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The Exhibitionist

ane_bernsteinartFLUID LINES Eva Bernstein’s “Estuary” is a knowing portrait of a place and season.Rich Harvest at Pajaro Valley Gallery

Landscapes lushly compose themselves of fog and sedge and water while an ocean hides beyond the trees. Irrigated fields march in all directions in bold grids while bees make their way through dramatic clouds. A perky crop of houses erupts on a hillside; birds stalk and stare and rise in flight everywhere and a pantheon of noble vegetables pose for their close-ups. “A Harvest of Images: Pajaro Valley Impressions by the MPC Printmakers” at Pajaro Valley Arts Council Gallery serves up that promised harvest in 100 fine art prints by 48 artists in an exhibition curated by painter Howard Ikemoto.

The humble appearance of the PVAC gallery is all part of the act of the quietly essential powerhouse hidden within a converted bungalow on a residential street in Watsonville. PVAC uses the homey feeling to relax viewers into a receptive relationship with the art, then in room after tiny room builds a story around powerful social or educational themes.

“Harvest” exhibits nearly every technique of fine art printmaking including variations on woodblock, intaglio, lithography, silkscreen and mixed media.  Accompanied by an informative booklet, “Harvest” serves as an excellent primer on printmaking. The story the exhibit tells of the Valley, however, is curiously detached.

The few humans portrayed are turned away, faces hidden, seen as shadows behind curtains or as patterns on a distant field. A rare prominent figure is the subject of Bob Rocco’s masterful linocut, “Strawberry Fields,” a large, fluid, nearly monochromatic image of a laborer walking away through a horizon-less expanse of fields. In Rocco’s “Early Morning, Strawberry Fields” a team of workers bend over the crop, becoming simply a texture. The most intimate human is “Farmer Juan,” a warm, charming monotype by Wendy Moore, tightly framing a man digging in the garden, face hidden under a wide-brimmed hat.

Lynne Simpson’s eerie “Undocumented,” a shadow seen behind a curtain of agricultural netting, may hold an answer to this consistent turning away; or Yvonne Gorman’s “In Sight Out of Mind I” and “II” with spidery-faint workers patterning the foreground.  In fact the most intimate portraits in “Harvest” are both of owls: Pamela Takigawa’s riveting “Brujo,” recalling the deceptive simplicity and emotive power of a Morris Graves, or a breathtaking “Owl and Trees” by Mary Warshaw, all dynamic lines spiraling around the face of this night creature.  No boundaries effect such views of the natural world of Pajaro Valley.

“A Harvest of Images” continues through April 17 with a reception March 13. See details at pvarts.org.


Maureen Davidson writes about the arts in her column, “The Exhibitionist.” This column and her radio spot and blog at KUSP.org are funded in part by a grant from the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.

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