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Washes of Color

Ojai Center for Arts and G. Childress Gallery have spotlight on watercolors.

November 11, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Watercolor is the thing in the Ojai art scene at the moment.

Lovers of the medium can saunter from the large group show at the Ojai Center for the Arts--the 10th annual membership competition for the California Gold Coast Watercolor Society--over to the G. Childress Gallery, where Suzannah Sale shows her bold, if traditional, watercolor wares, among other work.

Watercolor artists are everywhere, working behind closed doors or out in the field, plein-air like. The passionate, skilled ones bring something new to the medium, which is sometimes given short shrift in the art world.

Much of the art at the Ojai center clings happily to the established watercolorist's turf of landscape and still-life. But there are exceptions, and those are the ones that tend to grab attention.

JoEllen Stevens' "The Bather" depicts the pinkish forms of two lounging sunbathers in a backyard, which ties in with Carol Simson's ongoing intrigue with the shapes of plastic patio chairs--profundity hiding in the trivial.

Shadows, coincidentally, become a running theme in a few of the pieces here, challenging the watercolorist's eye and hand. Joseph Stauffer's "Afternoon Shadows" finds its expressive heart in the mottled shade on a large rock, and Paula Odor's "Shadows" is a detailed view of shadow-licked eucalyptus leaves.

"Girl with Red Apples," by Lena Savage, goes in a different direction than the other works here, with an illustrative, storybook charm, while David A. Deyell's "California Redwoods" pays homage to its subject not with detail but with impressionist suggestion. Taking advantage of a natural attribute of the medium, he allows his colors to seep and soak, with washes of color cohering into a semiabstract view of an endangered plant species.

DETAILS

The 10th annual Gold Coast Watercolor Society show, through Nov. 28 at the Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tue.-Sun.; 646-0117.

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Sale art: Sale's show is also a fond farewell. After living in Ojai for many years, she is heading off to Santa Fe, N.M. Her work here breaks no particular new ground, content to rely on the old standards of color, balance and compositional poise in her watercolor paintings of flowers, fruits (pomegranates, a favorite) and ceramic vessels. But, like any good still-life or portrait painter, she brings a material appreciation for her subjects.

She even invites her subjects to sit in the gallery. There they are, orchids and pomegranates, the stars of pieces such as "Two Best Friends" and "The Three Stooges" (she's not immune to goofy titles).

But Sale departs from the norm in her non-watercolor art. Her monoprints, especially the "Ghost Series," combine impressions of leaves with abstract stuff. These hint at an exploration of the inner life of plants.

There is a disparity between Sale's traditional watercolor approach and a gentle experimentalism in her other art, one that she may someday connect.

DETAILS

Suzannah Sale, through Nov. 20 at the G. Childress Gallery, 319 E. El Roblar, in Ojai. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Sat.; 640-1387.

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Josef Woodard, who writes about art and music, can be reached by e-mail at joeinfo@aol.com.

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