At just four months on the job, the Elverhoj Museum’s new executive director isn’t afraid to admit she’s a Disney fanatic.
“I have three children,” Sandie Mullin, who took on spearheading responsibilities at the Solvang venue in July, said in her defense.
One of the movies playing on repeat in Mullin’s household when her kids were growing up was Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The 1959 film’s principal background painter was late artist Eyvind Earle (1916-2000), whose work is on display in Elverhoj Museum’s latest exhibition, set to open on Nov. 25 and run through mid-January 2024.
Earle’s designs on Sleeping Beauty gave the film a medieval tapestry-esque atmosphere and helped cement the enduring recognizability of his unique style among generations of viewers.
When her daughter was about 5 years old, Mullin remembers the two of them taking a walk through downtown Los Olivos and passing by a gallery that was showcasing paintings by Earle. One of the featured landscapes immediately caught her daughter’s eye.
“It wasn’t a Sleeping Beauty painting, but it was one of his landscapes. And she said, ‘Mommy, that’s the Sleeping Beauty man,’” said Mullin, who believes young visitors of the new Earle exhibit may have a similar reaction.
“I think the reason that everyone loves Eyvind Earle and his work is we feel connected to it; it’s accessible,” Mullin said. “It’s really stylized and unique.”
While organizing the exhibit, the painting Mullin found herself most drawn to was Bonsai, which she described as uncharacteristically spooky, compared to other pieces in the show at least.
The eerie subject of Bonsai is a seemingly contorted tree with a black and purple color scheme that reminded Mullin of Sleeping Beauty’s iconic villain Maleficent, but with sharp branches instead of horns.
“It looks like it’s alive,” said Mullin, who added that the black and purple pairing is unique in itself compared to the heavy blues and greens prevalent in many of Earle’s pieces on display in the show.
Included with a selection of Earle’s early paintings and limited-edition serigraphs of frames from Sleeping Beauty on display, some landscapes in the Elverhoj exhibit are laced with hillside imagery reminiscent of the Santa Ynez Valley, including Three Fields and a Mountain and Fields Ascending, which the painter completed in 1989 and 1991, respectively.
While the exhibit is sure to attract fans of Earle’s general portfolio and cinematic work (the painter also contributed background art on Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and other films), art collectors may also flock to the Elverhoj Museum, as some of the prolific artist’s original oil paintings and serigraphs will be available for sale throughout the showcase.
Along with a celebratory opening reception for the show on Nov. 25, the museum will be hosting a special family-friendly screening of Sleeping Beauty in conjunction with the exhibit on Jan. 6, at Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang. Admission to both events is free.
Mullin said she just might arrange for the museum to put on a Disney trivia night eventually as well, but she’d honorably bow out from participating.
“I’d win though,” Mullin said with a laugh. “So I’d have to exempt myself.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood would be a major contender at Disney trivia. Send comments to [email protected].