Mar 30, 2017
Two exhibits will open at the Humboldt State University Third Street Gallery on April 1.
Two Views-Painting From Life is a two-person exhibition featuring representational paintings by husband and wife Jim McVicker and Theresa Oats, who reside on California’s North Coast. Together, this exhibition explores their long partnership animated by a mutual passion for painting the landscape, still life and portraits.
Theresa Oats describes her hometown, Levittown, Long Island, New York, as “a cookie cutter, mass-produced suburb with wonderfully zany people”, most of whom were moving in from nearby, post-war New York City, bringing with them an artistic outlook and a great education system. Her father was in construction. He was very creative, illustrating in his free time as well as driving her family all over Long Island to explore its villages and towns. Her mother, a nurse, was fairly strict and not approving of art as a career. Yet, she still indulged Oats by buying her art supplies and eventually Oats went on to study art and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Theresa Oats first became aware of California’s North Coast at the age of 10. When visiting the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, she became separated from her group and found herself lost in the museum’s vast collections. She wandered into a room with a diorama depicting a Native American woman next to a river with giant trees surrounding her. The diorama, in fact, portrayed the redwood trees of California’s North Coast. Oats recalls that as she looked upon these giants in wonderment, she told herself that, “When I grow up, I’m going there.” When Oats, as an adult, decided to move west to Northern California, her intention was to find a place in the arts community of San Francisco. But she was persuaded by a friend to keep traveling 300 miles north to visit Humboldt County, California. Upon arrival, she was transfixed by the discovery that she had entered the realm of her childhood dream. She stayed. Since then, Oats has continued making art inspired by the North Coast’s landscape and the people who live there.
Jim McVicker is a native of Ontario, California, which is about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. He grew up involved in sports but was constantly attracted to the arts and knew early on that becoming an artist was his path. After graduating from high school, McVicker traveled extensively in Europe and the United States.
He recalls making his first plein air painting (painted outdoors) in 1973 while attending art classes at Chaffey Community College in Southern California. His influences then were the French Impressionists, primarily Monet, Pissarro and Sisley. By the summer of 1975 he decided to become a full-time painter. With $5,000 in his pocket, he quit his job, left school and moved to Northern California, eventually settling down in Humboldt County.
McVicker claims that Humboldt County is where his education as a painter really started. There were several painters in the area who he had met through a life-drawing group. Three of them became close friends and he would paint with them daily. He credits this opportunity to closely observe others at work as a key factor in mastering his craft. McVicker’s style has been described as invigorating and effortless. Through paint he pursues atmosphere, form, light, and solid drawing. In his work he seeks to express the “elusive spiritual energy, the mystery of nature and life and the unknown.” He believes that without this sensitivity to the land, his work would be “merely marks on a surface.”
McVicker and Oats met in Humboldt County and were drawn to each other by their love of the landscape and their shared approach to painting. Both artists make their work from the direct observation of their subjects, eschewing the use of photographs as an aid in their process. When not painting outdoors, they are working on still life, figure painting and portraits in their large, sunny studio. Married since 1988, they continue to make their home and studio on California’s North Coast, surrounded by the magnificent landscape that brought them together.
The second show, Morphic Structures: Ceramic Works by Shannon Sullivan and David Zdrazil, is a two-person exhibition of ceramic sculpture and ceramic vessels by artists Shannon Sullivan and David Zdrazil (pronounced DRAY-zel). The objects in this exhibit reference a variety of phenomena found in the natural world. Geology, crumbling cliffs, stormy landscapes, and vibrant growth are among the shared references in the works made by Sullivan and Zdrazil.
The artists use the ceramic process itself to link these environmental experiences with the objects they make. Clay and glazes transform between states of soft and flowing to dry and solid throughout the forming and firing process. The resulting pieces are a condensation of geologic time, enduring yet fragile.
Shannon Sullivan’s ceramic sculptural discs are reminiscent of peering through a microscope onto specimen slides that might have mineral formations as well as biological structures. Her curiosity with micro imagery was born from growing up with her mother who worked in a medical lab. Images unseen by the naked eye that require closer investigation has been an inspiration in her work, which explores the nuances present in the living world. “The work asks the viewer to question their relationship with place” to evoke the feeling of intimacy with the world that surrounds us. Sullivan’s ceramic pieces have been included in the book, 500 Ceramic Sculptures. Her accomplishments also include having worked as an artist in residence in Jingdezhen, China at the Pottery Workshop and at the International Ceramics Research Center in Skaelskor, Denmark.
David Zdrazil’s work is a fusion of traditional and contemporary pottery styles from the East and West. His wood-fired ceramic vessels call upon geometric ratios, textures, historic processes and materials that Zdrazil has extracted from his surroundings. Sustainability plays a large role in his work, as he often makes use of locally found materials. He describes his work as “chunky style” in reference to the textures and masses he employs in his design as well as for the way he combines his materials. Zdrazil claims that, “Truth to materials is a theme that is found throughout my work-the “clayness” of the clay can be smooth, chunky, flowing, cracking, pure and unrefined all at once.” After building his first wood fire kiln in 2001 he has explored various aspects of kiln design, including hybrid and hydrogen fueled kilns. Zdrazil’s work has been presented in publications such as Luxe Interiors and Design, Ceramics Monthly, Ceramics Technical and The Log Book.
Both from Wisconsin, Sullivan and Zdrazil have known each other since the late ’90s and have studied, worked, collaborated, and exhibited together extensively. Sullivan and Zdrazil’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally. They have presented at the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts in the U.S. and at international conferences in France, Australia, Germany and Denmark. After many years of friendship, they were married in 2011. They both teach art at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California where they share a studio at their home.
Exhibition Schedule and Location
A reception for the artists will be held at HSU Third Street Gallery on Saturday, April 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during Eureka’s monthly Arts Alive program. Both exhibitions will run from April 1 through May 14. The gallery, located at located at 416 Third Street, Eureka, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. The gallery was recently relocated and renamed after 19 years in its former location on First Street in Eureka. For more information, call (707) 443-6363 or visit the gallery’s website at humboldt.edu/first.