Kenton Nelson makes a 1930s-inspired “Splash” in Santa Monica

Painter Kenton Nelson’s works exude “a teasing sexuality”

Painter Kenton Nelson’s works exude “a teasing sexuality”

Imagine the beaches of Southern California in the 1930s.

In painter Kenton Nelson’s hands, fleeting and superficially mundane moments become timeless images — even as they are rendered in a style evoking the Works Progress Administration murals of the era.

A self-taught painter, Nelson has developed a unique style that draws from the American realist modern art movement of the 1920s through ‘50s and tends to focus on suburban scenes of idealized domestic tranquility.

For “Splash,” a special exhibit on display through June at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica, Nelson debuts a new set of works that turn his attention to beach scenes.

“No one does realist paintings like he does. There is a haunting aspect to his work, a teasing sexuality about his art,” says Toby Smith, the museum’s executive director.

In that case, Nelson should have a field day at the beach.

— Chase Maser

“Splash” is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through June 12 at the California Heritage Museum, 2612 Main St., Santa Monica. Call (310) 392 8537 or visit