Saturday, June 7, 2008

ProArts Open Studios event spotlights local artists

For the annual ProArts “Open Studio” event, several JAMMI artists have opened their doors and let the public in to view their work. The event continues Saturdays and Sundays through June 15th.

Jamie Treacy, at 733 37th Street near West, works in acrylic and watercolor. I was confused at first how to enter—it’s the ground level apartment with door in front, not up the stairs. Jamie graciously welcomed me into his apartment and studio. Originally from Michigan, Jamie came to Oakland to get his Master’s at California College of the Arts. Following that, he spent six months in Oaxaca, Mexico, an experience which has influenced his work. His paintings are dense gardens of images derived from settings captured digitally, then embellished with fanciful additions. One series presents objects and arrangements found in junkyards, again filtered through his imagination. Jamie teaches art at Unity High School near Seminary Avenue in East Oakland.

A visit to Alba Studios, at 4219 Martin Luther King Jr Way, was a potpourri of different presentations. Upon entering through the big wooden door, I was greeted by the voice of Benny Alba behind a wall of black plastic dropcloth. By the time I had signed in, Jennifer Downey had emerged to show me her self-portraits in acrylic against vague, foggy landscapes from Point Reyes. Jennifer is from Sonoma originally, which was reflected in the golden hills and foggy trees that formed a backdrop to repeated perspectives of a woman’s head (usually her own). Jennifer takes figure drawing classes, which helps to explain the focus of her work.

I entered the next area through a slit in the black plastic dropcloth and found myself in a pitch-black space with Benny Alba and someone else. Benny handed me a flashlight and instructed me to shine it around the walls. Doing so revealed various quotations under murky paintings of trees and moonlit nights. Benny offered that the exhibit was really meant to be seen with the lights on, but I did not take her up on her offer, instead moving on to a lit area where a display case contained glass enamel-on-copper doubloons and pieces of 8.

The studio then opened up into a cavernous area with huge, unpainted wooden beams and some natural light. To the right were bright-eyed, colorful paintings by Lynda Hickox Robinson. Toward the back were more examples of glass enamel on copper by Benny Alba, this time squares and rectangles with depictions of birds or abstracts. Up a solidly constructed wooden stairs, I found delicate jewelry, glass beads and colorful glass-enameled copper dishes by Miriam Jewell.

Many other artists have exhibits during this time. Read the full listing at the ProArts website.

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