April 12, 2004
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Issue #5: Fire, Noise & Punch; Watercolor Jungle; & Houses of Spirit
An e-magazine published by Silicon Valley Open Studios.
Fire, Noise and Punch New York born artist Marjorie Law is an
abstract expressionist painter with exuberance for life and a love of
nature. Her Collection 2004 artwork, Heartbreak on the
Hudson No. 2 clearly communicates a passionate response to the
September 11th tragedy in New York City.
New York born artist Marjorie Law is an abstract expressionist painter with exuberance for life and a love of nature. Her Collection 2004 artwork, Heartbreak on the Hudson No. 2 clearly communicates a passionate response to the September 11th tragedy in New York City.
Watercolor Jungle Nature’s alluring whisper captured Brenda
Mills’ heart, drawing her into lush realms fit only for the eyes of an
artist. Not once has she turned back from her romance with the milieu,
painting instead with dedication, her interactions captured in bold
watercolor for the world to share her pleasures.
Nature’s alluring whisper captured Brenda Mills’ heart, drawing her into lush realms fit only for the eyes of an artist. Not once has she turned back from her romance with the milieu, painting instead with dedication, her interactions captured in bold watercolor for the world to share her pleasures.
Issue #5: Fire, Noise & Punch; Watercolor Jungle; & Houses of Spirit
New York born artist Marjorie Law is an abstract expressionist painter with exuberance for life and a love of nature. She’s no novice when it comes to painting, and she speaks with confidence about her art, what she likes to paint and how she approaches her work. Marjorie finds freedom through the abstract method, which takes her away from recognizable subject matter and offers her easy passage into the magical world where she enjoys herself in moments of painterly abandon. Marjorie says she enters her paintings through movement --the same movement she uses to create her abstract compositions. She becomes intimately involved with her work and finds romance in color, texture, shape, and space. She is drawn to the vitality of curvilinear arcs and circles that, in her opinion, relate to the element of air. All of these qualities are portrayed in her works.
Marjorie Law's thirty years of experience include a lengthy list of group exhibitions, published articles, lectures, and professional memberships. Her affiliation with Silicon Valley Open Studios (SVOS) goes back to its original inception. She is pleased when she says, "SVOS provides an opportunity for artists to share their art, be seen, and meet new people." She calls herself gregarious, and speaks with a warm Irish charm as she explains her most recent exhibition at San Francisco’s HANG Gallery came about because her work was seen in an SVOS publication.
Heartbreak on the Hudson No. 2 is Marjorie's award winning abstract, mixed-media painting, selected for Collection 2004. The piece clearly communicates a passionate response to the September 11th tragedy in New York City. "That's my city," affirms Marjorie. "That's where I grew up, and after I saw the media images over and over, I was compelled to paint my emotions --with honesty and truth." The result was not just one painting, but a body of work Marjorie calls The New York Series. Through it, she's learned to trust her senses and intuition over her intellect, allowing her feelings, not her mind, to dictate the series’ content. Heartbreak on the Hudson No. 2, in particular, is about disintegration and reconstruction. Marjorie painted it with a texture-rich surface that sizzles with movement.
Dan Keegan, Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Art, juried Marjorie’s Heartbreak on the Hudson No.2, saying, "Abstract expressionism continues to hold my attention when it is done with explosive freedom. [The piece] has that quality --fire, noise and punch; but also sensitivity, movement and rhythm that work together very nicely." Marjorie’s reaction to this statement was pure joy. She said no one ever "got it" that succinctly. She said Dan Keegan actually saw and felt everything she intended, "He really got it!"
Marjorie’s studio is meticulous, bright and orderly. Her New York series hangs on the walls evenly spaced, making bold, dramatic statements. Energetic and courageous brush strokes sweep across her compositions. Marjorie openly discusses the techniques she uses to create such moving works, saying, "I enjoy the slip and slide texture of the paint; fluidity is the key to my expression." This comes across clearly in Heartbreak on the Hudson No. 2 with its remarkable motion and surface-treatment.
Both her education as a surgical nurse and her degree in ancient history have influenced Marjorie’s work. As a nurse, she became fascinated with biomorphic forms and microorganisms. Inspired by their filmy transparency, she began using diaphanous layers in her own pieces. Similarly, the study of ancient history caused her to think of time as a cyclical entity and to incorporate that idea into her work. "Time spirals back on itself," Marjorie explains, pointing to the spiraling motion in her artwork.
Intimate involvement characterizes Marjorie's feelings about her art. She values the unique expression of the individual artist "Art need not have social content in order to have meaning,” she explains. “The fullness I create is a search for truth, and that truth is not always beautiful." Abstract expressionism gives order and significance to her life experiences. Her work is testimony to the fact that she was there, and it helps her to know who she is and how she relates to humanity, nature and the universe.
Marjorie Law's art is tuned to the fullness of life; its repetitions, resurrections, rebirths, rhythms, cycles and seasons. She marvels at the inherent resolve of all living organisms as they sustain life. She applauds the energy and resiliency of the human spirit, something she shares with her viewers from the personal, sacred place where she uses raw emotion—as she rendered eloquently in Heartbreak on the Hudson No. 2.
Nature’s alluring whisper captured Brenda Mills’ heart, drawing her into lush realms fit only for the eyes of an artist. Not once has she turned back from her romance with the milieu, painting instead with dedication, her interactions captured in bold watercolor for the world to share her pleasures. She devotes most of her time building layer upon layer of thick watercolor paint onto canvas to create the perfect piece. “I’ve always used watercolor in a thicker way. I try to avoid the painterly style,” Brenda says, referring to the washed out appearance of some artwork in the same medium. Brenda describes her own art as Contemporary Realism—a blend of abstract painting and realistic representation.
Brenda Mills lives in an ideal location, her beautiful home sitting on top of a hill in Soquel, Santa Cruz County. The vast panorama of the California coast serves as the scenic backdrop to her upstairs studio where golden sunlight streams through her huge bay windows, filling the room with a heavenly glow. It invites you to pull up a chair next to the easel, stick a paintbrush in one hand, palette in the other, and fly to exotic lands where nature and imagination collide. This is what Brenda does for thirty hours each week, in addition to her part-time psychotherapy practice.
During her travels, Brenda visits vineyards with sketchbook and camera to grab hold of the perfect moment and relay a pure transmission from nature onto paper. In this way, Brenda created a series of watercolor imagery depicting clusters of ripened fruit, suspended among the deep red leaves; each moist grape a vibrant purple; ready to burst its succulent juice, tempting the viewer to reach out and pluck a tasty orb.
Brenda’s exploration into the watercolor jungle begins not on canvas, but in hours of design. This is the fun part—the planning stages of her art. When an idea knocks on her door, she invites it inside and works with it by sketching it out on plain paper. Then, if it’s acceptable, she transfers the freshly created design onto Archie’s 300lb watercolor paper via a graphite sheet. This is important to her as an artist. She says plainly, “Everyone needs to learn how to draw before they paint.”
The marketplace is one of many locations for Brenda’s inspiration. She’ll see a painting hanging somewhere, and she’ll notice light striking it at a certain angle. Gleefully, Brenda explains, “I get excited and must get home to sketch ideas from the experience. Sometimes I’ll start three to four paintings at the same time.”
Her career as a watercolor painter began at Cabrillo College. Dave McGuire, Brenda’s first watercolor teacher, introduced her to the medium, and she fell in love with it. Subsequently, she went to San Jose State and took more painting and drawing classes. In 1981, Brenda earned her bachelor’s degree with a double major in Fine Art and Psychology. She pursued architectural design along the way, which lead to freelance illustration and design. Brenda did this throughout graduate school, and six years later, she completed her studies in Psychology, receiving her MA at John F. Kennedy University.
An accomplished watercolorist, Brenda’s creations appeared in Splash 5 publication, Artist Magazine, and galleries and shows in the Western United States. Presently, her paintings are on display at the Aquarius Gallery in Cambria, California. Among her many achievements; she won best of show at the Hillcrest Annual International Art Competition in 1997 and received honorable mention the following year at the National Watercolor Society Members’ Show.
Judges for Collection 2004 selected a piece from her watercolor nature series entitled Quiet Turbulence. The piece impressed juror Grace Gibson. It vividly portrays a white dove perched on the edge of her nest, overlooking three speckled, powdered-blue eggs. The nest itself sits on top of a thin branch, while a swirling tempest of maroons, violets, turquoises, blacks, and gradients of raw sienna are about to erupt in the background. Right below the nest, however, a yellow-white light seems to push the oppressive clouds back. Says Grace Gibson: “This artist creates a beautiful composition by the placement of the forms, and the dark and light colors, in a way that prompts the viewer to keep looking.”
Being one of the artists of Collection 2004 was a surprise for Brenda. “I’m honored to be part of the group. This gives me a sense of validation for all the hard work I’ve done.” As for Silicon Valley Open Studios, this is her first year, although, she participated in Santa Cruz Open Studios for the past twelve years. By the end of 2004, she plans to leave the field of Psychology behind and immerse herself into art full-time, where she says she belongs.
As she works in her home near the beach in Half Moon Bay, Ellen Vogel’s artwork takes the shape of small houses. Climbing a staircase and entering through a doorway into a glass-enclosed porch full of healthy, red-blossomed succulents, one can’t escape the feeling that each and every detail has been attended to in this inviting space.
Several of Ellen’s house-sculptures are displayed in the various rooms of her abode. In the kitchen, sitting on top of a cabinet, is one such piece. Ellen calls it “Interconnected.” It is made up of two thirteen-inch house frames wrapped in metal wire. They have hundreds more wavy wires flowing between them, connecting one to the other. “Interconnected,” like Ellen’s other sculptures, is a metaphor for her body. She says that her artwork helps her to be aware of the “thoughts occupying her mind …on a deep level,” adding that it reveals “what [her] body is holding.” In this way, Ellen’s work is a way of praying and being “attentive to what is right in front [of her].”
As one moves into Ellen’s living room, the person will see several more house- sculptures, among them is a square post, measuring about seven inches square and four feet high. She constructed this piece shortly after September 11th, not realizing at the time what sad feelings she had about the event. The post – reminiscent of the World Trade Center Towers - is painted black, and on its top sits a small black house-shaped frame made from mirrors and covered with black silk fabric. The silk is loosely woven so that if someone looks closely, the reflections from the mirrors underneath are visible. Perhaps these shrouded reflections symbolize a veil of sadness covering the spirit of a people.
Prayer to the Earth, another of Ellen’s sculptures, was selected for Collections 2004. The piece makes use of small tree branches for the frame, and raw, unfired, red clay for the floor. On top of this is a carefully placed dry leaf. Covering the entire structure is a white gauze fabric brushed with liquid clay to give it a reddish earthy tone. The idea of fragility and impermanence - the changeability of our lives - comes through here.
The place where Ellen actually creates her work is a small room in the basement of the house. The room is completely painted white, has a window on the outside wall, and a wide door opening to the garden. The ceiling is very low, giving it a feeling of a cubbyhole where she can be protected and safe. Here, she has more house-sculptures in progress. One delightful creation is a pair of houses built of four-inch mirrors, inside and outside. The houses face each other; on one is written the word “You,” and the other, “Me.” The viewer sees this inscription reflected back and forth between the two.
Ellen not only has an MFA from JFK University and a BFA from Empire State University of New York, but she studied at San Francisco State University, New York Studio School, California School of Arts and Crafts, and Ithaca College in New York. Her work has been exhibited in many venues, including the Oakland Museum and Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. Currently, she is an art teacher helping children to connect with their creativity by doing art at Ortega Middle School in Pacifica, California, where she received the Mason McDuffie Foundation Teaching Excellence Award in 1996.
The Enso Gallery in Half Moon Bay will be this year’s open studio site for Ellen and four other artists on May 15th and 16th. It’s a charming and welcoming building complex accommodating not only the gallery, but a yoga studio, art studios and classrooms. The buildings are architecturally rich with attractive patterns and textures—one even resembles a greenhouse, which will be the exhibit space for her sculptures.