For Halloween, as my friend Bryan walked to church, I yelled at him across the street, gesticulating wildly and told him about the afternoon planned. A happy captive, he joined me as we set out for the Hunter’s Point artist colony open house and an afternoon of stepping in and out of people’s subconscious. Art shows what is important to the person, like the subject matter that keeps a poet writing different lines about the same thing.
I found myself drawn to the Shipyard Open Studios primarily to see my friend Amanda’s recent foray into painting and collaboration with her mom Lynne, an established painter.
So Bryan, one of my favorite people over the years to drag along to art exhibitions and I drove to Hunter’s Point, the weather warm and sunny. One of the great things about attending an open studio is to see so many different points of view and style.
Bruce Katz painted a clump of radishes that popped in their pinky-purples. He and I discussed the varying styles represented in his open studio. While the realistic fruits and vegetables he painted invited me in, his Tuscan streets mixed media pieces kept the conversation flowing.
I rediscovered Susan Spies and her abstract paintings. Her work found resonance with me the last time I visited the Shipyard Open Studios several years prior. “Push Pull, Orange” drew me into her studio those three years ago conjuring up blue sky out of a rustle of grey clouds sweeping the canvas. This piece to me communicated a hopefulness in spite of circumstances. The orange square seemed to be a happy pop of color to almost ground it back to earth. This time, her star of the show, “Azure” did the opposite. Its teal and robin’s egg blue tonality evoked a sense of whimsy and fun. Those would be the top notes of the painting. Below the surface, the painting is comforting. It relaxes the eyes, and the very colors remind me of the ocean off of Kauai.
Sharon Beals’ bird and egg photographs make me gasp a little, in a good way. The collection she showed encompassed photographs and still lives of birds including a cheerful looking tanager and many nests of bird eggs. She shot them at the California Academy of Science and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. One part scientific study and the other vantage point felt as if the object had been captured in place for a moment. Some of the nests felt stumbled upon, involving the detritus of the environs in which the nest might have been found. I immediately wanted to buy the lot of them for the dramatic impression they left. Even though the colors might be subtle, they really popped against the black background. Something about her photos in this collection convey life and death dichotomy, showing beauty in both. Her compositions are quite conversational.
Then there’s Amanda. The thing to know about her is she’s a bit loud and brash. She works in sales and thus has a fine-tuned gauge on the best way to speak someone’s language to make the pitch. This, at least, was always the side of her I saw professionally. In 2009, she sustained a big loss and in the same month of 2010, so did I. Where we had talked about having dinner for seven years and never followed through on it, once dinner finally transpired this year we talked over cocktails and talked over dinner. When we finally said goodbye, it had been a five hour gabfest.
She recently took up painting and collaborating with her mom, Lynne Sonenberg. While none of her paintings hung in her mom’s studio, one painting showed detail work and swirled flourishes she incorporated into the work, which is one of two paintings in that series, “The Leap”, inspired by a story of the Lori’s. Both Lori’s were training for a long bike ride in the Wine Country when one of them cycled off a cliff. The other Lori saw her friend’s predicament as it happened and instead of calling 911, she leapt off the edge after her friend. Both sustained injuries and it was that bit of risk in the name of love that inspired the paintings. One shows an abstract figure hurtling over the side of the mountain. And it is at the bottom of this painting that my friend painted her flourishes. It’s fitting really.
Art has its way of sneaking in a side door of a person to help them express the inexpressible. These ephemeral subtleties that art tries to define on canvas, paper or form keep the conversation interesting. Death and life after death can do that to a person. It’s that life after death theme that for me is getting me writing and delving back into creating art on multiple platforms.