Saturday, March 8, 2008


Forty-eight hours ago I found out that my favorite quilter and my favorite mosaic artist are both in a show that opened tonight, so I made sure to be there - there being a new venue for art shows here in Ukiah.

It has been a mystery to me why the county seat of Mendocino cannot support a long-term gallery. The tiny village of Mendocino on the coast of course is a well known destination for folks looking for art. And up 101 in Willits, a third the size of Ukiah, they manage to support both a very nice gallery and an arts center. We have a museum, the Grace Hudson, that in addition to a permanent collection that features Hudson’s art, fantastic Pomo baskets, and miscellaneous historical artifacts, present special exhibits that are varied and always well curated and presented. But it seems like galleries go in and out every couple of years. I’m developing a working hypothesis on this (which will wait for another post). Meanwhile it is gratifying to report on a show at this new space, plus “coming soon” a long-awaited cooperative space.

The place is One Earth! Clay and Glass Studio, 310 Mason Street - a large industrial space well-suited for the production of ceramic and fused glass. I’ll be interviewing the folks there later this month and will post about that.

The show is called Pieces. In addition to Laura Fogg’s quilts and Elizabeth Raybee’s mosaics, it features collages by Susan Hadley. She and her work were previously unknown to me, but it was her collage version of Mary Cassat’s “Maternit√©” that I saw upon entering the gallery, and I was knocked out by it. It would be easy to cross the line to gimmicky or kitschy in executing collages of familiar paintings. Hadley never even approaches that line. Like Raybee and Fogg, she has the technical chops to pull off her chosen medium with aplomb.

She graciously answered my questions in the middle of the reception. This series grew out of her original figurative collages. The chosen papers/surfaces were used as is, without further manipulation by the artist. She has done limited edition giclee prints for sale over the years, but until now has never presented the originals for sale. If I hadn’t just spent a bunch o’ money relocating and face tax time, I’d sure like to take one home with me - its as close as I’ll get to a Cassat or a Cezanne on my wall, and her handling of the compositions, colors and textures are just wonderful. Whether you know the source or not, each piece stands on its own merits.

The first friendly living human I saw on walking in was Elizabeth Raybee. Readers of this blog who were participating in San Francisco Open Studios in the - oh, ancient days! must be early 90s? - will remember her, as do I, from her Project Artaud home studio with its mosaic murals. At the time it struck me that there are some decent mosaicists but not that many who are actually good artists as in makers of pictures. Eight years ago, when I bought my house up here, I found out that Elizabeth had moved kit and kaboodle (that is, home and studio) up to Potter Valley. We’ve been intermittent contact since then but I haven’t seen her work for quite a while. There were some large, more traditional mosaic pieces, but I was particularly taken with the trio of small 3-D assemblages pictured here. They are more narrative and personal than what I recall from years and miles ago and I'm hoping to see more of them. We didn’t have a chance to chat about them, but I know we will catch up with her soon.
Laura Fogg seems to be having quite a year. She has written an eminently readable book about her day job (which clearly is much more than that) as a longtime orientation and mobility instructor for the blind. Her quilts, which for me set the standard for modern quilt art and directly inspired my landscape quilting, are winning awards and appearing in magazines. And Sunday, March 9, she will receive an award for her work in the arts at the annual Women's History Gala, hosted by the National Women's Political Caucus of Mendocino County.

It clearly is not going to her head. She was composed and smiling and happy to chat about the quilts on display. “Travis Ruins Another Perfect Dinner Party” reminded me, in formal terms, of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. Its origin was more prosaic: Laura was taking part in a quilt competition based on a particular pattern (the repeating pattern around each plate). As you might expect from a freeform quilter, she was getting bored...hence Travis’ little outbreak on the lower right side of the quilt. I also include a detail of the lovingly composed sushi: the rice is sticky white rubber shelf liner.

Another standout piece is “Fogwoman,” taken from a totem pole in the northwest that really spoke to Laura before she found out it involved the creation myth of the Fogwoman. The varied fabrics on the crow, and how they are freely layered and stitched to create the conifers and fog are typical of her work and here are particularly evocative.

The exhibition “Pieces” runs through April 20th at One Earth!, 310 Mason St, Ukiah CA. Gallery hours noon to 6 pm daily.

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