It was a wild and stormy night….
Oola, stop that!
It was another pleasant summer day and we piled into Mom’s Memorial Prius for the trip up to Petaluma, land of potash and chickens. Petaluma potash. Actually it’s not that way anymore. These are just empty words bumping around in Oola’s head. A quick search for “petaluma potash” lead to some dusty stuff on potash stocks — everybody’s gotta eat — and a 1951 article on chicken sales in Petaluma.
We were heading to the Petaluma Art Center which is in the restored Petaluma train station on Lakeville Street. We went to see the show “Digital Mixed Media, Bay Area Artists take Digital Photography to a New Level”. What a Wowzer of a show! The Invitational part of the show was curated by Joe McDonald of the Digital Grange in Petaluma, the Juried part by Joe Doyle, of the Multimedia Department at Berkeley City College.
A lot of the work came from the collection of Magnolia Editions digital center in Oakland which is run by Don and Era Farnsworth.
“Sacred Tree” is their Jaquard tapestry created from a complex digital file. Quoting their website:
“Sacred Pine depicts a pine tree in Rikuzentakata, Japan, a coastal city almost completely flattened by the tsunami following the 2011 Touhoku earthquake. Incredibly, this single pine was left standing from a grove of more than 70,000 trees planted along the shore three centuries ago; the tree has emerged as a symbol of hope and renewal in an otherwise devastated region.”
The quality and impact of the tapestries produced through Magnolia Editions is mind boggling. Especially when you inspect the details.
You could fall right into it and tumble around in the stitches.
On the opposite wall of the larger gallery was an installation by Joe Doyle and Diane Rosenblum.
A combination of Diane’s digital sky photography and Joe’s depiction of weapons produced in a 3D program, this work is a statement decrying the proliferation of the tools of war and their destabilizing effect on world security, national economies, the environment, world hunger, education, and more.
In the second gallery I was happy to find an etching/digital print by one of my teachers from my old Cal State Hayward days, Raymond Saunders.
I have been inspired by Ray’s work ever since the day he invited us students to his home/studio and we saw rooms full of intoxicating drawings laid out on the hardwood floors — scratched marks here, an exquisite blue rose there. He is a painter and colorist second to none. He revels in the spontaneous marks of the tools of drawing and in collage. His work is both narrative and political. “Untitled (Jack Johnson)” is identified as a combination of etching, mixed media collage, and UV-cured acrylic. Printed at Magnolia Editions, I am guessing that part of the process was accomplished on the big flat bed digital printer. In this image he puts the mouth almost exactly in the center of the composition giving new meaning to “enigmatic smile.” He is about to say something…
When I notice the collage pieces that ever so slightly fall out of the bottom of print’s rectangle, I am reminded of an admonition Ray gave me as a student along the lines of “you are responsible for every square inch of the drawing, no area is unimportant “, an admonition I still quote to my students when I see them making the same mistakes I made.
Ray’s work is in good company next to “The Myth of Sissy Fuss” by William Wiley, a wood cut with acrylic ink. My guess is that the wood cut was made by a digitally controlled router.
Among the juror-selected artists are
JoAnna Pippen with her “Solstice” which was built in Photoshop’s 3D program. JoAnna started with a photograph of a barrel cactus and messed around with it. I love, in particular, the play of the soft watercolor-y textures, achieved through Photoshop blending modes, with the hard, spiky edges, results of the 3D modeling.
P.G. Meier is a lover of word play. (He taught me such delicacies as “Que se pasa, Calabaza?” and “Hola. Hola. Coka Cola.” and several more such aphorisms that my brain refused to absorb.) I quote his stunning visual wordplay here:
Increasingly in my own work I grow discontented with the flat, single rectangle. So I am attracted to other solutions and presentations. David Alan Boyd’s “Snow on Snow” is one such work where the work is beautifully comprised of the quality of the print on translucent vellum, the light and shadows on the wall, the plexi hanging structure, monofillament lines, and subtle air currents. Much admiration from these quarters.
Then there is my personal search for multi layered solutions.
A fold out book of figure studies and digital photographs. I start by drawing the figures directly into the computer by means of a Wacom tablet (no paper was harmed this process). The drawings were mixed up with my digital photographs, printed on Japanese paper, laminated back to front, cut out (by hand), and bound into a book which opens out to about 15″tall by 24″ deep by about 60″ wide.
Here is a visitor manipulating the transparent pages of my “Tangled” to create her own compositions. This book also started in the figure drawing studio, but the pages were printed on transparent film the way I saw them in the Photoshop layers, and they are meant to be turned.
There were so many other fine works by both luminaries and garden variety digital artists — 49 in all — that I cannot cover them all in this post. If it is at all possible, you should make the trip to see the show. This is one for the history books…Really. It will move your perceptions of digital art to new dimensions. The show runs until September 9.
230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma
In the Historic Railroad Station
Center Hours: 12-4 pm
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays