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Davis, California

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Pence Gallery’s “Natural Abundance” is worth a trip downtown

The exhibit features work by local artists that is sure to put a smile on gloomy faces

Davis has an abundance of local culture to indulge in, including the Pence Art Gallery. An inconspicuous complex nestled in the heart of downtown is home to a surprisingly impressive number of exhibits featuring work by local artists.

“Natural Abundance: Gardens Flowers and Fruit” showcases paintings from various artists. The exhibition is replacing the annual Pence Gallery Garden Tour, which has been canceled for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Natural Abundance” is open now through May 30.

The exhibit is located on the top floor of the gallery, above the gift shop and two other exhibits (which are also worth a look). On the way to the second story, patrons are treated to a hanging display of various donuts that look good enough to eat. Be warned though—these treats are enticing, but given that they’re crafted from various different inedible materials, they likely wouldn’t make for the best mid-gallery-stroll snack.

  Upon entering the room housing “Natural Abundance,” art lovers are greeted with a colorful display. The room has been curated to be reminiscent of a garden, though not all pieces are straightforward renditions of flora. 

I must give props to the gallery curator for their thoughtful work. Even from the perspective of a relative art newbie, I could tell that the gallery curator did a good job with placing the paintings in such a way that the transitions between various art styles made sense, overall contributing to a pleasant walk-through.

The first wall features mainly vivid pieces, with the standout being “The Peony Tapestry” by Janet Crittenden. It is by far the largest artwork in the collection, and one of the few that incorporates human life into its landscape. There is clear inspiration from various other art styles and well-known pieces woven into Crittenden’s work, and the result is a unique, skillfully-made painting that draws your attention right away. 

Moving onto the second face of the square room, the first piece hung up on the wall is titled “Covent Garden Tube Station, London” by Pete Scully. This caught my eye right away, as most other artists interpreted the assignment literally, but Scully took a more creative route and created a piece only loosely based on the theme. Although this does create some disconnect from the rest of the gallery, I enjoyed seeing an artist think outside the box and come up with something completely different. His work was also skillfully made (like every piece in the exhibit), with bold reds and blues overlaying a precisely sketched background that makes the piece come alive and almost transports the viewer from Davis to London. 

Other pieces in this area included beautiful still lifes, as well as a few renditions of various garden landscapes. “Gloria’s Roses” by Sompol Chatusripitak, a delicate watercolor view of a rose bush, is so detailed that you can almost smell the floral scent wafting off the page, and “Daffodil” by Kathleen Gamper is lifelike enough to make someone believe Gamper had simply pressed a daffodil in between the glass and called it a day. There didn’t seem to be a clear theme for this wall, which gave it the slightly sporadic nature of an untamed garden. 

The third wall features darker pieces that evoke a more introspective mood. I enjoyed the change of pace from bright yellows and pinks. The art displayed there featured a moodier color scheme with plenty of purples, dark greens and blues and rounded out the gallery by emphasizing the different dispositions Mother Nature can adopt.  

Lastly, there is a colorful, fun wall. The paintings here screamed spring, and almost seemed to light up the room with their bright petals and bold brushstrokes. Some of the work here was a bit more abstract—the whimsical blues and oranges of “Garden Light” by Trish Mayer and the palm tree featured in “Horton Iris Farm I” by Deborah Hill spring to mind. These pieces certainly left the viewer leaving the gallery on a high note. 

A standout artist to me was Naomi Bautista. Various works of hers dotted the room, and each spoke to me on a deeper level. I was entranced by the way she made her subjects come alive. When you take a closer look at the canvas, it is obvious that each brushstroke is just that—a smudge of paint that had been placed there by someone. But stand back, and the individual strokes meld together into a beautiful bunch of roses (“Roses”), a vase filled with sunflowers (“Sunflower”) or a bouquet of mixed blooms (“Spring Flowers”). 

As someone who can’t successfully draw a stick figure, I was struck by the talent of the artists. Each piece had something unique to offer, and even though the majority of the paintings were still lifes of flowers, it was clear that every artist had put hard work into it. From the varying sizes of brushstrokes to the different mixes of colors, every artist did a phenomenal job and brought something different to the table. The end result is a beautiful collection celebrating community and the environment, with the steadfast resilience of nature being a perfect metaphor for that of our local community during these times. 

Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org

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