Jacquelyn Cavish is an accomplished and acclaimed painter who has received many awards. Her work is included in permanent collections both public and private, such as the Municipal Collection in Ventura’s City Hall and the permanent collection at the Carnegie Museum. Cavish teaches art history at Oxnard College and for many years was the art curator at Channel Islands Maritime Museum. She is also an alchemist apparently in possession of the philosopher’s stone, that magical talisman with which it is possible to change base materials into gold; the evidence of which can be viewed at the Studio Gallery, where her Exile to the Garden exhibit is on display.
Following the loss of her home, which was damaged by water from a fire, the temporary housing she found had a small patio garden featuring a gnarled orange tree with a riot of nasturtiums and fuchsias growing beneath it. This garden was a place of healing and of transformation, as the remarkable series of paintings reflects.
“Dawn, Moon Setting” is an acrylic painting on canvas, as are most of these paintings. The small red disk of the rising sun appears in the upper left corner and a pale moon setting near the lower right with the orange tree bending across the canvas, laden with oranges. The play of light and color captures that still moment of dawn when dark goes down to day. “Lunar Eclipse and Orange Tree” discovers the moon in nearly full eclipse, hanging like a slightly larger orange close to the branches of the tree. The oranges are edged in light from the brighter sliver of emerging moon at eclipse edge.
Cavish prepares her palette before beginning a painting. She recounts an experience she had in a college figure painting class. Her instructor watched for a while as she was working, and then observed, “You’re using colors right from the tube.” At that time she had not studied color theory and was taken aback by the comment. Since then, clearly, she has become a master of the application of color theory. She explains that she never uses a color without at least a bit of its complement worked in.
A neighbor’s entryway inspired “The Land of Pink Flamingos” in which shades of pink and orange make the greens and blues of foliage and flowers glow. Cavish was inspired and influenced by the Impressionists, particularly the more daring users of color like Cezanne and Matisse. “Bird House” is a complex explosion of brilliant complementary colors depicting an interior still life: table with three chairs, bowl of fruit, a wall decoration with birds. Seen through a window, the orange tree seems subdued in contrast to the brilliant tones — shocking actually — of orange chairs against blue tablecloth, chartreuse birds against a magenta wall.
Her exile, fortunately to a garden, provided the quiet setting for the alchemical magic Cavish performed. Loss and sadness were transformed, through the magic of art, to gold. And to crimson and turquoise and indigo and orange and all the brilliant colors of these amazing paintings.
Exile to the Garden through Dec. 31 at The Studio Gallery, 2741 S. Victoria Ave., Oxnard, 985-1546.