Thanks to John Singer Sargent

March 21, 2023 § Leave a comment

“IF IT WEREN’T for John Singer Sargent, I might not be painting watercolours today,” Michael Reardon tells The Art of Watercolour magazine in its new issue. “In 1985 there was a show of Sargent’s watercolours in San Francisco that knocked my socks off. I decided that I had to learn how to paint in watercolour. That’s how it all started.”

Read more: “Sensitivity and skill

Getting on Jerry’s list

January 18, 2023 § Leave a comment

Jerry Ross Barrish | The Most Honorable Profession (2016)


I first met Jerry Ross Barrish in 2015 when he curated a solo show of Sam Perry’s sculpture at the nonprofit community gallery, Sanchez Art Center, in Pacifica, California. Sam Perry, who is my husband, and I were soon added to Jerry’s enormous “studio party” guest list. These “behind-the-scenes” affairs are magical in nature: Picture yourself at a packed artist studio party surrounded by Jerry’s sculptures of jazz musicians, angels, animals, clowns, dancers, Statues of Liberty, plus live music. On January 1, Jerry telephones every friend on his list with a New Year’s greeting and follows up throughout the year with invitations to opening receptions, fundraisers and artist talks at Sanchez, where he serves as artistic director.

In his sculptures, Jerry Barrish applies his deft hand to the cast offs of our materialistic consumer society to tell immutable tales of love and loss. Familiar items like umbrella handles, funnels and toys are transformed when combined with takeout containers, janitorial supplies and vacuum parts. Each element of these assemblage sculptures is placed in a way that perfectly expresses the universal language of gesture.

In my earliest imaginings of M. Stark Gallery, I knew I wanted Jerry’s art to inaugurate the gallery exhibition program.

To me, the piece Jerry calls Teaching, The Most Honorable Profession (2016) is in many ways a self-portrait. Since he became the artistic director of Sanchez Art Center in 2003 he has mentored dozens of artists. In the process of selecting works for exhibitions, he also discovers works in artist studios that merit further exploration and development and he continues the conversation with these artists in furtherance of both. After many, many helpful conversations about opening this new gallery — lighting, installation, public programs and even business hours — I am proud to call Jerry my mentor as well.

— excerpted from “Jerry Ross Barrish: Protagonist,” catalog for the inaugural exhibition at the new M. Stark Gallery at 727 Main Street in Half Moon Bay, California.

A tapestry of flowers

November 26, 2022 § Leave a comment

Gary Bukovnik with his “Flower Cascade” tapestry.

WHEN TWO TAPESTRIES of his flowers are released in the coming months, it will mark the realization of a long-held dream for Gary Bukovnik, the San Francisco artist whose floral watercolors are admired around the world.

“Many years ago when I when was first beginning to see tapestry as a possible fit for me and my art,” Bukovnik says, “I was contacted by the Atelier Raymond Picaud in Aubusson, France. After some talks we decided we should proceed. I made a cartoon for the 1 meter x 1.5 meter tapestry woven in the traditional way of Aubusson.”

It was a great success, and the six large tapestries of white pelargonium woven in the mid-80s sold immediately. So did a smaller tapestry of a waterlily. One of each is in the museum in Aubusson. But an economic downturn took the tapestry studio under before the partnership could flourish.

“Ever since those first works, I’ve wanted to return to this medium,” Bukovnik says. After viewing a 2020 exhibition of artist Hung Liu’s paintings hanging alongside tapestries of her work, he set about searching for a way to revive his interest in tapestry. He found it close to home. Magnolia Editions, which had made the Hung Liu tapestries, was just across the bay in Oakland.

“They were Jacquard woven tapestries that involved the newest technology,” Bukovnik says. “I had known Don Farnsworth, the director, a long time ago and asked for his guidance. There was a lot of back and forth across the bay, and finally we had chosen two images for weaving, which was done in Belgium, near the city of Bruges.”

Magnolia Editions describes itself as “a handshake between the art of the past and the art of the future” and notes: “Tapestries are an ancient medium, with antecedents from centuries past including Chinese kesi, Middle Eastern kilim carpets and Medieval European wall hangings. Yet these editions are created using cutting-edge software on state-of-the-art Macintosh computers and hot-rod industrial looms.”

The floral tapestries will be released by Magnolia Editions in an edition of 10, complete with hanging devices, for $18,000 each. Bukovnik is delighted. “I think they are quite amazing,” he says, “and I am really excited that I am on the path again to seeing my art interpreted in tapestry.”

Gary Bukovnik, “From the Garden of Earthly Delights,” 48 x 62 inches, Jacquard tapestry

Gary Bukovnik, “Flower Cascade,” 48 x 68 inches, Jacquard tapestry

A pair of Staprans studio visits

October 13, 2022 § 1 Comment

Raimonds Staprans, at 96, is still in his studio nearly every day.

THE GREAT CALIFORNIA-LATVIAN painter and playwright Raimonds Staprans turns 96 today. It has been a treat to watch his friendship blossom with fellow artist Sandy Ostrau. Not long before his birthday, she paid a visit to his San Francisco studio. In turn, he and his wife, the scientist Ilona Staprans, repaid the visit with a stop at Sandy’s studio in one of the original buildings at the Sea Ranch, on the northern California coast.

Raimonds Staprans in Sandy Ostrau’s studio at the Sea Ranch.

“I love when he pokes my paintings!” Sandy says. “He liked that one, but the bottom needs resolving.”

Raimonds and Ilona Staprans

“Ilona is just as amazing. PhD in Bio-Chem, ran a research lab at UCSF, and really supported Raimonds in his early career.”

One of Richard Diebenkorn’s easels passed down to Sandy Ostrau this year.

“They appreciated my new easel, too,” Sandy says. “Both are remarkable. They are making a documentary in Latvia about him that is nearly done.”

Happy 96th, Raimonds!

— Thomas Reynolds

EARLIER: “Feasting with the Staprans

From architecture to art, via Paris

October 7, 2022 § 3 Comments

Michael Reardon | Pont Notre-Dame

I FIRST MET Michael Reardon when he was a regular with the Sunday Afternoon Watercolor Society, the gently mocking name a group of San Francisco architects gave themselves when they gathered in some scenic spot once a month with their watercolors. 

The Sunday Afternoon Watercolor Society visits Alta Plaza Park.

Michael Reardon | Bartholomew Park Winery

I’d seen one of Michael’s watercolors in a group exhibition of the California Art Club I hosted in 2009. I thought I didn’t much like watercolors, but I loved the abstraction of Michael’s vertical painting of a Sonoma winery.

So I invited myself to visit his studio and see more of Michael’s work. He was still working in architecture, having become a much sought-after architectural illustrator. But he painted watercolors on location quite often, too. He had a lot of beautiful work of various subjects, but no apparent theme for an exhibition. Then he pulled open a drawer of paintings he had done in Paris when he was awarded a three-month residency there to study some aspect of French architecture. He chose the historic fountains of Paris, and painted many of them in watercolor. He even wrote and published a book. We held his “Fountains of Paris” exhibition in 2011 at my San Francisco gallery. That’s when he and the other Sunday watercolorists painted in nearby Alta Plaza Park in the video above — and not long before Michael decided to graduate from architecture and give himself over entirely to painting and teaching.

I’ve thought since I got to Santa Barbara that this is another great architectural destination Michael might be moved to paint. That hasn’t happened yet, but the ARTchitecture exhibition provided an opportunity to introduce his work here. Demonstrating the wide appeal of his paintings, the first three claimed are going to Australia.

— Thomas Reynolds

Presenting: ARTchitecture

August 19, 2022 § 3 Comments

Michael Reardon | Customs House

“ARTchitecture” — a group exhibition of Santa Barbara architect-artists — is on view from September 16 to November 12 at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery at 1331 State Street in Santa Barbara. It runs alongside an exhibition of paintings by Michael Reardon, a renowned Northern California watercolorist with an architectural background.

Nearly a dozen of Santa Barbara’s finest practicing architects who also paint, primarily in watercolor, are featured in the exhibition. Among them are Marc Appleton, who helped organize the exhibition, Anthony Grumbine, Stephen Harby and Jeff Shelton. Also included are Domiane Forte, Henry Lenny, John Margolis, Sean McArdle, Tom Meaney, Alexis Stypa and Qing Xue.

“Art and architecture have always been closely related,” says Thomas Reynolds, who last year moved his gallery to Santa Barbara after 25 years in San Francisco. “Santa Barbara is notable not only for its magnificent architecture, but also for its concentration of respected architects moved to create art. We’re happy to bring some of them together.”

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Painting Via San Francesco

August 17, 2022 § Leave a comment

MICHAEL REARDON demonstrates how his watercolor painting, Via San Francesco, came to life.

Telling stories, yet resisting narrative

April 30, 2022 § Leave a comment

Sandy Ostrau | Summer’s Calling

Santa Barbara Independent

Thomas Reynolds Gallery’s latest exhibition holds — and resolves — subtle tensions gracefully. Sandy Ostrau’s Paradise Revisited collects 15 of her abstract paintings inspired by the California landscape. These works tell stories yet resist narrative. They capture wholes without losing the contrast of their parts, and form abstractions that sublimate the figurative.

The oscillation between the lack and abundance of story is felt as the two opposing walls of the gallery seize the viewer’s senses. The show renders vacillation personal. The artist is not a visitor to paradise so much as a pendulum swinging in and out of it. We see separateness morphing into togetherness and back. In a bittersweet retelling of our ecological relationships, Ostrau’s figures first fuse with the landscape and then reclaim their singularity. Compelling examples include “Dunes Pass,” where the figure self-erases into the dunes, and “Wild Flowered Path,” where the figuration borders on camouflage.

Looking at “Intimate” or “Seaside Walk,” I felt a charged negotiation between melancholy and surprise — along with a subsequent release. “Melancholy” because Ostrau’s re-encoding of reality as simplified blotches makes human loneliness starker. “Surprise” because the mind then wonders how — and more poignantly why — so little can evoke so much. Ostrau’s mastery resides in the resolution that follows. Her paintings’ physicality, literal depth, and thickness take over.

Through her work, Ostrau reinstates the senses as the most trustworthy guide to experience. She scrapes her paint, gathers her oil in mounds, and spreads it as one would soil in a California garden. It’s an invitation to break out of representation. The more time I spent with the pieces, the less story mattered and the more consoling they became, almost like the California sunsets I’ve been lucky to witness.


Sandy Ostrau in Santa Barbara

April 2, 2022 § Leave a comment

Joanne Calitri: “The essence of paradise
Lynda Millner: “Painting paradise”

‘It feels like coming home’

March 26, 2022 § Leave a comment

Sandy Ostrau in her studio.


I chose Santa Barbara for college to play for the great UCSB club women’s soccer team — back before a varsity team existed. I had watched the team play in a tournament at Stanford in Palo Alto, my hometown, while I was in high school and I knew it would be a good fit. I arrived on campus for freshman orientation having never visited before. After the five-hour drive from Palo Alto, I stepped out of the car to the fragrant scent of eucalyptus leaves, salty sea air with a slight hint of tar, and a view of the ocean. Students on bikes whizzed by, and I knew at that moment I had landed in the right place.  

The natural beauty of the Central Coast captured me. The weather was perfect. The students were fun-loving and enjoyed a good party, while still working hard. And it was a perfect place to study. I often rode my bike to the beach to read a few chapters in my art history textbooks. The time I spent in Santa Barbara has remained a source of creative inspiration for the many years I have been making art. Had it not been for my experiences there, and the natural beauty, I’m sure I would not be a painter.

Now I’m thrilled to be returning to my most favorite town and old stomping grounds with an exhibition of my paintings on State Street. I have been lucky enough to take my passion to create and make art to a professional level. I’ve been a full time painter for more than 20 years. During that time I’ve had the good fortune to exhibit in galleries and shows all over the country. And now an exhibition in Santa Barbara — it feels like coming home.

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