Ryan McDonald

Story prompts search for painting

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Nancy Grenier painted the Third Street Apartments shortly before they were demolished. Her family is now hoping to track down the original.

by Ryan McDonald

Manhattan Beach resident Nancy Grenier has painted all her life, and has done outdoor scenes up and down the California coast. But it was a watercolor of some apartments in her hometown that proved perhaps her most popular work of art.

Grenier, who studied art and education at Occidental College, painted a picture of the Third Street apartments, a collection of eight small units that stood on the southern edge of the The Strand in Manhattan Beach, shortly before they were demolished in 2000. Almost two decades later, the painting continues to provoke admiration and interest, including when it ran on the cover of Easy Reader on June 6 for the second in a two-part series on California housing policy. The story produced significant response, with some readers recalling stories about living there, or memories of strolling by the apartments.

But for the Greniers, the story also brought up a less-than-pleasant truth: the painting is missing.

Judd said, after painting the original, he and his wife had between 10 and 12 high-quality prints made at Nash Editions, the trailblazing digital printmaking shop founded in Manhattan in the early ‘90s by musician Graham Nash. Something about the painting struck a chord, and both the original and the prints were quickly snapped up when Grenier sold them at local art fairs.

Today, Judd believes that the family may have one of the prints remaining in their home, but they have been unable to find it. He reached out to Nash Editions in the hope that they would have a digital file of the print.

Chris Abbe, studio manager at Nash Editions, said that she and a co-worker have searched their database for the digital file of Grenier’s print, but so far they haven’t had any luck. Abbe said she and the co-worker have been at Nash since 1993, and that they are now reaching out to a former co-owner who is no longer with the company.

Abbe, a Redondo Beach resident, said that she knew instantly which painting Judd was referring to because she had seen it on the cover of Easy Reader. (The version of the painting used by Easy Reader was taken from a photograph posted to a Facebook group titled “Manhattan Beach haunts that no longer exist.”) She remembers taking photographs of the apartments on 35 mm film.

Judd, a professor emeritus of history at Cal State Dominguez Hills, where he specialized in the history of Southern California, guessed that the painting proved so popular because it reminded people of a rapidly disappearing aspect of the region’s identity.

“They were so unusual. Can you imagine sleek, 1930s-motel-style buildings in the middle of a city? You would have to walk a long way to see something like that these days, particularly along the beach,” he said.

Anyone with information about the prints of the Third Street Apartments can email ryan@easyreadernews.com.

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