Dorothy Burston Brown, presently exhibiting her metal “Spirit Houses” (image above) in PMA’s East Gallery, will be speaking about her work this coming Sunday at 2 p.m. Brown’s very small sculptures magically pull us inwards towards questions of the inner soul while at the same time expanding us outwards towards world connection and consciousness. The shadow and the light, balanced.
This presentation is appropriate to the season. Autumn is a time of harvest and increasing shadows. It is now that we look back to see how well we nurtured our spring seedlings. Did we cope productively with the year’s gifts and surprises? Are we walking the path that feeds our soul? When we see art that asks similar questions and presents the possibility of resonating answers, we feel a sense of belonging. We are encouraged to continue our own questing journeys into the darkening season.
Today I looked into Brown’s “Spirit Houses” and smiled. Brown was able to find her spirit house. Can we, the viewers of this work, find our own spirit houses? I think, yes. When the spirit is repeatedly called to a place of nurturing energy, that is a spirit house. Do we PMA studio artists have spirit houses? Again, yes. Within the walls of our workrooms we create from the depth of our beings.
We open our “spirit” doors to the public on Nov. 4 & 5. We will be eager for community connection and will give thanks when we find it. This autumn Open Studio is now a ritualistic pattern, carved and recurved into our socialized systems, where we see you, you see us, and we all laugh in delight.
Here are a few spirited thoughts about what you might find in the studios on the first weekend of November.
Upstairs Ellen Anne Chong will welcome visitors with her paintings of youthful hopes and nostalgic discoveries. One will soak in colorfully revolving Ferris wheels, ripening persimmons, and calm waterways.
Around the corner, you will see the results of Myrna Wacknov’s new explorations into dynamically angled landscapes. I always feel a sense of interested spirit within this active studio.
Frequently found in his upstairs studio is John Csongradi. He reveals through his work an interesting mindset that merges elegance with the bizarre. Under the cover of darkness he is able to create an excitement of form when distorting the most mundane of objects. And then there are those skulls that are always hanging around...
Over these recent months, we have seen a merging of soulful and natural colors appear in the paintings of Kevyn Warnock. She recently completed a large richly toned landscape that was commissioned by a couple from Texas who have long enjoyed the spirit within Kevyn’s work.
Mike Kesselman has been enthusiastically banging and sanding metal forms into humorously animalistic shapes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of his sculptures walking down the hall on Halloween night.
Next to Mike, Rachel Kesselman and June Levin have created a newly shared studio space. Here (and next door in Levin’s second studio space) we sense a love for the human form, for nutritious foods, for landscape vistas that soothe the soul.
Down the hall we enter Annette Legallet’s studio and we enter nature at its most abstract. We sense the wind, the heat, the rushing sounds of water even before we understand why.
These past months Doriane Heyman ventured forth with spirited exuberance to paint the elegance of found environments, some indoors, some outdoors, some intimately close and others far away.
Nearby, Abbas Orumchian has set himself onto a whole new painting pathway, inspired by a truth that lives deeply within.
Downstairs Eunice Chan brings a wisdom to her varied work that relaxes into the exquisite. Her simple and self-protective work space speaks to this intelligence as well.
We can find joy erupting out of Susan Switzer’s studio many afternoons and evenings when she leads her students of all ages through the delights of traditional drawing and oil painting techniques.
When I’m feeling overly jumpy I always look forward to viewing Carolyn Shaw’s corner studio: An innate calmness of spirit consistently pervades through her work and workspace.
Ellen Howard and Kim Lordier continue to provide for us a colorful and calm environment for nature’s reflection. They often work outdoors, bringing a freshness of spirit into their studio located next to the Studios Gallery.
Doris Arrington, a respected professor of art therapy, has been quietly working in her studio, putting her generous mind towards painting canvases imbued with healing energies. When we walk into her space we feel genuine concern and love for people throughout the world.
When it comes to spirit houses, it might be said that Kay Podolsky is expanding 2D photography outward into framed spirit space. With her 3D layered technique we can easily imagine that a boat might actually float under a bridge, a dog’s breath might ruffle his whiskers, and a butterfly might flutter its wings.
The seasonal spirit is very active in the recent work of Lisa Babbitt, where dark is paired with light to spark a passion of color that erupts in-between.
Linda Salter brings in the world by blending the East and the West in a spritely mixing and matching of cultural references that speaks to the future of our world.
In the Mad Hatter’s studio, we always find a spirit of playful delight. Wayne Wichern is a master at good vibes as well as clothing heads of all shapes and sizes.
Neil Murphy usually comes to his studio (seen through the door window above) in the afternoon. He kindly leaves a few of his light sculptures activated when he is absent. As we peer into his empty studio we sense that this is not empty space at all, but instead space that expands outward with the inner vision of a sensitive soul.
Similarly, Teresa Hsu has a studio that speaks of spirit, and this is even when it is relatively empty of art. Most of her work is presently showing at Pasta Moon in Half Moon Bay. Never-the-less, her work-in-progress rock paintings (on her work table right now) exude wonderfully grounding energy even in these early stages.
Barbara Berk, with a jeweler’s attention to detail, expands her linear metal forms to reveal the beauty of negative space in both of her studios, upstairs and down.
Anyone who enters Ruth Water’s studio must sense that here the earth and sky has blended into a dance of elegant reality.
Nancy Woods continues to perk us up with her charming humor, on and off the woodworks. When in need of a chuckle I go here, where spirit always rocks.
Next door, in B J Stevenson’s studio, I always find the leveling grounding that can only come from the permanence of actual stone. The mind and hands that chiseled away rock and dust to reveal these forms know deep flow.
Greta Waterman has been developing a warm studio space during this, her first year at PMA. Her work speaks of gay patterns, constant flow, and hidden inner depths. I found her in the studio this evening, laying out her oils in preparation for painting on the four canvases she usually has in progress at any given time.
Stephanie Chang provides us with a workspace that honors the sun, the water, and the flickering light that is reflected off colorful forms found around the world.
The last studio I peer inside is perfect for ending this Halloween spirit talk: Mario Rosales’ printmaking studio. Here is a room that intrigues the mind and soul but holds back its secrets so mysteriously that we continue to come back for more.
In conclusion, I’m hoping to make it to the Dorothy Burston Brown Artist Talk this Sunday. There is so much to learn from any person who is connected to his/her inner humanity and can actually put a sense of this knowing out into the world for the rest of us to see. And I’m hoping readers of this column will be interested in viewing the PMA Studio Artists’ own versions of spirit during Open Studios on the first weekend in November.
Dorothy Burston Brown gives Artist Talk on October 15 at 2 p.m. Her exhibition closes on October 29.
PMA Open Studios is November 4 & 5 from 11:00 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Tim Caldwell opens on October 29 and gives an Artist Talk on November 5.
Patricia Qualls opens on October 29.
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"PMA Heartbeat" contains the personal observations of the artist in Studio 26, and not necessarily those of PMA as a whole.
This essay has minor updates from the original so appears slightly different to the eye. 10/14/17.