The End of the Show

Once again I find myself wrapping up.  Putting this year's show into words and pictures was hard for me, and I am a modest three months late posting this article.  I apologize to everyone, but for me it was a time a of change.  I uprooted from my home in the Sierra foothills and lived in Seattle for six months.  I left a ten year career in the computer game industry.  I got serious about my gallery business.  I questioned a lot of things, but through it all I kept coming back to this.  

This is the third year I have attended and covered the Santa Cruz Open Studios.  In the process I have made new friends, learned more about a fantastic place, and discovered a creative Mecca that four years ago I had no idea existed.  This year's show was exceptional for me.  Having made connections in previous years, I felt more like part of the event.  I reconnected with artists whose work I admire, and saw how there work and their lives have changed.  I met new artists as well.  Because so many artists are involved in the event, it is impossible to meet them all, and each year brings new surprises. 

In art there are trends and movements, both on a large scale, and within each artist's life. After three years attending Open Studios I am beginning to see some of these trends.   Santa Cruz has a long established and thriving artistic population within which some observations and comparisons can be made.  Within the county almost every medium one can think of is represented by professional artists.  There are a large number of oil and acrylic painters, and sculptors working in metal and stone.  Watercolor is another popular medium, and there are numerous skilled watercolorists living and working in the area, most notably Elizabeth Kincaid,  who creates stunningly detailed landscapes and natural scenes, as well as venturing into the world of printmaking with her first series of etchings last year;  Marie Gabrielle, a prolific landscape and floral artist who is covered in this article; and Cultural Council member and still life painter Sally Jörgenson. In my personal experience in Santa Cruz I have become most familiar with the trends in ceramics, printmaking, and glass, and so will make an attempt discuss them a bit further. 

The area is home to several exceptional woodblock printers. Tom Killion creates detailed and skillfully rendered woodblocks of the California coast and the High Sierra.  Andrea Rich is an accomplished wildlife artist best known for her woodblock images of birds, and newcomer Bridget Henry shows great promise and an intuitive knack for the medium.  Although their styles are different, all three of these artists are heavily influenced by nature, and seek to capture its essence on paper.  In addition to woodblock printers, there are also a number of artists in the region working with etching and monoprint techniques.  

fractured vase by Bob Kinzie

There are an amazing number of talented ceramists working and collaborating in Santa Cruz County, and Open Studios is a fabulous way to discover them.  There is a strong sense of identity with nature in the region which is  reflected in the organic qualities of much of the work.  Raku firing and other Japanese styles are popular, and the use of organic colors in glazes and patinas is common.  Formal styles are rare, with freedom of form and connectedness with the natural world being the prevailing theme.  Exceptions such as the work of Mattie Leeds, Suzie Ketchum, and Susan Tremont are effected by a strong tradition of West Coast painting and graphic design.

Because I have a personal interest in collecting small scale ceramics,  I realized early on that Santa Cruz has an exceptional community of ceramic artists.  What I was experiencing gelled for me when artist Steve Hum suggested I read Karen Massaro's book "Time and Place, fifty years of Santa Cruz Ceramics."  The book reviews more than 50 working artists in the area.  I was drawn to Karen's work in 1997 because of its oriental elegance and personalized inlayed and embossed details.  Karen has been working in the Santa Cruz area for more than thirty years, and is currently featured in an exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.  

To learn more about Karen's work, Click Here to view our coverage of her work from Open Studios 1997, or visit the museum and see the show! 

Santa Cruz is also home to a number of skilled glassmakers, many of whom have connections to the world famous and avante garde glass community in Seattle Washington.  Steve Lundberg specializes in lustrous Tiffany-like glassware and delicate fused glass scenes embedded in crystal.  Wayne Robbins intricate multi-layered glass beads and animal forms with exceptionally detailed surface textures.  Jim and Connie Grant specialize in heavy, prismatic glass vessels with bold contemporary designs.  As is traditional in the medium, each artist follows a unique personal vision in the creation of their work.  Although glassmaking is based on ancient processes and techniques, the medium is incredibly versatile, allowing individual artists a great deal of flexibility.

I will take this opportunity to thank Buff Mckinley, Cultural Council board member, and coordinator of this year's show.  Buff was a driving force in making this one of the best Open Studios events ever, and was also responsible for creating the beautifully illustrated catalog and calendar.  I would also like to thank my friend James Harman for accompanying me for three years running, and for adding his unique perspective on the work and on the show.

Well that's about all I have to say.  I hope I have helped to convince you to visit the area, and to attend the show if you can.  If you can't make it during Open Studios, the artists are still around, and contact information is available through the Cultural Council.  Once again I was overwhelmed by what I saw during the three weekends that made up the show.  To discuss artists and their work, and to say something worthwhile, or at least to say more than the obvious is difficult, but it is well worth the effort.  By writing about the work, one is forced to examine it closely, and to decide what it is about it that is appealing, interesting, or successful.  In the process I have enriched my own knowledge of the arts, and what it means to be a working artist at the end of the 20th century.

I'll be back for more next year!  See ya there!

To learn more about Open Studios and the Santa Cruz area

visit the official Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County Web Site


Santa Cruz Open Studios 1999 Review
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