Photographer Susan Cohen Byrne, left, and painter Rebecca Ryland spent the past two years working on pieces that will be shown in their exhibit, “Interpretations of Place,” which opens Jan. 6 at the Davis Art Center’s Tsao Gallery. Courtesy photo

Photographer Susan Cohen Byrne, left, and painter Rebecca Ryland spent the past two years working on pieces that will be shown in their exhibit, “Interpretations of Place,” which opens Jan. 6 at the Davis Art Center’s Tsao Gallery. Courtesy photo


Photographer’s, painter’s work shown side by side

By From page A3 | December 28, 2011

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What: “Interpretations of Place,” exhibit at the Tsao Gallery

When: Jan. 6-Feb. 2, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Mondays-Thursdays; 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Fridays; and 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Saturdays (beginning Jan. 14). Second Friday ArtAbout reception, 7-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13

Where: Davis Art Center, 1919 F St.

Admission: Free

Art and serendipity brought together photographer Susan Cohen Byrne and painter Rebecca Ryland, who, in January, will debut their works in an exhibit at the Davis Art Center’s Tsao Gallery.

“Interpretations of Place” will showcase the friends’ personal interpretations of Yolo County landscapes, many created while working side by side. It runs from Jan. 6 to Feb. 2 at the Art Center, 1919 F St. A Second Friday ArtAbout reception is planned from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13.

Cohen Byrne and Ryland first met in a quilting group several years ago. They ran into each other again more recently at Yolo Arts’ “Art & Ag” outings, where artists can meet up and capture local agricultural landscapes in their mediums of choice.

Their friendship grew steadily through their participation in “Art & Ag,” but it wasn’t until Cohen Byrne took a trip to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art that they began their creative collaboration.

“There was a show at the MoMA with Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe, and it was these side-by-sides of what he saw and what she saw,” said Cohen Byrne, a former photographer’s assistant who had just begun exploring the art form again.

Coincidentally, both she and Ryland had agreed to print their respective works on greeting cards to benefit a Capay Valley farm. One day, they caught a glimpse of each other’s cards — and found the images to be strikingly similar.

Cohen Byrne, fresh from her MoMA experience, said she had an “ah-ha” moment when she saw the greeting cards.

“I looked at the cards and three out of the four are the exact same shot as my photographs, and I’d just been to this MoMA exhibit,” she said. On a whim, she asked the Davis Art Center’s executive director, Erie Vitiello, if she and Ryland could show their works in the Tsao Gallery.

“I was intrigued, just as they were, by the juxtaposition of similar themes in two different mediums,” Vitiello said. “So I told them just keep working and let’s see what you come up with.”

That was almost two years ago.

“We had time to create lots more pieces,” Ryland said. “We started going out together to paint and take photos, which was great fun.”

Despite both artists having found inspiration in similar scenes in the local landscape, the resulting artworks are not mirror images. In fact, the show is truly a study in how one artist — or any person — might see and capture the same subject matter in a unique way.

Cohen Byrne and Ryland said they want gallery visitors to take the time to notice the subtleties and variations in their works.

“I hope that they will notice the difference between painting and photography in terms of emphasis or even choice of subject matter,” said Ryland, a professional painter. “I hope that they will, in terms of my work, take a look at how material makes a difference — oil versus watercolor — and how those materials do what they do.”

Cohen Byrne learned film photography while working alongside a professional photographer when she was in her 20s. She started experimenting with digital photography about eight years ago, snapping shots of her surroundings in the Capay Valley, where she lives.

She said she wants her photos to give people a glimpse of the bounty and natural beauty of Yolo County’s farms and countryside.

“I hope my photographs will spur people to take nice, long drives and look at the landscape, and also to get interested in farms,” she said. “This is really quite a miraculous place.”

— Crystal Lee is the publicity and program manager for the Davis Art Center. Her column is published monthly.

Crystal Lee

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