She keeps giving

March 20, 2020 § 2 Comments

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FIRST PERSON | THOMAS REYNOLDS

WE HAVE BEEN sustained on the mornings of the first week of the great lockdown of 2020 by a loaf of Irish soda bread, left with a neighborly note at our front door on St. Patrick’s Day.

This was unexpected, since March 17 was the first day those of us in San Francisco were ordered to stay inside — and also because our neighbor who baked it, Suzanne Burwasser, died last year.

Suzanne was a great baker, and soda bread was one of her specialties. A couple of St. Patrick’s Days ago, I went to check the gallery mailbox at Jet Mail. Kevin, the manager, saw me open the box and take out the usual assortment of bills and notices. “Just a minute,” he called out as I started to leave. “There’s something else.” He reached under the counter and pulled out a loaf of soda bread, which Suzanne had dropped off and asked him to pass along.

As I walked home, I ran into Kenyatta, the much-loved letter carrier for our part of the neighborhood, who always has a friendly greeting and a warm smile. “Hey baby,” she said, “whatcha smiling about?”

“We live in such a great neighborhood,” I replied, as we exchanged our customary hug. “I just checked our box at Jet Mail and got this loaf of soda bread from Suzanne Burwasser.”

She reached into her mail bag and pulled out another loaf.

“I got one too!” she said.

Suzanne and her husband, George, have always been among the most neighborly people in our little village. They have been great patrons of our gallery and of many other local businesses in our neighborhood. Suzanne died last year after a fast and ferocious battle with pancreatic cancer. George said she continued to bake, even during her illness, leaving a freezer full of goodies.

She keeps on sharing from the great beyond.

EARLIER: “The art of neighborliness

Saving the murals

August 26, 2019 § Leave a comment

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IT’S BEING HAILED as a victory. The school board in San Francisco reversed course and voted merely to cover up — not paint over — a remarkable series of murals by noted artist Victor Arnautoff at George Washington High School. But the plan is still to make the frescoes disappear.

That’s a shame. A quickly scheduled, little noted public viewing of the controversial murals on a weekday afternoon nonetheless brought out scores of people eager to see for themselves what the fuss was about. It turned into an art party, with a gathering of many leading figures from the Bay Area art world. Most seemed to agree it was a silly idea to destroy — or even hide — the murals so that the young minds of high school students would not be subjected to the trauma of passing by Arnautoff’s intentionally provocative art.

Said one: “If they’re worried about the kids being traumatized, don’t let them read the front page of The New York Times.”

MORE: “The case for keeping the murals

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My first brush with art

March 4, 2018 § 1 Comment

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Sarah Segrest | Persimmons

SARAH SEGREST TAUGHT 7th grade English and Holmes County French. She was the first touch of culture that came into my young life as a country kid growing up in the backwoods, and my first brush with art.

At the rear of her room she had a display space for her flower arrangements, usually featuring camellias in the winter from her garden. She was an artist, and an ever-changing show of her paintings lined the walls. Plus, she had an air conditioner when no one else did — no small attraction in our farm town in the heart and the heat of the Florida Panhandle.

Mrs. Segrest was just the right combination of nurturing and challenging for 7th graders, no longer in elementary school but not quite teenagers yet. When I got to 9th grade and had her again for French class, her elevated aesthetic sensibilities became ever more obvious. French! With a southern accent.

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An honest opinion

December 15, 2014 § 4 Comments

My pal Judson Orrick, a lawyer, was moved to begin painting. One day his friend the artist Joe McFadden came by his law office. As Judson tells the story:

“I represented Joe in a dispute with a gallery owner who wasn’t paying him. Joe came by my office, which is festooned with examples from my abstract expressionist period. Big canvasses. Lots of bright squiggles and whathaveyou’s. Everyone who comes in compliments my rare talent. Joe said nothing. So I said to him: Everyone compliments my artwork, Joe, but yours is the single opinion that matters to me. Honestly, what do you think?”

“It’s dreadful,” he said. “Truly horrible. A waste of paint and canvas. I know orangutans working with dung who have shown more promise. Seriously, it’s bad. You should stop.”

Then he turned up his palms, cocked his head, smiled and shrugged. “You asked.”

Read more: “I really, really liked that guy

‘Okay, you win’

May 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hayes Keeler stopped to visit Marc Jacobs' Christmas swan in 2007.

Hayes Keeler stopped to visit Marc Jacobs’ Christmas swan in 2007.

ONE OF OUR strongest supporters — and one of our neighborhood’s truly good guys — was laid to rest the other day. Hayes Keeler was a lawyer turned investment advisor who lived nearby. Over the years, he’d stop by on his neighborhood rounds, always ready to joust, tickled that another lawyer had turned gallery owner. Even as Parkinson’s Disease took its toll, he remained amazingly upbeat.

His friend Tim Smith gave the eulogy at what was billed as the “Celebration of the Life of Hayes Keeler” on May 3, just down the hill at the beautiful little Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

“He was tough,” Smith said, “challenging, probing, engaging and professorial. I always had to be sure I knew what I was talking about, even if I thought it was obvious. After he continued to challenge me and I continued to squirm, he would suddenly smile and say, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Okay, you win.’ ”

Sandy Ostrau’s expanding vision

June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Natural Spaces | Sandy Ostrau

Natural Spaces | Sandy Ostrau

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

REVIEW: “Drawing on a Rich Bay Area Legacy

Bass | Sandy Ostrau

Bass | Sandy Ostrau

What I’ve learned

January 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

An old friend — a prominent and prosperous lawyer — passed through town a few weeks ago. We had dinner at The Big Four on Nob Hill. I wrote to thank him for a pleasant evening and asked the great man how he would sum up what he had learned in his long and successful life about what really matters, and what advice he could offer.

His reply, in its entirety:

What really matters: Family and friends.
What have I learned: Didn’t take enough risks.
What advice do I have: Take them.

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