August 3, 2006
by KATHERINE ALMY
An art show at a gallery typically features a solo artist or a group of artists. There is a different kind of show, however, that isn't as common but gives an interesting spin to an art exhibit. It's a collector's show, bringing together work that's been gathered over the years by a single art enthusiast.
Art is more then the relationship between the artist and his medium. It's also the relationship between the work and the viewer. A collector's show gives you an insight into what someone else sees in an artist and the artist's work. It is also often an opportunity for the public to see work that may never have been available before. That's the case with the show that will be on exhibit at Piante Gallery through August.
Piante will be exhibiting the collection of Skye Boyles, a long-time supporter of the arts who became friends with Jim McVicker and George Van Hook in the late '70s and early '80s when they were just launching their careers as landscape painters. Skye purchased many of their paintings at the time. Now she is ready to transfer stewardship of them, and Piante is facilitating this.
I'm using Skye's own words here, because she made a distinction between "selling" artwork and "transferring stewardship."
Right: "'I' Street Arcata" by Jim McVicker.
"We don't really own anything," she explains. One can own a piece of canvas with some paint applied to it, but not whatever it is that vibrates between a painting and all that it took to create it. For the past 25 years, these paintings have been residing at Skye's house, influencing and absorbing the life that's gone on there. Now she's ready to pass on those paintings and let some other space be touched by them. Semantics aside, what that means is that the collection is indeed for sale and will be on exhibit until all of the pieces are sold.
Of course, this exhibit is about the work of Jim and George, but it's also about the person who recognized something special in their skill, dedication and hard work. Skye emphasized the point that she's not a professional collector. She's been a teacher most of her life, working at the elementary level, college and adult education. In her work, she's always looked for and encouraged creativity in her students. She considers herself fortunate to have met and worked with Jim and George in their early years, and she felt at the time that they had something special.
Personally, I'm more intrigued with her collection than that of a "professional" collector. Professional collectors are important to art as big business, and maybe there's a place for that, but someone who collects art that touches them is important to art as part of the human dialogue.
Skye got to know these artists intimately and watched them grow over the years. She knew that there is a lot more to art than talent: things like passion, dedication, a work ethic. "These boys had it," she says. "Creativity is not just painting, it's a way of living." And Jim and George were living and breathing creativity, back then, as they are now.
Her purchase of their paintings gave them a financial boost, something they needed to keep going, and it also gave them something intangible but maybe even more important. All of the artists I talk to tell me about the feeling they get when someone buys one of their paintings. It's a kind of validation, the knowledge that someone else hears what you're saying and that they want something that you created to be in their home.
The passion and talent Skye saw in Jim and George grew, and now they are internationally known painters. You can see their work in fine galleries around the country, and you can often see some of Jim's current work right here at local galleries. If you've lived here very long, you've undoubtedly seen some of Jim's work, because a lot of his paintings have been used for posters that people keep long after the events they advertise are over. But you may not be familiar with the work these artists created at the beginning of their careers. Here is your opportunity.
Most of the paintings shown are from 1979 to 1982. During that time, George and Jim painted together every day in a period of intense learning and development. Jim says of his work then that it was, "impressionistic, free, spontaneous" and "full of youthful exuberance." In the early '80s he worked quickly, more interested in capturing the moment. Today, his work is more refined. He spends more time on a painting now, studying light and fine details and trying to capture, "the essence of a landscape."
Cleaning up the paintings and getting them ready for the show has been an experience for Jim. He recognizes how much he's learned over the years, but also sees something that is lost. You can't learn new things without losing the perspective of the innocent.
The Skye Collection will be on exhibit in the back gallery at Piante, 620 2nd St. in Eureka, with an Arts Alive! opening on Aug. 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. Jim will be there for the better part of the reception, but will try to catch some of the other shows toward the end of the evening. The front gallery will be exhibiting the works of Peter Holbrook, who has also painted with McVicker and Van Hook.
On a different note, there is an interesting photo show at the Northcoast Environmental Center, 575 H St. in Arcata. Photographer Tibora Bea Girczyc-Blum was working as an anthropological research assistant in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana between October 2005 and May 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The exhibit will feature photographs and video taken by Tibora during visits to coastal communities throughout the region, documenting survival stories and the post-disaster reality. Tibora graduated from Arcata High School in 2000 and from the University of California, San Diego in 2005. An Arts! Arcata opening at the NEC on Friday, August 11, will feature music by The Bayou Swamis Unplugged and presentations by the artist and her co-worker, Terra Tolley, as well as World Shelters, who provided aid to the area.
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