The Dramatic View: Color and Light of the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley
In 1870 the French painter Edgar Degas said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Though he considered himself a realist, Degas was associated with French impressionism, a style of, and philosophical approach to painting. Primarily using oil paint as the medium, impressionist painters objectively, accurately and quickly capture the changing effects of light and color on visual reality through the use of color and loose brush strokes, seemingly quickly placed, creating an impression of a moment in time. These basic artistic tenets, shaped in Paris over a century ago, influenced generations of artists worldwide, setting in motion the American impressionist movement, and later, California impressionism and “plein-air” painting (translated from French as “painting outdoors”). It is in this spirit, that Coons Gallery brings the paintings of California painters Joe Mancuso and Robert Vogel, and their view of the Eastern Sierra to the Owens Valley.
ROBERT VOGEL – Artist and designer of Vogel guitars
Robert Vogel’s first visit to the Eastern Sierra on a family ski trip to Mammoth during a snowstorm, made a lasting visual impression on the Pasadena-born second grader, one that would draw him back to Mammoth to live and work.
Vogel studied architecture and fine art in college, then left for Europe with a backpack and sketchbook to visit most of the significant art galleries and buildings including the Prado and Louvre. He traveled through Morocco–Fez, Casablanca, Tangier and Marrakesh. He spent a few months in Spain living with a family in Madrid, where he learned to speak Spanish fluently.
Returning to California he moved to Mammoth Lakes. Locals began asking him to do plans for them, remodeling and additions, then house design. Renting a small office, he worked in architectural design for 7 years, from 1977 to 1985. On Sundays, he was DJ for the classical show on KMMT. He left Mammoth to study classical guitar and composing.
While doing a seminar and guitar performance in Quito, Ecuador, he met his future wife, and in 1991 moved there. In 1994 a friend in Quito gave Vogel an x-acto knife, a tiny saw and a book on how to make acoustic guitars. “Quito has favorable conditions for making guitars, a dry stable climate, and fine tropical hardwoods,” says Vogel. He began making solid body electrics, then branched out to bass guitars and finally, to classical and acoustic guitars. His handcrafted guitars are sold through his company, Vogel Guitars in Quito.
Now back in California, he spends a significant amount of time between Bishop, Mammoth and June Lake. His paintings of familiar scenes capture the dramatic palette and changing light of the Eastern Sierra. Vogel, attributes his happiness and success as an artist to the inspiration he finds in nature and to the synergy generated from being able to share and exchange ideas with other artists about their work: “I have been privileged to be able to paint with Scott Garland, Jason Situ, Jennifer McChristian, Mian Situ, Jeremy Lipking, Frank Serrano, Matt Smith, and Jim Wilcox, among others, whom I also count as my friends and mentors.” He says of his own work, “ I hope that you find in my paintings some reflection of the profound beauty in nature.”
JOE MANCUSO – Basin to Range
Oil painter Joe Mancuso’s earliest memories of the Eastern Sierra are the camping trips he went on with his father to the high country, trips that gave him an appreciation for the Sierra, for nature and its extremes, the changing weather and seasons. He spent a few summers working at Rock Creek Lodge, where he returns every year to paint. One of those summers, he visited an art fair in Mammoth where he discovered drawings by artist Helen Seal. The beautiful simplicity of her Sierra sketches made a lasting impression on the young artist. At that moment he knew he wanted to paint.
Basin and range, valley to summit, the changing light as it filters through the clouds and leaves of the cottonwoods along the canals surrounding Bishop are among Mancuso’s favorites subjects. “Light on the landscape and the way it plays with and reveals its forms and color is extremely seductive to me. Painting on location and in the studio is a way I can interact, participate and respond to the magnificence I see.” Mancuso’s paintings and oil pastels reward the viewer with two views: the first is the overall effect, a literal realism, as seen by standing five to eight feet back from the painting. Moving closer, not more than three feet away, we are rewarded with a new view, the interweaving of color with the fluid, impressionistic, almost abstract, movement of brush strokes.
Mancuso holds signature membership with the Pastel Society of America, and the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters. In 2007, The Pastel Society of the West Coast elected Joe to “Distinguished Pastelist.” His work has been published in the Pastel Journal’s “The Years Best.” — Wynne Benti ©2011 Coons Gallery