Mill Valley’s creative epicenter, the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, is unveiling yet another evocative exhibition next week.
Running throughout August, “THEORY FORWARD: Shape, Line, Color, Surface/Texture” features work from Bay Area artists Holly Wong, Peter Crompton, Heidi Breuckner and James Vogel. Vogel, who also curated the exhibition, is a longstanding member of the center and is perpetually inspired by the gallery space, which served as founder Dick O’Hanlon’s studio until his death in 1985.
“The gallery has a ceiling close to 30 feet high, and lots of windows, and a mezzanine up top. It’s really a dream space,” Vogel said.
The show is inspired by the tactical, visual and dimensional elements of art rendering, as interpreted by each artist through their vastly different styles and mediums.
The O’Hanlon Center for the Arts was founded by Ann and Dick O’Hanlon as Sight and Insight Art Center in 1969. Located at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, it sits on two acres. Both Ann and Dick O’Hanlon were artists who valued and fostered arts in the Bay Area. Ann founded the art department at Dominican College, and Dick was a prolific sculptor and professor at UC Berkeley, which houses one of his most famous pieces, Sunstones II.
In 2004, the Sight and Insight Art Center changed its name to the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, to accommodate the growing offerings of the space, including theater, literary and healing arts. The center’s mission statement is: “With joyful hearts and curious minds, we honor each individual’s creative exploration, encourage artistic practice and offer the freedom to begin, discover, express and reflect.”
Peter Crompton, who came to Santa Rosa in 1999, is a large-scale sculptor known for such pieces as Athena’s Hollow Head in downtown Cotati and Hands and Balls—maturity people, please—at the Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma. His work’s grand scale creates a titanic amplification of his subject matter, and the sense of inspiration unique to very big things. Also a set designer, Crompton has curated stages for Opera San Jose, Marin Theater Company and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. His “increasingly bizarre” sculpture garden, which he tends with his wife, Robin—an artist as well—is open every October for Sonoma County Art Trails, an annual event during which local artists invite the public into their studios.
Heidi Breuckner, an Oakland-based artist and professor of art at West Valley College in Saratoga, draws inspiration for her work from the times she spent in European museums while studying at the University of Heidelberg and The Goethe Institute in Germany. Breuckner’s work spans a variety of genres, from abstract to still life. Her series “Monsterbet,” featured in the upcoming O’Hanlon show, depicts a different monster for every letter of the alphabet. These creatures are lurid in color, dynamic in expression and tactile in rendering.
James Vogel completed his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and his MFA in museum studies at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Vogel works in oil and straw, among other media, exploring chosen subject matter as directly as possible and paying close attention to shape, line, color, surface and texture—all the concepts which inspired this exhibition. His work in straw is tactical masterpiece—the kind of art one agonizes over not being able to touch. Vogel’s piece, Cosmic Formation, featured in the show, is a rendering in pastel chalk of a straw ball, a visual feast of color and texture.
Holly Wong studied at the recently closed San Francisco Art Institute, where she graduated with her MFA with a concentration in new genres. Wong’s work, like that of the other three artists in the show, is expansive and cross-media. Vogel refers to one of Wong’s styles as a “deconstructed painting,” including a three-dimensional installation of gauzy, glittering, light-catching work that looks like the map of a dream, or the dendritic veins of a goddess—these pieces must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Though Wong was trained as a painter, she later began to transition into installation, using unorthodox materials like cellophane and dichroic film, to utilize and incorporate light. Guardian of the Spirits, which sits on the first floor of the exhibition, is a 17 feet across and 12 feet high suspended installation of silk, organza, cellophane, dichroic film, gold lame and vinyl tablecloth, among other media. These materials have been cut and sewn into hundreds of pieces, and spread out like arteries in the human body.
This piece, and much of Wong’s work, is inspired by the feminist body and the physicality of being a woman.
In an interview, Wong offered more detail about her inspiration for her installation work and the meaning the pieces carry:
“Much of my work is about repair, and reclaiming. So when you look at this piece, you’re going to see that there are lots of situations where I’m cutting things and sewing them back together, then cutting things, then sewing them back together. It’s this constant layering of almost like wounds, that are constantly repaired. There will be this network that is almost arterial that moves through this piece. People will be able to walk all the way around it, and see through it.
“And I have done digital scans of my work, printed them on hi-resolution film, and sewn those into this large suspended piece. It’s almost like the formation of wings within the gallery. It’s all these things that resemble a woman’s life.
“Our lives are not a narrow beginning to end. We move in many different directions throughout the course of our life, and Guardian of the Spirits is about the fact that a lot of times for women there is the smaller self that they live in in the world, and then there’s a bigger alter ego, that if they could only embrace it, they could grow.
“So the piece is my alter ego, it is the large part of myself, and it spreads like the branches of a tree. It can’t be conquered, it can’t be beaten. It constantly repairs and grows back.”
‘THEORY FORWARD: Shape, Line, Color, Surface/Texture’ opens Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 31. An artist’s reception will be held on Aug. 2 from 5:30-7:30pm. For more information, visit www.ohanloncenter.org.