Monday, March 16, 2015

Art I'm Looking At: "Birds" at Ice House Gallery (March 16, 2015)

I attended the opening of the latest show at Ice House Gallery in Petaluma, "Birds" a show of art depicting birds--work by a diverse group of artists including Dick Cole, Sylvia Gonzalez, Diana Majumdar, Robert Poplack, Michele Rosett, Stephanie Sanchez, and Joanne Tepper.

Sylvia Gonzalez's work is attractive for its decorative qualities. She sketches birds on top of subtle, layered backgrounds created using a number of techniques, notably Xerox lithography. Some of her pieces are colorful arrays of smaller works. Diana Majumdar sketches very freely, but she nicely captures the kind of quizzical attitudes that often make birds so endearing, and she gets the birds right--which satisfies the bird watcher in me. Recognizable among her works in the show were Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus, detail shown above) and a sparrow that I couldn't positively identify but one rendered in a way that makes me confident I could have done so with a field guide in hand--perhaps Five-striped Sparrow (Aimophila quinquestriata) or Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata). Dick Cole's work shows some nice painterly effects. Joanne Tepper's work is realistic--with an emphasis on draughtsmanship--but often whimsical at the same time. In her paintings she likes to pose real bird species on teacups, for instance (one such painting was on the cover of the 2014 Art Trails catalog).

I spent about an hour walking around Petaluma after visiting Ice House Gallery and dropping in at Griffin Map Design & Gallery, a couple of doors down, where the Ladies Night show is still on. The most interesting bird art I saw during the evening may have been this 4-foot-high cardboard creation in a shop window along the main drag. I wonder who made this wonderful owl? If you're a bird lover and an art lover, however, my top recommendation would be to take the time to visit Erickson Fine Art Gallery in Healdsburg to see some of the wonderful bird paintings done on gold leaf by Antoinette Von Grone that Erickson shows.

Later I stopped at Riverfront Gallery where an eye-catching photographic montage by Jeremy Joan Hewes depicting a crow or raven seemed the most interesting thing on the walls. Finally, I checked out Prince Gallery, which has a new show of photography up. I especially liked the work of one Laura Alice Watt. Her dreamy pinhole images struck a chord--beautiful, blurry corners of the natural world, not at all in the tradition of "nature photography"--but striking nevertheless. She says in her artist's statement that she rejects the perfection of much nature photography, saying "I am more interested in a direct connection with the world around me...attempting to see nature from the inside, via interaction, rather than simply admiring from afar." Compelling images.

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