Emeritus Art Instructor Still Inspires Students

Beverly Irwin
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Martin Mondrus, professor emeritus of art at Glendale Community College has recently been twice honored for his work “Around the Bend.” The oil painting won an Award of Merit from the California State Fair in Sacramento, where it was on display from Aug. 16 to Sept. 2, and it was also awarded the James Ackley McBride Award by the Pasadena Society of Artists at its Diamond Jubilee Exhibition in the spring.

“Around the Bend” is a landscape inspired by the area around Truckee in Northern California where the artist’s daughter Madalyn lives.

“I was painting a watercolor from a hill overlooking the Truckee river,” he says of the piece. “I was intrigued by the curve of the railroad tracks complementing the curve of the river. While I was painting, a train came around the bend slowly enough for me to make some sketches and to take some photos.”

It took him over 18 months, and several variations, to complete the piece, which is 50 inches by 40 inches in its frame.

Mondrus began painting at age 11 when he was enrolled part time at Art Center School, now the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

After three years in the Merchant Marines during WWII he found himself without veteran status and ineligible for the GI Bill. He felt “restless” and decided to travel to Cuba to paint. He met his wife Eloisa there.

Returning to the United States, he earned his bachelor’s degree from CSULA and his masters of fine art degree from Claremont Graduate School.

He later took a teaching job at Humboldt State University in 1955. Northern California was very conservative in those days, he recalls. “They wouldn’t even let us use nude models in the life drawing class.”

The family returned to Los Angeles a year later where after a brief teaching stint at CSUN he moved to GCC, where he says, especially in those times, there was a greater appreciation of art.

Mondrus taught full-time at Glendale for 34 years, and although he retired 10 years ago, he still teaches one class a week – life drawing.

Although his work is displayed in many private and public collections, including the Skirball Museum and Downey Art Museum, his work also stands on display here at GCC. The mural in the stairwell of the auditorium was done by Mondrus.

Among the recent awards Mondrus has received and those he has garnered over the years, the Glendale Regional Arts Council has also awarded him its prestigious Service to the Arts Award in 1989.

An opportunity for students and staff to view two pieces of his work will be at the
Faculty and Mentor exhibit “FACULTY/faculty” in the GCC Art Gallery, running now through Oct. 18.