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Keeping a Legacy Alive : Students of Alex Vilumsons are featured in exhibition dedicated to the respected teacher.

April 14, 1995|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times.

WOODLAND HILLS — Sometimes a teacher knows how to bring out the best in his students. Sometimes he even changes the course of their lives.

This could be said of Alex Vilumsons, who taught painting and drawing classes at Everywoman's Village in Van Nuys for 22 years. He died in March after a lengthy illness, but in testament to his teaching abilities some of his students now lead his classes at The Village, passing on his ideas about the process of making art.

At Artspace Gallery, in the exhibit "Canvas, Clay & Wood," one can see the work of a few of the artists who came under his wing. Presented by Everywoman's Village and Artist Co-op 7--an offshoot of Vilumsons' classes that formed in 1989 to find public exhibit space, and now has almost 60 members--the show displays about 60 paintings and drawings by eight co-op members and 20 vessels of wood and clay by three non-members, two of them teachers at The Village.

The show is dedicated to Vilumsons and includes a display of photographs and these words highlighting some of what he espoused: "We do exercises to become outrageous, but in time the outrageous becomes normality. You must let go of all the conditioning. Once you let go, you eliminate your 'phony self' and the process begins. The process to find yourself."

"This group is not just an artists' group," said Laura Selwyn, executive director of Everywoman's Village. It also fosters "growth experience and personal introspection beyond just doing art. It's exciting working with this group because of the way they interact and the co-op spirit."

Co-op member Alli Farkas, whose mood-filled paintings of the lotus leaves of Echo Park Lake are on view, agrees. She already had a bachelor's degree in studio art when she started taking classes with Vilumsons.

"What I did not have during my four college years was guidance and inspiration," she said. "The Village provided an opportunity to study art in depth for my own enrichment. . . . As a bonus, I received unconditional support from my fellow students, many of whom were already accomplished painters."

Work in the show by Farkas and seven other members indicates that this collective approach to learning and making art nevertheless encourages them to go their separate ways.

Helen Kim uses ink on canvas in her "Moon Dreamer" series of abstract yet deeply human figures, which reflects her recent attraction to the moon. "I'm always thinking about energy" and looking for symbols that convey a sense of that energy, she said. "Suddenly the moon caught me, and I can't stop that."

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Correspondingly, she captures in ink a dynamic grace about a friend of hers in "My Friend, Trudy," and the sweet affection between "Mr. & Mrs. Jaeger."

Yasmine Abdullah takes a more realistic approach to a room in her oil "Chair With Three Legs on One Side," which depicts the chair and an old sewing machine by a window, among other things. Yet, the slightly skewed perspective of the interior, coupled with a nostalgic aura about it, make this painting seem more like an edgy dream than a straightforward reality.

The ink-on-paper drawings of twosomes by Carole Gillin reflect her affection for a classical approach to portraiture. But their simplicity of line shows her respect for the more recent minimalist tradition.

Dorothy Ghose employs the bold colors of her husband's native India to convey the bright spirit of Indian women in such oil paintings as "Rajasthan Morn."

Complementing the co-op members' paintings and drawings are finely made vessels in wood, by Brad Stave, and clay, by Paul Bradford and Joan Rapoport. Bradford and Rapoport teach ceramics classes at The Village.

Rapoport's earthy, elegant "Wandering Ficus" and "Copper Fern" vases--glazed and fired using the raku firing technique--are "tall enough for gladioluses and long-stem roses," she said. "I take a functional attitude toward pottery. If you have it in your house and use it, you expand the feeling of it. I think (using) fine art changes the quality of your life."

Additionally, the co-op will honor Vilumsons' memory with two children's activity days in the gallery. On Saturday, storyteller Amy Seawater will tell stories and inspire children to create their own interpretations of her tales using painting and drawing techniques.

On April 22, dancer Cecile Miranda will perform a mask dance, using a variety of masks to change personalities. After her performance, children can participate in making a sculpture with some of the show artists.

Vilumsons liked to "bring the different art forms together for the community," said artist Carole Gillin.

Other artists in the show are Mary Andrews, Jenik Cook and Jeanne Hahn.

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Where and When

What: "Canvas, Clay & Wood."

Location: Artspace Gallery, 21800 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills.

Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Validated parking. Ends April 28.

Also: Children's activity days, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Storyteller Amy Seawater; and 1 to 3 p.m. April 22, modern dancer Cecile Miranda. $3 charge to cover art materials.

Call: (818) 716-2786 for general information; (818) 784-1634 for information about children's activity days.

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