North Coast Journal banner
Art Beat

Aug. 25, 2005


Up in Westhaven


Luscious, lovely, luminous oils of large proportions by artist Bea Stanley decorate the walls of the Westhaven Center for the Arts. Salvaged metal reformed into intricate sculpture by Michael Cronin entices the eye as well as the spirit. Fine silver jewelry by Liam Powers displays an organic yet contemporary design, embellished with semi-precious stones that glow against a background of crystal, stone and dark velvet.Photo of artwork by Bea Stanley

As I walked through the gallery during the opening reception, a woman entered, set up a harp and began to play. The music seemed a perfect accompaniment to the atmosphere and the art. Center Director Carol Wiebe asked her if someone had arranged for her to play. She smiled and shook her head "No." This was her gift to the Center. There are a lot of people contributing to keep the place a strong and viable venue for the arts. Naomi Silvertree, harpist, is just one example.

[Photo at right: Still life against a crazy quilt by Bea Stanley]

The Center is a community-supported organization that provides monthly artist exhibits, workshops for adults and children,

an authors' series, as well as musical and performance events and other community celebrations. Nestled in the Westhaven redwoods with ocean breezes filling the air, this gallery provides a beautiful space for artists to exhibit. Bea Stanley, whose large and intensely colored oil paintings are on exhibit this month, will be taking over as exhibition chairperson from Connie Butler, who is moving on to other efforts.

Stanley can spin a fine story, and many of her paintings have a part of her life history in them. Two of her pieces represent a time in her childhood when she had a life threatening 106-degree temperature and went into a coma. In this state she saw dancing Campbell Soup kids, who became frightening, and she began to go down a tunnel toward the light. The first piece represents this event, the second her return to this earthly plane. Bea's version of this tale is much more lyrical than mine, as she charms with her stories as well as her creativity as a painter.

Several of her pieces are rich still lifes of a colorful bounty of fruits and vegetables posed on elaborately patterned fabrics and laces. Others are florals in a celebration of vibrant living nature. "I love the feel of laying my oils across my canvas" Bea explains. It seems the process of creating is as joyful as the finished painting to her.

"I always work from life, never photographs," the artist emphasizes. "Right now, I'm painting hollyhocks growing against a brick wall.

The greens have so many different shades, and the light is only right for a short time." Bea's descriptions can create a painting in the mind of the listener. She is a woman filled with energy and it shows in her work. A lifelong environmentalist, she doesn't hesitate to speak her truths with her voice or her paintings.

Liam Powers was unable to attend the opening, but his jewelry spoke for itself with its elegant design and fine silver holding exotic stones such as moldavite, meteorite, amber, tourmaline and peridot. He is a young artist who began learning jewelry making at College of the Redwoods two years ago. His sense of design and workmanship are professional beyond his years.

The sculptor Michael Cronin looked familiar to me. As we spoke,

I finally realized he was the artist from Arcata that I always referred to as "The Wood Guy." He made willow furniture, taught the craft and sculpted wonderful lyrical wood wall pieces that were exhibited in many of Arcata's public places. He has been working in metal for about five years now and says it is quite a change from wood. All his pieces are formed from salvaged or found metal, and from junk comes beauty through Michael's artist's eye.

The same music evident in his wood pieces shows in his metal works -- an intimacy, a stillness, a rhythmic beauty. One he calls

"The Dancing Man" is a man made of root-like structures dancing ever upward with his feet caught in heavy cogs at the base, holding him to earth. It reminds me of my own life sometimes, trying to spiral high, but held to ground by earthly needs. Probably my own personal interpretation, which is what art is often about, in my mind.

The Westhaven Center for the Arts is located at 501 Westhaven Drive, near 6th Avenue. The current exhibition runs through August 28. You could see it Sunday, when the band Cuckoo's Nest throws its annual birthday tribute to Charlie Parker. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. For advance reservations call

677-9493. The Center is open to the public Thursday through Sunday, 1-4 p.m.


Comments? Write a letter!

North Coast Journal banner

© Copyright 2005, North Coast Journal, Inc.