Debbie Croft: Rare artofacts find a home in Oakhurst

September 8, 2013 

DEBBIE CROFT

At Williams Gallery West, art exhibits come from all over the world, according to Jon Bock, owner-curator of Williams Gallery West and Stellar Gallery.

Bock is a career artist and serves as president of Sierra Art Trails. The two galleries are part of Gallery Row in Oakhurst:

• Williams Gallery West specializes in fine art and folk art.

Antiques, collectibles, pre-Columbian  artifacts, and historic prints and illustrations are also on display. A local representation of regional arts and crafts is shown, as well as private and international museum collections.

While visiting there recently, Bock showed me a religious figurine from the Medieval-Gothic period, circa 1500. The wood carving depicts Mary, baby Jesus and Mary's mother, called Saint Anne, according to Catholic tradition.

"This altar piece is over 500 years old. The paint has gold pigments," Bock said. "And in the light, streaks of silver pigments are still visible on the hair."

It was truly amazing to see a relic from so long ago, and to wonder where it has traveled and rested throughout the centuries.

Bock was deep in research, attempting to gather as much information about the piece as he could. The gallery obtained the figurine after a family brought it to America from a German estate collection.

Among display cases, shelves and walls are items of Native American Art and vintage silver and turquoise jewelry. Beaded jewelry and textile arts made by Anne Bredon are influenced by American Indian designs.

At Williams Gallery West, visitors also will see more than 15 artists' work in clay and wood — resulting in beautiful pottery and sculptures.

High-fired porcelain and stoneware by Matthew Patton in vivid colors and abstract designs feature unique glazes on his platters, vases and trays.

Ron Zanini fashions decorative wood boxes with inlaid and patterned marquetry designs. His pieces are carved from unusual woods found near his Sierra Nevada home.

Cedric and Christy Brown are nationally recognized ceramic artists, known for their Craftsman-era style. Their hand-carved and hand-thrown stoneware vases are on exhibit in institutions and galleries on the East and West coasts.

Cindy Searles' handcrafted and delicately painted porcelain vessels are attractively designed with flowers, small creatures from the outdoors and nature scenes.

Charlotte Hoffman has been making pictures since her childhood years. She paints using pastels, acrylics and water colors.

Penny Otwell's and Susan Bolen's colorful abstract landscape paintings add cheer to any room.

The late Duncan Alanson Spencer became part of the California Plein Air watercolor movement, and was a noted artist of the American Indian and Cowboy Artists.

Bock said, "Spencer was a well-known background artist in the movie business since the 1920s. He painted backgrounds for the original 'Wizard of Oz,' and worked on more than 400 feature films. His water colors and oil paintings are truly spectacular works of art."

Spencer's shows were always well-received. A few of his works remain on display.

The gallery's website is www.galwest.com, and the phone number is (559)683-5551.

• Stellar Gallery is the home of the Sierra Art Trails, held annually on the first weekend of October. Special collections are rotated with photography, featuring traditional landscapes, contemporary fine art and digital art.

Heidi Vetter's "Sierra Sojourn" series of photographs transport viewers to the high country. Titles hint toward the poetry in her pictures, such as: "Evening's Offering," "Poems in the Sky," "Glacial Trinkets" and "Silent Conversations."

Her work focuses on California landscapes, the Sierra Nevada mountains and the rugged Southwest. Vetter often uses a large- format camera, but has been known to drape a black hood over her head behind an older model. She prefers to use hand-printing methods and traditional darkroom processing.

Bock's artistry encompasses a wide range of visual arts: printmaking, drawing, animation, experimental film and video, 3-D computer graphics, interactive media and photography.

He says, "Great artists are innovators who expand human consciousness … contributing to the way the world is seen through their personal vision."

Other photographers' works currently shown include Michael J. Costa, Jeff Grandy, Nancy Robbins, Franka M. Gabler, Christine Loberg and Michael Frye.

Pottery, glass, sculpture, ceramics and paintings are also displayed at times.

For more information call (559) 658-8844 or go to www.stellargallery.com.

Writer Name

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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