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Water Everywhere

On display are paintings of harbor scenes and works giving illusion of fluidity.

March 03, 2001|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Potatoes, boats and rustic farm structures are a few of Mickey Short's favorite things, at least in terms of subjects waiting to be rendered. Short's watercolor work, now on display at the Buenaventura Gallery, enforces and embraces the medium's tradition of light, unpretentious subjects, and she does them up in an appealing, spare style.

She calls her current show "Casual Water," a suitable image for her several harbor scenes. Here, Short's loose and airy way with imagery evokes a sense of leisure and meditation more than it does standard brand tourist art fare.

The show itself goes beyond harbor life. Still-life rears its head in works like "The Basics," an essay on onions, potatoes, a paring knife and rumpled fabric, and "Cauliflower and Company," a meeting of the vegetable and glass vessels.

In the nostalgic "Fillmore Train," the bottom half of the painting is left white, giving it a sense of visual breathing room. And in "Stanton Ranch Outbuilding," as in other rural scenes, Short finds more grist for her artistic mill, which seems to be the celebration of realities just outside the urban hurly-burly.

In the outer gallery's rotating artworks, one of the standouts this month is Christine Beirne's "Contemplation." The painting is a portrait of a hunched-over figure, compressed into the composition and basking in the quality of the painting's title.

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DETAILS

"Casual Water," watercolors by Mickey Short, through March 10 at Buenaventura Gallery, 700 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; 648-1235.

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Water Art, Cont.: Water themes of very different colors are on view at the new exhibitions at Santa Barbara's Contemporary Arts Forum. The forum's shows are always worth a visit when in Santa Barbara, or even, in themselves, a reasonable motivation to go north.

In the main gallery, New York-based sculptor Elizabeth Turk's "A Memorial to Nature I" mixes its metaphors and media in beautiful and strange ways. Pristine white marble sculptures are scattered about the semi-dark space, transforming the gallery into an enigmatic atmosphere.

In some of her works, large white rectangular slabs have an illusory appearance of liquid behavior--of ripples and drips rising dramatically from the base.

The viewer is presented with a paradox, hard concrete material looking smooth and fluid, like milk in suspended animation.

Other pieces, in her "Wings" series, are complex contoured forms that ambiguously suggest plant and animal life. Scattered casually and bathed in spotlights, these forms could be mutant entities taking shape, or, given the show's "memorial" reference, the result of nature, distorted and upended. The sum effect of the installation implies a dream awakened, a private world where sculpture, nature and imagination converge.

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A complementary show in the Norton Gallery, off to the side, also makes reference to the character of watery imagery. Most of Terri Friedman's new work involves acrylic, Mylar, plexiglass and other nontraditional materials with seeping, dripping washes of color on transparent backgrounds. In a way, it is reminiscent of Morris Louis' goopy abstract paintings, except that the point here is not where painting can go, but how modern materials can yield to poetic intent.

A perceptual playfulness is at work in Friedman's art, with titles like "Falling Up," "Knock-Kneed," and "Source in the Clouds." In the last piece, four layers of Duralar are variously treated to imply a woozy depth perception and a multilayered effect that strains toward a quality of sculpture rather than painting.

The literal centerpiece of her show is something completely different: a "breathing" kinetic sculpture called "Cross Eyed," with plastic bags attached to a dual air pump. Its sense of inhalation and exhalation, set up in hypnotic rhythms, gives the show added airs of both the surreal and the natural.

Also on display are small, mandala-like works by Daniele Imperiale. They are filled with a range of recurring images, including eyes, a heart (the anatomical model, not the Valentine logo) and insects, the symbolism of which are neatly detailed in an accompanying legend on the wall. This likable art is made with a meticulous craft and encoded with wry personal meanings.

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DETAILS

Elizabeth Turk, "A Memorial to Nature I: An Installation"; Daniele Imperiale, "New Beginnings: Paintings"; Terri Friedman, "New Work," through April 14 at Contemporary Arts Forum, upstairs, 653 Paseo Nuevo (corner of Chapala and De La Guerra streets), Santa Barbara. Gallery hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-5pm; Sun., 12-5pm.; 966-5373.

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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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