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Santa Barbara News-Press : ART REVIEW : Angles on landscape - Landscape art takes on different shapes and mediums at a Fielding Graduate University



ART REVIEW : Angles on landscape - Landscape art takes on different shapes and mediums at a Fielding Graduate University


Above is Lizabeth Madal's "Coastline at Early Evening." Kathleen Elsey's "Rio 3," below, and "Sedona Sunrise," bottom.

November 7, 2008 11:08 AM


When: through Dec. 12

Where: Fielding Graduate University, 2112 Santa Barbara St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Information: 898-2947,

Art about landscape is more than an offshoot of Santa Barbara's art scene, but a coursing trend, relevant to both the natural beauty of our expanded environs and the conservative tastes of art lovers hereabouts. And given that inherent and ongoing popularity, the challenge of putting on a group landscape art show becomes one of showcasing varietals beneath the umbrella genre.

With the current group show at the Fielding Graduate University, "Terra Firma," curator Ana Victorson has managed a feat by ferreting out a group of artists with individual approaches to the "field." In this enjoyable gathering of art, we get a picture of the infinite variations possible in landscape art, from realism to the outskirts of abstraction, from the atmospheric to the precise and conscientiously representational.

Emerging as the most abstraction-hugging member of the group, Kathleen Elsey leans away from clean-machined "plein air" aesthetics. "Rio 3" and "Sedona Sunset" are assemblies of abstract shapes and gestures, far removed from — yet also noticeably connected to — sources and patterns of color and light in nature.

While Elsey's work suggests knotty, loud-colored mosaics with sharp edges, Lizabeth Madal's concept of abstraction is more about foggy, fluid washes. Madal's "Coastline at Early Evening" conjures up an impressionistic atmosphere, slicing through the golden and violet spectra, while "Pathway to Dunes" mixes up hazy swipes with hints of recognizable vegetation.

Tucked away up the stairs in this wandering gallery space, Kerri Hedden's "Moonrise at Goleta Beach" is a conspicuously subtle and impressive piece, its brushstrokes laid down with an understated, dry and crisp style. Moonshine is reflected in the Goleta slough, but her optical coolness keeps the image from appearing sentimental, although it does remind us why this evocative site is such a hit with area landscape painters.

Kris Buck's small-ish pastels nicely celebrate the carefully orchestrated flora and ambience of the Botanic Gardens.

Another familiar local site and sensation is conveyed in the largest painting in the show, Barbara Galloway's "Traveling North on 101." With the paintings, the artist captures the feeling of bucolic spaciousness heading northward on the 101, while adding a gently fantastical air to the hilly, unhurried vision. Meanwhile, Galloway's "Clouds Over the Valley 2" is a neatly organized composition that plays on the contrast of vaporous clouds above and a rainbow-colored patchwork on land below.

Thomas Mann's "Hillside Oak" splits the difference between the various strains of loose poetics and faithful "plein air" values in the show. Mann's understated painting is a simple, stately arboreal portrait, presenting the notion of a hill-clinging oak tree as an atavistic protagonist on terra firma. Or else it's just a calm, composed landscape image. Take your pick. Landscape art is always open to varying degrees of scrutiny and interpretation.


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