Russian River, 3 p.m.

May 10, 2017 § 2 Comments

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Mary Robertson | Red Canoe

THIS IS, OF COURSE, the Russian River the casual tourist never sees. He’s in the middle of the damn painting, for one thing. For another, he’s got his eyes closed, soaking up the pure, unreflected heat. He’s too preoccupied, meditating, suspended weightless between water and sky. If he wasn’t on his day off, he’d probably notice the atmosphere is positively luminescent. Pass the Stroh’s, willya?

This is the world as seen by Mary Robertson. “For me, it’s always three in the afternoon, summer,” says Robertson. “No evenings, no mornings.”

Working from photographs, she paints the vacationers and their accoutrements as they float past her vantage point. “It seems to me as though the same swimmers, the same summer people, are always there,” says Robertson, who works with oil on linen and Masonite, not trying to capture the glow of the smogless afternoons but capturing it just the same. This is no small achievement; her work has been compared to Winslow Homer’s, Edward Hopper’s and especially, in its understanding of light, water and timeless human presence, to the Charles River paintings of Thomas Eakins.

“After my first show, somebody pointed that out to me, so I studied him,” says the artist. “It was a little embarrassing, really, for I hadn’t made the connection. To tell you the truth, I just paint what I see.”

The river itself is changing. “Last year,” she says, “They started releasing water upstream. The water is getting clearer. It’s also getting harder to paint. You can see the bottom — it’s like painting gin instead of pea soup. I’m afraid that what Gordon Cook [the painter] said about me is true — that I have a marvelous feel for algae.”

— MELVIN MARCUS

When Marion got married — almost

April 30, 2017 § 3 Comments

From remarks by Thomas Reynolds at a memorial on April 30, 2017.

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Marion Seawell (1928-2017)

I CAME TO KNOW Marion Seawell 25 years ago when I opened a gallery in San Francisco. One of the first people I met was her great friend — and later mine — the art historian William Whitney, who lived two blocks away.

In 2008, with Marion sometimes kicking and screaming, we published a book of her work, This Has Certainly Been a Lot of Fun — a truly remarkable and brutally honest statement by an artist. To celebrate its publication, we had a small exhibition of her paintings at my gallery, and she gave a talk.

We kept in touch as she was finding a mostly happy home for her final years at the Redwoods in Mill Valley. Sometimes she would call me on Friday afternoons and laugh about the horns honking in the background. Her fellow seniors were holding their weekly antiwar protest outside. It was clear she had found the right home. « Read the rest of this entry »

Artists and influences

April 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

BAY AREA ARTISTS Kim Frohsin and Sandy Ostrau discuss the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition, the Bay Area Figurative Movement and other influences on their work, in conversation with the Smithsonian Institution’s Paul Karlstrom.

She was a lot of fun

April 13, 2017 § 2 Comments

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Marion Seawell | President Taft Touring Walla Walla in Grandfather’s Car (1994)

By THOMAS R. REYNOLDS

With her right hand she painted as Marion Seawell. With her left hand she wrote as M.C. Wells. In both her right-handed paintings and her left-handed writings, she spent a lifetime exploring the quirks and contradictions of her dual personalities.

That lifetime came to an end on April 7, 2017, when Marion Seawell died at age 88 in Mill Valley, California, after a fall and a short hospitalization.

She led an interesting life, as she acknowledged in the dedication of a monograph of her work, published in 2008 on her 80th birthday: “To all the dear friends, young and old, past and present, who have helped make my journey through life such an interesting adventure.” The book was titled This Has Certainly Been a Lot of Fun.

In the book, as in her life and art, she told a rigorously honest personal story. « Read the rest of this entry »

Two from the neighborhood

March 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Claude Monet | Adolphe Monet Reading in a Garden (1866)

MONET: THE EARLY YEARS,” the new exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, provides convincing evidence that Claude Monet had special talent from an early age — even if many of the paintings don’t rank among his greatest hits. Two standouts come from local collections: a painting of the artist’s father reading in a garden from the Larry Ellison Collection, and boats at rest from Ann and Gordon Getty.

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Claude Monet | Boats in the Port of Honfleur (1866)

 

94 little paintings

March 11, 2017 § 1 Comment

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FOR HER MOTHER’S 80th birthday party up at The Sea Ranch, Sandy Ostrau was enlisted to paint 94 little paintings of the area on cards. Her mother, still strong of fighting spirit, added an action item on the back of each as a way to resist the political tide.

“Take the card that has both a painting you like and an action you would be willing to do,” she asked her guests. “Carrying out the action would be a meaningful birthday present to me.”

Sandy’s verdict: “A big hit and fun project.”

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In the studio with Kim Frohsin

February 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

Q & A | KIM FROHSIN

What is the creative process like for you?
To date it’s one in which one series or interest will somehow, in a deeply intuitive and subliminal way, lead naturally into the next work. To me, it seems like an innate flow and natural transition typifies my modus operandi over the last 29 years. There have certainly been times when my art is directly influenced by life circumstances or my reaction to those circumstances. Life on a personally intimate scale or on a large scale — for example, the death of my dog, or my reaction to 9/11. The art can serve sometimes as documentation, therapy or an emotional necessity for self-expression; the art simply emerges, life translated into imagery.

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