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4 Artists' Work Arises From Ashes

February 02, 1989|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

If you think your office is a mess, you should see where Ventura Arts Council Director Maureen Davidson works.

The white walls of the council's Momentum Gallery are covered with the remains of a Ventura house destroyed by fire. On the gray carpet are 16 tons of gravel.

"It's going to be hard to walk," Davidson said after the multimedia work in hardware, ashes and other debris--entitled "Transformations: Four Artists"--was completed Saturday at the gallery.

Ventura sculptor Paul Lindhard; his former students, Robert Catalusci and Steve Knauff, and his neighbor, Dan Layman, created the work in a marathon four-day effort.

For Davidson, the artwork is worth the inconvenience. She said the display of smoke-damaged wallpaper and blackened window frames, doors and hutches is Ventura County's first "art installation"--art that includes the exhibition space.

"I hope this exhibit will cause one to question one's environment and wonder, 'What is art?' " she said.

It did.

Sympathy to Outrage

One of the gallery's downtown neighbors complained about oil leaking from a burnt-out 1950 Cadillac, which is part of "Transformations" but outside the gallery. Visitors offered reactions ranging from sympathy to outrage.

"We've had so many people come in and ask, 'Did the Arts Council burn down?' " gallery worker Liz Stuart said.

It burned with creative energy, to hear the artists tell it.

"There's something gratifying about making a silk purse out of a sow's ear," Lindhard said. "It seems like much more of an accomplishment than making a beautiful ring from a diamond."

The effort did not go unrecognized.

"I put in that dead bolt," said Claudio Landeros, who was gesturing toward the front door of the house that he and his wife Magdelino had bought in 1987 and had hoped to move into later this year.

November Fire

Its frame, the lock and a brass doorknob remained intact after the November fire on Dubbers Street near Lindhard's sculpture supply house and Layman's auto salvage yard. Investigators think that squatters started the fire.

A demolition team hired by Landeros initially prevented the artists from removing the house's remains last Tuesday. But Catalusci, a sculptor who likes to fire his wood images "to give them spirit," and Knauff, who has erected artworks similar to "Transformations" in the San Francisco Bay Area, talked the workers into letting them take what they could in an hour.

The artists' efforts so impressed the demolition team that they were allowed to continue, Catalusci said. "They were like, 'Hey, wow, we should hire you guys.' "

Many of the 50 or so visitors at Saturday's opening were equally appreciative.

Runs Through Feb. 27

"I feel like I'm in art," one man said about the exhibition, which runs through Feb. 27.

Sporting fur coats and carrying glasses of champagne, they trudged through the gravel to ponder the patterns in the burnt wood, which struck Ventura attorney Patricia J. Olney as similar to "the fake Persian lamb coat I got to go to Alaska."

The same group will be invited to return to the gallery later this month after Ventura composer Jeff Kaiser and Simi Valley graphics artist and echo-chamber expert Ted Killian compose music based on "Transformations."

Kaiser said the composition will probably involve electronic trumpet and baby toys.

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