Berkeley Artists’ Exhibition Captures Visions on Paper

By PAUL KILDUFF Special to the Planet
Friday August 01, 2003

How does an artist confront the challenges of capturing reality on the most ephemeral of media? The Berkeley Art Center answers that question next week when it unveils a national juried exhibition, “Works on Paper.” 

Of 25 Bay Area artists represented in the works of contemporary drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, mixed media and digital images, seven are from Berkeley. 

While most of the artists are seasoned veterans of the art world, exhibiting is a new experience for Berkeley watercolorist Haseoo Pyun, who emigrated from South Korea in 1998 and has lived in Berkeley three years. Her first-ever submission to a show is the image of Lake Tahoe she calls “Serenity.” 

Pyun, whose favorite watercolor subjects include penguins and the Golden Gate Bridge, says she wants people to appreciate the beauty of her work. 

“I didn’t put any specific meaning in my art. I don’t want to define art. I don’t want to limit the meaning. People have their own perspective,” says Pyun who began painting watercolors about two years ago. She says the process helps her concentrate. “When I draw or paint I can totally focus on one subject. That’s the main reason I started.”  

Pyun, who first sketches her subjects on location then paints them later at her studio, said being picked for the show was “a great honor.” 

A more whimsical take on watercolors at the exhibit is provided by Berkeley artist Irene Dogmatic in her brightly colored “Harlequin Romance.” A play on words, just about everything in the painting is “harlequin something or another,” says Dogmatic. There are harlequin ducks, harlequin lilies, a harlequin Great Dane, and the two main figures in the painting are dressed in harlequin clown suits.  

“I’ve done a lot of work around the concept of romance, “ says Dogmatic. 

Another of her word play paintings, “Significant Otters,” depicts a pair of the critters kissing. She also paints large canvases often with a political theme and has a thriving side business doing realistic portraits of pet owners’ beloved dog and cats. She executes her colorful, highly patterned paintings in either watercolor on paper or acrylic on canvas. 

Dogmatic, who received her undergraduate degree in art from Cal in the early 70s, came up with her last name, an alias, during the correspondence art movement that flourished from the early 70s to the late 80s. Correspondence artists would write each other for ideas for their various projects and would always use a pen name. “It was sort of like the Internet, but it was through the mail,” says Dogmatic. 

When Esquire magazine published an article about the movement in the early 70s featuring Dogmatic and her paintings, the name stuck. She says the name also works well for her because she’s always used a lot of canine imagery. 

Another Berkeley exhibitor, photographer Pamela Cobb, specializes in landscape-based shots of rock formations. Cobb travels the deserts of the American Southwest in search of images to capture. 

A first glance at her three-by-four-foot black and white photograph “Capital Reef Canyon” reveals what seems to be an abstract creation, but it’s a real view shot from beneath a cavern’s rock overhang in Utah. A broad band of sky broken by the image of a mountain top in the distance divides the image’s upper third—the massive rock face overhead—from the lower third, the rubble on the cavern floor. 

“You can’t really tell what it is or where it is and that’s what appealed to me about the point of view,” says Cobb who describes her work as “looking for abstraction in the landscape and then photographing it as it is. I’ve removed the context just by my point of view. It’s real, it exists, but it’s also abstract and sort of inconclusive what you’re looking at.” 

A graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts, her work has appeared throughout the Bay Area as well as in Maine, Chicago and Philadelphia. 

Over 650 artists from across the country submitted 2,500 slides of their work to be considered for the juried exhibition, now in it’s 20th year. Marian Parmenter, Director of the San Francisco Museum of Arts (SF MOMA) Artists’ Gallery at Fort Mason, whittled that number down to 49. Each artist has one piece in the show.  

“I do this all the time all over California and this was a particularly exciting show,” says Parmenter. “It was incredibly diverse and very challenging and the work was of such a high caliber it was really, really hard to choose.” 

Parmenter says she wasn’t looking for anything in particular when judging the artwork. “When there’s that much work you don’t try to have a theme. It doesn’t seem quite fair,” she said. Parmenter did have her favorites though, noting that the photography submitted was “extremely strong.” She said she also felt compelled to include some “very funny dog pictures. I couldn’t resist.” 

Because the art is chosen blindly, Parmenter didn’t have any information about the artists. 

While Parmenter didn’t know that many of the artists in the show are from the East Bay, she isn’t surprised. About half of the 1,200 Bay Area artists she works with at the Artist’s Gallery (an outlet for artists to rent out their work) live in the East Bay.  

The other Berkeley artists in the show are Timothy Andrew Phelan, Pamela Blotner and Barbara Kronlins. Other East Bay artists exhibiting works are Alva Svoboda, Shane Weare, Arngunnur Yr, Katherine Westerhout, Soffia Saemundsdottir, Othmar Tobisch, Margaret Chavigny, Michele Nye and Mary Ann Hayden of Oakland; Brooke Barer of Richmond and Albert Edgerton of Piedmont.  

A reception for the artists and the announcement of awards will be held at the Center Sunday, Aug. 10, from 2 to 4 p.m. The show opens for public viewing this Wednesday. 

The Berkeley Art Center is located at 1275 Walnut St., Berkeley. Admission is free. 

For more information, call the center at 510-644-6893 or visit their Web site, www. berkeleyartcenter.org.