Telling stories, yet resisting narrative

April 30, 2022 § Leave a comment

Sandy Ostrau | Summer’s Calling

By HALIM MADI
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.

VIEW THE EXHIBITION

Sandy Ostrau in Santa Barbara

April 2, 2022 § Leave a comment

MORE FROM THE MONTECITO JOURNAL:
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.

FIRST PERSON | SANDY OSTRAU

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.

A new studio at Sea Ranch

May 19, 2019 § Leave a comment

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Says Sandy Ostrau: “The Northern California coast has always been an important inspiration for my work. Now I’ve leased a beautiful studio space on The Sea Ranch and plan to spend more time up there working. The surrounding coast will undoubtedly continue to influence my work.”

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Sandy Ostrau: Inspired by Sea Ranch
The Sea Ranch at SFMOMA

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.

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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Capturing an essence

October 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

A HIGH SCHOOL art class stopped by to visit Sandy Ostrau’s exhibition. They had a few questions.

Inspired by Sea Ranch

September 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

FIRST PERSON | SANDY OSTRAU

The California landscape, and in particular the coast of Northern California, is an inspiration for my paintings. I spend a considerable amount of time at The Sea Ranch and find it an especially beckoning subject. The light is particular as it illuminates the meadows elegantly situated between the curves of Highway 1 and the bluffs that meander for miles along the Pacific. The effect is of a carpet of yellow swaying in the breeze against the deep blue colors of the water. I have discovered profound beauty in the simplicity of the modern architecture, the backdrop of dark green cypress trees and the moodiness of the fog bank that sometimes entirely obscures the vastness of the ocean. At other times I’m drawn by the drama and harmony of a fuchsia, orange, yellow and turquoise sunset.

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study


My work is not about representing the scene or depicting a particular location, but rather expressing what this magical place offers visually and emotionally. For me, The Sea Ranch offers endless constructions. I have painted the same trees, meadows, rocks — and of course the ocean — many times. Yet each time I paint there is a newness, even with a familiar subject. I set out to capture a particular feeling in a particular moment and to translate that feeling into a painting. First I decide on a subject. Something will pull at me. Many times it is a detail — the leaning of a tree or the angle of a roofline or just the way the light lands on the meadow, creating interesting shadow shapes. Sometimes it is the deep color of the water contrasted with the brightness of the land. My compositions are primarily determined by the relationships between the lights and the darks. When I begin, I use one color to create a monochromatic study that establishes the composition of the painting. Then I use color, brushwork and line to highlight this visual statement. This stage is done quickly to maintain a feeling of freshness. I want to create a feeling of spontaneity and energy in the finished picture which cannot be achieved if the piece is overworked.

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study

Sandy Ostrau | Sea Ranch study


I look to nature for inspiration and I paint on location regularly, but I do not identify myself as a plein-air painter in the traditional sense. My goal is to interpret nature in its raw essence, not to create a realistic depiction of the scenery. If the work becomes too descriptive and detailed, the emotional quality of the painting is lost. I choose non-realistic colors if they best express what I am feeling. I simplify the elements I see around me to create various rhythms and harmonies. I often paint several small paintings at one session, trying in each to capture just enough information to take back into the studio and further simplify. In these ways, I try to push the boundaries of abstraction while maintaining a figurative painting.

 

Q&A | Sandy Ostrau

July 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Cypress Shadow | Sandy Ostrau

Cypress Shadow | Sandy Ostrau

By JOHN SEED
The Huffington Post

The paintings in Sandy Ostrau’s new exhibition “Improvisations,” on view at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco, always refer to something. One suite of paintings suggests coastal hillsides punctuated by zones of sky, wall and water. Another series begins with images of jazz musicians, and a third is based on figures lounging by swimming pools. In each instance the subject matter is definitely there, transmuted into a painted evocation.

An intuitive artist who loves paint as a substance — and who has a tendency to obliterate her imagery with painterly gestures — Ostrau doesn’t go all the way to abstraction. To do so would remove the emotional connection she wants viewers to have with her source material. “I’m not a fully abstract painter,” she explains: “I want people to feel the landscape.”

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Sandy Ostrau’s expanding vision

June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sandy Ostrau | Close to Sea

By PAUL KARLSTROM

About two years ago I fortuitously encountered some of the colorful and lushly painted landscapes of Sandy Ostrau. To a one they had a distinctive sense of their creator’s personal vision and evident grasp of the principles of modernist art. The best examples were the most reductive in composition and details, minimalist works that were as much about the structure as the look of nature. I was greatly attracted to the abstract qualities Ostrau was beginning to explore within the plein air framework.

Building upon that foundation, Ostrau next did a series of landscapes that pushed further to pure abstraction, plein air representation all but abandoned. As the landscape flattens, shapes and color become the subject. Some of the works suggest landscape; in one, for example, a peach-colored sandy beach dominates the composition with its narrow band of dark blue sea in the distance surmounted by a somewhat wider horizontal lighter blue sky — a minimalist composition defined by three horizontal lines.

Now Ostrau has carried her evolving treatment still further, introducing the figure into an otherwise abstract pictorial formulation. The human presence, nestled in Ostrau’s abstract environment, serves to animate the composition. Figuration embraces abstraction in what I can only describe as an authoritative and resolute integration of visual forms, as successful as almost anything I have lately seen. I look forward to the next iteration of Sandy Ostrau’s artistic journey as she moves toward ever greater expressive vigor.

Paul J. Karlstrom was the longtime West Coast Regional Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. © June 2013 by Paul J. Karlstrom.

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