The Bedford Gallery begins the new year with the thought-provoking exhibition Altered States. Guest curated by Heather Marx, the show features artists across multiple generations living and working along the California coast who harness natural elements and/or the environment to create their artwork. The artists work in a wide range of media and share a passion for creating art that is about process and reclamation. This exhibition highlights the natural cycles of our complex environment and offers visitors an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the interconnectedness of the sun, mood, air, and tides.
While the artists in Altered States create work using varied methods, materials, and scales, a connection resides in their labor-intensive processes that use natural elements and time as a primary tool.
Klea McKenna engages in a meticulous practice of rubbing photo paper onto tree bark, then exposing the textured surface to moonlight; a process that can take up to a full day to complete with the majority of the work occurring in the shroud of darkness.
Chris Duncan employs the sun as the engineer of an ongoing experimental series in which the artist carefully arranges fabric in specific locations for periods of six months or longer. When the materials are finally reclaimed, they are transformed into sun bleached fabrics that serve as an homage to the celestial powers at work. All Duncan’s new, site-specific work for Altered States will be harvested from the rooftop of the clay studio in Walnut Creek.
Victoria Wagner sands, cuts into, and resurfaces pieces of fallen Oak and Redwood gathered from Occidental and Sebastopol, two small towns in Northern California. She then adds rich geometric oil patterns across the smooth surfaces of the wood that mimic its natural crevices and the sound vibrations she feels are mapped into the trees based on where they lived.
Curator Heather Marx considers this collective interest in environmental art- making as a reaction to the chaos of contemporary society and, perhaps, a call for the audience to contemplate the powerful natural forces that surround us. The pieces in Altered States can also be viewed as sacred products of patient processes that require a connectivity with the natural materials the artists harness. For many works in the exhibition, the materials drive the end result of the artwork. This lack of intervention by the artist allows for a degree of vulnerability, trust and reverence for nature that could be viewed as a spiritual endeavor.
However, Altered States’ quiet and provocative search for a deep connection to nature is not without political stakes. Kim Abeles creates a clever commentary on public health, emissions and environmental policy with her Smog Collectors series, in which she leaves stenciled images on fabric on the roof of her studio. Over a period of time, particulate matter in the heavy Los Angeles air falls upon them and, once the stencil is removed, the image is revealed in smog.
Tanja Geis partnered with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to create a series of drawings that imagine how the Olympia oyster—a species at risk of extinction—might repopulate the San Francisco Bay.
Altered States is an uplifting and meditative exhibition that invites visitors to find the magic and beauty in artwork that uses nature as its guide. In Heather Marx’s words, “I feel nature is animated and when you pause and take the time to look, you recognize patterns and truths that mimic the human condition.” In an age of rapid speed technology and communication, the ability to witness time passing by is a radical, if not magical act.
Kim Abeles, Mari Andrews, Chris Duncan, Tanja Geis, Sonja Hinrichsen, Jay McCafferty, Klea McKenna, Sam Perry and Victoria Wagner.
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 13, 2019 3 – 5 PM
Location: Inside the Lesher Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, four blocks south of the Walnut Creek BART station.
Telephone: (925) 295-1417
Admission: General $5; Youth (13-17) $3; Children 12 and under, free; First Tuesdays are free; Free for Bg Members.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, Noon to 5:00 pm. The gallery is closed on Mondays.
Tours: To book an exhibition tour, call: (925)295-1416 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org