North County's Colors
An art show devoted to putting the brakes on development.
Thursday, September 21, 2000
Take a quick tour through the Monterey County Cultural Council''s newest Art in Public Places show and you might think the exhibit was designed simply to explore the multitude of styles and media commonly used in natural landscape representation. Landscapes in oil, acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil and color photographs are all on display in the Salinas Courthouse exhibit, as are scenes rendered in bright swaths of Fauvist colors; looser, more abstracted scenes in darker hues; and wholly impressionistic views that portray not much more than the warm feel of the open horizon at sunset.
But slow down a bit and you may begin to ponder the show''s title, "Endangered Landscapes." You might notice the title, "Hasta La Vista, Baby," on one of Bill Fenwick''s landscapes, or stop to consider Prunedale artist Karen Lynn Ingalls'' "Remembering the Slough," which portrays an artist painting a landscape not exactly as it looks, but as the artist apparently remembers it, before it was developed.
Although landscape painters are generally not known for taking on political or social issues in their art, "Endangered Landscapes," a show of more than 50 depictions of Elkhorn Slough by 13 different artists, was pulled together for just such a purpose. Alarmed by BJCR''s proposal to both expand the Perjure Valley Golf Course on Salinas Road and build 174 homes around it, the artists--who call themselves the Elkhorn Artists Alliance--organized the show in an attempt to call public attention to the region''s beauty and the tremendous loss that, in their view, would accompany further development of it.
"I''ve already seen one of my favorite painting views lost to development," says John McWilliams, who has several paintings in the show and says he moved to Monterey because the area offers so many good views to paint. "I don''t want to be the last artist to paint that view!" he exclaims after describing the rustic beauty of BJCR''s proposed development site.
Like all Art in Public Places shows, "Endangered Landscapes" was selected by a competitive jury process based on the quality of the artwork. Program supervisor Susan Giacometti nonetheless admits the show was "all the more enticing" because of its topic. This is the first show in the two-year history of Art in Public Places to have "a message that is germane to community concerns," she explains.
Giacometti and other jurors could not have guessed just how germane the show would be. Although it was scheduled many months ago, the exhibit opened just one week before the Board of Supervisors'' scheduled vote on whether or not to place an 18-month moratorium on further North County development. However the moratorium would apply only to new proposals, not proposals like the BCJR development that have already been filed.
County Supervisor Louis Calcagno attended last week''s opening of the show along with supervisors Judy Pennycook and Simon Salinas. Calcagno says he has long seen Elkhorn Slough as Monterey County''s "hidden jewel" and he is pleased that the artists are drawing attention to it. "I have to give them high praise for bringing Elkhorn Slough to life for the public," he says.
Elkhorn Slough Foundation director Mark Silberstein agrees. "Elkhorn Slough has long been a source of inspiration for scientists and conservationists," he says, "and it''s really exciting to see this surge of interest from the artistic community. I think very often artists can show us things in a different light, figuratively and literally."
The Elkhorn Artists Alliance painters certainly hope their work will shed new light on the value of preserving the slough. "My heart just goes out every time I see a development go in," says Starr Davis, a Saratoga-based painter with several works in the show. It''s crucial that we consider the value of natural landscapes, she says, "before it''s too late."
To see how the Board of Supervisors voted on the North County development moratorium, see Votewatch, page 10.