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March 27, 2007 > Nature's everyday majesty revealed by local photographer's lens

Nature's everyday majesty revealed by local photographer's lens

By Julie Grabowski

The idea for a Milpitas art gallery first grew in the minds of Recreation Services staff members Marsha Schneider and Babette McKay. It would be a phantom gallery of moveable art popping up at different times and locations featuring unknown and up-and-coming artists. When difficulties with this plan arose it was decided to keep the gallery at home in the Milpitas Community Center where it has resided for about a decade, retaining the name of the original idea, Phantom Art Gallery.

Exhibits are decided through an application process in which artists present their work at Milpitas Arts Commission meetings, then evaluated and selected according to commission standards. Those chosen are given a two-month display time with an open reception held on the first day of each new exhibit at 7 p.m. "We are open to any type of media," says Community Enrichment Coordinator Renee Lorentzen, citing hand-painted china and metallic sculptures as previously shown art. Artists can apply singly or as collaborative; such groups as the Milpitas Camera Club and the Golden Hills Art Association presenting individual art under one banner. But either way you choose, you're in for a wait. "We've gotten really popular," says Lorentzen, claiming the gallery is currently booked over a year in advance.

The photography of Hiroko Muramatsu takes center stage through April 13, revealing the landscape of her Milpitas home. After earning degrees in French Literature and Sogetsu (flower arranging) in Tokyo, Muramatsu married an American and moved to the U.S. where she studied oil painting and drawing, with photography soon to follow. Wanting to relax, Muramatsu has spent the last ten years studying photography through community college and workshops, showing her work regularly with the Fremont Art Association as well as being a member of the Fremont Photographic Society. Her pictures follow her changing interests and she likes to show different subjects in each exhibit. "I am interested in abstract and creative pictures," says Muramatsu, though acknowledging that her current exhibit is very traditional.

Eleven photographs comprise the display, including three simple, elegant still life compositions. But the majority of the pictures center on the beauty and majesty of trees. "Milpitas is sort of a tree city," says Muramatsu, and uses them as a reflection of that city. The tribute is at its finest in two black and white photos looking up through skeletal winter treetops; the graceful, green canopied bowing oak of "Oak Tree" in its golden field; the dominating shadow of a tree in "Hang Gliders" with grounded gliders in the lavender-tinged distance; and "Sandy Wool Lake" capturing an autumnal Weeping Willow at water's edge.

"With these photos, I have tried to uncover the bountiful yet overlooked beauty of nature that is often obscured by daily hustle and bustle," says Muramatsu in a printed artist statement. She works under the idea that the eye of a camera can discern what the naked human eye cannot, and this belief is what drives her art forward and serves as a guide. Displayed along with the statement are small silver framed and loose photos including colorful flowers, black and white shots of Notre Dame Gargoyles contemplating Paris below, and a few feathers from the artist's collection that figure in her still life work.

The L-shaped hunter green walls of the Phantom Art Gallery are a perfect compliment to Muramatsu's nature scenes, as are the openness of the space and its views of lush lawn and trees with the flowing pond between City Hall and library neighbors. The gallery's blue upholstered benches and location just off the community center's busy reception area does give it the feel of a waiting room, but is certainly a pleasant place to spend some time and witness local talent.

The mission of the Phantom Art Gallery according to Renee Lorentzen is to "infuse art into the Milpitas community." Such an outlet promotes local artists and enhances the building as well as its participants who show us the world through their eyes.

The gallery is open weekdays as well as during weekend classes and events in the community center. Interested artists can obtain application forms at the Milpitas Community Center or from the city's Web site, under the Recreation Services department. For further information about forms and the application process contact Renee Lorentzen at (408) 586-3231. General information about the Phantom Art Gallery can also be found on the city's Web site or by calling (408) 586-3210.

Photography by Hiroko Muramatsu
Through April 13
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Phantom Art Gallery
457 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas
(408) 586-3210

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