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Restless Inventiveness

Two painters present a wide-ranging array of their works at Ojai center.


A happy hodgepodge of images greets the visitor to the Ojai Center for the Arts this month. If we didn't know better, this might seem more like a group show than a two-person exhibition with its variations on mostly floral and landscape themes.

That shows the stylistic restlessness of both Diane Severtson and Arlene Origoni. Most important, however, their work conveys a conspicuous love of art making.

Not all of the show impresses, and some curatorial editing would have benefited the whole, but plenty of works are worth a look.

Severtson often heeds the allure and visual rhythm of patterns, whether the syncopated field of flowers in "Poppy Surprise" or the multicolored succession of umbrellas down a winding road in "The Journey."

Then, she turns toward a rougher painterly, damn-the-details approach for "Impressions of Spring," as if trying, in paint, to capture the vulnerability of vernal energy and the transitional, regenerative buzz of spring. "'Lake Casitas" follows the same vein, with its impressionistic splash play of colors.

"Hothouse," conversely, is a simple and admiring vision, a nicely rendered, point-blank image of a ripe tomato.

Ripeness, indeed, is the subject. Severtson's "Wyeth's Window"--a nod to Andrew Wyeth's brooding quietude--is something else again. It's an introspective depiction of an interior looking out, the compositional sense of which is just off-center enough to intrigue the eye and heighten awareness of that interior space.

A similar effect is imparted through Origoni's small, deceptively low-key painting "The Bed." A brownish palette and a tight view of said subject, neatly fitted into the composition, evokes a sense of both comfort and claustrophobia.

Generally, Origoni's work is even more all over the map, from the poster-like painting of seals swimming underwater, "Water Folly," to the understated still-life with a bowl of pears, cheekily titled "Love at First Bite" or the image of fruit hiding shyly behind leaves in "Oranges."

Her best work in this show bears little resemblance to any other in the gallery: "Tulips" is a large painting that approaches its subject with a concurrent objective coolness and an expressive warmth.


The composition is laid out on a loose grid, with evidence of under-painting and an overall analytical quality hinting at an art-about-art sensibility.

However open to interpretation its conception, at face value, the painting is what its title promises, a picture of tulips, but with artistic imagination twirling around.

In the display case outside the gallery, we find a wonderful bunch of junk . . . junk art, that is. Carla Abeleira White's group of funkily winsome sculptures is called "The Castaways," and consists of goofy figures fashioned from twisted, rusted wire and other objects rescued from oblivion and/or landfill.

Like much of Abeleira White's work, resourcefulness and a light-hearted sense of invention meet, conspiring toward a wacky cast of rusty characters.


"Passages," art by Arlene Origoni and Diane Severtson, through Sept. 27 at Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St., in Ojai. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tue.-Sun.; 646-0117.

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