‘A serious and deeply felt experience’

November 14, 2021 § Leave a comment

“AS YOU KNOW WELL, art is an incredibly powerful tool,” wrote J. Randolph Evans, U.S. ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to artist Carol Peek when she loaned two of her paintings to an exhibition commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Luxembourg and the Battle of the Bulge.

She does indeed know well. Her father, Charles Bruce Peek, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, not far from Luxembourg. “My father’s experience in the war was a serious and deeply felt experience in my home growing up,” she told the ambassador. “I cannot find the words to tell you how meaningful this is for me, to be privileged to use my artwork as a unifying and uplifting message.”

Her paintings were on display as part of an exhibition in the ambassador’s residence in Luxembourg from 2018 to 2021.

From movie art to fine art

October 25, 2021 § Leave a comment

A collage of Mark Matsuno’s movie art


Born and raised in San Francisco, I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 20 to embark on a career in corporate advertising as an art director for Young & Rubicam. I was soon introduced to the entertainment industry and began my own graphic design boutique, creating posters and other print advertising for big blockbuster films and smaller independent films. Some of the films I worked on include the Jurassic World franchise, the Fast & Furious franchise, Saving Private Ryan, Dances With Wolves and many others. I have won numerous awards from the prestigious Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards.

I loved it: private screenings at movie studios, Oscar parties at the Chateau Marmont, being flown to art direct photo shoots as far away as Australia, Argentina and Tahiti, getting to know and working with so many famous actors. Kris Kristofferson telling me about all the odd jobs he had in his life, Charlie Sheen talking about all the guns he owns, Phoebe Cates explaining all the many ethnicities in her bloodline, Tilda Swinton describing to me her home in rural Scotland, going clubbing with Wes Studi in Queensland, being invited to a small party at Jon Voight’s house, talking to Brandon Lee about the death of his father, Bruce Lee. I had a large office at LaBrea and Melrose, a staff of around 20 employees and kept all the typography houses, copywriters, retouchers, photographers, photo labs and illustrators busy day and night working on projects from all the studios, including Disney, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., New Line, Columbia, Paramount and others. The pace was insane, the deadlines were impossible, but I loved the challenge. For me, it wasn’t glamorous or fun, really; it was hard work. But it was all about creativity. It’s always been about creativity.

Throughout my career as a creative director in advertising, I never forgot my passion for fine art. In recent years, I have fine-tuned my talent as a painter and turned my attention to creating a body of work, which has proven to be a renaissance of sorts for me. I enjoy depicting recognizable icons and structures within the urban landscapes that surround me, in both Los Angeles and my native San Francisco, and turning them into works of art.


Mark Matsuno | This Used to Be His Town

A letter from de Kooning

October 24, 2021 § Leave a comment

Elaine de Kooning | Bill Brown (1954)

THE GREAT Bay Area Figurative painter William Theophilus Brown recalled that one of his professors at UC Berkeley in the early 1950s was not impressed with the new student from New York — until a letter arrived.

He took a dim view of me. I remember he made fun of me the first semester. I was painting on a peel-off palette, and my brushes weren’t big enough. I don’t know. He laid it on me. And then I got a case of poison oak. Being an eastern boy, I knew ivy but not oak. And it started on my forehead and worked its way down non-stop to my feet. So I was out eight weeks. And I knew I would flunk the course. However, Elaine de Kooning wrote me a letter, and she didn’t have my address so it was just Bill Brown, Art Department, and it was pinned on the bulletin board in the hallway. And it just said de Kooning, it didn’t say Elaine. So when I came back, he came over right away to me and he said, “Do you really know de Kooning?”

— From an interview with Paul Karlstrom for the catalog of the 2011 exhibition, “Theophilus Brown: An Artful Life,” at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco.

Art in the Garden

October 19, 2021 § Leave a comment

A redwood grove in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

IT WAS A PERFECT PAIRING: an afternoon touring the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and viewing an exhibition of paintings created by the garden’s first artist-in-residence. Organized by the art committee of Santa Barbara Newcomers — a group of recent arrivals — the afternoon began with an enlightening tour of the garden led by Education Director Scot Pipkin, who emphasized the garden’s focus on native California plants. Santa Barbara painter Libby Holland, the debut artist-in-residence, joined the tour and gave a talk about the paintings her residency inspired, which are now exhibited in the garden’s Conservation Center gallery.

In Charlotte’s web

September 21, 2021 § Leave a comment

Tea with Charlotte, July 2021


CHARLOTTE KARP was always enthusiastic and encouraging, and she let you love her back, too. No one could resist her warm embrace, but she pulled no punches once you got to know her. I got lucky the day she and my fellow Florida expat Swan Brown walked into the gallery and adopted me into their unlikely urban family.

Charlotte grew up on a Texas ranch, later was a first class flight attendant for Continental Airlines, then married and raised three children in Chicago. Along the way, her family bought a winter home in Florida that had been previously owned by Swan Brown, a noted landscape architect. She sought him out, and he agreed to help with the garden he’d planted, along with those in the grand Palm Beach estates he designed and superintended. They became fast friends. Later Swan and Jim Bolin, Swan’s partner after his married life ended in the early ’60s, bought a cabin at Lake Tahoe, where Jim liked to ski. Ultimately they moved down to San Francisco, and by then Charlotte and her family had moved here as well.

Then Charlotte’s husband left her for another woman — a very wealthy woman. Charlotte refused to be separated from her family, inviting the new wife in, and sometimes accepting invitations to travel extravagantly together. How she could embrace such a situation was miraculous. She would say simply, “I won’t break up my family.”

And she didn’t. Her daughter and two sons were beside her in her elegant flat on Washington Street, between Bloomers florist and the Swedenborgian Church, when she died yesterday morning, two days after beginning hospice care. Her daughter emailed: “Charlotte passed away peacefully this a.m. 9/20/21. She was so loved, lucid, grateful and unafraid.”

MORE: “A visit with ChaCha

Wear your good shoes

September 1, 2021 § Leave a comment

Folk art: a vintage shoeshine stand

THE FIRST THURSDAY art walk returns to downtown Santa Barbara on September 2, from 5 to 8 p.m., and the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, at 1331 State Street, is offering something special: a free shoeshine on a vintage shine stand. Master shine man Domingo Lopez — who manned the shine stand in the shoe department at Nordstrom in Santa Barbara for 26 years — will be present.

Flowers for Santa Barbara

July 19, 2021 § Leave a comment

GARY BUKOVNIK, one of the nation’s most respected contemporary watercolor painters, is presenting an exhibition of recent florals at the new Thomas Reynolds Gallery at 1331 State Street, near the historic Arlington Theater, in Santa Barbara.

The exhibition, “Gary Bukovnik: Watercolors,” opens with a public reception — the gallery’s first since moving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara earlier this year — on Friday evening, July 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to noon, Bukovnik will paint on location at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The painting demonstration will be live-streamed by the Botanic Garden. In addition, Bukovnik’s work will be included in the Lotusland Celebrates auction on July 24.

“Flowers chose me,” says Bukovnik. “I tried for years to escape. But flowers are the vocabulary of the language that I speak.” While his paintings are realistic and painted from life, he says: “Botanical accuracy is not my goal. Color is not even a concern. More and more I think of flowers as form. The structure comes from nature, but the rest comes from me.”

Bukovnik paints exclusively in watercolor, often on a large scale. “Watercolor has light — light is a positive force,” says Bukovnik. “I am a positive, optimistic person, so light — that is for me. I also like watercolor’s reductive nature, its spare and limpid qualities, and careful use of negative space, which is as important as any objects. And I like that there must be thought and study before taking action.”

Bukovnik has a long history with the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, having presented a number of exhibitions of his work at the gallery’s San Francisco location. The gallery was founded in 1994 and became a fixture in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, presenting historic and contemporary California art and artists.

A visit with ChaCha

July 15, 2021 § 3 Comments

Charlotte Karp with roses and a Peggi Kroll Roberts butter painting.


ONE OF THE greatest pleasures of owning a gallery for all these years is meeting so many wonderful people. For the most part, the people moved to walk into an art gallery are a kind and interesting lot. Some are special. And that includes Charlotte Karp, a very fine watercolorist and collector.

Charlotte was an early encourager of my gallery in San Francisco. She lived in the neighborhood, and frequently stopped by after lunch on Fillmore Street with her friend Swan Brown, a Florida expat like me, and also an art enthusiast. They both became close friends — “like family, without the baggage,” as another neighbor and great friend said. We often had lunch, and celebrated many birthdays together.

On a recent return to our longtime neighborhood — my first since the pandemic and a move to Santa Barbara — I wrote to Charlotte to ask if I could come by for tea. Her ebullience is now reduced to a whisper, but she welcomed a visit. Her flat’s a short walk away, and I stopped as I passed Bloomers, everybody’s favorite florist, to get flowers. The shop was still closed to the public, but a sign in the window gave the email and phone number. So I called, and owner Patric Powell answered. I asked if I might get a handful of something nice to take to a friend up the street. “Just give me a minute,” he said. Soon he opened the door with an armful of beautiful pink roses and asked, “Will these do?” They certainly would. I handed him my credit card, but he refused it. “Welcome home,” he said.

MORE: “In Charlotte’s web

Seeing the light

June 27, 2021 § Leave a comment

Rod Lathim | Electric Spray

“I CREATE one-of-a-kind neon sculptures,” says Santa Barbara artist Rod Lathim. “The art of neon has been around since the time of Tesla and Edison. But it is becoming a lost art.”

Lathim is a fifth generation Santa Barbaran. He was an assemblage artist for 16 years before beginning to work with neon. He is also widely known as a director-producer-playwright who ran his own theater company for two decades and is president emeritus of Santa Barbara’s Marjorie Luke Theater.

“I enjoy creating pieces that evoke stories from viewers — or simply offer a taste of whimsy, color and light,” he says. “My career has been built around creating and telling stories of the human condition, hope, spiritual journeys, redemption and triumph. I like to think that this same spirit lives in my visual art.”

Lathim began working with neon a few years ago when his creative energy began generating images for sculptural pieces that had neon in them. “But I knew nothing about neon,” he says. So he began researching and learning. He collaborates with a glass blower who bends pieces to his designs, and sometimes with Los Angeles artist George V. Wolf, adding neon to Wolf’s paintings. In some works he incorporates vintage objects.

“I use real old-school neon — glass tubes that are pumped with various gasses including neon, argon and krypton,” Lathim says, “and I use colors not traditionally seen in neon pieces.” His work uses solid neon and sometimes beaded neon, a rarely seen type of neon that makes a chain of tiny beads of light that travel through the glass tubes.

“I am drawn to the ethereal essence of the light created by neon,” he says. “It is really pure energy, created by gas combusting with electrical current — the closest semblance to spiritual energy in the physical world.”

A new destination

April 21, 2021 § 2 Comments

Santa Barbara Independent

In the downtown Santa Barbara Arts District anchored by the Arlington, the Granada, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the newest destination on the map, the Thomas Reynolds Gallery at 1331 State Street, arrives by way of San Francisco.

Reynolds is an experienced dealer specializing in California artists who inhabit the border between representational and abstract work. Equipped with a comprehensive knowledge of California realism and an impeccable pedigree of success in the Bay Area, Reynolds fills an important niche in our art ecosystem.

Reynolds bears personal knowledge of the history of art in California with wit and grace. He’s sure to be a major resource for those seeking to better understand what forces have shaped our common aesthetic.

Read more: “Santa Barbara Galleries Ascendant