Art About Agriculture, Santa Paula Art Museum
By Kit Boise-Cossart
Deep in Ventura County’s breadbasket, the Santa Paula Art Museum has lovingly curated its eleventh annual showcase of artwork from those who observe, work the land, raise the animals and reap the harvest. The exhibit, “Art About Agriculture,” is a well-lit countryside celebration, curated by Santa Paula photographer John Nichols and painter Gail Pidduck. From the 70 collective works by 63 artists a range of emotions and perspectives emerge.
Expectation – Katie Fagen’s “Dancing and Praying for Rain,” acrylic on hard board, and Joe Milazzo’s “Where Daydreams Start,” pen and ink.
Worry – Aaron Wilder’s “End Water?” a resin coated silver print, Nina Warner’s “Flooded Field,” oil on canvas, Michael Wood’s photograph “After the Fire,” and Celeste Evans’s “Logos 11,” pesticide signage in acrylic on canvas.
Hope and respect – “Planting Corn on My Ranch,” oil on wood by Juan Carlos Gonzales, and “Corn – Gift of the Ancestors,” linoleum print by Carlos Heredia.
Fun, humor and whimsy – “Mr. Chili Pepper” by Carlos Heredia, an oversized cardboard construction, spray-painted to resemble a chili pepper, lounges on the galley floor under south facing windows. “Pantaloons,” an archival pigment print by Pete Ruiz, captures a cropped close up of, well, the lower extremities of a chicken. Adon Valenziano’s fairy tale wall sculptures, “Hass,” and “Reincarnation (Apricot),” portray Harry Potter like shovels with vines seemingly growing from their handles as if the flowers that adorn the very plants they helped to cultivate. Several 3-dimensional pieces hide like mice on pedestals including “Elements” by Wana Klasen, an assemblage of ag related castoffs.
In this contemporary farm-to-wall display, many artists engage with people, process, animals and machinery.
People – Kent Butler’s “Henry,” a classic dust bowl farmer looks to be growing out of the land he plows. “Avocado Hands” by Ray Harris is an affectionate scene of harvesters.
Process – Nellie Cusworth’s “Nebraska” is an aerial abstract acrylic of circular farming technique and “Peach Crates, Sanger, CA” by Dean Detrick, Jr. is a produce patterned frontal photograph of shipping pallets.
Animals – “Black Mountain Ranch” a montage collagraph of pastured cattle by Richard Franklin and “Farm Diary #1,” an inkjet photograph of a Brahman milk cow by Gabriel Selvaggio Dordetti bring farm animals to the forefront.
Buildings – Portraying the architectural structures that break up the landscape are pieces such as “Tehachapi Valley” by Todd Swart, a sleepy sun washed view of barn storage spaces above a fertile valley, oil on panel, and “Friend’s Ranch,” Duane Eells, oil on aluminum panel, a blue-green storage facility of the same material.
Machinery – Viewers encounter mechanical elements and machinery in “Tractor Traffic,” Shannon Celia’s urban-ag street interface, oil on canvas, and “Ken’s Favorite Toy,” Kay Zetlmaier’s thick impasto oil on linen of her father’s tractor.
Produce – Artists like Becky Savell (“Squash Blossom”) and Eileen Maloney (“Strawberries), create a study in grit, light and shadow and a bright tabletop still-life watercolor, respectively.
Consumers – “Girls Making Orange Juice” by Neva Felino, acrylic on canvas, and“Farmer’s Market,” oil by Dennis Newell depict both a new and old farm-to-table business model.
Wide open working landscapes generously provide the context for the detailed studies, such as, “Santa Clara Riverbed” by Bruce Everett is an epic aerial view in oil of the life-giving river and irrigated fields and“Los Alamos Valley Fields,” by Chris Chapman, a deep pastel of valleys and alluvial plains bathed in a late afternoon light.
The “Art About Agriculture” exhibit is infused with the passion and joy of art making, providing a special narrative about our relationship to the land, the farmers and our ag communities. The festive photograph “The Tables Are Set” by Doris Kleemann-Fisher—of barnside empty tables with place settings laid, waiting patiently for evening guests—sums up our expectation to enjoy the fruits of our farmer’s—and artist’s—labors.
“Art About Agriculture” is on view from Nov. 10, 2018 to Feb. 24, 2019 at the Santa Paula Art Museum, 117 North 10th St., Santa Paula.