New Collections

New Collections

Mary Button Durell and John Warren Travis

This marks the seventh installment of our New Collections series which showcases work by contemporary artists in thoughtfully curated online exhibitions. This month, I am happy to share the work of San Francisco artists Mary Button Durell and John Warren Travis. Each spent most of their working lives in other high profile creative mediums before devoting themselves full time to the visual arts.

Travis enjoyed a long career as an award winning costume and theatre set designer, and Durell was a successful stylist in the fashion industry. The subtle and thoughtful beauty of these two artist’s work shows that a diversion from the current MFA path can still lead to exceptional visual expression. Both artists have been in their Mission studios producing ethereal and gutsy works for almost two decades.

Travis, now a committed painter and watercolorist in his 80s, creates works in series over time in order to capture a specific location’s history and spirit in heavily gestured, dripping and rich abstractions. Durell works primarily with paper and wheat paste, constructing shapes and forms that emerge out of a long term engagement with two simple materials. Though these artists work in very different mediums, they share a love of line, shape and mood. 

Mary Durell's textural and diaphanous pieces mimic biomorphic forms, suggesting the infinite organic fabrics that make up the natural world, from the ethereal and cosmic to the microcosmic. Each natural, free-form piece transmits light and illuminates shadow depths creating undulating patterns throughout the day. Basic principles--line, light and color--play essential roles as each work seems to reconfigure the complexity of the universe into simple materials. It’s important to note that this will be the first time Durell’s bas-relief line pieces will be debuted. These studies in geometric form are a slight departure from Durell’s undulating, natural formations.  

For his latest series of watercolors on stonehenge paper, John Warren Travis painted onsite at Buena Vista Park, a former cemetery in what is now San Francisco’s Haight/Ashbury neighborhood where he lives. Travis pares down each park landscape into halos of color, fog, light and line work that captures the drama and mystery of this unique place and its scenery. There is an element of intimacy and meditation in these watercolors that emanates Buena Vista Park’s storied history--lines allude to the the shifting perspectives of tree limbs, branches, leaves, and the views beyond. His alternating spare and generous images evoke an ever changing landscape.

Mary Button Durell studied at the California College of Art and Crafts in Oakland, CA and at The San Francisco Art Institute. She has exhibited widely in San Francisco including at Southern Exposure, Limn Gallery, and at the San Francisco Art Commission. She recently completed residencies at Creative Growth in San Francisco and Chalk Hill in Sonoma, CA. Durell created a large site specific installation for Shift, the exhibition curated by HMxAA at The NWBLK in the fall of 2014 in San Francisco.

John Warren Travis received his MFA from Stanford in 1967. He is a retired Professor Emeritus from the Department of Drama, University of California at Berkeley where he taught Costume Design and Costume History and instituted The Costume Study Collection and Undergraduate Minor in Costume. He was a visiting Artist in Residence at Stanford University in 1997, and designed costumes for Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, which reopened the recently remodeled and refurbished Memorial Theatre at Stanford. He has won numerous prestigious awards for costume and theatre design. He studied studio art at the California College of Arts & Crafts, Art Students League, and The San Francisco Art Institute. He has been painting for over the last 15 years and has had recent solo exhibitions at the Claremont Foundation, at Citi Gallerie, Curated State in San Francisco, and a forthcoming show at Ligne Roset in San Francisco.


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