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June 8, 2004 > TRI-CITY OPEN STUDIOS Celebrates Third Year of Success

TRI-CITY OPEN STUDIOS Celebrates Third Year of Success

by Therese Ely

The weekend of June 5 and 6 marked festivities of the third annual Fremont Art Association-sponsored Open Studios, --a sprawling area-wide gala of eye candy by 44 award-winning and nationally-recognized semi- and professional artists in 11 different locations that stretched to the far corners of Fremont, Newark and union city and drew nearly a thousand art lovers,

For two full days, artists specialized in wide-ranging media types opened their actual workshops, studios or private homes in order to acquaint the general public with their personal portfolios, to field all manner of guest questions, and for a few individuals, to demonstrate just how the inventive process works for them.

Tri-City Open Studios was also one of those increasingly rare opportunities to buy direct from the artists themselves for the public to add that special "must have" to a new home or to enhance the family art collection at discount prices. Works for sale ranged from $10 for small pieces of jewelry to over $1,800 for major sculptures, watercolors or oils.

The concept for Tri-City Open Studios, the very first of four FAA summer art events in and around Fremont, was the inspiration of its 2002 organizer, Mrs. Jan Schafir. For years, each individual city had its own, small, under-stated function. Said Schafir, "There is a welcoming, informal atmosphere of the open studio format, inviting to non-artists and informative for first-time collectors--the artists are right there, you can meet them, chat all day and discuss a full range of topics with them-that almost never happens in the formal gallery or museum setting."

Schafir is highly-praised for her Asian-style impressionist watercolors which were on weekend view; she is equally the world-traveling doyenne of Jan's Art Studio, Fremont who, within the week just returned from a teaching tour in Umbria, Italy.

She added, "Most residents are totally unaware that we are blessed with great creativity in the East Bay--a score of award-winning painters and potters--more than a few recognized nationally. We decided to join together in small groups that allow people, using a map published in local papers, to do a self-driven tour or, if they prefer, a car caravan with friends, to see what studios were all about and what artists do firsthand."

At eleven different stops, artists were on tap to chat with the public, to display their works-in-progress and to sell from their personal portfolios. Intrepid "studio trekkers" who viewed the most sites had their tour maps stamped for a post-event door prize drawing of original art. Scores managed to make a weekend of it and take in every single artwork at all eleven sites!

For those who missed it, we present a short virtual mini-tour of 2004 Tri-City Open Studios' diversity: The largest gathering (12 artists0 in one stop occurred at Jan's Art Studio (38215 Fremont Boulevard). Among the very worthwhile watercolors, jewelry, ceramics and sculpture on display, the vital work of Dmitry Grudsky was featured, a remarkable watercolorist, originally from Tashkent in Central Asia, Grudsky specializes in figurative art and paints with a bejeweled color palette reminiscent of the late Impressionists, although his style is wholly 21st Century. "I try very hard to see the world in ways-from angles or a point of view -that others who have come before me, or my contemporary artists, haven't seen. Right now, I am working on a series of serious contemporary portraits of elderly senior citizens in their homes or facilities that seek to give insight the impact of aging on the individual in this culture."

More than a third of Mr. Grudsky's subjects focus on daily life in and around Fremont---a basketball game in Mission San Jose, a series on picnics and summer life at Ardenwood Park, children at don Edwards wildlife reserve as well as a delightful rendering of a local Chinese-American youth troop performing a fan dance in bright hues of red, greens and blues.

For aviation enthusiasts, painter Rod Girard offered up a generous serving of vintage World War II aircraft on canvas. Rod served in wartime with the 425 Alouette Canadian Bomber Squadron as well as the 421 Spitfire Squadron in Benelux outside Hamburg, Germany. The love Rod has for each and every aircraft can be seen by the detail invested in each plane's portrait. Rod also displayed views of the recently-retired French/British Concorde.

Watercolorist and outdoorswoman Therese Ely presented two score of her showcase series on the Eastern Sierra, Mt. Lassen and points north. These were realistic, finely chiseled, and boldly-colored gouaches. Ely describes her inspiration. "I try to share the solitary beauty of wild nature and all that I love about it with the viewer, to convey the grandeur and serenity of Western wilderness."

A photography and watercolor display (2860 country drive) Beyond Appearances: Members of the Sexton Family featured a series of seven mixed media portraits of various Sexton family members posing in native American Indian headdresses as conceived by Mrs. Rose Sexton.

At the same location, the most senior of this year's group of artists, Ms. Leah Simmonds at 93 years of age, displayed her own series of floral digital prints and watercolors of local spring wildflowers. Simmonds, who still pursues her craft on a daily basis, says she took up painting seriously after retirement. Then, when presented with a digital camera, Leah quickly developed a prowess for seeing the world in a new way. Ms. Simmons was born in Toledo, Ohio and moved to the West Coast over 2o years ago. She is a wholly self-taught painter/photographer who is a former chair of the Shadow Mountain Palette Club of Palm Desert and also former Chair of the Valley Artist Guild, North Hollywood, CA. Simmonds has won several awards in juried shows and her works are found currently in collections ranging from Ohio to Puerto Rico.

A second large studio group (1423 Deschutes place) exhibited watercolors, ceramics, jewelry, oil, acrylics One highlight at this stop was the exceptional jewelry in several media mixes including beaded, bejeweled, crocheted and embroidered silk pieces - the complex handicraft work of Susan Helmer. "My work reflects an ethnic heritage that treasures intense surface decoration, movement, and the use of vivid colors. I use my chosen media, beads, to create a filigreed surface treatment to the entire necklace or centerpiece. The beads were produced in various regions of the world at differing time periods. Beads were one of the oldest trade goods, since any material with a hole in it can be a bead, they were easily transportable, and valuable for their size."

Also at this studio were the detailed watercolors of award-winning artist Cindy Sullivan. Last year, Sullivan attracted several hundred visitors to her studio. "My style is photorealistic which means it is true to color, hard edged, and sharp focused taken from places I have explored with my camera. My paintings are neither photographic reproduction nor are they documents. I create a moment, a place and time. With every sheet of paper I touch with a brush, I am surrounded by the people, the places the love, and the experiences of my life. What attracts me may be a sunflower in my backyard, a cactus in the California desert, a child at play, an old woman in Mexico, or a narrow street in Venice. I am not limited to one subject and therefore, I am able to communicate with many different people. "

Recently, an artist friend gave Cindy a clear marble with a single red ribbon running through it. She picked it because she said to her, Cindy represented clarity. "That is what I paint," says Cindy - "clarity."

Ceramics lovers were drawn by the bold and unusual pieces of Mary and Gene Bobik (2430 Pomace Court). The couple have been studying and exploring their specialty together as fellow artists for more than a decade. Many of their plates are one-of-a-kind, incorporating, matte surfaces and a muted color palette in show pieces.

A group of seven artists (270 Tordo Court) included recent work of Denise Oyama Miller. Her art is primarily realistic, but also integrates some abstract designs. Subject matter ranges from old equipment and trains to florals, portraits, and landscapes. While watercolor is her primary medium, she is constantly exploring other media, including dye painting on quilts, textiles and weaving, pastels, pyrography and colored pencil on gourds, and beads. She has won many awards at art shows and quilt shows. Last year, her watercolor "Ornamental Corn" won best in class at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, California.

At the same stop, artist Judith Olson, a one-woman wonder showcased her one-of-a-kind quilts. Olson raises the sheep that provide the wool that she shears, processes then dyes for her portfolio.

Ron Pratt (4107 Twin Peaks Terrace) studied architecture before turning his attention full-time to watercolors. His landscapes convey a very personal take on the extraordinary beauty of California and other scenic places he frequents such as Monterey Bay.

Certainly the most far-out display- of wildly Humorous, sometimes outrageous, sculptural constructions was the province of Peter Langenbach (42348 Paich Court). Says Langenbach, "I call my technique trash-to-treasures!" Employing all recycled materials, Langenbach used, old nylon fences, odd-shaped boxes, logs, twigs, old tricycle wheels, pop bottle and their caps to make humorous, life-sized people sculptures. His works have shown at the Alameda County Fair. His wife, Maureen, is a watercolor of local fame who displayed her latest landscape themes.

Kay Hille-Hatten (1073 Curtner Road) experimented with various unusually-shaped dried gourds that she painted and decorated with highly-colored beads. At the same bodega, Lynn Slade worked with single-hue washes to build interest in her architectural or still life subjects that she then covers in hand-pressed rice paper, a technique she terms as "washi." More abstract, she varies the process by layering in foil or other washi strips from different works, building to a climax of texture and color.

These are but a few of more compelling displays that should delighted all comers at the 2004 Tri-City Open Studios two-day show.**

**2004 Tri-City Open Studios is a fundraising project under the aegis of the respected Fremont Art Association of Niles.

"Bringing the arts to more people of the tri-cities and more people to all manner of art is central to our mission," says Therese Ely, 2004 President of the Fremont Art Association. "The annual Tri-City Open Studios event is our invitation to the community to come out and experience the skill, versatility, and exceptional range of the many artists who live or maintain studios in Fremont, Newark and Union City."

Fremont Arts Association, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1960, is a private, arts group of the East Bay. Its mission is to provide leadership, vision, and support, to ensure the availability, accessibility, and diversity of the arts. The Fremont Art Association Gallery is located in the Niles area of Fremont and is continuously developing its space as a multi-use resource for artists, arts organizations, and the community.

FAA member artists will also be seen later this summer in special events to be held in July at Regan Nursery in Union City, in Niles as Norma Robinson showcases her at the Fremont Art Association Gallery in August; and at the group's major yearly event, the FAA Fine Arts Show which takes place in late summer. For more information call (510) 792-0905.

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