Art lovers have the chance to immerse themselves in the work of four accomplished women artists at Topanga Canyon Gallery this month with Ellen South’s layered portraits and images of the human form, Eugenia Shapiro’s intricately executed oils on linen canvas, Susan Nissman’s emotional clay sculptures and vessels, and Kate Browning’s bold combination of the mind and emotion in her landscapes. Meet these four fabulous women at the Artists’ Reception, August 11, 5– 8 p.m.
Ellen South is a lifelong practitioner of drawing from the figure. She maintained this practice throughout her career at Marlborough Fine Art gallery in London, Margo Leavin Gallery in L.A., and most recently, the Getty Museum where she worked for 25 years. Since leaving the Getty last year, she has devoted herself to painting and drawing, and this exhibition includes some recent exploratory work, including portraits on acetate, using herself as a model; different facial expressions, drawn and painted onto two or three layers of acetate that are then juxtaposed to create a consequential image. The purpose is to convey different aspects of an individual and refer to our general human condition. Her nude drawings open a window on the human spirit.
Eugenia Shapiro discovered her interest in art at a young age, visiting art museums in her native Russia. She gravitated to portraiture and figurative art and continued to develop her skills at the California Art Institute and Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. She was lucky and privileged to study with Glen Orbik, Millie Green, and Ignat Ignatov. She is also a member of Portrait Society of America and Oil Painters of America. Now Eugenia follows her own path, guided by the works of John Singer Sargent, and Joaquin Sorolla. What intrigues her most are the emotions, uniqueness, and harmony she sees in the faces of people around her. Her process starts with compositional sketches, followed by tonal and color solutions also in a form of sketches. Only after all decisions are made does she start working with oils on canvas.
Susan Nissman is one of the founding members of Topanga’s fine art cooperative, started in 1989. She has been hand-building her clay works for almost 40 years in her Topanga studio. She likes the building and shaping aspects of clay, using it as a canvas to etch, mark, pound, mold, and fold, to evoke her impressions of the natural landscapes she has lived in most of her life. Classical shapes and vessels attract her, but her instincts lean less toward symmetry and more toward cultivating the off-kilter aspects of constructing with clay slab.
“I like to make things that people like to look at and maybe get lost in because they evoke a sense of ancient and perhaps archetypal ‘place’ that lives deep within us all,” she says. “I also like to be playful, turning the expected into the unexpected, and in that sense, the clay always cooperates because it’s really as unpredictable as the earth it comes from; always full of surprises.”
Kate Browning is also a long-time member of the Topanga art cooperative, as well as a highly trained artist. Those who follow her work look forward to the boldly different methods she uses to express the view she is pursuing. The basis of her recent work is the Sawtooth National Forest, with its light human footprint, and focuses on her positive experiences in the area. Having explored art from historical, psychological, and visceral perspectives, Browning brings her unique landscapes to Topanga Canyon Gallery for this exhibit.
“I love the unexpected as I work,” she says. “Sometimes a painting is resolved by turning it upside down. Sometimes a shape, mark or color is changed even though it isn’t true to reality. It just feels appropriate in the painting. Sometimes I will cannibalize a portion of a work and partially scrape away a too perfect image. And sometimes a two-quart can of Titanium White oil paint is poured over the work and oddly completes it. Most of all, I just love the mark itself whether it is produced consciously or unconsciously. I love observing where it wanders and what form it takes. That is really my greatest joy.”
The work shared in this exhibit ranges from classic implementation to exploratory studies, all executed superbly and with intent. Prepare to be impressed, if not awed.
The exhibit and sale runs August 8–September 2. Gallery hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday from noon-8 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The reception is August 11, 5– 8 p.m. For more information: Topangacanyongallery.com. Topanga Canyon Gallery, 120 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, in Pine Tree Circle.
By Kate Kinkade & Sari Scheer