Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series about 1967 C.K. McClatchy High School alumna and artist Margo Z. Nahas. This article also includes details about her husband, graphic designer Jay Vigon.
Margo Z. Nahas, the local artist who was recognized in the last edition of this paper for the 30th anniversary of her creation of the cover art for the rock band Van Halen’s famous album, “MCMLXXXIV”, has had a lifelong love of art.
During a recent interview for this article, Margo shared various details about her life history, which included her unusual birth in the capital city.
“I was born en route to Sutter (Maternity Hospital/later known as Sutter Memorial Hospital at 52nd and F streets),” Margo said. “I was born in front of the (Sacramento) County Hospital (at 2315 Stockton Blvd.), but we were on our way to the Sutter (Maternity Hospital).”
Margo grew up with her father, Alfred, her mother, Myrle, and her older sister, Kay Nahas (now Kay Cunningham), who like Margo graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School.
After being asked to cite her first memory of art, Margo said, “Our neighbor, Eva ‘Baba’ Parker, who, interestingly enough, was in the car when I was born and even delivered me, used to take care of us when we were little kids. In order to keep us busy, she used to set us down and have us draw pictures. She put a vase of flowers in the middle of the table and we would have to draw it, my sister and I. And then we got another caregiver, Dorothy ‘Dot’ Parks, another lady who we also adored, and she would draw women’s faces, profiles for us. I became totally obsessed with drawing faces to a point that I couldn’t fully concentrate in school. I eventually became a full-time professional artist.”
In the fall of 1954, Margo began her schooling years at Fruitridge Elementary School at 4625 44th St., and she transferred four years later to Sutterville School at 4967 Monterey Way.
Margo’s next stop in her educational voyage began in 1961 at Joaquin Miller Junior High School at 4701 Joaquin Way.
While attending that school, Margo had an art teacher who she said brought her much inspiration.
“Randy Wilson, my instructor at Joaquin Miller, introduced mediums that were new to me, especially oil paints,” Margo said.
She also recalled that it was during her time at that school that she began taking private art lessons.
Margo added that she was fortunate to have had a mother who supported her artistic aspirations and invested in art supplies from the professional art store, Flax of Sacramento, at 1016 14th St.
During Margo’s years at McClatchy High from 1964 to 1967, her ability as an artist continued to increase.
Margo noted that she was among the school’s top artists and was recognized by her art teacher, Joy Fox, as a very versatile art student.
After high school, Margo attended Stephens College, a liberal arts college in Columbia, Mo.
While in her second year at that college, one of her good friends from high school sent her a very small advertisement about Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles (now located in Pasadena).
Margo, who decided to attend Art College, said that she met her future husband, Jay Vigon, at that institution.
“Lucky for me, Jay turned into one of the more notable, international graphic designers,” Margo said. “I met him in 1972 and we were married in Topanga Canyon on Feb. 14, 1976.”
Margo said that she obtained her first job while she was still attending Art Center.
“In the midst of going to Art Center, I got my first job doing an album cover for (the soft rock duo) Seals and Croft,” Margo said. “It was in 1973 and the album was released the following the year. The album was called, ‘Unborn Child,’ and it was a major introduction into the record business for me.”
Shortly after completing that project, Margo, Jay and Jay’s twin brother, Larry, opened their own design firm, Vigon Nahas Vigon, which was located at 6420 Wilshire Blvd. in a high rise building, right on the cusp of Beverly Hills.
In recalling that business, Margo said, “We became one of the most popular design/illustration studios in L.A. Most of our work came from the myriad of record companies in the area. We did mostly music-related graphics, but we also did complete album covers and worked in advertising and worked for magazines, including Hustler, Oui, Playgirl, Bon Appétit and In Flight. Among the album packages we created at that time were Stevie Wonder’s ‘Journey through the Secret Life of Plants,’ Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk,’ and four albums for J.J. Cale. We also created the ever popular Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers original logo.”
After five years on Wilshire Boulevard, the business moved to 717 N. La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles, and soon afterward, Larry left the company.
Shortly thereafter, the partnership dissolved and Margo and Jay began working in their home studio.
Margo then focused primarily on advertising illustrations and some album art, including artwork for albums by Stevie Ray Vaughn, Toto, Autograph, and ultimately Van Halen.
Another one of her notable creations was her artwork for the film, “Fright Night Part II.”
In a brief interview for this article, Jay said that he created one of his most famous designs at his home studio.
“I created the logo for the original working title of (Star Wars) ‘Revenge of the Jedi,’ which I later had to augment to the final title of ‘Return of the Jedi,’” Jay said.
Jay also created the graphics for the Prince and The Revolution film and soundtrack album, “Purple Rain.”
Additionally, Jay said, “I was the first American designer to be invited to create two Swatch watches. One was called ‘Fishbone’ and the other one was called ‘You Don’t Live in a Nine to Five World.’”
In 1984, Jay created the business, Vigon Seireeni, with Warner Bros. art director Rick Seireeni.
And in recalling that time in his career, Jay said, “We kept on doing music (related projects) and also branched out into fashion and advertising, and we began working on international projects.”
Vigon Seireeni remained in business for five years, at which point Jay returned to his home studio, where he pioneered moving graphics over live action for national television commercials.
Jay and Margo opened Made on Earth retail store in Studio City in the early 1990s. The store focused on Jay’s character designs on products such as T-shirts, bowling shirts, watches, custom Zippo lighters and artistic chairs.
In that partnership, Margo designed the products and Jay designed the products’ characters.
Assisting Jay and Margo in the store were their daughters, Morgan and Jordan.
In 2004, after three decades of creating for other companies and individuals, Jay and Margo decided to search for their own acreage and move to the country.
They literally, by chance, found 34 acres, with a quarter mile stretch along the Raccoon River by Adel, Iowa.
There they focused on their personal artistic interests, with Jay doing fine art work, along with his graphic design, and Margo completely devoting herself to jewelry design.
Margo said that after 10 years in Iowa, she decided to move with Jay back to her hometown of Sacramento for both business reasons and to spend time with other members of her family.
And in commenting about the business portion of that decision to head west, Margo said, “After a winter of minus 36 degree wind chill, we decided to pull up stakes and move to sunny California. We essentially said, ‘Nobody sees are art here.’ We really need to reintroduce ourselves and our talents to a broader audience.”