By Shari Faye Dell
“I painted outside for many years. The wind would start blowing and the canvas flying off the easel and I would be holding onto the cliff or a branch, I would reach for whatever color I could grab. It didn’t matter what color; I just needed paint.”
“I started out with a random approach,” says Mary Siedman, “even though I had studied art in school.”
“You are out there for three or four hours with your water and your Hershey bar and it’s pretty intense in Bolinas.” Siedman explains the day came when she just ‘got it’.
“I try to portray that intensity in my paintings.”
She says her pieces are not decorative, “I try to evoke all of the intense layers of our environment, including the difficult layers, not just a perfect picture view.”
After twenty-five years of photography and painting plein air, Siedman cleared out the little cabin that served as a darkroom, creating sanctuary to bring her painting home.
Her lines still reflect a closer look at a landscape that never stands still.
“I love painting bramble and berries. The first thing people do when they come to Bolinas is try to hack all that away. They don’t understand that this is like the lifeblood of our Mesa, the stickers and the brush with all the quail running through. I dare them to love this,” says Siedman. “It takes a lot of guts to look at weeds and see it as life– something thriving and moving.
“I didn’t particularly want to come to America. I thought it was all shopping malls and SUV’s,” says Stinson Beach artist Felicity Crush, originally from England. “There is plenty of that, but when I got here I couldn’t believe how amazing the natural world is. How stunningly beautiful it is. Nothing prepared me for that.”
“I am consistently astounded by the majesty of it. The Sierras and Utah and the great mountain ranges. I feel particularly lucky to be able to live where we are now [inWest Marin], to be able to experience this, as well as, live in it. Sitting out there and painting this kind of environment connects me with all the ages of humans that have had the urge to express themselves, and express their world and their experience of it.”
Last year, Crush joined her daughter, a student in Don Jolley’s middle school classroom at Bolinas Stinson School on many field trips. “Visiting Utah and the Sierras reawakened a passion in me,” says Crush. “He [Jolley] taught about the landscape, the land, the geology, the paleontology. He had the kids sit down and draw. I joined in on these drawing sessions with the kids and then would just work on my own.”
“Sketching outdoors–something I use to do a long time ago–I started doing a lot more of that. The work I am showing is a result of those field trips.
“After working in all the other installation mediums, particularly barbed wire,” says Crush, “returning to simple techniques, pen and pencil on water color paper has been a real delight.”
Previously a sailor for Greenpeace, Crush recalls, “I would do a lot of sketching when I was on board. When I returned home I would turn those sketches into photo etchings so that I could keep the freshness of the line, retain the vitality of the sketch. This is a similar process.”
Sourcing from photograph as well as museum collections, Bolinas artist Molly Brown has made many trips to the California Academy of Sciences to sketch and photograph pinned and trayed specimens in the museum’s extensive collection.
A member of the National Butterfly Association and the Science Illustration Guild, Brown’s current work focuses on endangered California butterfly species. “I wanted to illustrate them and educate people. They are beautiful and rare species.”
“Many varieties of California’s butterflies have become endangered as host plants and habitat are diminished by development. Like these,” Brown explains, directing attention to illustrations of the male and female El Segundo Blue. “A butterfly in the larval stage can’t survive without its host plant, a native Coastal Buckwheat. If those host plants are wiped out by a condo-development, this species just wont make it; they won’t be around.”
Browns interest in entomology, ichyology and botany grew from her childhood interest in plants, animals and the great outdoors.
In addition to her work on paper, Brown’s current exhibit includes a second body of work, a series of oil paintings presenting the female form.
Evidence: it is spring in the garden of “Earthly Delights,” Brown renders images of naked ladies and butterflies.
A reception for the three-woman show, “Earthly Delights,” is scheduled for Saturday, May 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Bolinas Gallery. Guests will be treated to a performance by Flamenco guitarist Carl Nagin.
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