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ART | SIGHTS

New and Improved

Ojai Valley Museum changes location and an offbeat space opens in Ventura.

March 13, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At long last, the new, improved and more centrally located Ojai Valley Museum has opened its doors. Compared to the previous space, languishing in quiet, dimly lighted obscurity on a side street by the Art Center, the new museum, which opened last month, is a vast improvement.

Clearly, the focus in this space is on Ojai's history and culture, but the first exhibition, "Heart of the Wild," features art about animals.

Between Carlyle Montgomery's lovingly detailed sculptures of animal subjects and Cherice Reynolds' pleasant paintings of same, this is a field day for the animal kingdom.

An artist who has spent most of his life in Ojai, Montgomery creates sculpture that pays respect to our animal kin. Sometimes, it is with an eye to the struggle in the food chain, as in "Survival," an Italian marble piece depicting an owl preying on a snake.

"Sea Ray," an elegant soapstone piece, accentuates the graceful contours of the curled underwater beast.

In the museum's courtyard sits Montgomery's massive homage to the condor, a giant sculpture set on its side to emphasize the majestic wing span.

A gift to the museum, the piece, fittingly, pays tribute to a native endangered creature.

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Meanwhile Department: Over at the Ojai Art Center, last month's conceptually driven "BIG/Little" show has given way to this month's "Indoor-Outdoor." This is, comparatively, a more scattershot, throw-'m at- the- wall- and- see- what-sticks type of group show. But a fair amount of the work does, in fact, stick.

As for the "outdoor" aspect of the show, Ojai's sizable art community boasts a strong landscape-art contingent and is well-represented here by such artists as Bert Collins, Diane Severtson and Doris Scott.

Tom Hardcastle, who has previously shown works with an urban realist bent, is in more of a pastoral mood in this show, and Jennie Scott exhibits an evocative cloud-scape, "After the Storm."

A blast of justifiable civic pride comes courtesy of Joanne Caldwell's "Ojai Option--The Other Path." In her painting, an inviting pathway is cut through an orange grove, symbolizing all that is right with the world, according to Ojai standards.

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Art-Where-You-Find-It Department: From the makeshift-gallery contingent comes the latest in Ventura's offbeat art spaces, upstairs at Natalie's Fine Threads in Ventura. The space's inaugural installation last month featured Julie Knudson, and the current show is by Gauvin.

An African-American artist who humorously deals with social/racial issues and his own turbulent past, Gauvin is a collage and assemblage artist in a broad sense. Poignant autobiographical details are revealed, as with "Portrait of My Father," a painting of an easy chair, slippers, a newspaper, and the words: "my father never sat here."

"Hair Revolution" finds heads of black dolls affixed to a canvas painted with exaggerated Afros and plastic combs and a hair dryer. "Someone to Watch Over Me" is a pop-culture-choked collage, with references to Hollywood, Motown and other black and white paradigms.

In the shop's front window is a piece that shows a mock-vintage advertisement, reading "America's Favorite Bras . . . IS KILLING US." Here, Gauvin flings playful Ebonics into the face of white culture. His "Self-Portrait" is a paste-up piece marked with the sobering phrase "Broken Beyond Repair." From the evidence here, art is a method, however fleeting, of repair and renewal.

BE THERE

Sculpture by Carlyle Montgomery and paintings by Cherice Reynolds, through May at the Ojai Valley Museum, 130 W. Ojai Ave. in Ojai. Gallery hours: 1-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.; 640-1342.

"Indoor-Outdoor," through March 26 at the Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St. Gallery hours: noon-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.; 640-1387.

Gauvin, through March 22 at Natalie's Fine Threads, 596 E. Main St. in Ventura. Gallery hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun.; 643-8854.

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