This weekend, more than 50 professional artists will open their studios for the Ojai Studio Artists Tour, a prestigious self-guided and self-paced studio visit that is a popular destination for art lovers and collectors.

Sponsored by the Ojai Studio Artists group (OSA), the tour’s participating artists must meet OSA’s criteria to become members and participate in the annual tour, including meeting specific standards of achievement, having dedicated studio spaces for their artwork, and being voted in by a jury.

Visitors will enjoy the diverse artwork, including sculpture, painting, photography, ceramics, jewelry making and more in a variety of media: stone, clay, oils, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, steel, bronze, marble and glass. The real treat, however, is the artist’s space — seeing the art in progress, the oil-sodden easel, the burning kiln, the display of incomplete sketches, the leather-bound notebook with determined scribbles of early ideas. It’s the behind-the-scenes intimacy of the visit that makes the tour so worthwhile.

The lineup of artists is significant and the caliber of work impressive. A noteworthy participating artist this year is Douglas Lochner. Lochner is a minimalist sculptor and highly regarded public artist, but prefers to be considered a glass blower. His sensibilities to the medium are best described by him as a dance. He finds the process of working with glass to be intoxicating; as the glass softens under the heat, it becomes a victim of gravity. It is up to the artist to hoist it and balance it to keep the fluidity of the process, the way a dancer might with a partner.

Lochner enjoys experimenting with different materials. In his creative explorations, Lochner has developed techniques to achieve translucent states of copper foil by controlling the amount of oxygen in the kiln. Encapsulated in glass, the metal is diaphanous, delivering different luminosity depending on the light it is exposed to. This is a must-see.

Despite his recognition, Lochner is a self-taught artist with only seven years in the field. In this short time, Lochner has become a renowned public artist. His most current project is a 20-foot-tall cantilevered sculpture at the Santa Barbara Airport. When installed, it will be the largest glass cantilevered sculpture in the world.

Photographer Joe Sohm is another artist to look for during the tour. His Rising Sun studio is jam-packed with the artist’s historic photographs. A former American history teacher, Sohm has documented the American landscape (both physical and psychological) for more than 30 years. Sohm’s photographs appeal to our sense of patriotism; they are the Americana of classic Coca Cola, depicting a more traditional view of America. Vibrant, rich and bold primaries under direct sunlight inundate his images.

Highly prolific and extensively published, Sohm’s photographs of American icons cover the political spectrum. Regal shots of the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Monument and other iconic images offer a unique yet straightforward perspective. The one-of-a-kind photograph surfaces with a great story behind it: like the first and only time red, blue and white balloons were released over the Capitol. Sohm captured the unique event and candidly shares the story. (Make sure to ask him about it).

“How do you photograph democracy?” Sohm asks himself as he travels the U.S. in search of small pieces of a larger mosaic within the landscape. Ironically, and based on the fact that he sometimes gets lost looking for the visual equivalent of democracy, it seems that many of the scenes he adamantly searches for, instead, find him. Some of his most striking images are of subjects that were unintentionally found.

Newer to the tour is Shahastra Levy (pictured) a pastel and acrylic artist, whose paintings of landscapes of the local region have been called whimsical and magical. Indeed, Levy’s stylized renditions of the local landscape are playful and light. That is not to say that her work is infantile. On the contrary, her use of light is indicative of keen observation and a mature interpretation of her subjects.

Levy’s work expands to jewelry-making, fabric patterning and illustration. Her Meeting the Self cards are decks of beautifully illustrated cards reminiscent of the tarot. Levy’s, however, do not contain any text. The artwork itself solicits the “player’s” own interpretation of the message. These are meant to be drawn at random and interpreted based on the message being sought at the time. She is also currently working on a custom relationship deck with a client.


Ojai Studio Artists Tour, Oct. 11-13, gala reception on Oct. 11, 7-8:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.ojaistudioartists.org.