Michael Hirsch offers sleek ceramic renderings of animals in still life, with a graceful post-modern “Macaw Express” that looks vaguely Egyptian, and a couple of other pieces mounted on slabs that could be ridgeback rats or road kill.
Maria F. Santistevan creates beautiful stoneware wall tiles, as well as textured stoneware vases and bowls, proving that art can be practical as well as aesthetically compelling.
Hirsch’s delicate porcelain bowls, like so many little sake cups, also displayed the potential splendor in everyday objects.
Margo Gravelle creates tile mosaics I wanted to take home, beautifully balanced with a Latin-ish reverence for color and light in her pieces “Fool Floating Free” and “Earth Mother Empress.” Gravelle works in oil, as well, and her piece “Secret Garden” brought to mind Parisian gardens with huge, imposing stone figures of noble mothers.
Claude Hulce’s stone and crystal wall sculpture titled “Medicine Wheel” is a craftsman’s elegant approach to wall decor, but I was baffled by the large amount of kitschy, fantasy-themed stoneware in the exhibit. Works by Hulce, Sandy Walker and Jack Paul Miller had so many dragons, dwarfs and Queen Mabs abounding, I thought I had wandered into the Disneyland Magic Castle gift shop.
On the other hand, several artists offer some mixed-media pieces that are beautifully nuanced and evocative. Karren de Gorricho creates wonderful collages with torn paper, feathers, acrylic and photographs in her pieces “Winter Winds,” “Hanging by a Thread,” “Discovery” and others.
Lois Ramirez does excellent, tale-telling work, with collages of old handwritten letters, canceled postage, ink renderings and watercolor that are so layered and absorbing, you want to learn the rest of the story of an old man dozing with his pipe on some southern porch. Her work titled “Love, Mildred,” like her other pieces, hints at painful memories of lost opportunities, revealed in fading ink and torn envelopes, stored in trunks in musty attics.
The gallery’s exhibits are all modestly and appropriately priced, proving that it is possible to honor our community’s craftsmen, while not breaking the bank. These are not just instructors, but artists.
MELONIE MAGRUDER is a journalist whose background in art appreciation was shaped by way too much free time with season passes to museums all over Europe.