From canvases layered like rock strata to photos taken in space, three artists explore our place in the universe
By Shanee Edwards
From a personal, human landscape to a cosmic, celestial one, three female artists — Lorraine Bubar, Anne Ramis and Pam Douglas — endeavor to interpret humanity’s connection to Earth and the universe beyond in exhibits of new paintings at TAG Gallery in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Arts Center.
Bubar’s “Not Home” explores how urban life affects the human experience, especially as we, along with other species, adjust to the loss of habitable land.
From the hexagonal honeycomb cells built by honeybees to the ever-shifting shapes of serpents, Bubar’s imagery is beautifully dense and complex. Influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Bubar’s textured, layered work on colored paper creates surfaces as intriguing and storied as Earth’s own layers of rock strata that can only be fully appreciated in person with the naked eye. But there’s more to see than just pretty textures, she says.
“Even though there are contemporary images and contemporary subject matter, it reverts back to a historical and global craft and crosses the border of culture, craft and politics,” Bubar said of her work.
Her process involves using an X-ACTO knife to makes cuts in paper she’s collected from various Asian countries to create something similar to a giant piece of lace.
“I just start layering the paper from the back so each piece has eight or ten layers of paper, creating a lot of texture and depth within,” she says.
For this particular exhibit, Bubar really wanted to examine the concept of home.
“I realized that many people and animals in the world don’t have the security of home, which is why I call [my exhibit] ‘Not Home,” she says.
Some of Bubar’s artwork deals with the decrease in the bee and Monarch butterfly populations, but she’s also worried about humans, too. One thing that surprised Bubar when she settled on her theme was how urgent the topic was.
“Homelessness, migration of people in Europe, the earthquake in Nepal — there are so many news stories, and, even driving around L.A., seeing the increase of tent cities. It’s just so sad,” Bubar says. “The piece I have with the two snakes called ‘Going Out’ really has to do with security and the dangers of just going out — all the dangers that lurk, especially for women. It seems every aspect of our lives is surrounded by insecurity right now.”
Anne Ramis’ exhibit, called “Contexting,” pushes the literal earthly terrain into a surreal, personal landscape and addresses aspects of world culture. Her use of abstract, even Dada-esque collage, juxtaposes images that are both organic and architectural, showing her unique point of view.
Pam Douglas’ “Galaxies” exhibit takes inspiration from NASA’s Hubble Telescope, marking its 25th anniversary of peering deep into the heavens.
Douglas’ mixed-media art combines Hubble photos of distant galaxies with more philosophically influenced images, like that of a smiling Buddha who juggles the stars above his head. As beautiful and thought-provoking as these images are, Douglas felt she was taking a giant risk by integrating the photographs, something she had never done in her previous work.
“I’ve always felt daunted to do anything with them because those images from the Hubble and other telescopes are complete in themselves. But this year I thought that I found a way of actually interacting with them, embracing them, while letting them have all their beauty and allowing for the idea that humanity does have a connection to the stars — as they say, we are all star dust,” Douglas says.
Like Bubar, Douglas also hopes to bring out a deeper meaning in the artwork.
“There’s so much trouble in the world that the notion of inspiring viewers and myself to look beyond those problems to what the greater view is, what the greater potential is, is something I’d like to put out there,” she says.
Despite the vast, awe-inspiring nature of Hubble’s images, Douglas eschews the idea that looking into deep space makes humans feel small.
“I would go the opposite direction and say that because we are able to see the images and begin to understand them, we are growing,” she says. “We are more than small Earth beings, and our consciousness can be as large as the universe.”
“Galaxies,” “Not Home” and “Contexting” are on view through Sept. 26 at TAG Gallery in Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Ste. D-3, Santa Monica. An opening reception for the exhibits is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, and the artists give a talk at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19. Call (310) 829-9556 or visit taggallery.net for more information.