Whatever emotions you’ve been feeling lately, chances are you could use a little peace, art and inspiration right about now. Good news: They await you in spades at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai. Currently, the Center is hosting exhibits through Dec. 24 that spotlight emerging California ceramists as well as well-established artists from abroad.
Skin Deep features the work of three ceramic sculptors from LaBorne, France. Fabienne Claesen’s human figures stand like “ancestral trees” that represent the “challenges of life.” Yet Claesen has imbued in them a gentleness that resonates through their gruff exterior.
Arranged in the center of the gallery, as though they’ve just been uncovered in an archaeological dig, are Ophelia Derely’s magnificent and eerie sculpted heads. Derely’s visages convey a breadth of emotions. We see what we want to see in their eyes, or rather we see our own reflection — which is one of the greatest powers of art.
Dominique Legros’ minimalist pieces are at once “crackled and polished.” Deeply saturated with color and a rich metallic patina, Legros’ pieces are “a marriage of earth, fire, water, metal and air.”
The work of the Center’s current group of interns is showcased in the Legacy exhibit. These young artists are engaged in a year-long internship in which they are invited to work and study at the Center. They get to create in Beatrice Wood’s studio, which still has the same chair, tools and kinds of glazes that were used by Beato (as Wood was affectionately called). The interns can take workshops given by established artists, and they can benefit from the guidance of Kevin Wallace, the director of the Center, who has a deep love of the arts and vast experience in the realities of the art world.
The Flow series, created by intern Jessie Rae Lugotoff, is inspired by “the event when you lose track of time and attain that perfect ratio of enjoyment and challenge.” As she creates, she likes to see where the clay takes her, whether it’s a bowl with wavelike details to represent the flow of a river or a figural piece of a woman adorned with flowers. Each work contains an element of surprise. To Lugotoff, “Ceramics is so special because it is durable but fragile.”
Fragile yes, but as Wallace says, “We shouldn’t be afraid of art.” Sean Ponder, another intern whose work is featured in the exhibit, demonstrates that paradox perfectly. As he speaks about his love of ceramics, Ponder nonchalantly twirls two of his bowls in his hands. Perhaps that nonchalance comes from experience and the acceptance that ceramics can be destroyed at any stage in the creative process. All the more reason to appreciate art and life in the moment.
The title Legacy represents half of the center’s mission. The other is continuum. As Wallace explains, “We treasure the past while working toward the future.” This is evidenced in the fact that the center is housed in Beatrice Wood’s home. Admission is free and guests are invited to roam at their leisure. They can sit in her chair and read one of her beloved art books. As Beato famously said, “I owe it all to art books, chocolate and young men.” One can feel her presence everywhere — in her art, mementos and photos — but Beato’s biggest gift was the chance not to relive the past but to see the future in the making.
Legacy and Skin Deep are on exhibit through Dec. 24 at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Road, Upper Ojai. For more information call 646-3381 or visit www.beatricewood.com.