An exhibition open this weekend at Piedmont Center for the Arts and titled “Something about the Light…” showcases the work of Ellen Dreibelbis and John Q. McDonald. The two East Bay artists share a particular sensitivity to illumination, with Dreibelbis most often exploring the landscape of the human face in portraiture and McDonald investigating literal landscapes found in architecture and nature.
Dreibelbis works primarily in pastels, oils, and watercolor and has received recognition in International Artist and Artists’s Magazine and awards for work displayed in local, national, and international galleries and exhibitions. Her extensive collection of figurative art is available as original paintings or pastels, prints, tote bags, greetings cards, shower curtains, phone cases, t-shirts and more.
In an email, Dreilbelbis, said she is moved by the power and mystery of a subject. Aesthetic architecture in figurative work is established through composition, value, color, and keen attention to edges and surfaces. “I love to paint people of all races and the San Francisco Bay Area with its rich ethnic mix of people has been deeply inspiring to me for that reason.” Observing human expressions and gestures that to her are timeless and universal, she suggested is most compelling and drives what is a lifelong interest in capturing that living essence “in all its poignance and beauty.”
McDonald’s paintings bring to mind the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Bechtle, and Edward Hopper, three artists he highlights as inspirational. He holds a degree in astronomy and works at the University of California as a space flight engineer. An interest in architecture started during his childhood and has continued unabated ever since.
In an interview, McDonald said he is still selecting the specific works he will be showing at the PCA, but expects there will be up to 18 paintings created in oils on linen, canvas, wood and paper. “My overall themes involve landscapes and the interaction between nature and the human built environment. This includes images of architecture and landscapes from California, Hawaii, Idaho, Georgia, and even abroad from Bhutan.”
In answer to a question about his preference for oils, McDonald said, “I enjoy working with oil paints due to their versatility, richness, and varieties of texture and tactile experience. For the same reason, I like to work with a variety of substrates, such as canvas, linen, wood, and paper. In my work, I have consciously and unconsciously sought composition that expresses strong graphical qualities, large patterns and blocks of color and depth. This can be seen in my work on plywood, “Wildfire Burn Scar 2020,” a work on linen “Sunset, San Francisco,” and on paper in “Black Temple, Bhutan.”
Buildings and landscapes we take for granted, the everyday scenes a person might drive past or glimpse through an office or home window become a canvas for McDonald’s underlying curiosity about environmental awareness. Working against the urge to over-specify images, relaxing his brushwork, imbuing the work with a painterly quality, he pursues visual impressions more than details. He finds the process of creation relaxing and said his greatest hope is to have the same effect on viewers and owners of his artwork.
Select pieces in the exhibit will be available for purchase from the artists. Admission is free; the show is open Oct. 1-2 and Oct. 8-9, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All public events at the PCA require photo ID, proof of full vaccination, and proper masking. For complete information, visit http://www.piedmontcenterforthearts.org/