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Ventura County culture

November 07, 2002|Josef Woodard | Special to The Times

'Turnbuckle' double takes

A wonderfully idiosyncratic sculptor, Bill McEwen, has a habit of inspiring double takes.

It's not only that his work tends to be a perplexing and intriguing blend of ideas at once raw and rational, funky and technophile. There is also the matter of strange contexts adding fizz to his art, whether with his large public sculpture placed in front of the Ventura Government Center in the mid-'90s or the quirky compound structures fixed to the outside wall of the Buenaventura Gallery. He also had a one-person show there more recently, with sculptural gizmos spreading their metal tentacles around and on the inside walls of the gallery.

McEwen's current cause for pleasant alarm greets the visitor to the Upstairs Gallery at Natalie's Fine Threads. Regulars making the trek upstairs will find the large, audacious piece he calls "Turnbuckle 22: Secondary Triad, Orange, Greens and Violets." If the title sounds like a blend of the scientific, the artistic and the hardware-related, it's for a reason.

Filling, and screwed directly into, the wall at the top of the stairway is a site-specific work full of the usual McEwen elements. Organic-shaped blocks are painted thickly with non-shy colors, and the structure is held together with metal apparatuses, including poles, cables, huge bolts and other implements of construction. It's something to see.

Farther into the gallery, we find smaller pieces, looking Lilliputian by comparison but with the same approach and the same tendency to latch onto the wall of the host art space. Again, McEwen relies on nuts and bolts to do his aesthetic bidding, mixed with conventional surfaces gooped up with paint and a stubborn, admirable insistence on going his own way.

His contrasting gallery mate, Arline Tepper, is a sobering counterweight to his outlandishness and a more conventional sculptor. Her sleek alabaster sculptures blend smooth, sinuous contours and occasional rough textures, pointing up the essential nature of the stone, in a polished state and otherwise.

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Camerata kickoff

The Ojai Camerata has had its ups and downs over the years, with a musical-chair shift of directors, but a will to survive and celebrate chamber music in the area has held the organization in good stead despite the odds. New to the director post is Wynant Morton, chair of the Cal Lutheran music department, who will lead a premiere-stocked program this weekend to open "A Season of Firsts."

On the program are new works by Ojai-based Gregory Haggard as well as Leslie Hogan and Linda Holland, both of whom are behind the "Current Sounds" new music series in Santa Barbara and Ventura.

These pieces refer, in some way, to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2002.

Yet another new work on the program is "Life Rounded With Sleep," by Connecticut-based composer Kevin Isaacs.

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Centennial nod

Richard Rodgers, the great American songsmith whose work with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein gave us a trove of classics, would have turned 100 this year.

It's a ripe time for a toast, including here on the Ventura County scene, courtesy of the Backlot Theater.

For the occasion, the Thousand Oaks company is serving up a lesser-known late-period Rodgers musical, "Two by Two," a seriocomic take on the Noah's Ark saga. Based on Clifford Odets' "The Flowering Peach," the musical features lyrics by Martin Charmin and book by Peter Stone.

This production is directed by Paul Marquie, with musical direction by Nancy Monson. The Noah in question is Don Pearlman, with key roles also going to Eleanor Brand, Jim Harlow and Steve Perren.

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Event details

'Stone and Steel': Sculptures by Bill McEwen and Arline Tepper, Upstairs Gallery, Natalie's Fine Threads, 596 E. Main St., Ventura. Ends Nov. 23. Gallery hours: Tuesday.-Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (805) 643-8854.

Ojai Camerata: Saturday at 8 p.m., Church of Religious Science, 101 S. Laurel St., Ventura; Sunday at 3 p.m., First Baptist Church, 930 Grand Ave., Ojai. $12 general, $9 senior citizens and students. (805) 289-4890

'Two by Two': Backlot Theater, 1408 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. Ends Nov. 24. $14 general, $12 senior citizens and students. (805) 987-6039.

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