“More Than Landscapes” is the title of the new exhibit opening Wednesday at the Pence Gallery, 212 D St., that highlights wonderful landscapes and still-life works by Michael Mikolon and Lauren Brandy.
Mikolon is one of those truly graceful artists, whose work looks both effortlessly rendered and carefully constructed. Preferring to work outside, painting or sketching directly from nature, his watercolor studies of rural scenes often narrow your vision to one or two objects — a boat, a barn, or a tree in bloom. For this show, he’s included more drawn elements to define forms and give them a sense of motion.
Brandy’s paintings may be familiar to some; she’s been participating as an artist in the Second Friday ArtAbout receptions. I’m often stuck at trying to characterize an artist’s painting style, but the one adjective that I always think of with her work is lush. Although she often paints on a tiny format, her brushwork feels big. She applies the paint thickly — often reminding me of Wayne Thiebaud’s creamy textures in his still-life paintings.
Her subjects, much like Mikolon’s, are often a solitary object, such as a shoe, a pomegranate or another fruit. Each ordinary item truly jumps with life-like color. After taking a break from art-making for 15 years to pursue other interests, Brandy recently returned to painting, and we are so glad to have some great examples of her work at the Pence.
On Friday, during our Second Friday ArtAbout reception from 6 to 9 p.m., visitors can meet both artists and enjoy refreshments and wine, courtesy of our exhibit sponsors, the Creative Arts League. Upstairs, we’ll also be doing a free art project inspired by our landscape exhibit, led by volunteers from the National Charity League. Look for more Pence art activities at the Farmers Market on Wednesdays this spring as well, organized by NCL volunteers.
Continuing downstairs is our first juried exhibit focusing on craft, titled “By Hand: Extraordinary Fine Craft in California,” on view through April 5. Featuring 23 artists hand-picked by Julie Muniz, curator of decorative arts at the Oakland Museum, the exhibit offers some truly unusual pieces that reflect an innovative approach to incorporating nontraditional materials.
Although trained as a woodworker, first-place winner Jeff Snell has recently embarked on using colored plexiglass, to create his tables and chests. His “China Table” bears all the decorative signs of an 18th century English side table, but its transparent blue color sets it in the realm of the modern. Especially when the sun hits it, the shadows cast are really amazing. Also not to be missed is his ornate jewelry chest, in which two shades of plexiglass overlap to create a third color.
More traditional approaches to craft include some great examples of woodworking by Joshua Rutherford and Matt Trethic. Rutherford highlights contrasts in color by pairing woods that have a distinctly different grain and hue. His piece “Light & Dark” involves two organic shapes, one out of black walnut, one from honey locus, intertwined by loops of wood. The piece could be read more symbolically as yin and yang, or male and female.
Trethic’s work is crafted out of exotic hardwoods, and his early training in building wooden boats transfers to his careful shaping of his three lidded boxes. Be sure to see how he emphasizes the grain of these woods to evoke objects like faces.
Save the date for our 22nd annual Pence Gallery Garden Tour, set for Sunday, May 5, from noon to 5 p.m. Always a great community event for those who love strolling through gorgeous gardens, the Garden Tour raises funds to support the Pence’s exhibit and education programs.
For those of you who enjoy mature gardens, this year’s tour features seven outdoor living environments in the El Macero area. Plein-air artists will be painting onsite to offer their views of the gardens. Visitors that day can bid on certificates and items at our silent auction, or sample complimentary refreshments.
Tickets are $20 for Pence members and $25 for nonmembers, and go on sale the first week of April at the gallery, Newsbeat, Redwood Barn and Beyond the Garden Gate. Don’t wait to get them at the event, as ticket prices go up to $28 on May 5.
— Natalie Nelson is executive director and curator of the Pence Gallery. Her column is published monthly.