Where Am I?

William B. Dewey and Patricia Hedrick

At The Easton Gallery. Shows through May

Reviewed by Beth Taylor-Schott

If you’ve been to Easton Gallery more than once, you probably
think you know what to expect there. The gallery specializes, after
all, in contemporary landscape painting, mostly by local artists of
local landscapes, and mostly in a Realist/Impressionist idiom. The
current show, featuring William B. Dewey and Patricia Hedrick,
however, isn’t quite what you have come to anticipate. Both artists
play strongly off of expectations about contemporary landscape in
disorienting and provocative ways.

Dewey stands out as a photographer in a painting gallery, though
this need not mean much. Indeed, there are a few pieces by Dewey
that do look like plein air landscapes. However, his most
interesting works undo the sense of scale that landscapes usually
establish. These may be photographs of nature, but they do not
situate us securely in relation to the scene. A single wave can
produce a composition almost identical to an image of the coast
from several hundred feet up. Until you look at the label, Dewey’s
shots of the Elkhorn Mountains might seem like the folds of some
convoluted tree. Knowing that “Scammons Tidal Pattern” is an aerial
photograph, one struggles to situate oneself, all the while
confronting visual cues that seem to indicate a surface of swells
shimmering only inches away.

Hedrick’s works, on the other hand, situate the observer firmly
in space — although their strong curving sweeps and dramatic
contrasts of light and dark are more Romantic than Impressionist or
Modern, somewhere between Gainsborough and Turner. Even more
unexpected, latent surrealism is found in some prominent details.
“Burn” features a ridge of hills — perhaps in the Santa Ynez
valley — with lovely, trailing plumes of fire. “Slough with Crane”
gives us a view of UCSB, perched neo-classically on its cliffs, but
with a construction site hovering ominously above the unadulterated
landscape. Elsewhere a view is marred by the flare and exhaust of a
launching rocket: this is “Vandenberg Spring.” In “Horizon,”
perhaps the most gorgeous work, the sky and earth meet at a thin
line etched into the pastel across the entire visual field. And
yet, they meet in no other way, rendered on two different scales,
in two different visual languages. There is nowhere to stand on the
ground, much as we might want to wish those smudges into the shape
of a road or furrows. The cloudy sky rushes in far too close, more
three-dimensional than the earth extending beneath it. The fissure
between us and where we think we are, hinted at elsewhere in the
exhibit, has in this work broken cleanly — and
beautifully — open.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.