Aug 1, 2017
by Jim Kelly
Sebastopol Gallery celebrated their tenth anniversary with an evening of fine art, fine food and wine, and the company of member artists for an opportunity to share life perspectives and personal missions. Jim Kelly interview 7 artists to learn “what magic they used to elevate their work from craft to fine art.”
On July 15, the prestigious Sebastopol Gallery celebrated their tenth anniversary. Although I’ve passed by the gallery’s door many times over the years, their anniversary was the first time I’d stepped inside and, when I did, it felt like I was entering a fine-arts museum.
In John Gardner’s classic book, The Art of the Novel, he says Art, Music and Great literature all suspend time and place and, as I strolled slowly by artist displays I became enchanted over and over again by their unique talents.
I believe much of the success in art, music and literature comes from the creator being comfortable with themselves. If an artist is serene, the art will elevate. When elevated, others will be more willing to take the journey with them. An important part of suspending time and place is contrast. You have to rip the observer out of life’s comfortable armchairs and draw them into your invented reality. Art is not reality, art is better than reality. Give children a chance to express themselves with art and art expands into dreams few adults can imagine.
As the artists swirled by offering savory hors d'oeuvres while they celebrated their tenth anniversary, I asked them what magic they used to elevate their work from craft to fine art. These are their responses.
Jeff Watts, an artist living in Forestville, considers all his paintings to be portraits. On the gallery’s website, he wrote, “I’m inspired by the techniques of the old masters and like to take advantage of the movement of the paint and the visible brush marks. While I strive for a sense of realism in my work, I always want the viewer to know they are looking at a painting.”
Paula Matzinger, artist, poet, essayist, singer/songwriter, musician, wife and mother, responded to my question this way.
“When I paint, I often fall into what I call, 'the zone.’ It's a moment (sometimes lasting hours) when I become so involved with applying paint to canvas to bring forth an image or composition, that I forget about how long I have been painting, where I am, or even that I have a self.
I'm the paintbrush, the paint, the eyes that see color in a landscape that might or might not be the color that is actually there. I'm the accidental compliment of colors that pop an image out, or the combining of colors that creates an unexpected new one. I'm the memory of standing on that beach in cold dark sand, and noticing a long, thin strip of turquoise light peaking between ocean and fog.”
Michelle Hoting, a jewelry artist who incorporates metalsmithing and lapidary (stone cutting) techniques utilizing silver, copper, stone, flora and antique finds, eloquently expressed her art this way.
“When I work with these materials I’m interested in how to integrate the natural world into a wearable piece of art; creating a marriage of form and function. I seek to remind the wearer of the beauty of nature.”
She went on to say, “Art with great design, attention to detail and quality workmanship goes beyond trend and becomes timeless. Of course Mother Nature is the best designer; her work needs no embellishments. So I design with strong but subtle details and clean flowing lines to invoke a sense of movement and an eye towards the aesthetic of wabi sabi. I work alongside Mother Nature to create natural, wearable jewelry sculptures of recycled pure silver that are not niche driven. I strive to suspend time and place by transcending them.”
(I personally think much of Michelle’s magic comes from a sense of longing. In her delicate work, leaves and flowers seem to reach out to one another for comfort but rarely touch.)
For those who love the smell of a garden, Lucy Martin will transfix you with her mushroom art. She began painting mushrooms when she moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2006. The abundant winter rainfall and the great botanical diversity in this area made it a wonderful place for her to find mushrooms. Many of her paintings are set in these mountains, but she has also found subjects for paintings in Mendocino, the Sierras, Washington State, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and Pennsylvania.
Lucy Martin has been drawing and painting most of her life. She is largely self-taught, with occasional formal study. She studied gouache technique with the artist and illustrator Maryjo Koch, in Bonny Doon, California. She paints in gouache and watercolor, with occasional use of colored pencil. Lucy hopes to convey her deep love for nature, especially for what is often overlooked: those small, unexpected and delightful things we can discover when we look closely.
When Rebeca Trevino was five, she crawled under her house when the days were hot and started putting things she found together. She is among a new group of artists who call themselves, assemblage artists. In her words, “As an assemblage artist, I often feel true empathy for things that are damaged or thrown away. I see potential in things that are broken, and find beauty in rust and corrosion. When objects are old, broken or no longer useful, they become interesting art materials to me. My art allows me to create small worlds, where I can tell tall tales, and evoke humor and stir emotions.
By nature, I am a collector of things. At the heart of my efforts is the need to rescue the forgotten or thrown away and to make art that is well-designed and reflective. My favorite part of my work is ‘the hunt.’ I love rummaging through thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales and even dumpsters in search of precious baubles and bits. In the end, the narrative of each art piece comes from the viewer. The unrelated objects in each piece invite the viewer to look and look again, bidding them to lean in for a closer look. These “unwritten stories” run as deep as the viewer dares to go, while others reveal themselves with the easiness of a nursery rhyme, or the simplicity of humorous twist.
“When creating my images, I am suspended while working. Whether it is folk art or nature or landscape, my goal is to share that same feeling and add space for the viewer to tell their own story. A palette of colors, a composition that invites you into the painting, the feeling of light hitting you from the objects or land or water are all something that speaks to me.
I always hope that my deep love of nature, my spirit of whimsy in dreamlike visions connect with the inner child or allows them to relax and take a deep breath of wonder that I feel while creating our amazing land we live in. When the eyes of the animals I paint connect with me, I feel like I have entered the world I am painting. And I am still learning about the power of light, carefully placed color notes and patterns to allow the viewer to feel they can enter the landscape themselves. I have been told that my folk art is 'a door to walk through into a story". I hope that is true.
“I love the theme for your article. It brings to mind one of my current themes in painting - a series of "celestial abstracts" inspired by nebulae and galaxies photographed by the Hubble telescope. Since I have been a consulting astrologer most of my adult years and a lifelong stargazer, I think in terms of time and space as the earth turns, moves along its orbit around the sun and, deeper into space, the millions of light years between galaxies. It's mind boggling actually and frees up my creativity from the linear world of landscape and logic. In space there are no straight lines. We live in a world of cycles and circles. Take a look at the abstract page of my website to see some of these paintings.
You mentioned children and I recognize the natural abilities in the creativity of children. On the other end of life, with older adults, there is a return to this desire to express the unknown in some form of art. Even those with a touch of dementia enjoy the freedom and excitement of drawing and painting. They often exhibit childlike behavior.
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