres, for this painting I captured the “out-of-this-world” festivities for the premiere of a “Star Wars” movie.
A Chair with a View – Hollywood View, 2016
The Hollywood Hills offer spectacular views of the city below – and the tranquil neighborhood itself is also a sight to behold. This hillside residential area offers city dwellers the best of both worlds – easy access to the city and a retreat to a lush environment teaming with foliage.
Growing up in Hancock Park, the Hollywood Hills provided an idyllic backdrop for so many activities I enjoyed with my family in our backyard, in nearby Larchmont Village (which was always a happening place), and at my school, Marlborough School.
My favorite view of the hills – recreated with a little magic thrown in – is from a rather unusual vantage point at which I have spent many, many hours – a dentist’s chair. It is actually the view from the offices of Dr. Ronald Kaiden and Dr. Shervin Louie, who have been my dentists for more than 40 years. Their offices are located in the Larchmont Medical Building on Larchmont Boulevard, just a few blocks from my birth home at 500 South Hudson Avenue.
La La Land with Fireworks – Hollywood Bowl, 2018
The Hollywood Bowl and its iconic band shell of concentric arches has hosted hundreds of musical events each year since its official opening on July 11, 1922. However, one of the first major events held at the amphitheater was its very first Sunrise Service in November of 1921.
My first memory of “the Bowl” was actually an Easter Sunrise Service that my family attended in the late 40s. We watched the sun rise over the Hollywood Hills while listening to beautiful choir music and a sermon about Christ rising to the heavens. My dad came prepared with some hard candies in his pocket for when we got restless.
In the 50s, my family had a garden box and before every performance we would enjoy a picnic dinner. Later, my sisters and I opted to go to the Bowl not with family, but with our boyfriends. The performance I remember best was Nat King Cole, and since in the 1950s there was no time limit on when a show must end, Nat continued to sing until well after midnight!
In Time to Travel, While creating this painting, I wanted to express the joy I felt that night as Nat sang. I remember feeling that we should be able to dance at the Hollywood Bowl, so I put La La Land dancers on one of the promenades toward the back of the Bowl!
Swipe image for more
Loyola Hall Turns 100 – Loyola High School, 2017
Established in 1865, Loyola High School is a private college-preparatory high school for boys in Los Angeles. It has the distinction of being the oldest continuously run educational institution in Southern California, as well as the alma mater of my husband, Ed, and our triplet grandsons – Austin, Bryce and Grant Roski.
As the school was preparing to mark the centennial of a landmark on campus – Loyola Hall – Father Gregory Goethals asked me if I would create a painting to commemorate this milestone. So honored, I immediately responded, “Yes!” and added that I wanted to recreate my grandsons’ 2014 graduation ceremony. I asked him to name the members of the Loyola community – prominent alumni and current and former faculty members – whom he would like represented in the work. I also took some artistic license and included in the audience a few of my girlfriends, such as Maggie Simms, Celeste Von der Ahe and Conchita O’Kane, all of whom have sons that graduated from Loyola.
In January 2018, Loyola High School unveiled the painting at a special mass and celebratory dinner, during which the painting was blessed with the sprinkling of holy water. I had no idea that this was planned and actually became quite nervous during the ceremony. I was concerned that the painting would be ruined – after all, I paint in watercolor! Fortunately, the acrylic frame protected the painting. And it is now blessed and hanging in the halls of Loyola Hall.
Let’s Get Ice Cream – The Original Farmers Market, 2018
As a child, my family would frequently visit the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, which opened in October 1934. Not only was it close to our home, but my father created the legal framework for the market.
His client, the Gilmore family, had purchased 256 acres of ranchland in 1880 in what we now refer to as the Fairfax District. For nearly three decades, they operated two dairy farms at the location until they struck oil in 1905. Drilling continued on the site until the Los Angeles boundaries were expanded to include the oil fields – forcing the Gilmores to comply with a mandate that prohibited large-scaled drilling within the city limits.
During the Great Depression, as the Gilmore property sat vacant, Earl Bell “E.B” Gilmore was approached by two entrepreneurs with an idea to transform the area into a village where farmers could sell their produce. E.B. asked my father if he would take a share of the market in lieu of his fee. Dad, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, politely declined – a decision he would later regret as the “worst mistake” of his life.
With my Original Farmers Market painting, I wanted to capture the market’s ever-present fun and friendly atmosphere. My family knew many of the shopowners, which made visiting the market even more enjoyable for me as a child. My favorites included Gill’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, the Popcorn Sisters (who made colored popcorn with different flavors), Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts, and, last but not least, McGee’s, best known for its cheese enchiladas, which I still bring home for dinner.
Swipe image for more
Preserving Our Past – Mount Washington, 2010
The historic Mount Washington neighborhood has the distinction of being the home to Los Angeles’ very first museum – the Southwest Museum – and Casa de Adobe. The museum was founded in 1907 by Charles F. Lummis, a Los Angeles Times journalist who was driven to preserve the history of the Native Americans. Lummis worked with architects Sumner Hunt and Silas Burns to design the main building and unveiled the Mission Revival structure, which sits high atop a hill overlooking the Arroyo Seco, in 1914.
Two years later, in 1916, the Hispanic Society of California built Casa de Adobe on Figueroa Street as an early California replica of a Spanish rancho. It became part of the museum in 1925, and today both are operated by the Autry Museum.
Over the years, the Southwest Museum has amassed one of the largest and most impressive collections of Native American artifacts. I was granted the honor of creating still life paintings of some of its exquisite pottery for works I exhibited in the Masters of the American West Exhibition and Sale at the Autry in 2009.
In my painting of these two treasures in Mount Washington, I highlighted the easiest way to travel to the area – by taking the Metro Gold Line to the Southwest Museum station. To visit the museum, you walk across the street to a tunnel, which takes you to the mountain elevator to the first floor of the facility.
Pow Wow – Southwest Museum, 2019
In the early 1990s, I attended a pow wow at the Southwest Museum at which we celebrated the different tribes of California. It was a magical experience – one that rekindled my desire to learn more about the Native Americans. My initial interest in their culture and traditions began when I was a child, as I had an uncle who was the chief of an Oklahoma tribe. I remember being riveted as he shared with me the most fascinating stories about his daily life.
More recently, I took a trip to Arizona to specifically learn more about the Hopi. Ed and I traveled with Philip Garaway, Peter Keller and Signe Keller to Hopiland to attend the Kachina Festival. At this celebration of the Hopi’s rich culture and spiritual beliefs, the Kachina dolls on display caught my eye – and captured my heart. These delightful figures traditionally carved out of cottonwood are used by the Hopi to teach young girls about the spirits that are central to their way of life.
For this painting that I created for the 2020 Masters of the American West Exhibition, I wanted to pay tribute to the Hopi, their creativity and their spirituality. I chose to spotlight Kachina dolls in this work, incorporating their imagery into this re-creation of the pow wow that I attended many years ago at the Southwest Museum.
Blooming for 100 Years – Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, 2019
My friend Mei-Lee Ney, who serves on the Board of Governors for the Huntington Library, suggested that I create some paintings of the Huntington's renowned botanical gardens and invited me on a private tour. As we were guided around the pristine grounds by Pamela Hearn and Sian Leong Adams, we met Randy Shulman and the group decided that I would create a Los Angeles series painting to commemorate the 100th anniversary, which was celebrated in 2019.
In creating this painting, I wanted to represent all the exquisitely manicured gardens that visitors encounter as they meander along the pathways, as well as the colorful rainbow of eucalyptus trees that tower above. In the foreground I included notable people from the Huntington’s past and present.
The historic individuals, rendered in black and white, are William Hertrich (1878-1966), a botanist and the first landscape gardener hired for the property, at the far left, and co-founders Arabella Huntington (1850-1924) and Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927), at the far right. Between them are Sian Leong Adams, Director of Strategic Initiatives; Randy Shulman, Vice President of Advancement and External Relations; Pamela Hearn, Director of Society of Fellows; several school children enjoying a visit, including three of my granddaughters; and Karen Lawrence, President of the Huntington.
Others depicted in the painting include the trio in the left mid-ground – Trustee Emerita MaryLou Boone with two members of the Board of Governors, Chris Benter and Susan Chandler. On the right mid-ground is Mei-Lee Ney, and behind her is Robert Hori, the Gardens Cultural Curator and Program Director.
Plein Air Painting with the California Art Club – Pasadena Foothills, 2010
Angelenos are spoiled by the natural beauty that provides picture-perfect backdrops for our daily life. These idyllic scenes are what captivated landscape artists from the East Coast and Midwest to relocate to California around the turn of the 20th century so they could paint year-round en plein air – or “in the open air.” These artists inspired the “California Plein Air” movement – the first art movement considered to be uniquely Californian – and founded the California Art Club in 1909 to promote traditional fine arts as well as foster camaraderie among artists and collectors.
More than a century later, the Club continues to thrive, thanks to the efforts of Peter and Elaine Adams, who have led the Pasadena-based organization since 1993. I have been an active member for 20 years, participating in multiple exhibitions and events over the years. What I have enjoyed the most is participating in the plein air paint-outs – where we gather at scenic locations to create new works of the inspiring imagery around us. Over the years, as we watched and learned from each other at paint-outs, we also developed very special friendships.
I created this painting as a tribute to the California Art Club’s Centennial in 2009, showcasing one of the organization’s paint-outs at a quintessential Golden State locale that incorporates imagery of the Pasadena foothills. You will find Peter and Elaine Adams in the lower right of the painting, which was exhibited at the organization’s historic 100th Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition.
Acres of Activities – Griffith Park, 2017
Spanning more than 4,300 acres, Griffith Park is the second largest city park in California. Its namesake is the former owner, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who donated 3,015 acres as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles in December of 1896. Following his death in 1919, using money he had left in a very generous trust, the City of Los Angeles began developing the dreams that he had for the park – an amphitheater (now the Greek Theatre) and an observatory (now the Griffith Observatory).
After additional donations and city purchases of land, the park was expanded to its current size and now also houses the Los Angeles Zoo, the Autry Museum, Travel Town and other beloved attractions, from the Merry-Go-Round and Pony Rides to the iconic Hollywood Sign.
I have enjoyed many wonderful hikes through the chaparral-covered terrain – including nighttime treks that provided the most breathtaking views of the city lights below. I hiked around Griffith Park and later Mount Wilson during my training to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro – a feat I accomplished in celebration of my 50th birthday.
This painting was the center image in a triptych I created for the 2018 Masters of the American West Exhibition. This work was accompanied by my paintings of the Los Angeles Zoo and the Griffith Observatory.
Animal Adventures – Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, 2017
The Los Angeles Zoo is an enchanting oasis, with 133 acres that feature 1,400 animals – including nearly 60 that are endangered – as well as more than 7,000 individual plants in the botanical gardens that are dotted around the grounds. Because its location in Griffith Park is near our home, I have often ventured to the zoo with my grandchildren to visit the many animals – the elephants are a particular favorite!
I have also visited the zoo on many occasions to paint its diverse aspects en plein air. I used recollections of those experiences to create this vertical panoramic of the terrain as it expands up the hill.
When this painting was on display at The Gift of Los Angeles at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica during the fall of 2019, Tom Jacobson was the first person to arrive at the opening reception. Tom serves as president of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and he asked me if I would consider donating a signed artist proof for the 2020 Beastly Ball. I responded that I would be honored. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the zoo’s largest and most important fundraiser was held online, and the limited-edition print was auctioned off during the virtual event.
An Out-of-this-World View – Griffith Observatory, 2017
I love hiking up to the Griffith Observatory, because it offers an exceptional vantage point for a panoramic view of Downtown Los Angeles – it’s the perfect place to document how our skyline continues to evolve each year with more skyscrapers! I also love the view from inside the observatory – through its many telescopes for studying the stars.
Griffith J. Griffith had a vision for an observatory on the land he gifted to the city. This idea was sparked around 1908, when he looked through a telescope at Mount Wilson, which at the time was the largest in the world, and remarked, “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world.”
There is something very special about being able to view the stars, particularly in Los Angeles, where city lights limit our ability to enjoy these celestial bodies. During trips that Ed and I have taken to New Guinea, we would travel by boat every night to look at the stars. With no one around and no lights to obscure our view, we could see how brightly the stars shine in the night sky. It’s a beautiful image that I recall from my memory every time I visit the Griffith Observatory.
Masters of the American West Art Show – Autry Museum, 2010
Los Angeles is fortunate to have the Autry Museum of the American West, which is preserving the stories and shared histories of all people in our region. Co-founded in 1988 by Jackie and Gene Autry, the museum’s exceptional collection now includes more than 600,000 artifacts, artworks and other archival materials.
I have been involved with the Autry since its inception. The opening party for the museum was planned by my next-door neighbor, Sally Stewart, who invited Ed and me to join her for the festivities. This gave us a glimpse at what the museum’s future would behold.
In 1998, Autry Museum trustee and western art expert John Geraghty helped establish the Masters of the American West Fine Art Sale and Exhibition. With his exceptional eye for art and helpful critiques, he developed the annual event into one of the premier Western art shows in the country. I was honored – and thrilled – when in 2008 John asked me to join the ranks of exhibiting Masters artists.
With this coveted invitation, John provided me with a highly visible platform that allowed me to explore my fascination with the culture and handicrafts of the Native Americans. Over the years I have developed works that feature images of the Hopi and their charming Kachina dolls and I would sometimes affix one of these small treasures to the frame of a painting to show the viewer the inspiration for my work.
For me, the Masters has not been the same since John’s passing in 2015. I will be forever thankful to him for all his help with my career and have pictured him in the foreground of this painting, holding his trademark western hat.
Swipe image for more
Pepperdine University Remembers 9/11 – Malibu, 2018
Malibu has a split personality as both a beach town and a glamorous enclave, but to me it’s just our home away from home. Ed and I have been part of this community since the 1980s, when we built a home along the narrow strip of beach known as Broad Beach.
When I was asked to be part of the California Art Club exhibition On Location in Malibu 2018 at the Weisman Museum at Pepperdine University, I knew exactly what I wanted to depict – the University’s annual remembrance of the 9/11 terror attacks.
That tragic event took place on my 60th birthday and made me feel as if my world and I were falling apart. I created a series of paintings that chronicled the events surrounding attacks – from my birthday celebration and the televised images of the Twin Towers going up in flames, to the effect on my psyche as well as that of the nation.
Each year since that fateful day, Pepperdine University places on its front lawn a flag for each of the 2,977 lives lost. In this painting, I wanted to capture this moving tribute upon a panoramic view of this special community – a view that could be enjoyed if there were a glass elevator that rose from the blue ocean waters to the clouds high above. In this particular work, I like the poetry of the flags waving at the ocean waves of Malibu.
A Seaside Stroll at Sunset – Santa Monica Pier, 2019
Named one of the world’s best beach cities by National Geographic Traveler, Santa Monica is a magnet for both locals and tourists wanting to enjoy its sandy beaches, spectacular sunsets and myriad of dining, shopping and entertainment options.
One of the city’s highlights is the famous Santa Monica Pier. Upon entering under the pier’s 1941 neon sign, which, as a nod to its past, welcomes you to the “Santa Monica Yacht Harbor,” the hands of time turn back. With its carnival attractions – notably the carousel and the iconic Ferris wheel ¬– a visit to the pier is pure nostalgia. I love the carousel, built in 1922 and featuring 44 hand-carved horses and a calliope that surrounds the ride with music. As a child, I remember trying to grab one of its brass rings – something I never accomplished.
I have painted images of this pier from just about every direction and at different times of day, but my favorite view is at sundown by the pier entrance at the intersection of Ocean and Colorado Avenues. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, you see people from all walks of life milling around as cars cruise down the street. I painted Ed’s 1965 Cobra in this work, but I changed the color from black to blue and put a pretty young girl in it!
The South Bay Scene from a Helicopter – Manhattan Beach, 2009
The South Bay community of Manhattan Beach epitomizes the laid-back Southern California lifestyle. With more than two miles of pristine sandy beaches and a small, but chic downtown area with restaurants and boutiques, it is one of the most desirable places to live in Los Angeles – especially for families and the athletically inclined.
My friend Homeira Goldstein asked me if she could showcase my work in a solo show she was curating for a Manhattan Beach gallery. I jumped at the opportunity and told her I would spotlight the community with an LA series painting.
To create this work, I wanted to prominently feature the photogenic Roundhouse Aquarium that sits at the end of the pier, surrounded by the surf and sandy beach. I hired a helicopter to take pictures of the pier from a vantage point that hovered above the ocean, to capture the city’s main street – Manhattan Beach Boulevard – rising in the background. I had so much fun riding in the helicopter that I put an image of it in the painting!
The exhibition was a great success. When my Toluca Lake neighbors Maggie and Tom Simms saw this painting, they immediately purchased it for their family, which owns numerous restaurants in the Manhattan Beach area.
Swipe image for more
‘Bringing the World to the Bowers’ – Bowers Museum, 2020
With my love for learning about cultures from around the world, I have developed a special affinity for the Bowers Museum in Orange County, which collaborates with institutions around the globe to present richly diverse exhibitions of artworks and artifacts. My fondness for the museum is coupled with the close relationship that Ed and I have developed with Bowers President Peter C. Keller and his wife, Signe. We first met Peter when he was associated with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in the 1980s, where he exquisitely curated the Hall of Gems, an exhibition that remains popular today.
Over the years, Ed and I have traveled the world with the Kellers, including the most remote places as well as historic battle sites, as both Ed and Peter served our country during the Vietnam War. In particular, we have explored most of the islands of the Pacific – both above and below sea level – diving every day and in between dives, collecting artifacts. Some of the treasures we have found during our travels have been featured in exhibitions at the Bowers.
In this painting, I have represented elements of many of the fascinating exhibitions unveiled at the Bowers – from the terracotta warriors to Mickey Mouse. I also pictured Peter and Signe with Danny and Anne Shih. Anne is the chair of the Bowers’ Board of Governors and was responsible for developing the museum’s exceptional collection of Asian art.
Appreciating California Art with Jean Stern – The Irvine Museum, 2019
I was having lunch with prominent art historian Jean Stern and his wife, Linda, when the conversation turned to my Los Angeles series. As I was explaining to the Sterns my vision for the works in the series, Jean asked me if I would consider including the Irvine Museum, for which he served as Executive Director since it opened in 1993 until his recent retirement. Being a plein air, painter including in the series this prominent art institution dedicated to the California Impressionist movement made perfect sense.
Close to the Orange County Airport, the museum is located on the ground floor of Airport Tower, a seventeen-story glass office building that is one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Irvine. Because the Irvine Museum is a popular destination for school field trips, I depicted the visit of a group of happy and high-spirited children. As they exit the bus they are greeted by an artist at work, before they go inside and view rare and important works painted in California in the last century. It is a joyful experience that they will revisit for years to come.
The “welcoming” committee includes individuals associated with the museum over the years. The five on the left are Joan Irvine Smith; her son, Jim Swinden; Jim’s late wife, Madeline Swinden; Jean Stern and Linda Stern. The four on the right are key members of the museum staff: Dora James, Leslee Fitzgibbon, Rachel Bloomberg and Don Bridges. And I am in the middle, holding the “C”!
Swipe image for more
Western Movie Magic – Melody Ranch, 2018
A visit to Melody Ranch is like stepping into a time machine that transports you to the Wild West. Established in 1915, the western-themed production studio located in Santa Clarita has provided the setting for many of Hollywood’s most famous “shoot-em-up” films and television series. Gene Autry purchased the production studio in 1952 and his on-screen companion, Champion the Wonder Horse, lived on the property until the horse passed away in 1990, at which time Melody Ranch was sold.
In the 1950s, I would often visit Melody Ranch with my father, who represented many Hollywood stars and visited them on set. The highlight of my visits was spending time with Champion and the other horses that lived there.
As a tribute to this childhood memory – and the “Singing Cowboy” – I created this painting with a depiction of the actor and his beloved horse in the foreground. This work was displayed in the 2019 Masters of the American West Exhibition and Sale at the Autry Museum.
Family Adventure – Universal Studios, 2004
I am continually reminded that I live in the entertainment capital of the world, as Universal Studios and the city that shares its name surround me. If I go outside of my home and look upon the hill, I face the back lot of the studio. If I board a tram for the Universal Studios Tour, I can look down and see Toluca Lake and my home.
Although it has been a movie studio since 1912, Universal Studios began operations as a theme park in 1964, just a few years before Ed and I moved to Toluca Lake. Since then, it has grown and changed dramatically. In 1972, the Universal Amphitheatre opened with Jesus Christ Superstar, which meant that I could hear Andrew Lloyd Webber music every single night. The neighborhood was up in arms and Universal eventually enclosed the theatre in 1982. (It was later demolished for the expansion of theme park.)
In 1993, our USC schoolmate Jon Jerde designed “CityWalk” for Universal Studios, an engaging promenade of entertainment, dining and shopping. Since its opening, we have spent many summer nights dining and taking in the latest movies at CityWalk. It is wonderful to have a theme park and film studio as a neighbor – and it is such a uniquely LA experience.
My Dream Home of Fifty Years – Toluca Lake, 2020
When asked what is my most favorite place in Los Angeles, I can say, without any hesitation, our home – my “dream house” in which I have shared my life with Ed and raised our children. After much begging on my part, Ed and I purchased our home on Valley Spring Lane in 1969. I had fallen in love with the house nine years earlier, when we attended the Beta Theta exchange hosted by my sorority sister Linda Day. As soon as I walked through the front door and looked out the expansive window overlooking Toluca Lake, I whispered to Ed, “This is my dream house.”
After we moved in, I learned that the house, with its proximity to the entertainment studios in Burbank, had many Hollywood connections. Actress Mary Astor, whose career spanned both silent movies and “talkies,” built the house in 1933. Frank and Nancy Sinatra moved with their children into the residence in 1944 and lived there for about five years. During most of the 1960s Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin were the homeowners.
I have never wanted to live anywhere else. I immensely enjoy working in my second-floor studio, where I created all the works in this Los Angeles series, including this painting in which I depicted those who have lived in this welcoming home through the years. In the foreground, from the left, is Mary Astor and her daughter, Marylyn; the Sinatra family; and a young Dodd Darin with his parents, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, and the family dogs. In the next row, from left, are grandson Edward “Q” Roski IV; our son, Edward “Trey” Roski III; Trey’s wife, Colleen Roski; granddaughters Charlotte, Abigayle and Madeline Pearl; our youngest daughter, Katrina Roski, and her husband, Marc Pearl; our oldest daughter, Reon Roski, and her four children, Ashley (seated), Austin, Grant and Bryce Roski. Also pictured are two of our four-legged family members – Sunshine (by Ashley’s feet) and Tuxedo, who is making his way to the house. Ed and I are at the door, waving at everyone else, as now we live alone in this house, which is filled with treasures collected during our travels and fond memories from our 50 years in this very special home.
Gayle Garner Roski’s first solo exhibition featured a series of ribbon paintings. Ribbons are one of those little things in life that have been a continual source of joy for the artist, as they symbolize the generosity of giving and hope for new beginnings, as the final touch for gifts wrapped for many of life’s most memorable events is a ribbon tied with love.
Gayle was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as she finalized the paintings in this exhibition. The Roski family is extremely grateful for the support and advice they received from Augie’s Quest to Cure ALS (augiesquest.org) in helping find exceptional doctors for Gayle’s care. Please consider donating to help Augie’s Quest succeed in its ultimate goal of halting, reversing and curing this devastating disease, so others do not have to endure the pain that Gayle did.
I titled this The Gift of Los Angeles because creating these works of everything that the city has to offer has been a gift. It has been a gift to live the life that I have. It has been a gift to create paintings that contribute to the visual history of the city I love. And, most important, it is a gift to share these gifts from my life with you.
The Bowers Museum could not be more honored than to exhibit The Gift of Los Angeles: Memories in Watercolor by Gayle Garner Roski. Gayle and her husband Ed have been life-long supporters of the arts and friends to many of us at the Bowers. If her painting of the Bowers Museum is any indication of the way she felt about us, we would hope that exhibiting here would feel to her like being home.