Reflections on the past: an artist’s perspective
by Marsha Kay Seff
Published - 04/17/13 - 03:16 PM | 5365 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A painting of Sunset Cliffs by Esther Painter Hagstrom is among many that will be on display at the Coronado Public Library through May 31. Courtesy photo
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Ocean Beach’s Suzy Hagstrom never knew her paternal grandmother, who died before she was born. But nine years ago, Hagstrom started mulling over the idea of organizing an art exhibition to honor her grandma, a beloved Coronado High School art teacher.

The result is “Art through the Generations,” a show that features Esther Painter Hagstrom’s watercolors, etchings and other work, alongside that of some of her former students, that runs through May 31 at the Coronado Public Library.

Suzy Hagstrom plans to donate all her grandma’s work — “including my favorites” — to the Ocean Beach/-Taylor Branch Library for a permanent collection. In addition to 30 framed watercolors, there are dozens of etchings and prints, ceramics, enamel on copper works, an oil painting and a woodcarving.

Though the work adorned her late parents’ San Francisco Bay area home for years and, later, her own, Hagstrom says, “I feel better about letting the community enjoy her works now. I’ve enjoyed them all my life and now it’s time for the community where she lived and worked to enjoy them.”

Grandma was an art teacher at Coronado High from 1939 until her death in 1951 at age 46 from a cerebral hemorrhage. The yearbook that year was dedicated to her.

The art teacher influenced many students, Hagstrom points out, several of whom became acclaimed artists themselves. Hagstrom, who is a journalist, used her reporting skills to track down some of former students and borrow their work to hang beside their teacher’s for the tribute show.

“Connecting with her students was a way to get to know her. Even students who had no interest in art remember my grandmother and her lessons on perspective.” Hagstrom adds, “The exhibit highlights the importance of art in education.”

Among those former students, now age 77 to 86, on display are Patty Murphy Jepson of Coronado, Coronado High School class of 1948, a commercially successful artist who sells her works and paintings on commission.

There’s also Dolores Bridges Mote of El Cajon, class of ’45, who has painted as a hobby all of her life; John Clampitt of Coronado, class of ’54; Sarah Mott Durand of Ashland, Ore., class of ’48; Lois Drake Ferguson of San Diego, class of ’53; John “Jack” Minchin of Encinitas, class of ’48; Doris Klindt Naccarato of Coronado, class of ’51; Hildegarde Jaeger Stubbs of Encinitas, who finished high school in Santa Monica, and Celeste Walkup Usler of Puyallup, Wash., class of 1951. All have had a lifelong passion for the craft, according to Hagstrom.

It’s an interesting coincidence that “Painter” was the art teacher’s maiden name, said Hagstrom, whose own middle name, Esther, comes from her grandmother.

Although Hagstrom’s mom and dad grew up in Coronado, her mother’s parents moved to OB in 1950. “Grandpa got tired of the car ferry commute,” said Hagstrom, a volunteer poll worker in OB, who lives just two blocks from Sunset Cliffs, the subject of one of her favorite watercolors by her grandmother.

More information on the Art through the Generations exhibit is available by calling Christian Esque-vin, director of library services, at the Coronado Public Library, 640 Orange Ave., at (619) 522-7395. Also, check out

Hagstrom planned the art tribute to her paternal grandmother.

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