Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fifteen Minutes of Fame Dept:

Gretchen Giles, editor of the North Bay Bohemian (similar to the East Bay Express of Berkeley) visited our studio in the week approaching our Art at the Source event, and wrote this article, which I just found online.I can't seem to create a link directly to the page, so I'm copying it here.) Thanks again, Gretchen!

Almost Eden

By Gretchen Giles

With roses heavy and languorous on the bough, vegetables just bolting from their prim starts and heirloom sweet peas amid their twining climb, last Wednesday was a beautiful day in painter Lisa Beerntsen's garden. Given the garden itself, a mini-Eden behind the modest Graton home she shares with her husband, the painter Tony Spiers, it's a likely bet that, regardless of the season, every day is a beautiful day in Beerntsen's garden.

The sense of color, shape and play that informs a well-tended plot imbues the couple's adjacent studio, a standalone structure that they share--one only slightly removed from the other by a work table and half-wall--and which they'll open to the public as part of the Art at the Source tour beginning this Saturday, June 3.

An instructor at the Santa Rosa Junior College for the past decade, Beerntsen has gradually moved from the abstract leaf paintings of her early career to collage-driven canvases that feature fruit, flowers, and birds. Across the room, Spiers' large cheerful-seeming work is informed by the Japanese pop of mange and animÈ, the fruit labels and iconography of the 1930s and '40s, old-fashioned American cartoons and advertising, exploding firecrackers, lurid circus posters, Chinese candy wrappers, and Indian Sanskrit. In addition to a warm palette of oranges, pinks, roses and lemony yellows, the couple share a sensibility that results in gorgeous paintings with an edge.

Beerntsen assents that "it will have to be" OK to call her work "pretty," and pretty it is, built up with pieces of old linen napkins, bits of wall paper, unfinished quilt squares culled from antique shops, scientific diagrams and oversized, stylized lino prints she's carved of patterns from islamic tiles that hit the canvas with the assured signature of a Japanese chop mark. "I'm always looking for different ways to get pattern into my paintings," she says.

Trained as a graphic designer with former stints as a sign painter, Spiers tends toward imaginary advertising posters in his acrylic paintings, though an image of Woody Woodpecker seated in a hand basket and assuredly headed for hell as he points a handgun at his head won't perhaps sell too many guns, baskets or cartoon reels. Spiers explains that he's "interested in narrative," adding that his search for story used to be more personal but has shifted gradually to the global because "we live in such a bizarre, surreal, time. I'm attracted to using popular, happy-seeming nostalgic iconography to address political material."

Having settled in Graton from the East Bay just over three years ago, the two successfully exhibit at Healdsburg's Arches Gallery. Spiers, 47, and Beerntsen, 45, knew each other in high school in Pleasanton, their paths occasionally crossing through friends or when working together at an art-supply store, but it wasn't until the retirement party of Mel Friedman, their favorite high school art teacher, that they fell in love. Spiers was doing pastels; Beerntsen, abstracts. As their love affair deepened, their work has come closer, too.

With the garden's vibrancy beating against the studio's glass doors and the cat headed authoritatively across the floor for its favorite chair, Spiers uses the radio they share when working as an analogy. "I'm more rock 'n' roll," he explains with a laugh. "Lisa's more NPR."


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