I recently toured the photo exhibit “SkyScapes” at Annenberg Community Beach House with curator Bruria Finkel. The photography is spectacular and inspiring, proving that nature often offers the most timeless art, even as it reminds us of time’s fleeting nature.

The show includes photos of the California desert, Antarctica and the skies above Santa Monica by photographic talent Chris Garland, world-renowned environmental artist Lita Albuquerque and veteran multi-media artist Finkel.

Albuquerque’s giant photograph of cobalt blue balls on the Antarctic ice sheet greets you at the entrance. The stark contrast of the deep blue against the bright white snow calls attention to the pattern of the layout, reflecting the position of the stars in the sky directly above that piece of the wintery continent. Ponder the nature of Albuquerque’s work and the effort it takes to create, then photograph, environmental art on this enormous scale.

Garland’s passion for clouds is evident in the majestic photos he has taken of uniquely shaped masses formed by the heat and wind conditions of California’s deserts. They take on a character and life of their own; the photo titled “Prince Charming” is one example. These are pictures that can only be taken at exactly the right moment — clouds shift shapes so quickly. Garland has the eye, the timing and the skill to capture the moment and instills a sense of wonder and awe.

Finkel’s work leans toward finding the mystical in the everyday, and a sense of the spiritual emerges from her images. Don’t miss her array of dozens of small Supra System Polaroid photos, enhanced with oil crayons, situated on the last wall of the exhibition. Each delicate little picture transports you to a place both familiar and fantastical; en masse they create a patchwork landscape that you won’t find in nature — but if you could, you’d never want to leave.

These three artists are presenting the “SkyScapes Digital Plein Air Photography” workshop. In the “plein air” tradition, artists paint directly from and in the great outdoors. In this workshop, the artists share insights into their techniques. They’ll take you outside with them to capture skyscapes of your own, which you’ll upload instantly, later viewing and discussing your projected images with the artists and other participants.

Bring a smartphone or a digital camera (with cable to upload images) to the Annenberg Community Beach House on Tuesday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m. The workshop is free but reservations are required and you must check-in early to guarantee your seat. To find out if any spaces remain, call (310) 458-4904 or visit annenbergbeachhouse.com/beachculture.

 

Nature at Bergamot

 

Frank Pictures Gallery at Bergamot Station Arts Center features its seventh show of works by artist David Florimbi. These gorgeous color paintings lift you up into their cerulean skies, take you soaring with the updrafts and you’re never quite sure where you’re going to land.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river with a fisheye lens looking from the ground to the heavens. I see echoes of German artist Anselm Kiefer’s landscape paintings in the angle at which you view these pieces; you feel as if you’re dangling suspended from the ceiling to enter them. There’s a vortex of energy at play in the skies and clouds above the valleys and canyons of the settings. There’s also a four-panel work reminiscent of William Blake’s spiritual drawings, especially in Florimbi’s use of etched and darkened lines.

At Ruth Bachofner Gallery, “The Nature of Things” is a show of works by nine contemporary Los Angeles artists that includes paintings, photos, collages and sculptures.

Constance Mallinson’s striking “Plywoodscape” is both beautiful and a trifle melancholic, depicting trunks and branches of trees that appear dead or taking a winter break, perhaps because they’ve provided the wood for the panel on which the painting appears.

Kim Abeles has created small, elaborate sculptures using photographs, maps and intricate objects. In one she places a model of Dodger Stadium with trees surrounding it, which you view as if from the air immediately above. And her “Enchanted Forest Infrared” is an intriguing above-and-below ground view of model trees on elongated, tall metal trunks, placed atop a street view map of the coast, and featuring brilliant fuchsia-colored leaf canopies with dangling roots below the platform.

Looking at Virginia Katz’ “Formations-Bloom” you might see shattered reflections on a body of water, an abstract rendering of an aerial photo or perhaps an oil slick breaking up. This group show is less about the strict depiction of nature and more about the artists’ relationship with it in a world in which nature itself is threatened.

At Craig Krull Gallery, “Bouyancy,” a show of photographic works by artist James Fee, and “Yonder,” tiny gems of aerial landscape photography by Rose-Lynn Fisher, are two exceptional examples of the power of the art form.

James Fee has been drawn to boats, water, islands and bridges throughout his career. The show at Craig Krull includes several series of photos, including one showcasing the legendary ocean liner SS United States, once glorious, now derelict, a metaphor for Fee’s relationship to his country. “Four Days in New York” includes a haunting negative of the Brooklyn Bridge, called “Broken Span,” which he ripped in half to express the idea of a bridge as both connector and obstacle to relationships.

But I fell in love with the small 4-by-6-inch photos by Rose-Lynn Fisher, who previously exhibited microscopic images of bees. Photos in the “Yonder” series were shot from 37,000 feet in the air.

At this height, even the most grandly-scaled geographic landscape can look as intricate as the veins and capillaries inside us. The show is intimate and simply beautiful.

 

 

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.

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