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Eye Sight

Local artists open their studios

By Gretchen Giles

PLACE A VASE of flowers on a table and jump back. Although most of us see to relatively the same degree, we all look at similar objects and know them in vastly different ways. The humble ink splotch lies in silent testimony. And ain't that the beauty part of being alive? Which is why it is such a kick to snoop around artists' studios, getting a glimpse of how an eye trained in a manner vastly different than your own takes in the world. And ain't that the beauty part of ARTrails?

Now in it's 11th year, this open-studio event flings wide the workplace doors of artists, allowing the public to come in, sniff around, ask questions, and buy stuff.

At least painter Kathleen Thompson-Siegel doesn't have to worry about doing the dishes first. Her studio--unlike those of many of the ARTrails participants--is separate from her home, housed in a renovated transmission shop west of Santa Rosa's Juilliard Park. Shelved in cardboard boxes and leaning against the walls are her water-motif paintings, explorations of the power of rejuvenation and of color work whose names would give challenge to lipstick manufacturers. "I was trying to come up with colors that you can't name what they are," she says.

"I've had a really tumultuous year, emotionally," she continues, lightly stroking one of the many upsurging water images found on her canvases. "I'm interested in the fountain as a symbol of the cleansing of the psyche, you know--hope and faith. And that just came up unconsciously, and it was almost like a dream afterwards to figure out what it meant."

Intending to create work whose purpose is to heal and to calm, Thompson-Siegel is pleased to see that effect affecting others, relating the story of a young autistic boy who was literally moved by her work in a Healdsburg gallery. Standing before her large gouache-washed canvases, the boy began to sing softly to himself and to dance. His mother stood by and cried. "That to me was a gift," Thompson-Siegel says quietly.

Working on a number of canvases at once, she also involves herself in the secrets of encaustic work, in which the surface is layered in wax, with objects scratched and tucked in, creating thickly veneered pieces. "It's a whole different approach, which is really great, because I think that if I just did one thing it would be too redundant. This informs the paintings and the paintings inform the other.

"I'm really grateful to be doing this," she continues. "Someone once told me that there isn't just one art world, there are many art worlds, and it has to do with personal, internal growth and just growing up. Discovering what you like--this is what I'm doing."


ARTrails runs Oct. 12-13 and 19-20 at various studios from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. For maps, call 579-ARTS.

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From the October 10-16, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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