Change is a scary word. There are those traveler/adventurer types who claim to embrace change, but many of us cling to dead-end jobs, small towns, jealous friends, angry spouses, and self-destructive habits because making a change is just too hard.
Robert and Megan Lange are members of that first group, and believe so firmly in change that they painted the phrase “Everything Changes” on the steps of their gallery. “It’s been a sentiment that we have gravitated to as gallery owners and artists,” Megan says after describing her husband’s encounter with a “wise man” while traveling in Nepal. When Rob asked about his philosophy on life, the man answered “everything changes.” The theme of this year’s group show at the studio was inspired by this philosophy as well as the practice of revisiting the same subject over and over again in order to understand differences in light. Thirty-one contemporary artists from across the globe have created two or more works of the same subject painted in different moods.
Fellow adventurer Adam Hall seeks change during his travels to far-flung locales like Haiti and Africa. Working part time for the nonprofit Got Your Back, Hall brings school uniforms and supplies to children in need. He sets out with the intention of helping others, but finds he’s the one most changed by these experiences. “Every time you immerse yourself in another culture, it changes you, especially when you’re among people who have less stuff, but are full of joy.” Hall’s paintings are inspired by the photographs he takes during his travels, but the location is vague, depicting more of a feeling than a specific place. “The land and the sky are an ever-changing and divine backdrop in our lives, and I want to give viewers the freedom to get lost in my paintings,” he says.
In “Open” and “Closed,” the silhouette of a figure is visible in the distance, which is a first for Hall, a landscape painter, who says he wanted the works to reflect a personal struggle. “Open” represents the innocence of youth while “Closed” reflects a search through darkness. The differing perspectives of the young and old are a literal interpretation of the idea that we can’t escape change.
Ryoko Tajiri, a San Francisco-based artist, was also inspired by the idea of change coming from within. In “Standing Figure #7” and “Standing Figure #8,” she’s painted mirrored figures to reflect the varying internal and external aspects of a person. “As we become conscious of who we are, we find the different sides of ourselves. I wanted to express those inner changes that we experience throughout our life.” Tajiri developed her style by simplifying the shapes and finding abstract patterns in the environment. Her figures are a contrast of hard and soft. “I use the figure, shapes, and colors to try to evoke the viewer’s personal feelings.” In abstracting the nude, she seems to push the viewer to think less about the individual and more about the movement and beauty of the body.
UK artist Harriet White is also focused on abstracting the body. Her oil paintings “Kohl” and “Lawless” are closely cropped, realistic portraits of heavily made-up eyes. “I like the idea of something not being as it seems,” she says. “The painting might appear at first glance to be a picture of glamour and swagger, but might on further inspection reveal an underlying vulnerability. I like to keep an element of ambiguity in my work and find it very interesting the way people interpret it in different ways and have varying emotional responses to it,” she says.
A challenge for every group show is how to create cohesion, and Everything Changes is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the works are stronger than others, with stand-outs from local artist Charles Williams, whose paintings of the ocean reflect the continual physicality of change. “The ocean reshapes the land wave by wave, and ultimately we don’t have any control,” he says. “From day to day you’re faced with emotions and the effort to be in control, but sometimes we have to trust and let things fall into place. Our plans don’t always work, or there might not be enough time for everything. So we have to let go and trust. When we get to a point where we can let go, that’s when things change.”