Imagine clothed figure drawing and painting from eight artists, many of them using the same models, and it's unlikely you'd envision the diversity of East Bay Figure Painting Group's first show, currently running at
The re-emerging artists of the group represent another way of doing things. All are returning to full-time art after another career or raising a family. For years Karen Zullo Sherr fit her art around her job as a community organizer and union organizer, while Georgianna Greenwood did graphic design, calligraphy and lettering before returning to painting. Diana Blackwell began painting again after decades as a freelance journalist and art model. The group was founded to provide supportive community, and for the past two years the group has been working together, sharing professional models and a location.
The result is this intriguing first show. Blackwell's paintings recall Mexican muralists and can be seen clearly as you pass Firehouse North Gallery. Rogin's quiet drawings require a closer look. Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez primarily uses oil paint to work with light, producing beautiful, detailed work. Karen Zullo Sherr's acrylics are vaguely impressionist. Kathleen Flannigan uses India ink and white pencil shading on gray paper for a dramatically different take on the models. Vicki Salzman's intimate oils contrast against Meredith Steele's colorful, playful acrylics.
Georgianna Greenwood's background in lettering and calligraphy influences her soft watercolors, which integrate quotes and phrases. A portrait of Lorianne, a model who appears in several works, is rendered especially unique by a quote from writer Peter Schjeldahl. "Unlearnable, the vocation of art entails idiosyncratic strategies for learning toward unclear but performatorily felt ends."
How can something be unlearnable and still entail strategies for learning?
Art professors are sometimes fond of saying that art is the territory only of those who cannot imagine doing anything else. Yet these re-emerging artists show that artistic lives can be more complicated. Art does not have to be the only meaningful thing in life. It can be one of many incredible things, one aspect of a full life. The strategies of learning and living this unlearnable thing are indeed more idiosyncratic and complex than romantic statements about singular artistic calling would suggest.
The show opened Friday at Firehouse North Gallery in