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Island Arts: The sky is the limit

Submitted by on 1, March 10, 2011 – 12:04 amNo Comment
Nancy Husari, La Géode, 2001. Photograph.


By Michael Singman-Aste

You’ve got your limitations; let them sing,
And all your life will waken with a cry:
Why should you halt when rapture’s on the wing
And you’ve no limit but the cloud-flocked sky?

-“Picture-Show,” Siegfried Sassoon

The painter Antonio Santin said in a recent interview: “Just as important as having a talent is betting on it, not only one day but every day” (Hi-Fructose, Vol.18). Perhaps the theme of the Alameda Women Artists (AWA) exhibit at the Alameda Free Library, “The Sky Is the Limit,” is a pep talk to its members, an admonition to bet on their talent, and get out of their comfort zone. To be brave. The art world is no place for the shrinking violet.

“The Sky Is the Limit” is on display in the Regina K. Stafford Meeting Room in the library’s main branch. A reception was held there on March 6.

Nancy Husari went out of her comfort zone in this exhibit. She identifies herself as a cartoonist, and her artist statement refers to other visual media, but never mentions photography. But her photograph “La Géode” is stunning. She is modest in recalling capturing it:

Well I really don’t do much photography these days. I used to be more interested in it in the old days … but that was a long time ago. That was actually taken with a disposable camera. I was in Paris for a month, wandering around, a lot by myself, and wandered over to that park (Parc de la Villette). I loved that image and so I just took it with a disposable camera and it came out really nice. People have been asking me if I Photoshopped it, or how did I get it to look like that and I said, ‘It just looked like that.’

But it means a lot to me personally, though. There’s a lot of optimism there … I come from San Francisco and when I was in Paris I just felt like, this is the way San Francisco used to be. There was an attitude of being more carefree, and art was everywhere, all over on the streets. It was so much a part of life there. And so that’s what I guess it symbolizes for me.

Hopefully the response to this photo will encourage Husari to return to photography in earnest, and perhaps identify herself as a photographer. “I think I have a good eye, so when I do have a camera, I like the pictures that come out,” she conceded. “Maybe, looking at that, I would like to do more photography.”

Wendy Lee Gadzuk, The Offering (detail), 2010. Mixed-media.

“The Offering” is Wendy Lee Gadzuk’s elaborate mixed-media Valentine, but this is not your mother’s Hallmark card. Ringed by red roses, it promises romantic love. Toward the center of the piece rests an ornate heart fashioned from pieces of cut steel, laced together into a corset. And in a twist on protecting one’s heart, here it is the heavily armored heart that guards what lies within, the offer of sexual love. As the artist said, “There’s a lot going on there.”

Do you hope to make her see you, fool?
Do you hope to pluck this dusky jewel?

– “Hello, I Love You,” The Doors

Mi’Chelle Fredrick, Partly Cloudy #10, 2011. Photograph.

Mi’Chelle Fredrick’s “Partly Cloudy #10” was a nice visual pairing alongside “The Offering.” It is an example of what she calls her “experiments in cloning,” where several copies of the same photo are flipped and combined to create a new image.

In her statement Fredrick wrote, “For this exhibit, I have chosen a photograph that interprets the theme, ‘The Sky is the Limit’, quite literally. It takes me back to that childhood game of searching billowing clouds for fantastic figures. What do you see?”

At the reception the consensus seemed to be angel wings. I see a pair of albino apes playing patty cake. Hopefully there are no wrong answers.

Deborah Griffin, Metamorph, 2011. Digital painting.

Deborah Griffin digitally combines vintage postcards and other late 19th and early 20th century source materials with her own drawings and photography in a series “that explores archetypes in metaphoric environments.”

The title of her digital painting “Metamorph” refers not only to its subject but also, like the theme of the exhibit itself, may be a challenge, urging the viewer to evolve. The cycle of caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly takes place all around the seated figure, who becomes part of the process. The patterns on his suit take form and take flight. His hands beginning to rise from his pant legs as though floating suggest that he himself might be next.

Griffin embeds an image of a gryphon in each of her digital paintings. You’ll find more than one in this piece, but you may need to visit the exhibit in person in order to spot them.

“The Sky Is the Limit” includes the work of 16 artists. Other highlights include Patricia Edith’s photo and pastel “Lost” (2011) which looks out at the Port of Oakland as though through a prison cell whose walls bear Kafka’s words, “You are free and that is why you are lost,” and Briana Learnihan’s “Threads” (2009), a collage of artist trading cards embroidered with patterns.

From left: Patrick Apodaca, Daniel Garcia, Lawrence Grant, Art teacher Kathy Duncan, and AWA co-founder Bonnie Randall Boller. Photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

During the reception, Bonnie Randall Boller presented the AWA First Annual Scholarship Awards to three artists from Island High School — Patrick Apodaca, Daniel Garcia, and Lawrence Grant — whose work was also on display.

The exhibition runs through March 26. The library is located at 1550 Oak Street. The Regina K. Stafford Meeting Room is open during library hours, which are noon to 8 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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