A“Sentinels,” Fielden Harper’s current exhibit at TAG Gallery, consists entirely of paitings of lifeguard towers. Like most long-time residents of Santa Monica, Harper and her children have spent much of their lives on the beach. In fact, she claims that her children grew up between towers 6 and 8.Integral to the beaches on what Hamlin Garland called “this fortunate coast, the first towers appeared in Long Beach in 1923. According to Arthur Verge, Jr., Professor of History at El Camino College and a lifeguard for the past 33 years, the first towers went up in Santa Monica in the late 1920s. Called “penalty boxes,” they were open air and elevated on metal poles. The current model has been around for many years, but is still in style. Los Angeles County has installed 158 new lifeguard towers in the last four years. For Harper, the towers are a metaphor for struggle in life, for living at the edge of two worlds. “The lifeguard towers look so fragile and ephemeral but survive storm after storm. They get patched up and just keep on going. They are designed for observation which is the role of both the artist and the lifeguard.”Harper’s acrylic paintings on wood or canvas of the lifeguard towers are on display at TAG Gallery, 2903 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica through March 25. Also on display are oil paintings “Sunspots and Floaters” by Mary Mueller and ceramic sculpture by Patricia Doede Klowden. All three artists will talk about their works on Thursday, March 23 at 7 p.m.Gallery hours are Wednesday – Friday, 11 – 7; Saturday, 11 – 5. (310) 829 9556.
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