Local Artist from South Africa Lets Viewers Into Artistic Process at Viento y Agua Coffee House


Photos courtesy of Lara Meintjes.

Lara Meintjes moved to Long Beach from Johannesburg, South Africa about six years ago and, upon her arrival, decided to become an artist.

“I found the space and community utterly fascinating and discovered that pen and ink was the way I was most comfortable communicating my fascination with this magical place,” she said.

Now her work lines the walls of Viento y Agua Coffee House as part of her latest solo exhibition, Lucky Fish: An Exhibition of Many Wonderful Curiosities.

Meintjes has shown her work annually at Viento y Agua for several years now, typically creating cohesive groups of pieces for a certain theme. However, as her style has been in flux, this year’s exhibition is distinct, in that it shows her unique evolution.


“The question I get asked most often is, ‘Where do the images from?’” she said. “So this is a show about that—it shows all of the stages of development. On the wall you will see pieces from my sketchbook, tests for commissions, completed paintings and final prints.”

While watching her mother juggle job after job as an artist to make ends meet initially turned Meintjes away from the thought of pursuing a creative career, “eventually it sort of escaped of its own volition,” she said.

Their migration to the U.S. served as a catalyst for creation. Meintjes, her husband and her daughter endured the several-year process to move to the West Coast, deciding on Long Beach after falling in love with the city through their online research.

“The sense of community here is a magical creature with its own personality; the people we have met have been extraordinarily warm and welcoming, the educational opportunities are wide ranging and interesting and we have lagoons, good food, rollerskating, a weirdly high concentration of drummers from bands you loved in high school, farmers markets, Fingerprints, open mic events, Thursday night pop-up concerts, and so very much more,” she said.


Now, Meintjes is happily pursuing her artistic career and also taking classes at Long Beach City College, seeing how far she can take this calling.

Lucky Fish will be on view until mid-January with pieces available to purchase and take home.

“This is a show about process, and showing the work is part of that process, my work is incomplete until it is seen, as it relies on the viewer bringing their own perspective into the interaction, once the work is shown it ceases to be about me, and becomes about you,” she said.

You can follow Meintjes on Instagram @larabrite

Viento y Agua is located at 4007 East 4th Street.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.