Selections: Bay Area

Exhibits // Selections: Bay Area

Jun 15 - Aug 19

Overview // Ruta Saliklis, curator and director of exhibitions at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA), is showcasing the mysterious oil paintings by Anne Subercaseaux and the magically woven metal sculpture by Flora Davis in Selections: Bay Area opening June 15–August 19, 2018. When SLOMA’s curator viewed the shared mystery and alchemy inherent in the artwork by these two artists from the San Francisco Bay Area, it was all she needed to envision the next exhibition in her Selections series—exhibitions featuring the harmonious and well-matched grouping of nationally recognized artists from a selected region.

The mystery of Anne Subercaseaux's art is her ability to refer to the structural realities in architecture, science, and nature and simplify them into eloquent oil paintings. The magic of Flora Davis’s art is her ability to tussle with an unyielding and unassuming metallic surface—changing its surface appearance and weaving metals to bring forth beauty reminiscent of sublime landscapes.

Anne Subercaseaux finds substance in the insubstantial, in paintings that freeze the ephemeral patterns of reflection and shadow. In her muted, almost monochrome palettes, images seem familiar but still elusive. The precise silhouette of a bridge girder or a windblown branch moves into focus and out again, a fleeting glimpse from the corner of the eye.

The artist offers some background: “I worked early on at various architectural and engineering firms, drafting structural and architectural drawings. My interest peaked with the man-made constructions I drew in plans, sections, and details and I considered going into architecture or engineering. Later, I studied and worked in creating illustrations and graphic design. My studio practice and painting continued after art school. After years of doing portraiture and singular paintings, I decided to work on a theme. The area of the Altamont Pass (a low mountain pass in the Diablo Range between Livermore and Tracy) became my muse. The combination of the wind turbines and California landscape in poetic formations inspired me and gave material to draw and paint. During my daily work commute across the old Bay Bridge, I then became attracted to the structural design and construction of steel beams and girders. The cast shadows from beams onto the roadway surface presented an interplay of lights, shadows and patterns. Working from photos and framing compositions within each resulted in finding abstract imagery to paint. In these paintings the exterior works with my interior, a resonance with each composition to particular feelings, memories, or imagined places.

Subercaseaux's imagery reflects the urban life she leads in the Bay Area with her summers spent in southwest France. She explains, “I suppose this is the yin and yang in my life, both places being complements and contrasts: the stimulation of urban life versus the calmness of the pastoral countryside. In each environment, the sense of space and light are present, giving opportunities to explore and work. Viewers of my work often say the imagery is familiar but represented in a more abstract and mysterious way. As some become more abstract, the mystery is accentuated.”

There are artists on both sides of Subercaseaux’s family. Her paternal grandmother, Kathleen McEnery, who studied and had an art career in New York and exhibited in the Armory Show of 1913, has been a lasting influence.  A San Francisco artist and former teacher, Elaine Badgley Arnoux, has been an ongoing mentor and source of inspiration for her painting.

Flora Davis began her artistic journey with oil paints. She explains, “I love color. All of a sudden I switched. No color. No paintings. No brushes. With just my hands I made earth pieces using clay, charcoal, and beeswax. Copper began to appear. Other metals began to appear, then overtake. Still no brushes, but the color is back.”

Now Davis “paints” a metal surface using layer upon layers of different substances. This process sets in motion an evolving alchemy of chemical activity, as she works and reworks the metal. Her patinas can include vibrate colors or can be subtle ghosts of previous marks revealed as the patina is sanded back to bare metal. There is no guarantee on the outcome, too many factors are always in play, which adds to the mystery of this exciting, uncontrollable process. Her choice of substances include kitchen staples like salt, vinegar, and baking soda, to cleaning products like bleach, or other agents such as sawdust, muriatic acid, and commercially produced metal patinas.

Davis’ patinas on metal allude to her love of nature: whether earthy and textural or lyrical and rhythmic, as well as mood, one of meditative calmness. At one point in her career, Flora Davis rented studio space at Elaine Badgley Arnoux’s school below Market in San Francisco. Flora Davis now has her studio at the Hunters Point Shipyard, a community of artists who rent studios in the former U.S. naval shipyard on Hunters Point in the Bayview community of San Francisco and in the nearby Islais Creek Studios. The Hunters Point Shipyard has been an artist community since 1983, and is now home to more than 250 artists—the largest art colony in the United States.

Details // A reception and opportunity to meet the artists will take place at SLOMA during their public opening on Saturday, June 23, 2018, from 2 to 5 PM, with an ARTalk by the artists at 3 PM. Refreshments will be provided. Admission to both events is free and open to the public.

Banner images (left to right) Along the Divide, Anne Subercaseaux; Zephaniah, Flora Davis.