Bill Fenwick Of Elkhorn
Artist seeks to preserve the beauty and wildness of the Elkhorn Slough.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Photo by Randy Tunnell: Painting With A Purpose: Bill Fenwick''s landscapes highlight the beauty of Moss Landing''s endangered Elkhorn Slough.
Artist Bill Fenwick and Pacific Grove gallery owner Lisa Coscino share a dream: to combine art with efforts to stave off encroaching development of the Elkhorn Slough, the second largest saltwater marshland in California.
Fenwick, who maintains a home in Elkhorn Slough, can often be found out in the slough in the early mornings and late afternoons, painting its ecologically fragile vistas and wildlife. He was a founding member of Save the Slough, a group of plein air painters who got together four years ago and held exhibitions of their paintings of the slough to raise money for preservation efforts. Now, he is a member of Friends, Artists and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough (FANS), an association committed to preserving and enhancing the marshland through public education, citizen activism and advocacy.
Fragile Landscapes, an exhibit of Fenwick''s most recent slough paintings, opens Friday at the Lisa Coscino Gallery. "Whenever an artist can combine their vision and passion with something they believe in, I want to support that," Coscino says. "I want to do an exhibition that will make a difference in this community. I have known Bill since I opened three years ago and I believe in what he''s doing."
The show opening this weekend will display some of Fenwick''s new works painted on corrugated cardboard, and traditional unframed canvas paintings. The cardboard paintings, he says, represent the fragility of the slough. "When I decided to use cardboard, I was intrigued with the beauty of the surface. I thought, why not use this to make a statement about the slough? It was a lot of fun, taking a risk, different from the plein air easel studies I usually do. I want people to feel the fragility of the slough through this medium. It''s an emotional appeal. I paint with color and feeling and want to capture a particular moment in time."
The Elkhorn Slough has been threatened by development for years. There is a plan to construct 174 residential units and add nine holes to an already existing 18-hole golf course on acreage abutting the marshland. Public comments on the Environmental Impact Report for the Pajaro Valley Golf Course development will be called for relatively soon. Thousands of acres and approximately 5,500 legal parcels are at risk. Neighborhood residents fear that if these projects are approved, they will set a precedent for even more development.
"I hope development won''t be allowed, because our inland waterways are important to the animals and 95 percent of our wetlands are gone in California," Fenwick says. "The hundreds of thousands of birds who migrate here must have a place to rest. We need to preserve these sanctuaries of peace and serenity."
Mari Kloeppel of FANS says; "The slough encompasses 44,000 acres of watershed, but only 10 percent of this is protected. This land is deemed a globally important area for over 200 species of birds. If the birds don''t have a place to rest, they could become extinct."
The Elkhorn Slough is one of 48 federally recognized archeological sites. Ohlone Indian artifacts border the golf course. There is also a healthy population of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that depend upon the slough. "It''s important that we keep the water clean, and we are concerned that if development intrudes, the water will become threatened," says Kloeppel.
Fenwick agrees. "The promoters of each of the new projects can point to some pressing need that will be addressed by the development. And mitigation has been used successfully at times in the past. Yet we must ask ourselves, can we continue to do it all without now imperiling the slough? Are we in danger of tipping the fragile balance of this natural system? Where is that tipping point, and how close are we to the fact that any more mitigation will be useless? Are we exceeding the point of no return?
"These are the questions that I feel in my heart must be asked whenever a development decision in or near the slough is contemplated. This show is meant to encourage the asking, and to support the efforts of FANS." A portion of proceeds from the show, and from raffle tickets sold at the gallery, will be donated to FANS.
"We understand that this area is changing due to technology, pressures of the population, and development but we also need to preserve our wild places," concludes Fenwick.
Fragile Landscape opens May 23 at lisa coscino gallery with a reception from 6-8pm.