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April 7-21, 2016Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
I'll try a theme diary: Art. I actually think my subject selection may drive some of our activity selection, rather than let the diary follow whatever has already happened. Having decided "art" needs to be the theme, we will need to maximize our art exposure, not so easy or obvious here in Fresno.
The easy start was the first Thursday of April and the downtown Art Hop. This has become a regular excursion, to the point that we recognize artists and art on display. Most months, we are impressed by the variety of available work, and April was no different.
Our first stop was "1821 Gallery & Studios", a very nice space that seems to find very good art for their entrance and main hall. This month, it was Leslie Batty and her "Everyday Stages" show. I suppose this is more of a girl-friendly series, but even I found the images striking in a spooky sort of way.
One of the side rooms featured Dustin Scharnick, an artist with whom we have spoken before and who has moved to a more abstract style that has some of the feel of Marianne's new work. They chatted about the use of joint compound and roof tar to add texture to acrylic paintings. Interesting materials and a lot cheaper than artistic specialties!
Dustin explained one black and white painting of Yosemite Falls in particular. He said he modeled it after a 1920's photograph that Rick Norsigian, a local (construction) painter and antique fan had found in a local yard sale. He said Rick had more on display and we said we'd try to find them.
So we did, and stumbled upon a most interesting story. Norsigian had several of his pictures on display in one of the old Fresno stately homes, a few of which remain downtown. The story is long and involved, but the short version: Rick bought two boxes of glass plates for $45 in yard sale in the year 2000. By 2007, he was convinced that the plates were from the famous photographer Ansel Adams. Rick then entered into an agreement with a Beverly Hills lawyer/art dealer to authenticate the plates and market them.
By 2010, the Beverly Hills team was convinced they were authentic, but the Ansel Adams cabal of experts and copyright holders claimed Norsigian was a fake and a fraud. Since this is America, the result was a pair of lawsuits and, a year later, a settlement was reached forbidding Norsigian from making any sort of claim that the photographs are from Ansel Adams. The Ansel Adams copyright owners were forbidden from bad mouthing Rick. He was essentially free to sell prints, just not to identify them as Ansel Adams. (The anti-Norsigian folks say the plates may be by Adams contemporaries named Earl Brooks, or Arthur Pillsbury, or someone else entirely. Just NOT Ansel Adams.)
I was taken by a print on display of the Upper Yosemite Falls, and after appropriate Google due diligence, I asked Marianne to buy it for my upcoming birthday. Of course she agreed. She's nice.
The next day, Rick came by the house to deliver the print and it now sits above our fireplace. Honestly, I can not decide if it is or is not from an Ansel Adams plate, and Norsigian was extremely careful to not even utter the word "Adams", but it is a nice, old, photo with an interesting back story. Well worth the few hundred dollar price. Besides, Mr. Norsigian seems to us to be a nice guy who absolutely believes in his lucky find. Someday we may be able to attribute our print correctly and, until them, we still have a story.
Our next art experience was a foreign film, "Mountains May Depart", in our local Tower Theater. The Chinese film was a candidate for the 2015 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the film fan in our family (not me) was excited to see it. It is a multi-generational story covering 1999 to 2025 and the boom times of China. I have to admit, the story was well done, the characters well-developed, and the photography muted but interesting. See it if it comes to a theater near you!
On Saturday (9th) we made it over to Brush and Easel to see how preparations were going for Marianne's Art Hop show on the 21st. Valerie had everything up and organized. She's both an organized and creative person. Like the house artist. It was such a luxury having someone else hang everything!
OK, now I had this art theme, so I needed to create an appropriate entry. I didn't want to just wait for another Art Hop and Marianne's exhibit. I thought about all the art museums and galleries here in Fresno, but I had to admit the picking is slim, except on Art Hop evenings.
My personal standby, is Chris Sorensen's facility down on the south edge of downtown. He is a 90+ year old staple in the local art scene, both for his own metal sculptures and for the simple studio space he provides at very low rent to several starving artists.
On this particular day, it seemed I had the entire 20,000+ square feet to myself. I love wandering in the space, from rough metal art to some new photos as gossamer cloth hangings. (Oh, an idea! I need ideas for photo presentation.)
Eventually, Chris himself rolled up to me on his three-wheeler and chatted about his new work and about his mission to provide places for Fresno artists. An interesting man ("of steel" ) on several levels.
I tried to find more local art attractions, but failed. There are actually several museums and galleries, but they all seem to have limited hours and it seemed like I got busy on exactly those days and hours. Maybe some other time.
Finally, Marianne' big ArtHop show was due. She got a special "artsy" outfit and we had her pose in her natural painting environment. No, she does not paint in this new outfit.
Marianne's art was the feature of the Brush and Easel Gallery for April. Owner-manager-artist-in-residence Valerie Greene devoted an entire room to a dozen or so works, mostly the new ten-inch-by-ten-inch panels layered with plaster and color. We all like them very much and Marianne enjoyed explaining the process to anyone who asked. Artists definitely share more than chefs!
Brush and Easel was prepared for the evening, with snacks and their normal range of good, local, art. I had three hours to kill, but I enjoyed getting a chance to look at details of the space, mostly details of Valerie's own work. Even her easel was colorfully attractive. I still don't understand how she creates her encaustic surfaces, dramatically three-dimensional paintings of color and beeswax. It's easy to see why Marianne always enjoys classes at Brush and Easel -- and shows.
John and Marianne
ps:I did take one break from Marianne's show and visited a neighboring ArtHop Venue: Gallery II where a local water colorist and a writer team up for beautifully illustrated books of local interest. I finally broke down and bought their two offerings describing local architecture. I may add the three books describing California's Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway from Mexico to Canada. Another time.
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