The Muse Is In The House
The Pacific Grove Art Center's Tenant Show puts hometown artists in the spotlight.
Thursday, February 28, 2002
Photo: Local Girl Makes Good Art: "Dream On," a collage by Marybeth Rinehart (detail shown here), joins mixed media works by the artist-tenants of the Pacific Grove Art Center. The show is on display until April 12.
A second-story window above a storefront invites curiosity. One can''t help but wonder, What are people doing up there? In Pacific Grove, pedestrian stroll along Lighthouse Avenue, perhaps occasionally looking up at the second story of a century-old building, where more than a dozen artists'' studios glow at all hours of the day and night with individual inspiration and the spirit of creative community.
This weekend the Pacific Grove Art Center presents its Biannual Tenant Show, featuring work by the artists for whom the PGAC is an artistic home away from home. On a recent Saturday, with warm sunlight streaming in through windows and skylights, the artists, along with Center manager Judy Giordano, began the process of bringing their work out of their studios and into the main gallery. Several paintings, some not yet labeled, sit on the floor as if patiently awaiting instructions. In an adjacent gallery the music of an Argentine tango dance class fills the air. A cheery atmosphere of friendly artistry seems to flow from one room to the next as the exhibit starts taking shape.
The PGAC, a non-profit community-focused organization created in 1969, sees its mission as threefold: to educate, encourage and exhibit. In addition to its classes and group shows, it rents studios to 15 artists. Last Saturday I spoke with two of them, Jay Hannah and Frank Sunseri. Hannah has been painting in his studio at the Center for over 20 years; Sunseri moved into his studio just last December. (The waiting list for a studio is long, but Giordano encourages interested artists to apply.)
Hannah, a dapper gentleman wearing a beret and checkered pants reminiscent of his geometrically-precise art, tells me he has been a painter since 1944. He is fascinated by color and light and by the perceptual tricks the brain plays on us. He shows me a lovely still life called "Revision," in which his sensitivity to color shades his treatment of a potted flower that curls up and around like delicate smoke.
Sunseri is delighted with the mood of creativity that fills the Center, the other artists, the dance classes, even the view from his window onto Lighthouse. He will continue to use his home studio for stone carving and welding, devoting his new in-town studio to painting. At the Center he enjoys feeling "private but not isolated"--a perfect balance for a famously solitary activity.
As I wander through the Center''s main gallery, several works catch my eye. Mark Farina brings compositional elegance and a sure hand to many scenes familiar to Central Coast residents: Lovers'' Point, Fisherman''s Wharf, the Carmel Mission. His appealing "Red House" features a bright red structure with a large Z painted on its side, like on a child''s building block. (This painting won 1st place in the landscape category at last year''s Monterey County Fair.) A mixed-media collage by Debra Davalos suggests the crackly brokenness of a crow''s voice. In her intriguing black and white linocuts, Julie Smith portrays certain urbane pleasures--a jazz combo, a subway station, a street scene--as a series of formal distillations.
Among the most beautiful pieces on display are the collages of Marybeth Rinehart, whose shimmering works appear as evidence of time travel across centuries of art history, myth, and imaginary landscape. In the witty "Poem de terre," the title turns the French word for potato into row upon colorful row of visual poetry. In Rinehart''s hands collage becomes a kind of precision painting--a marvelous example of the kind of creative work going on behind those second-story windows.
The Pacific Grove Art Center is located at 568 Lighthouse Avenue. The Tenant Show opens with a reception Friday, March 1, 7-9pm, and runs through April 12. Call 375-2208 for hours and information.