Moraga artists ‘Re-imagine,’ reinvigorate their work

By Janice De Jesus
Published by the Contra Costa Times

Posted:   09/26/2012 02:05:36 PM PDT
MORAGA — The artists of the Moraga Art Gallery know what it’s like to start over.

Rather than think about the gallery’s move to a new location early this year as a source of grief, the artists took it on as a challenge to generate more inspirational soul-searching. That, in turn, resulted in more creative output.

So, collectively, the artists have “re-imagined” themselves, and the process has reinvigorated their art.

Artists of the Moraga Art Gallery

Norma Bristol first took up knitting as a child before taking it up again as an adult living in “ridiculously cold San Francisco,” to knit something warm for herself. She then began to notice the different types of yarns and colors and began to imagine new things to knit and all the nontraditional ways of blending color with the various yarns to create a unique landscape on whatever piece she happened to be working on at the moment.

Soon, she graduated from knitting scarves to knitting tote bags and iPad carriers. “I just started knitting a bag and I never stopped,” said Bristol, who teaches music in Walnut Creek.

Since she said these pieces are created from the heart. Bristol calls her creations HerArtFeltknits, in which she uses a process of felting her knits — shrinking and knitting fibers together in a washer — that’s akin to working with clay as “you wait to see what the kiln has done with your glazes,” Bristol said. “The tactile process of knitting is a heartfelt as well as soulful experience. The need to create something beautiful inside and out helps release something within me.”

Bristol said that she infuses practicality and functionality into her artwork as she discovers innovative designs to incorporate into creating something useful. “Why would I buy a bag at a store when I can make something that is gorgeous and ornamental and definitely functional,” Bristol said.

Barbara Cella found she had to reinvent herself after she said she was “downsized” at her marketing job, leaving her with a couple days to herself during the week.

“I decided to follow my passion and focus on painting,” Cella said. “Although it is a challenge not to be working full-time, I love having two days to paint, help with the gallery and focus on my creativity while still having my weekends to be with my family.”

The dynamic of making something out of nothing — creating something that didn’t exist before and then sharing the creative experience with others — inspires Cella the most.

“Often, the start of each painting looks extremely chaotic and I know that I just have to stick with it and keep looking and keep mixing paints and keep applying the paint to the canvas and eventually everything finds its ‘right place’ in the painting,” she said.

Cella’s work at the gallery, mostly painted plein-air, includes her canoe/water paintings and a springtime painting of the Saint Mary’s College chapel.

“I am from Minnesota and my sister has a fabulous log cabin on a crystal clear lake in northern Wisconsin that I try to visit often,” she said. “This summer, I painted the whole time.”

Her recent painting expeditions include a trip up to Bend, Ore., where she stayed at a cabin along the Deschutes River. The paintings from that trip reflect the plants and bodies of water from that area.

Cella said she hopes visitors get to see the “Re-Imagined” works of her group at the Moraga Gallery.

“I believe the thing that sets our group apart is that we all are doing this because we love it. We aren’t trying to make a living with the gallery. And the passion we have for what we do shows in the work we do,” said Cella, who joined the gallery after its relocation. “I get the feeling that (the move) was a very challenging process, but I know I appreciate all the work that went into closing down the old space and moving into the new one. It is only through a massive effort and determination that we are there at all, but we are very glad that we are.”

Other featured artists include Donna Argenbright, Lucy Beck, David Dondero, Lorinda Hartwell, Elayne Isaacs, Heather Metcalf, Marianne Mortenson, Josie Osolin, Angelica Samame and Leslie Swartz.

‘Moraga Art Gallery: Re-Imagined’
WHEN: Through Oct. 21; noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
WHERE: Rheem Valley Shopping Center, 522 Center St., Moraga

Leave a Reply