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Off the Wall 

Autumn arts: Outside and outsider, movable and sweet


August 23-29, 2006

2006 Fall Arts Issue:


Santa Rosa Junior College has an outstanding fine-arts faculty and a well-deserved reputation for excellence in training young artists. That said, its on-campus Two Dog Gallery has generally required a compass and a course in orienteering for the ordinary person to find. Tucked back away somewhere closer to the freeway than Mendocino Avenue, the gallery rewarded those who could find it, when they could, if they could. With the highly anticipated opening of the just completed four-story Frank P. Doyle Library on Sept. 15, such secrecy will firmly be a thing of the past.

This state-of-the-art facility totaling 145,000 square feet devotes over 3,500 square feet of the bottom floor to the college's new art gallery. Not only will everyone be able to find the art gallery, anyone who uses the library at all will soon be intimately familiar with it. Underway in conception and planning since 1993, the Doyle is a green building worthy of the 21st century, utilizing solar energy, enormous amounts of recycled materials in its construction and old-fashioned ice water for its cooling system.

Sacrificing one of the campus' storied oaks to the construction, college officials were careful to bless and thank the tree upon felling. Cazadero sculptor Bruce Johnson was commissioned to create a work and has crafted the wood into four discrete parts, the result of which is installed on each of the four floors of the library. Santa Rosa funk artist Monty Monty, whose mammoth Whale sculpture lost its home when Motorola's Next Level Communications closed up shop in Rohnert Park last month, has overseen the installation of his found-object mammal in the new Doyle. The art gallery opens in September with a faculty show. . . .

Speaking of college life, Sonoma State University boasts two exciting new shows, one of which is also housed in the library. At the University Library Art Gallery, look for a small-scale lesson in large-scale public art, as the library imports some panels from "The Grass Family (Gramineae)" by New York public artist Wopo Holup (through Oct.29). Scanned from Common Ground, panels installed along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway--the largest and most expensive public-art project ever commissioned by the state of New York--Grass Family seeks to untangle the multilayered realities of the natural world.

Holup appears on Sept. 19 to inaugurate the University's second year of the highly popular Art & Conversation series, speaking on the role public art plays in community life with Sonoma County artist Ned Kahn and San Francisco Arts Commission member Susan Pontious.

Across campus at the prestigious University Art Gallery, the season also kicks off with the biannual "SSU Art Faculty Exhibition" (Sept. 7-Oct. 15). Expect to refresh the eye, as the art department there has just added six new faculty members, making this a welcome introduction. Following the faculty exhibit, department chair Michael Schwager curates "On-Line: Contemporary Drawing" (Nov. 2-Dec. 10), culling works from East Coast and Canadian artists, concentrating on the excitement that is once again being felt when pen or pencil is taken to hand. . . .

"Outsider art," a term that used to refer to untrained artists or "primitive" craftspeople happily puttering around with their own unique genius, and increasingly now refers to differently abled artists, finds exhibition in two venues this fall. The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art curates "Outsider Art: The Creative Necessity" (Sept. 9-Oct. 22), a large exhibition culled from the National Institute of Art and Disabilities.

Co-curated by Sonoma sculptor Jim Callahan and NIAD staffer Gabe Johnson of the Richmond-based center, this exhibit strives to show the commonality of the human experience. In Forestville, the Quicksilver Mine Co. opens "The Bug Show" (Sept. 22-Oct. 29), work in all media by artist clients of Becoming Independent, each of whom interprets the insect world. . . .

The Sonoma County Museum also concerns itself with the natural world, launching "Hybrid Fields" (Sept. 16-Dec. 31), an interdisciplinary avant look at the North Bay's agricultural heritage, present and future. Some 13 artists participate, including Phoenix, Ariz., artist-farmer Matthew Moore, whose installation of hops is currently growing atop the former pet-grooming building adjacent to the museum. Also included are the Fruta Gratis women, who use windfall fruit as both installation and sustenance. Look for soil tastings (yes, that's yummy dirt), beer tastings, films and discussions to enliven the discourse. . . .

Elsewhere in Sonoma County, the Barry Singer Gallery, specializing in photography, exhibits selections from its recent acquisitions (through Oct. 28), including work by Cara Barer, John Vanderpant and Ken Light. . . .

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts teams "Instructors and Students" (Aug. 31-Sept. 17) and "Ned Kahn and Bruce Shapiro" (Sept. 21-Oct. 29) and finishes the year with the third of its exhibits of fiber arts (Nov. 2-Dec. 3) . . . .

The Napa Valley Museum examines the "Art of Angling" (Sept. 2-Nov. 5), using works on paper from collector Gary Widman as a launching point. The exhibition includes such unusual events as the chance to make traditional Japanese fish prints, attend a lecture on the area's watershed or go fishing on Bodega Bay's "nicest, biggest boat" with artist Gordon Huether and museum executive director Eric Nelson. . . .

The di Rosa Preserve in Napa continues with its "Bay Area Figurative Arts" show (through Sept. 23), highlighting the collection with a panel discussion on the movement Sept. 13. With Rene di Rosa continuing to purchase new work, they launch a "Recent Acquisitions" (Nov. 4-Jan. 6) exhibit to showcase this great collector's canny eye. . . .

COPIA highlights images of the annual grape crush with winemaking photographs by Sara Matthews (Sept. 15-Jan. 29) and launches its second annual architectural challenge to hunger, CANstruction (Oct. 13-Jan. 1), which last year resulted in a donation of 42,000 cans of edibles to the Napa Valley Food Bank. . . .

Extra points for knowing that the Bolinas Museum is Marin County's only fine-art institution (extra-extra points for not needing a sign to find it). This season, the museum also showcases outsider art, but the term in this instance refers to en plein air painters (Oct. 20-Nov. 12). Currently, all energies are focused on the annual auction (Sept. 16), which is held in Susie Buell's barn, is only $40 and sounds to us like the steal of the season (www.bolinasmuseum.org). . . .

However, the Gallery Route One's "Box Show" closing party and auction (Sept. 10) is another hoot highly recommended, while Mill Valley's O'Hanlon Gallery waxes poetic over the "West Coast Encaustic Artists Exhibit" (Oct. 3-28). . . .

There's a triple play at the Donna Seager Gallery in San Rafael as it hosts three back-to-back one-woman shows this fall: Devorah Jacoby (Sept. 1-30), Claudia Marseille (Oct. 3-31) and Kay Bradner (Nov. 1-30). . . .

Up the street, Art Works Downtown currently has work by Australian-born sculptor Anne Wienholt (through Sept. 28). Following, look for public art both in the gallery and around downtown by Mark Grieve and colleagues (Oct. 5-Nov. 17).






Museums and gallery notes.


Reviews of new book releases.


Reviews and previews of new plays, operas and symphony performances.


Reviews and previews of new dance performances and events.

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