'Slopes of Diablo' exhibit shows mountain's many moods
By Lou Fancher
It's little wonder that 70 artists submitted more than 160 depictions of Mount Diablo for The Valley Art Gallery's "Slopes of Diablo 2015" juried exhibit.
The quadrennial show pays tribute to the landmark that defines the East Bay's urban/rural atmosphere. Living near a mountain may be something we grow to take for granted until artists remind us to look anew on the familiar sight.
At an opening reception on May 9, artists, guests and Save Mount Diablo members crowded into the downtown gallery in a Botelho Drive mall.
"Even though Mount Diablo is just outside their windows, people want it on their walls," said gallery board member Paula Boas.
Proximity is the reason artist Catherine Fasciato entered three oil paintings and has veered from her lifetime fascination with waterscapes to paint Mt. Diablo.
"This is the view from my bedroom window in my home on Lime Ridge North," the Concord resident said, about her dramatic, representational "Rain Over Diablo."
Favoring moving elements -- wind and water -- over the more stationary earth and foliage, Fasciato apportions only the bottom third of the painting to the mountain. The rest is a swirl of clouds, angled sunlight and sky.
Seven paces to the right, past an array of other artists' interpretations, San Rafael artist John Bucklin's "Misty Morning" leaves a contrasting impression. Adhering to a soothing, grey-green palette, it's a nuanced study composed of soft diagonals and subtle gradations of texture and tone.
In a nearby alcove, Mary Claire Stotler's "Strata" is an eye-catching example of how no two people view the same scene in the same manner. It's not just the pushed-to-pulsing yellows or the geometric shard-like rupture of land into something resembling panes of glass -- topped by hazy, transparent wisps of mist -- that awake the imagination. There's also the revelation that, stepping back from the Walnut Creek artist's mixed media painting, the fractured image is instantly recognizable.
Randall Sexton, an award-winning painter of California landscapes who teaches and works from his studio in Crockett, selected the exhibit's 39 paintings "to honor the wide range of moods conjured up by Mt. Diablo."
Rossmoor resident Nancy Partovi works in watercolor put Mount Diablo's beauty in painterly terms: "The lines naturally move, so I don't have to do the talking in a painting. The rocks and land create the rhythm."
Partovi picked up her brushes 30 years after setting aside a painting and drawing habit. "Spring Rain Over Mt. Diablo" is her 15th painting of the mountain. Almost a flipped version of Fasciato's one-third land, two-thirds sky painting, Partovi's mountain dominates the paper, with soft-edged foliage appearing in puffs of color or draped in streams like a knitted blanket.
John Finger's "Summer Afternoon," a striking oil painting captures the undeniably beautiful aridity of the mountain in the hot months of summer. Golden, glowing hillsides of dried grass punched with lush, green oak trees hold the foreground in the Walnut Creek resident's work. Seen from a distance, the gold-green tones mute into peach and a soft purple-blue, backed by white clouds and a cerulean sky. The mood is assertive; the colors satisfy, the mountain is magnificent.
Finger received the exhibit's $350 first place award; Stotler took the second-place $250 award and Oakley artist Nancy Roberts' received the third place $150 award for her "Diablo from Deer Valley." Honorable mentions went to Nancy Fischer of Lafayette, Paul Kratter of Moraga, and Gerry Severson of Lafayette.
Sue Ohanian, a Save Mount Diablo board member, said people she spoke with at the exhibit were mostly familiar with the organization's commitment to environmental preservation through land acquisitions and advocacy.
"They see development happening in the urban core and they're pleased we're active in representing the land," Ohanian said.
"Many of these artists have donated paintings to us, so we're happy to be here, providing the wine and showing our appreciation."